Friday, 26 April 2013

Linkedin, OpenNetworker & Referral Key - a Puzzling Triumvirate

In the past few months I've had a whole spate of emails from different people offering to refer new clients to me.  Now, in my online business I work only for myself, and the only clients I take on are clients for counselling.  So I dismissed the emails as spam because not only did I not know any of the senders but many of them seemed to live in other countries. 

But at the beginning of this month the subject line of these emails changed from "Are You Taking On New Clients?" to the name of a counselling agency I worked for until March this year.  I found this a bit worrying until I worked out that the senders must have got this information from my profile on Linkedin (I must remember to change it, since I no longer work for that agency!).

The earlier emails, I assume, also came from Linkedin - or possibly from OpenNetworker - contacts.  OpenNetworker claims to "help you build larger, more diverse and more valuable networks on the world's top social networking sites."  I joined it about a year ago and suspect that many of the people who send me invitations to connect on Linkedin find my details on ON.  It has resulted in my having a large number of contacts on Linkedin which was useful when I wanted to publicize the special promotion of my book "Say Goodbye to Sleepless Nights".  But whether people who are networking to find new business contacts find it of value, I don't know.

Having worked out how these people were getting my email address, I paid a little more attention to the message.  It seems to change about once every month or six weeks.  It always starts "Hi Ruth, If you're taking on new clients," ends with an invitation to click the link below and, between the two, the sender tells me that he or she would "like to send business your way" or would "like to include you in my private referral network".

I decided I'd take a chance (I have good antivirus and antimalware programs installed) and click the link because I was really curious to find out what this was about.  It led me to the website of something called "Referral Key".  The home page is pretty uninformative, saying only "Build valuable partnerships through live networking".  Remembering all the people from other countries who had sent me 'new client' emails, I wonder quite how valuable any partnership forged through this site would be.  But one can find out no more without signing up and, even though it's free, I didn't really want to do this.  So I Googled 'Referral Key' and found an excellent article by Claire Diaz-Ortiz.  Her description of what happened when she signed up to Referral Key is highly entertaining but leaves me (and her) still wondering what the site is all about.

I wonder whether we have all been told so many times that "the money is in the list" that we are blindly reaching out to people we don't know and with whom we have nothing in common in the hope that we will find customers, and whether these various sites are just feeding off that.

Saturday, 13 April 2013

A Useful Infographic on Content Marketing

I thought this was an interesting infographic - from the Content Plus website:

The anatomy of content marketing - the heart of online success

Thursday, 11 April 2013

Split Testing Has Left Me Feeling Confused!

We are constantly being told that we should split test.  Compare A against B and pick whichever is better to proceed with.  Then test the winner - either A or B - against C, and so on, constantly refining until we get the best headline, the best ad, the best email that we can possibly achieve.

But what do you do when the split test yields strange results?  This was a situation in which I found myself recently.  Let me explain.

As many of my readers know, I send out a weekly email newsletter detailing what I consider to have been the top articles on internet marketing and social media that have been published in the previous week.  Like any email marketer, I am constantly trying to think of ways to get more of the recipients to open the emails.  And I have written before on this blog about my thoughts as to what I should emphasise in the subject line.

Well, a week or two back, I decided to do a split test.  I divided my mailing list into three fairly equal sections, based on the first letter of each recipient's first name, and sent out my newsletter with a different heading to each section.

On the week I did the split test, two of the articles near the top of the newsletter were "102 Things I've Learned About Internet Marketing" by Rebecca Babicz, and "The 12-Month Path to Social Media Success".  So I gave the first newsletter the subject line "102 Things You Should Know About Internet Marketing" and the second the subject line "Your 12-Month Plan for Social Media Success".  The third newsletter had the subject line "Getting the Best Out of Facebook & Twitter; the Top SEO Apps; & Introducing Pheed" which was a compilation of a number of articles.  

My aim was to find out whether a specific subject would entice more people to open the email than a compilation. Now I long ago learned that numbers themselves can be misleading, so I found an excellent and easy to use little calculator to determine the statistical significance of my results.  And the outcome was that, although there were differences in the numbers of people who opened each version, these were not statistically significant.  So it seems that using a 'one story' subject line or a 'compilation' subject line is equally attractive.

But here's where we get to the strange part.  The subject line seemed to have no effect on which articles the recipients clicked on.  My thoughts had been that those who opened the '102' newsletter, for example, would have clicked on the '102' story.  But, in fact, there were far more who didn't than who did.  And that was the same for the '12 month' story.  In all three newsletters the most popular article was one about how to customize your Facebook page.  And the numbers who opened the '102' and the '12 month' stories were much the same for all three newsletters.

So this leaves me wondering what it was that drew people to open the newsletters?  Clearly the majority of the people who opened the '102' newsletter, for example, weren't interested in reading the '102' article.  And the same goes for the '12 month' article.  Which makes me think that there's a hard core of readers who regularly open the newsletter week after week because they've found it valuable - and who will open it regardless of the headline, while just a few open it because the subject line has caught their eye.

And, of course, this leaves me no nearer to discovering what sort of subject line is going to get more people to open the newsletter.  I'm sure split testing is a great idea - but sometimes it just doesn't give you the answers you want!

Wednesday, 3 April 2013

Further Dealings With Facebook

I hope it doesn’t seem that I am perpetually whinging.  My aim is not to moan about what has happened to me (or my friends) but, rather, to show what we have learned from it and to share the stories in order to help other people avoid the pitfalls.

That said, I’ll continue with the Facebook story.  You may remember that, at the beginning of March, I wrote about my experiences of running an advertising campaign on Facebook and how Facebook activated the ad after the campaign was over, annoying potential customers and costing me money into the bargain.  You may remember, too, that I deleted the campaign after receiving a second invoice.

Well, it’s possible that I didn’t delete it correctly (although when I left the page it was saying ‘deleted’ against the campaign) because I then received a third invoice and, when I returned to the page, there it was active again.  I deleted it once more and, this time, inactivated the app by which Facebook can take payments from me via Paypal.

I emailed the person on the Facebook helpdesk to complain that the ad had been active since February 26th, although I had not reactivated it after it was disallowed on the 17th.  She replied “the transaction on the 1st of March related to advertising services provided on the 26th and 27th of February, when your Ad was still active on the site.”  Yes, I know that!  My complaint is that it shouldn’t have been active because I didn’t reactivate it.  I emailed yet again but, after a week or so, there was still no reply.  So I went to Paypal and disputed the two payments for ads that I had neither ordered nor wanted.  To my surprise, they came back the following day to say the dispute had been resolved in my favour and I would get a refund of the second and third payments.  Excellent.

Not so excellent was the message I got from Facebook next time I logged in.  It said “We are writing to let you know that there were charges made on your account that have been disputed by the owner of the payment instrument.”  Well, yes, I knew that.

And it went on “In the future we encourage you to contact us first if you have any questions or issues with charges made on Facebook by visiting the Facebook Help Centre.  A Facebook representative will be happy to work with you to resolve the matter and issue refunds when appropriate.”  Um . . . I did that.  Not only would the Facebook representative not work with me to resolve the matter, but the Facebook representative studiously ignored my complaint and, eventually, just stopped responding to my emails.

The message concluded “You may continue to use Facebook Adverts, however, if we receive any additional disputes for charges on your account, it may be disabled permanently.”  What????? If you mess up again and I complain, you’ll ban me from using Facebook Ads?  Something not quite right here, I think.

What made this whole thing so frustrating was that the ad was run after the special promotion of my ebook had finished.  If the promotion had still been running and the ad still relevant, I wouldn’t have complained.  So, what I have learned is never to run a Facebook campaign which applies to a limited offer.  In addition, I have learned that, if I have deleted a campaign, I need to go back after a day or two and check that it’s not running again.  But I don’t like companies that try to blame it on the customer when they foul up and there’s a strong possibility that I may not use Facebook ads again.