Thursday, 11 December 2008

Social Media Monitoring as a guide to buying or producing goods for resale?

Throughout my career I have been in contact with many buyers from big retail organisations, while also being involved in making sales forecasts for B2C products such as video games. Buyers (a.k.a. Procurement Managers) and myself had to estimate sales potential based on historical data of comparable products, marketing budget available (which also depends on sales potential), feedback from early testers such as journalists and then apply our own "gut-feeling" to ultimately decide on a figure.
Now, from a Marketing point of view you can obviously generate extra sales via smart and targeted campaigns, but the relation between marketing spent and sales revenue is not a linear equation. In the case of entertainment products it is possible to spend huge amounts on communication and advertising and not even come close to your sales targets. In the music industry there is no set recipe for a "hit" (Stock, Aitken & Waterman however seem to have had the recipe for the late 80s) and in the video games sector new franchises/titles are notoriously difficult to evaluate. The specialised games press has always been considered a very important source of feedback, but still a great score is no guarantee for commercial success and vice versa.

Nothing new so far. But social media monitoring could help organisations with an early warning system that would give an indication as to the potential of products. If the opinions formulated in social media are mostly negative, organisations might be more prudent as to the forecasts and the marketing budgets linked to these products

New social media monitoring tools, such as Techrigy's SM2, now allow you to dig much deeper into the "overall feeling and sentiment" about a product's release, before the actual launch of the product. Some algorithms will even analyse the Positive versus Negative Opinions and represent these graphically (e.g. pie chart: 500 opinions of which 75% positive, 25% negative). Now, computers obviously don't understand sarcasm so a sample of these opinions should quickly be scanned manually to see if the figures are representative but this tiny aspect of social media monitoring could prove to be extremely useful to organisations when forecasting sales of entertainment products.
Such data could then be incorporated in a marketer or buyer's set of forecasting tools. Over a period of 12 months enough historical data could be collected in order to start using Positive/Negative Opinions as a standard decision weighing tool.

Thursday, 27 November 2008

Social Media Campaigns for the Entertainment Sector

My Digital Partner now also offers Social Media Campaigns to artists, musicians, publishers and PR companies who want to embrace the power of social media and let a tribe or fan-base share and promote their latest productions. 
My Digital Partner will build custom-made widgets, with all the functionalities of a mini web site, but that can easily be shared via social media and web2.0 sites such as Facebook, MySpace, Blogger, TypePad, iGoogle, Bebo, etc.
These widgets can be used as stand-alone web sites or they can be integrated to your existing campaigns. 

My Digital Partner can provide you with reporting on how many times your custom-made widget was viewed, how many times it was shared, via which channels, etc.  
Not only is this a very powerful branding tool, but you can even update the content of all shared widgets in one go.  
Can you imagine the potential for artists, publishers, brands?  We can! And we are very excited about this new service offering.

Saturday, 1 November 2008

Saving Money with Skype

Everybody knows about Skype, but most people only use a fraction of its possibilities. Skype allows you to make Skype Calls (VOIP) for free to your contacts all over the world, enjoying a sound quality that is sufficiently good in most cases. At My Digital Partner we also use Skype as our Instant messaging platform. An additional bonus of using Skype, is that you can have Video Calls, also for free, with your Skype contacts.

Saving money on landline calls:
So far, nothing new really. But once you start using
SkypeIn numbers, the advantages to small businesses become really obvious. A SkypeIn number is just like a real phone number, but you answer it using your Skype client. This however is absolutely transparent to the callers. SkypeIn phone numbers come with additional functionalities such as voicemail and call forwarding, which makes this concept fit for professional use.
In order to forward calls to land lines or mobile phones, you will however need to have bought some SkypeOut credit because the forwarding off calls is billed at very reasonable
SkypeOut rates.

What makes this Skype solution ultimately competitive is its pricing. At My Digital Partner we use an
Unlimited Europe subscription at £2.95/month which comes with a SkypeIn Phone number, voicemail, call forwarding and allows us to make unlimited calls to land lines within 21 European countries. All of that for £2.95/month!
Admittedly we spend some money on call forwarding to land lines and mobile phones (at very competitive SkypeOut rates), but this would also be the case with any other telecommunications solution.

Saving money on mobile calls:
In order to optimise our use of the Skype platform for communications, at
My Digital Partner we also use 3 Skypephones. These phones allow us to keep our mobile phone bills very, very low by using Skype call technology for communication between the members of our staff. Since every member of our staff will log in to his Skype account on his mobile, we can make mobile calls virtually for free. E.g. 3's Pay As You Go £10 top-ups come with minutes and text, similar to other mobile phone operators, but you also get 90 days worth of free Skype-to-Skype calls. This reduces mobile phone bills drastically!

Saving money on international calls (option1):
Another very recent addition to the functionalities of 3's Skype implementation is the "
Call Phones Abroad". If your organisation often is in contact with companies abroad and the members of your staff need to make international calls using their mobiles, then this is something you really want to check out. From now onwards My Digital Partner's staff are using SkypeOut credit when making calls abroad with their mobiles, again implying huge savings.
Remark: At the time of this writing, this is all quite new so you might need to update your Skype software on "older" 3 Skype-enabled phones or make sure you buy a new 3 Skypephone S2 that has the updated software on-board. Don't try to call 3's Tech Support or get information in a retail outlet.  It is very unlikely you will get a satisfactory answer. Luckily some, including
My Digital Partner, have insisted on getting this to actually work and the following forum post explains how owners of the previous 3 Skypehone S1 can update their software and start enjoying the benefits of the "Call Phones Abroad" functionality.

Saving money on international calls (option2):
Another way to save money on your international calls is to use the new
Skype To Go functionality that comes for free with your Skype subscription. The idea behind this is quite simple, you call a dedicated Skype To Go local land line, just as you would call any other number. A Skype system answers your call and forwards you to any international phone number of your choice (you can also set up 6 different speed dials).  In order to make these calls, Skype then charges you according to your subscription and/or SkypeOut rates.  E.g. if you have an Unlimited Europe subscription, your calls to European land lines will be forwarded for free.  You would only pay the local call to your Skype To Go number.

Added extras:
If you want extra phone numbers in different regions across the country or an extra international phone number in the US, this is possible at the click of a button. 
Remark: some countries require you to be a local resident in order to require a local SkypeIn number.

How to start:
Just do it ... go to the dedicated Skype pages and get started.

We hope you will soon be saving money on your telecommunications.  

Saturday, 11 October 2008

What's in a (file) name?

Let me start by sharing a very simple but useful tip. If you are serious about communicating online, some simple rules of consistency and naming can be very useful.
When naming a file, please
use a dash "-" instead of spaces or underscore characters. If you want Google to understand the file name as you intended it, just replace the spaces by a dash.
E.g. use "company-product-widget-name.jpg" instead of "company product widget name.jpg" for the name of a visual.

I can hear you think,
why should I do that? Well, once you start communicating online it is very likely that you will be using visuals in one way or another. If you want Google (Images) to understand what your visual is relating to, well then it makes sense to use for example your company name, the product name and what it relates to in the file name. But, for the Google crawlers to know which characters are separate words, just use a dash.

Just have a think about what is important to your business? Your company name, a brand name, the product names, the problem it solves? Once you've done that, please be consistent when naming files, all files.

Just make it a habit and not only will it be much easier for your internal communications, but you will also have optimised your future online potential.

Launch of My Digital Partner's Blog!

Welcome to this new Blog!  The aim of My Digital Partner is to let small businesses embrace the power of social media and web2.0 tools in order to boost their internal & external communications and impact positively on the bottom line.
This Blog will show how My Digital Partner's clients are using their new online communication tools in order to improve internal communications, lower IT costs, generate leads, automate registration tasks, increase PR results, etc.  The aim is to provide you with some inspirational Case Studies and to demonstrate you can make maximum impact with a minimum budget.
For more information about the services we offer, please visit My Digital Partner.