Archive for May, 2009

The Web Design That Changed the World

Tuesday, May 19th, 2009

Here’s a very interesting analysis of how website design played a role in our recent presidential election. Whatever your political affiliation, we can all appreciate what a difference the web made in the outcome of that race.
Enjoy!
Tim Anderson

The Web Design That Changed the World
BY Ravi Sawhney

I like to explore design’s reach into unexpected places. Today, I’d like to focus on design in politics… specifically, how, by creating emotional connection, the Web site my.barackobama.com (commonly known as MyBO), empowered a grassroots campaign that put a young Senator from Illinois in the Oval Office.

I don’t know if Chris Hughes, the Facebook Boy Wonder behind MyBO, considers himself a designer, but I certainly do. In fact, I believe he’s an extraordinary designer. No matter which side of the aisle you sit on, or what color your state, it’s impossible not to recognize the monumental impact the Internet played in the 2008 campaign.

The theme of MyBO came from Obama himself, “I’m asking you to believe. Not just in my ability to bring about real change in Washington… I’m asking you to believe in yours.” Obama asked people to believe. Chris Hughes gave them the tools to effect that change.

Hughes is known as “the Empath.” That’s fitting. Empathy is an essential–perhaps the essential–trait in successful designers. As I’ve said, “It’s not how the design or experience makes you feel, it’s how it makes you feel about yourself.” Designers have to be able to step outside themselves and into the hearts and minds of the end-users. A designer must be able to accurately imagine how a design will make a variety of users feel. This allows us to understand what features will elicit which feelings.

When designers determine the features going into a product, they’re not really designing features, they’re designing benefits. What’s more, they’re designing to create the emotions these benefits evoke. In the case of MyBO, the design was all about empowerment and hope. Empowerment to effect change; hope for a better world.

The real brilliance of MyBO.com is that the point of the online site was to facilitate real world activity. Take the Neighbor-to-Neighbor campaigns that connected members to undecided voters near them. But the “connection” Hughes worked so hard to design into the system wasn’t merely based on geography. Hughes sought the deeper connection, the emotional connection of commonality. By having volunteers call undecided voters with similar backgrounds and interests, Hughes empowered people to connect with the people they called. And once you truly connect with someone, it’s much easier for them to really hear what you have to say.

So what can we learn from Hughes and the design of MyBO? We can learn the value of creating designs that empower and connect. Don’t let the scope and impact of MyBO intimidate you. The empowerment doesn’t have to be as world-changing as the Obama campaign. It can be as simple as a kitchen tool that empowers a parent to make a meal that connects their family around the dinner table. The real benefit to companies is how this empowerment connects consumers to brands. When you successfully create this connection, you’ve set yourself up to benefit from the grassroots campaign known as viral demand. When people love your products, they’re happy to do your PR work for you.

Here’s a great Q&A that was published last October in Entrepreneur between David Javitch and Dan Schawbel, a leading expert on social networking and business.

Tuesday, May 12th, 2009

Business people across industries and up and down organizational charts are buzzing about the merits of social networking. To gather state-of- the-art information about this timely topic, I interviewed an expert in the field. Dan Schawbel is a leading personal branding expert for Gen-Y and the author of the upcoming book Me 2.0: Build a Powerful Brand to Achieve Career Success. His Personal Branding Blog is ranked among the top 50 marketing blogs in the world by AdAge. Dan is currently a social media specialist for EMC Corp.

David Javitch: Can you tell me about the trend that has employers hiring employees to take on social networking duties?

Dan Schawbel: It’s a major trend that’s been growing significantly, especially in the past three years. Conversations are happening and they’ll happen with or without you; your choice is whether to participate or ignore this technological tidal wave. Due to the current economy, there are clear restraints on marketing budgets, so free social marketing is the best alternative. As companies grow and social networking continues to expand, the entrepreneurial boss simply cannot devote all of the time needed for a successful effort. He or she needs to hire someone else dedicated to assume this responsibility. This person will be the internal community manager who will create, monitor and transfer information about the company between and among employees who have a voice and can influence or build the corporate brand.

Externally, the community manager will reach out to current and potential customers. This person will spark interactive conversations, market products or services, and invite responses. In terms of public relations, this social media maven will protect and promote the company’s brand with customers and future employees, and help with the corporate blog and social network strategy.

Javitch: What’s the benefit of hiring an employee who manages the business’s Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn and other social networking accounts?

Schawbel: When it comes to social networks, readers have a high expectation that sites will be refreshed and updated often and on a regular basis. As I said, the entrepreneur doesn’t have time for this, yet the responsibility is overwhelming, so someone needs to do this. This employee needs to be a content producer, presenting current data, information, or video for weekly visitors to the site. The community manager does more than simply create a site; he or she needs to work hard to make it an attractive, interactive community where readers will consistently go and encourage their friends, social groups, and networks to go as well. The major benefit here is that this network employee will reach out and interactively communicate with various communities; the business owner simply will not have time to do this successfully.

Javitch: Can you list what social networking a small business should be doing now?

Schawbel: Small businesses should at least be involved in the largest social networks, belong to forums and have at least one blog. Each of these websites is a way of positioning yourself and your company to the world. You can create a video, respond to questions or problems or start a discussion. For instance, when someone joins your Facebook group, the word spreads virally through that person’s newsfeed. Remember, people want to join groups; they want to meet people and buy products or services based on their friends’ recommendations.

Setting a Google Alert for your name and company’s name is highly encouraged. When someone blogs about you, your company, or your products and services, you’ll be notified immediately through either e-mail or RSS [feed]. Then you can use their name to get back to them for further interactive communication.

You also need a profile page on Facebook. It will tell readers about your company, people, service or product. Remember, people are searching for information; give them what they’re asking for. And above all, the process is free; the only cost is your time.

Javitch: Do the different sites require one “community networking” employee to manage? Or does it also work to spread out such duties among many employees?

Schawbel: If you’re Coca-Cola, then you need a team. If you’re a sole practitioner, you have to do it yourself. However, whether you have five or 50 employees, delegate the responsibilities. Let’s say you have three people you trust as social networkers; you can have individuals responsible for specific sites. But you have to make sure you don’t dilute the message or cause repetition of effort with several people creating different versions of the same data. This delegation of responsibilities needs to be properly coordinated.

Javitch: What “bare bones” networking should small-business owners be doing on their own (if they can’t hire someone to do it for them) that will help them market their business?

Schawbel: Small-business owners should get involved in social sites like LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube or Friendfeed. They need to go where the people are to promote themselves, recruit and maintain a relationship with specific communities, while obtaining new customers and building bigger communities. They need to draw accounts into their world. Above all, the owner must have specific goals in mind in order to strategize about what he or she wants to get out of these efforts. Is it to increase business by 500 more customers? Increase visibility? Sell more products or services? Without specific goals, the owner won’t be able to determine if the social networking process was a success or a failure.

While getting on these social sites, business owners must protect their name so no one else can use it. This includes claiming your identity on social sites before competitors do or people with the same name do. These sites have a high Google PageRank™, which means they’ll appear in the top results when someone Googles your name or your company’s name.

Javitch: Can you break down which blogs, FaceBook, Twitter, MySpace, etc., are most popular to the separate generations? Business owners who target a certain age market need to know which social network to invest time in.

Schawbel: MySpace has over 185 million users, split evenly between men and women 14 to 34 years old. Twenty-five percent of them are in the U.S. FaceBook has over 110 million readers, more women than men. The majority of these users–80 percent–are under 30 years old and half of all FaceBookers are located in the U.S., Great Britain and Canada.

LinkedIn has over 26 million readers, with the average age being 41. Men make up 64 percent of the audience. Their average household income is $109,000. Twitter has 3 million readers, two-thirds of whom are men 18 to 34 years old.

Armed with this information, marketers can more effectively target specific age, income and geographic groups.

David G. Javitch, Ph.D., is Entrepreneur.com’s “Employee Management” columnist and an organizational psychologist and president of Javitch Associates, an organizational consulting firm in Newton, Massachusetts. With more than 20 years of experience working with executives in various industries, he’s an internationally recognized author, keynote speaker and consultant on key management and leadership issues.

Webaloo Assists North Dakota Flood Victims

Wednesday, May 6th, 2009

Webaloo recently developed and manged an information website for residents affected by the resent flooding in the Fargo-Moorhead area.

The idea for the flood information website, www.redriverflood.tv, was conceived by Scott Hennen, a well-known talk radio host in Fargo. Scott had previously worked with Webaloo on another project and he invited them to assist him on this new venture.

“Residents of our area were complaining during the early days of the recent floods that they wasn’t a single source of the most up-to-date information on flood conditions and recovery resources,” said Scott Hennen of Fargo radio station am1100. “We believed that by using radio as the anchor, we could direct people to this website which utilized the most current interactive media to provide up-to-the minute information,” he said.

The website became the definitive place to get the most up-to-date information on flood conditions for residents of the Fargo/Moorhead area including live streaming video of news conferences.

Besides containing helpful links to city, county and state agencies, the website also featured video reports from local college students who were recruited by Scott Hennen and commissioned to spread out throughout the affected communities and report on what was happening. The armature reporter videos were one of the most talked-about parts of the website.