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Archive for September, 2009

PostHeaderIcon Social Media Channel Architectures – Part 3

5AM in Paris, and here I am back writing.  Talk about dedication.  But at least there is a French Roast and petite dejeuner at the end of this. 

Installment three of our series on social media channel architecture. To catch us up: in Part 1 we discussed the strategy and theory of social media channel architecture. In Part 2, we conceived a new product called Greensoap which has three unique advantages: it sends fewer harmful chemicals into the water supply, it doesn’t get mushy when stored, and it is 50% cheaper than other leading brands.  This product appeals to three unique market segments we have identified on an attitudinal and behavioral basis: The Green Consumer, The Vacation Traveler, and The Thrifty Shopper. We mapped these consumer segments to their preferred media (video, graphics, audio, text), their most used technology platforms, and the likely sites/online social networks they participate in.

My blog posts tend to be long as a rule, and I don’t want to make them any longer than necessary to make my point. So for the purposes of this and the next few installments, I am only going to focus on the example of The Green Consumer and provide general outlines of how to create an online social media campaign to engage them.

The first step is – duh – to research sites and other programs that companies have done to engage these consumers. If there is any truth about Internet marketing it is that there is always someone out there who has done something similar to what you would like to do and the easiest way to generate new marketing programs is to explore what has been done and use that as a jumping-off point for your conceptualization/brainstorming.

The first question I have is what green-specific social media networks are already in existence that I could leverage and where I might find a very focused target customer based for my products. Realize that these networks are probably small relative to a general-purpose social media network, but they will provide a good place to test engagement with the audience and an excellent seed location for any programs we may conceive. So I search on "green social media networks" and get the following results:
Google search results for "green social media channels" 

What I find most interesting is how much activity there already is in this space – let’s just do a quick breakdown:

Green Social Media Networks:  CarbonCopy.com, Climateculture.com, Greenlinkz.com, Greenedia.com, Gaia.com

Blogs: earth2tech, lohas.com/blog

Campaigns: ClimateCulture: America’s Greenest Campus, Carbonrally: Seventeen Campaign

Downside issues: GreenMyApple from Greenpeace 

Time to get out and about.  We will continue the implications of our research tomorrow.

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PostHeaderIcon .htaccess Grammar Tutorial – .htaccess Special Characters

One thing this blog promises is to provide information about anything online that someone coming new to the business of online marketing needs to know.  The whole point being my pain is your gain.  Well, I have had some real pain lately around .htaccess file rewrite rules and I wanted to provide an easy translation to those with a .htaccess grammar tutorial for beginners.

What is a .htaccess file and Why Do I Care?

A .htaccess file is a type of configuration file for Apache servers (only.  If you are working with Microsoft IIS, this tutorial does not apply).   There are several ways an Apache web server can be configured.  Webmasters who have write access to the Apache directories can access a series of files (especially httpd.conf) that allow them to do what are called server-side includes, which are preferable in many cases because they allow for more powerful command structures and tend to run faster than .htaccess files.

Why you and I care about .htaccess files is that many of us run in a hosted environment where we do not have access to Apache directories.  In many cases we run on a shared server with other websites.  In these cases, the only way to control the configuration of the Apache web server is to use a .htaccess file.

The .htaccess file should always be put in the root directory of the site to which it applies.

Why would I want to control the configuration of the Apache server?  Well, the most likely scenario is that you have moved pages, deleted pages, or renamed pages and you don’t want to lose the authority they have gained with the search engines that gives you a good placement in the SERPs.  You do this through what are called redirects that tell the server that if someone requests a specific URL like http://www.onlinematters.com/oldpage.htm  it will automatically map that to an existing URL such as http://www.onlinematters.com/seo.htm.  Another common reason to have a .htaccess file is to provide a redirect to a custom error page when someone types in a bad URL.

.htaccess Files are Touchy

.htaccess files are very powerful and, like most computer communications, are very exacting in the grammer they use to communicate with the Apache server. The slightest syntax error (like a missing space) can result in severe server malfunction. Thus it is crucial to make backup copies of everything related to your site (including any original .htaccess files) before working with your .htaccess.  It is also important to check your entire website thoroughly after making any changes.  If any errors or other problems are encountered, employ your backups immediately to restore the original configuration while you test your .htaccess files.

Is There a Place I Can Check the Grammar of My .htaccess File?

I asked this question at SMX West 2009 at a panel on Apache server configuration and 301 redirects (301 Redirect, How Do I Love You? Let Me Count The Ways).    The speakers were Alex Bennert, In House SEO, Wall Street Journal; Jordan Kasteler, Co-Founder, SearchandSocial.com; Carolyn Shelby from CShel; Stephan Spencer, Founder & President, Netconcepts; and Jonah Stein, Founder, ItsTheROI. These are all serious SEO players – so they would know if anyone would.  When the question got asked, they all looked puzzled and then said "I just test it live on my staging server."  I have spent hours looking for a .htaccess grammar checker and have yet to find anything that has any real horsepower.   So seemingly the only options to check your .htaccess grammar are either to test it on your stage or live server or find a friend or Apache guru who can review what you have done. 

Basic .htaccess Character Set

We’re going to start this overview of .htaccess grammar with a review of the core character definitions (which is probably the hardest documentation I’ve had to find.  You’d think everyone would start with "the letters"  of the alphabet, but believe it or not, they don’t).  In the next post, we will then construct basic statements with these character sets so you can see them in action.  After that, we’ll move into multipage commands. 

the # instructs the server to ignore the line. Used for comments. Each comment line requires it’s own #. It is good practice to use only letters, numbers, dashes, and underscores, as this will help eliminate/avoid potential server parsing errors.
Chain: instructs server to chain the current rule with the previous rule.
Environmental Variable: instructs the server to set the environmental variable "variable" to "value".
Forbidden: instructs the server to return a 403 Forbidden to the client. 
Gone: instructs the server to deliver Gone (no longer exists) status message. 
Last rule: instructs the server to stop rewriting after the preceding directive is processed.
Next: instructs Apache to rerun the rewrite rule until all rewriting directives have been achieved.
No Case: defines any associated argument as case-insensitive. i.e., "NC" = "No Case".
No Escape: instructs the server to parse output without escaping characters.
No Subrequest: instructs the server to skip the directive if internal sub-request.  
Or: specifies a logical "or" that ties two expressions together such that either one proving true will cause the associated rule to be applied.
Proxy: instructs server to handle requests by mod_proxy
Pass Through: instructs mod_rewrite to pass the rewritten URL back to Apache for further processing.  
Append Query String: directs server to add the query string to the end of the expression (URL).
Redirect: instructs Apache to issue a redirect, causing the browser to request the rewritten/modified URL.
Skip: instructs the server to skip the next "x" number of rules if a match is detected.
Mime Type: declares the mime type of the target resource.
specifies a character class, in which any character within the brackets will be a match. e.g., [xyz] will match either an x, y, or z.
character class in which any combination of items within the brackets will be a match. e.g., [xyz]+ will match any number of x’s, y’s, z’s, or any combination of these characters.
specifies not within a character class. e.g., [^xyz] will match any character that is neither x, y, nor z.
a dash (-) between two characters within a character class ([]) denotes the range of characters between them. e.g., [a-zA-Z] matches all lowercase and uppercase letters from a to z.
specifies an exact number, n, of the preceding character. e.g., x{3} matches exactly three x’s.
specifies n or more of the preceding character. e.g., x{3,} matches three or more x’s.
specifies a range of numbers, between n and m, of the preceding character. e.g., x{3,7} matches three, four, five, six, or seven x’s.
used to group characters together, thereby considering them as a single unit. e.g., (perishable)?press will match press, with or without the perishable prefix.
denotes the beginning of a regex (regex = regular expression) test string. i.e., begin argument with the proceeding character.
denotes the end of a regex (regex = regular expression) test string. i.e., end argument with the previous character.
declares as optional the preceding character. e.g., monzas? will match monza or monzas, while mon(za)? will match either mon or monza. i.e., x? matches zero or one of x.
declares negation. e.g., “!string” matches everything except “string”.
a dot (or period) indicates any single arbitrary character.
instructs “not to” rewrite the URL, as in “...domain.com.* - [F]”.
matches one or more of the preceding character. e.g., G+ matches one or more G’s, while "+" will match one or more characters of any kind.
matches zero or more of the preceding character. e.g., use “.*” as a wildcard.
declares a logical “or” operator. for example, (x|y) matches x or y.
escapes special characters ( ^ $ ! . * | ). e.g., use “\.” to indicate/escape a literal dot.
indicates a literal dot (escaped).
zero or more slashes.
zero or more arbitrary characters.
defines an empty string.
the standard pattern for matching everything.
defines one character that is neither a slash nor a dot.
defines any number of characters which contains neither slash nor dot.
this is a literal statement — in this case, the literal character string, “http://”.
defines a string that begins with the term “domain”, which then may be proceeded by any number of any characters.
defines the exact string “domain.com”.
tests if string is an existing directory
tests if string is an existing file
tests if file in test string has a non-zero value   


      Redirection Header Codes [ ^ ]

  • 301 – Moved Permanently
  • 302 – Moved Temporarily
  • 403 – Forbidden
  • 404 – Not Found
  • 410 – Gone





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PostHeaderIcon Social Media Channel Architectures – Part 2

We left off last time having defined a conceptual approach to channel architecture with an example of a new type of soap – “Greensoap” which has three unique advantages: it sends fewer harmful chemicals into the water supply, it doesn’t get mushy when stored, and it is 50% cheaper than other leading brands.  How do we leverage a social media channel architecture for this product launch?

Following the model (and in fact basic marketing 101), we first need to know what audiences we are targeting.  In this case there are three which can be defined based on attitudes and behaviors:

  • Green Consumers.  Green consumers most important attitude is that they believe the environment must be protected, that current economics doesn’t measure the “true cost” of products, and that if the true cost were available we would see that dumping chemicals into the environment (and later having to remediate) is more expensive than just selling a green product in the first place.   They are split evenly between men and women, predominantly 18 – 35, and average income of $45,000/year.  Their behaviors: they tend to shop at smaller stores with a focus on environmental sensitivity, they are relatively price insensitive up to a 20% price increase over non-green products, and they tend to be vocal in online communities around green issues.
  • Vacation Travelers.  These folks tend to bring soap rather than use what is in the hotel room because their stays are longer and they travel with their families of 2.2 kids (whereas business travelers stay short periods, want to travel as light as possible, and so use in-room soap provided by the hotel).  This audience is mainly women 30 – 50 and is concerned with minimizing the burdens of “household  care” – meaning keeping a clean house, clean kids, and organized environment.  75% have a job, are incredibly time constrained and stressed.  They tend to shop at one store, usually a major grocery chain outlet between work and home.  If a product makes their life one iota easier, they will consider it.  They are highly swayed by friends and family validation that a product meets its promises.  Once they try a product, they are incredibly loyal up to a price premium of 25% over their current brand.
  • The Thrifty Shopper.   This buyer always worries about money and saving it is their first priority.  Split equally between men and women, the demographic is flat across all age groups, with a slight peak within 60+ years groups due to their fixed incomes (+ life experience during Depression and WWII).  This buyer shops in big box stores and low-cost chain grocery stores like Safeway and Savemart.  No product loyalty whatsoever – they’ll switch brands for as little as a 5 cent savings. 

The next step in the model is to figure out what kinds of media these audiences use and where they are likely to be on the web.  Figure 1 shows the mapping of audience to media, platform, and social media sites.  The sites listed are intended to be category “examples” – meaning that they are only one potential site that could be used.  For example, in column 2, cafemom indicates women-focused social media networks. 

 Figure 1
Mapping Prospective Audiences to Social Media Channel Categories

Mapping Example Audiences to Social Media Channels

The third step is to define our messages to each audience (if we haven’t already done so).  For purposes of this example, we’re going to keep this to one message per consumer segment:

  • Green Consumers: Greensoap leaves you AND the world a cleaner place.
  • Vacation Travelers: Greensoap keeps your family clean and your life simple.
  • The Thrifty Shopper: Greensoap keeps you clean and green at 50% of the cost of other soap.

In the next post we’ll put together the campaigns and then show how we apply them to the various media channels.  Stay tuned.


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PostHeaderIcon Social Media Channel Architectures – Gotcha!

Well, this morning has been quite interesting.  I got home last night to log into ping.fm (which is where I centralize a lot of my channel management). I went to post a new item and noticed that all my feeds had disappeared. Now, I’ve been moving my online brand/identity over from arthurofsun to onlinematters (more on that soon), so I thought maybe I was logged into the wrong account. But then I realized I didn’t open a new account for ping.fm – just renamed the old one to my new username.

That’s when I noticed this message on the home page:

If you created your account between September 2nd and September 8th and you are unable to login, you will need to re-create your account. Sorry for this inconvenience! You can read more as to why by clicking here.

Turns out, the folks at ping.fm had a database server crash that lost six days of data. It so happened that I was setting up an entire channel architecture for our business on the 5th and 6th, so while my account wasn’t gone, my entire distribution network had been deleted. I had no clue this was happening, so all my posts yesterday went spinning off willy-nilly into the ether. Very frustrating to realize that I had no warning; no alerts. To boot, I’ve had the pleasure spending this morning reestablishing the entire ping.fm network.

The lesson in all of this is that social media, and its associated infrastructure, is still very young. If you depend on social media to make a living, then you should make a habit of double checking your feeds and channels on a regular basis to ensure they are still running correctly – that is, until a service comes along that allows you from a single console to manage, monitor, and repair your social media feeds (hint hint).

So instead of writing my blog this am, I was recreating the channel by which it can reach you. My apologies. We’ll be back tomorrow.

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PostHeaderIcon Social Media Channel Architectures – Part 1

I am often doing social media projects for clients.  As part of that, I have to figure out how to make the most impact for limited dollars.  But that is no different than what I normally do for any other marketing program.

In fact, that’s the point – social media, while it has different dynamics, is fundamentally no different than other marketing programs.  You have a set of audiences you wish to reach.  Audiences should (but often aren’t) defined by attitudinal and behavioral traits.  You have a set of messages to deliver.  You have a set of media you can produce in.  And you have the communication channels to distribute that message (Figure 1). 

Figure 1 – How Audience, Messages, and Content Impact the Selection of Social Media Channels

 Basic social media communications model by onlinematters

The goal is to get 6-10 impressions on the same audience through various channels within a specified period of time.  Research shows that it takes 6-10 impressions for the average consumer to begin to  ”notice” a message through today’s incredible media clutter, so that has to be the minimum target.  That number, of course, can be delivered through other than online means (radio, tv, print, billboards), but given how easy it is to deliver messages online, it is worth trying to reach that number of channels online and then consider anything offline as an added benefit (or for those advertisers who use more traditional media, vice-versa).  And let’s be clear,  6-10 impressions gets you noticed, but doesn’t necessarily get recognition or retention of the message.  That can take hundreds of impressions – so it pays to use online as a vehicle to extend the brand and message reach, since it is easy to get into numerous channels.

How do you do this?  The approach is to match your audience with media type and channels.  In some cases an audience is reading- or text-oriented.  In others, they like audio; others video.  Most will be focused on multiple media options, with one as a preferred mode.  Thus, you need to chose the right sites within a hierarchy of media for the audiences you want to reach (Figure 2).

Figure 2 – Example of a Media-Segmented Social Media Channel Architeecture

A complete social media channel architecture from onelinematters

So let’s take an example.  You are going to create a campaign around a new brand of soap.  Three things make this soap different.  First, it is “green” – meaning it provably has a reduced impact on chemicals that go down the drainpipe and into the water system.  Second, it comes with a built-in case for travelling that is water tight but to which the soap doesn’t stick or get mushy (I wish).  Third, it is half the price of products that don’t have these features.   The soap will be sold directly from your website, from online retailers, in grocery stores, in drug stores, and in big box retailers like Target and Walmart.

We will continue the example tomorrow.  Hopefully the suspense of the case study will get your attention through the media clutter and we’ll get you back.

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