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Social media is the new black

January 7, 2010

Social media marketing is the new black. Everyone is talking about it. Well, ok, it’s mostly consultants trying to get their pitch out. Most of the articles I’ve seen tend to focus on an SEO angle… produce more content, use more keywords, build more in-bound links… and cha-ching. But reducing social media to only a marketing strategy misses the point of social media: it’s a means of communication. You know, dialogue with real human beings.

Let’s say it’s 1889 and a businessman comes to you, the consultant, and says, “I hear about this thing called the telephone. I think it’s going to be big. How can I develop a telephone strategy?” Of course, the telephone isn’t the strategy, it’s a means to an end. It’s a way of having conversations with your audience.

Like the telephone, social media can be abused. Do Not Call lists have sprung up to prevent interruptions at dinner and the general annoyance that comes from script-reading telemarketers. Social media such as blogs and Twitter may be opt-in, but it can be equally annoying to stumble upon contrived sales pitches and SEO keyword stuffed articles. Disingenuous conversations are the ones people leave.

In other words, social media is, above all, about keeping it real.

Improving email open and click-throughs by purging your email list

December 11, 2009

Email marketing research has determined that the common subscriber turn-over for an email marketing contact list is 30% annually and 2.5% monthly. — Article Alley

It’s really cool to tell your executive team that you have 25,000 subscribers to your e-newsletter, but what if only 20% of them open the newsletter each month? (A good rate by some standards, but not GREAT) In a list of tens of thousands of email addresses, these obsolete addresses can cost a company thousands of dollars annually in ISP fees. The carbon cost on the servers is probably small — until you add up the cost of all the companies globally that continue to ping dead addresses. And besides, what’s the point of sending email to someone that’s no longer there?

That’s why we just purged our email list of inactive email addresses.

The email that was sent to inactive email addresses

We identified the email addresses that were inactive and then emailed all those people with a final warning that, unless they raised their hand now, we were going to remove them from the list. The “warning” email was a both a courtesy and offered us some protection in case our reporting had culled names of people that were still reading the newsletter. Sure enough, a few people did come forward and even Tweeted about it.

All in all, it was a great exercise and one that we’ll be sure to reproduce every year. Read about the details here.

Big Movember Thank You

November 30, 2009
tags:

Jon's moA huge thank you to everyone that supported me in my Movember quest. I am happy to report that today is my last day of public humiliation — humiliation that netted $365 in donations from friends and family that will be put towards a great cause. I had been leading my Mo-team in donations, but this Thanksgiving holiday was clearly very very good to two of my teammate who out-moed me by raising $423 and $673.35 respectively. I’m happy to have the competition to fight cancer.

Thank you, one and all!

Movember

November 3, 2009

What’s Movember? Movember is an annual, month-long “celebration” (their words, not mine!) of the moustache, highlighting men’s health issues — specifically prostate and testicular cancer. I had never heard of Movember until I started working for an Australian-headquartered company where I’ve watched as my male colleagues have grown ‘staches for the last four years. This year, I’m going to join them… much to the consternation of my wife who would like nothing less than to see fur beneath my schnoz.

This is a really tough year to give to charity — and there are lots of charities asking for our help — but if you have $5 or $10 that you can donate, I would really appreciate it. My donation page is here. Thanks for your help! And come back in 25+ days to see my ‘stache!

Spam gets relevant

August 10, 2009

Going through email at work this morning and saw that a relevant, decent comment came through on a blog post from last year. I was about to respond to the comment when I noticed the funny (not haha funny) name of the commenter.

How did a spam bot write a relevant comment? This must be a copycat spam bot. Smart, but not that smart.

copycat spam bot

copycat spam bot

Anatomy of an agile campaign

June 23, 2009

The badgeBack in another day and time, I wrote a blog post about transparency in marketing. This post today is about authenticity, and how Atlassian created a campaign that focuses on the user experience rather than the marketing message.

One of the several announcements Atlassian made at its first ever worldwide user conference was the launch of a new minisite, Agile @ Atlassian. While we were not Agile subject-matter experts, we could provide some important insights into our own understanding of Agile. That’s an important distinction, because it guided our decision on how to produce a campaign. There’s an excellent TED talk by Joseph Pine on creating an authentic voice in marketing. Our campaign was based on creating this type of authentic talk based on our experiences rather than on marketing messages.

A site is born.

Atlassian’s developers have been doing agile for 7 years, and many of our customers do as well using our developer tools. “Agile” in this context relates to how software developers engineer products. The Agile Manifesto and hundreds (thousands?) of agile evangelists are spreading the gospel that there’s an “enlightened” way to code.

Many people don’t know how to take advantage of Atlassian tools for agile software development. In fact, there’s a whole lot of agile developers that are searching for better ways and tools to make their team agile. Atlassian’s software was engineered more broadly to be used by any type of development, but they can be used for agile software development, and the mini-site provided a glimpse into how we take advantage of our own tools for agile.

Thus, Agile @ Atlassian was born. The campaign breaks down as follows:

  • We spent a grand total of $1000 on the campaign and minisite — the money was spent on a professional videographer to tape our developers talking about how they do their jobs.
  • The mini-site was designed and produced by our in-house design and web teams. The videos were edited and pimped out by an endlessly talented and creative developer on the marketing team.
  • We included previously recorded customer webinars with S1 Corp and Replicate Tech that discuss how customers user our products for agile.
  • Atlassian developers have been blogging about agile@atlassian, and an RSS feed of their blogs is included on the mini-site.
  • New product descriptions were written to emphasize how our products can be used in an agile environment.
  • To tie up all the loose pieces — videos, blogs, webinars — we design a brand for the agile@atlassian series that appears in the the blogs and anywhere agile is found on our website.
  • We used the campaign as a platform to announce our latest agile project management offering, GreenHopper.

One Twitterer wrote:

Listening to agile@Atlassian while working. I’m a huge Atlassian fan and this is a nice peak into their world.

Since launching, the minisite has seen over 6,000 visits, with the average person viewing 5.63 pages on the site/visit. This is a short recap of the effort we put into the site, and I think it’s a very good template for other B2B marketers for creating similar campaigns, esp. those who dare to go from a marketing voice to an authentic one.

Making a good newsletter even better

April 29, 2009

We recently went through a redesign of the Atlassian newsletter. The newseltter, we decided, had become long in the tooth, it was time for a refresh. I’ve read up on Newsletter design at MarketingSherpa and other sites, and our team had a pretty good idea for how we wanted to see it evolve.

But before taking the plunge, we wanted feedback from our subscribers. What do they think about it? Are we the only ones bored with the design, or are others hoping for a change? Can the content be improved, and if so, how?

Over 100 people responded to our survey that went to newsletter and blog subscribers. Here’s one of my favorite replies:

Generally, I regard the Atlassian newsletter as one of the best produced by any company. A good blend of company news, products news and things of general interest.

Wow! Others concurred.

Only that it is about the best I have ever seen in ANY company – (x30 or more I have seen). Also that it has jumped and improved a lot more in the last 5 months, from my outward perspective. You guys are rockin’ it! But you know that. Keep it up!

Nice clean, feature rich, informative and well organized.

It is great. In general I think Atlassian is my favorite design/structure of all my various newsletters. I also really like the random links at the end, usually I find 1 or 2 really useful links.

It wasn’t all rosy — there was a good deal of constructive feedback too. We’ve posted more comments and displayed the before/after design on the Atlassian Blog. Curious readers can subscribe to the Atlassian newsletter here. Our next steps are to monitor clicks and open rates to see if that improves over time.

If you’ve re-designed your newsletter lately, please let me know, I’m very curious to see more examples and learned how others have done it.

Atlassian Stimulus Package for small business

April 20, 2009
Love the pig!

Love the pig!

This week only, Atlassian, the company I work for, has a special offer for JIRA and Confluence. For just $5 each, you get 5-user licenses of the products, including technical support. It’s the same deal that the big guys get, but tailored for small teams and small business. My favorite bit: all the money raised goes to Room to Read, a charity that helps children in developing countries get schools and libraries.

There have been many fantastic Twitters so far about the offer:

An amazing $5 deal on Jira and Confluence from Atlassian for small orgs, I use these fantastic products every day… http://tr.im/j4nA

- scottmanley

@tarasis atlassian have personal licenses available too, which didn’t work for my needs, but the $5 plan definitely hits the sweet spot :)

- janeylicious

Oh, nice. Atlassian is donating proceeds for its starter license of JIRA and Confluence ($5/ea) to charity. http://snurl.com/gb7ys

- ITSinsider

Check out the offer… and hurry, because the sale ends on Friday this week!

Conversational before there was “Conversational Marketing”

February 24, 2009

It kind of goes without saying that the reason Atlassian has hit $100 million in cumulative all-time revenue is because of the products. But as one of the employees charged with the task of marketing these great products, I tend to think about the other side of the equation: the word of mouth that Atlassian has generated that helped us reach this milestone. As it turns out, JIRA not only served as a great product for customers, but as the key ingredient for word of mouth marketing.

Some perspective

I’ve attended the last two CM Summits in San Francisco. For a marketer, they’re great events. The conference focuses on the changing of the guard: leaving the old school marketing techniques like direct mail, big company PR, and 1-way communication, and turning instead towards creating open dialogues with customers, creating fan sites, and generally keeping it real.

In other words: it’s not about marketing anymore, it’s about creating conversations.

LOGO_JIRA.pngEnter the JIRA

In 2003, before Facebook and other social network sites captured our collective imaginations, Atlassian built a website that allows anyone — customers, prospects, partners, journalists, etc. — to submit product bugs, feature requests, and other issues, which are visible to the entire community.

In our lingo, it’s called JIRA. Nothing was (or is) censored. While most other B2B enterprise software companies in the world spent energy obfuscating problems with their products or services, Atlassian listened to it’s customers, built a loyal fan base, won over thousands of customers, and beat most of the big-name venture capital-backed Silicon Valley companies (in fact, most of them are customers now!).

And to be clear… JIRA is a product, not a marketing tool. And yet, it has been a platform for thousands of conversations in the last 6-7 years.

One of the things I’ve learned on the job is the power of listening, and responding, and building trust (as opposed to the old school marketing of just ‘spinning’). The folks at the CM Summits call it ‘marketing’ but Atlassian has called it ‘just doing good business.’ JIRA has given us an incredible feedback loop, it’s allowed developers to speak directly with customers (as opposed to the typical situation where developers are locked in the basement* while the marketing types filter conversations to them), and in turn it’s fostered trust between customer and company, something that other companies have pushed aside in the name of an obfuscating public relations strategy.

Of course, this is in hindsight.

When JIRA was first being used, it was also a dog food mentality. As a product JIRA has improved immensely under seven years of heavy use, from novice and seasoned users alike. No one ever thought of it as marketing, it was (and still is!) an issue tracker.

Being transparent and open makes you vulnerable, too: there are lot of feature requests, suggestions, gripes, etc., that have not been closed out. Mike wrote about a rather infamous issue some time ago. But that’s the conversational marketing dilemma: criticism is part of being open, it’s part of winning the trust of your customers.

On the whole, JIRA has been of incredible service to the company. As Laura wrote the other day, Atlassian is surpassing $100 million cumulative sales revenue in just seven years. I have to think that that figure isn’t just based on JIRA sales, but also JIRA transparency and lots and lots of conversations.

Links:


* Um, figuratively of course!

When ads go bad

February 3, 2009
Button, Button

Button, Button

There was a Twilight Zone episode called Button, Button where a stranger gave a man, Arthur, an empty box with a button on it. The stranger explained that if Arthur clicks the button, someone somewhere in the world would die… and Arthur would be paid $200k.

  • What are the odds that Arthur would be picked?
  • What if you cannot determine who died or was hurt as a result?
  • What if the offer seemed irristable?

I’m going to stretch the analogy for Linkstar, the company behind what I call link spam.

  • A representative from some company (presumably Linkstar, but I’ll never know) contacted me with an offer to sponsor my blog.
  • In exchange for a small sum of money (much less than $200k!)
  • I would have to put ads on my site that build link quality for viagra and vitamin spam sites.

Unlike poor Arthur, I didn’t take the deal. However, had I been offered $200k…. :)

An investigative reporter, Dan Tynan, contacted me because he was writing an article about Linkstar. I’m impressed at what he’s learned.

As far as I’ve been able to determine, Linkstar isn’t doing anything illegal or particularly shady. But its penchant for secrecy is troubling. As a general rule, I don’t do business with any online company that does not clearly identify its principals or provide its actual place of business – and I don’t think other people should, either.

Can running the wrong kinds of ads on your blog or Web site hurt you? Absolutely.

Read Tynan’s two-part series here:

Part I: The curious case of Linkstar Media

Part II: Bloggers beware: Bad ads can come back to bite you

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