Social Media Experimentation

In the tech world, new reigns supreme. Shiny is better than boring, re-imagined is perceived as better than the original and there’s always a InsertExistingProductOrServiceHere for InsertYourMarketHere.

Garden Coffee Cup

Garden Coffee Cup BlogPic from WinePress of Words.

Be Free
And because most of these new things are free (as in money) of charge, there’s always a rush to be first, and an even more important race to be the best. Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn dominate the social media landscape, but now that relative newcomers Pinterest, Google+ and a host of niche networks have shown up, there’s at least perceived competition to master every one.

Social Media Presence COMPLETE
We’re not alone in this. EventDay and sister company LoopLogic have Facebook pages, Twitter accounts, Google+ Business Pages, LinkedIn presence, Pinterest boards and their own blogs. Are we doing it correctly? Sure, if being everywhere is part of doing it just like everyone else, or at least companies with enough time and resources, does.

Syndication Works For TV Shows!
As such, we’ve found that too much of our content is no more than syndicated across these networks. We have some short content and links to longer pieces on Google+, but because Google’s APIs tie in with nothing, we can’t easily adapt and share that content without recreating it.

Tweet Me
Twitter is useful for real-time feeds of conferences and industry news, but not so great when you’re looking to get the word out about one specific thing.

twitter_Good_Bad

IPO Away!
Facebook is powerful and delivers clicks, but how interested are people going to be when they switch between posting vacation photos, talking to Grandma and reading posts about the future of the events industry?

Notice I haven’t yet said anything about LinkedIn.

Not That Serious?
That’s because LinkedIn is scary. LinkedIn is for serious business people with serious issues, like finding jobs or building companies they can one day sell. It’s for marketers who like to spam, unemployed who like to share tips and power users that treat it as a mobile focus group.

Scary Is Good
But for startups and other small companies, LinkedIn can be intimidating. The breadth of features and services we DON’T offer makes many think twice about jumping into such a SERIOUS place, fearful that we’ll be overshadowed by those with far more time and resources.

Jumping Like A Platformer
We’ve tried of jumping on every new network in hopes they will somehow surpass what we’re already using. No one wants to be a social media guinea pig, and even though establishing a presence on every relevant network certainly can’t hurt, overspending resources on networks that aren’t working is a wasteful practice we’d rather leave to our competitors.

Hey, did you know people still use email marketing? And that it’s really effective?

Perhaps it’s time to rethink our approach.

Time For AZGroups 6/19/2012

Word is that Windows Azure and ASP.net are HOT and getting HOTTER!

Our own Scott Cate knows the feeling.

Scott Cate is so hot right now.

Our team is excited to again host AZGroups on June 19, 2012. This free event is open to anyone that wants to know more about Windows Azure, ASP.net, SignalR, Web API or just wants to talk Microsoft tech with long-time AZ community supporters Scott Guthrie, Scott Hanselman and Brady Gaster.

Time
Starting at 7am ish and finishing nearly 12 hours later, we’ll have tech demoes, cool new products, tons of geek conversations and some great food.

Place
AZGroups will be held at the Scottsdale Center For The Arts, located in the heart of downtown Scottsdale. We bet you’ll be impressed with what that area has to offer, too.

Local First
We’re also happy to share that every vendor we’re working with is local, meaning the dollars we’ve spent stay in our town and state to help pay for the stuff we use every day.

Did I mention there’s also an after party? Well, there will be an after party.

Register now, as our limited capacity has ALWAYS sold out.

Taster, Tastemaker, Change Agent or Change?

Anything that’s large and oft repeated fears change. Corporations, assembly lines, business events, freeway systems and the newspaper industry fall into this category. Each of these has built their success on formulas that, with minor modifications, can be done again and again to build revenue and hopefully profit.

You’re The Best…Around
The best of these aforementioned groups will change, however. They will adapt to changing market conditions, they will evolve to meet customer needs and they will reinvent themselves if necessary to survive.

Nothing Gonna Keep You Down
But only the best of the best are tastemakers. Unlike most of the world, which seeks to sample, try out and taste before deciding, the tastemakers seek to set the new standard of which they think everyone should adhere to or improve on.

Inspiring Guitar Solo
In our business, the idea that smartphones could be used with QR codes to quickly check people in, keep real-counts of attendees and allow vendors and attendees to share information was originally a bit out of reach. Too many companies had locked in on the handheld scanner market and the idea that off-the-shelf, universal hardware could be used to do similar if not better functions than a dedicated piece of equipment was looked at as a pipe dream.

Try And You’ll Succeed
But as the lines between professional and consumer hardware blurs, we’ve seen tremendous improvements in both lessening the cost of deployment (everyone already has a smartphone and the app is free, all costs stem from development and hosting) and shortening the development time (hours or days instead of weeks and months), we know that this new way of doing things is simply part of a larger shift toward self-service software packages.

Thanks to cloud services like Windows Azure, we’re stoked to be able to give people a taste of what’s next.

Now to work on our flavors…

Make Data Big, Ideas Small

Innovation requires effort.

Innovation is usually messy.

Innovation requires things to change.

But what do you do if your innovative idea is too big, too ambitious and too resource consuming to be acted upon right now? Do you wait for the technology to be invented (like James Cameron’s Avatar) or do you create it yourself (Lucasfilm’s Skywalker Ranch)?

Or do we go a third route, one which brought Charles Dickens great success?

Diagramming small ideas using big data

When Dickens first started, he didn’t write his novels all at once. He released them chapter by chapter, which allowed him to both get his ideas out faster AND to make minute adjustments later in his stories.

Adaptable
He succeeded by making his big idea small. In an age when attention spans seemingly shorten daily, this process of presenting a big idea in small chunks fits perfectly into the consumption habits of most potential clients. Instead of having to schedule a weekend to get through a report, and possibly keeling over from having to read yet another summary of a memo about a report, these chunks allow your audience to better absorb specific lessons that could otherwise get lost in a larger report.

But doing this isn’t all that simple. While great writers such as Dickens can more easily than most break his grand plans into digestible parts, that doesn’t mean we have the same ability. But we can learn to do this by taking all those little data points from our idea and making them big. How big?

BIG
Big enough to see trends, big enough to make connections, and big enough to be able to tell a story that matters. New York first did this with CompStat back in the 80s and 90s. The program, the first of its kind on such a scale, took a big idea (reducing crime), broke it into little data points (they tracked where and what kind of crime occurred when) and then laid it out so they could see patterns.

It Worked
Their big idea, at first too daunting to be accomplished, became small enough to handle. Those data points, seemingly too small to make a difference, added up to one heckuva result.

What can we learn from this? No idea is too big to be broken down and no data point is too small to make a difference.

Happy researching!

Is Content Marketing Just Another Buzzword?

In case you’re unfamiliar, content marketing is generally regarded as text, audio or video—usually text heavy—that’s used to influence a target market. Because Google’s latest updates have rewarded content creators by downgrading heavy back linking and upping the influence of shared content, the marketing world is flush with new ideas on how to create great content.

It may seem tricky, but it’s not. Does anyone out there really think that using relatable stories (a common theme for most content marketers) targeted at specific (potential) customers ISN’T a good idea? Nope, but until quite recently, the SEO industry was far, far better at getting their keyword-laden sites ranked far ahead of everything else.

Those days are over, at least until the SEO industry finds another way to exploit the Google algorithm. Until that day, content marketing reigns as the absolute best way to gain attention.

But what the heck does that even mean?

It’s just stories. Content marketing is marketing without the pushiness, without the jargon and without the sales talk. It’s no different than a great public speaker giving a good speech, and far better than a sales guy quoting estimated numbers.

And it’s nothing new. Stories have always been the best way to sell products, right? Haven’t you used customer success stories in pitches? Have you ever taken customer testimonials and put them on your site?

Then you’re a content marketer. Congratulations!

Now, if you want to be successful, here are some tips that anyone looking to sell something online should have ALWAYS been following.

Keep It Targeted
If you’re writing for teens, moms, dads, single dudes in their 20s and octogenarians, you’re likely not going to appeal to any of them. Our target market is corporate event planners, likely between 30-50. While The Avengers may make them laugh, we’re pretty sure stories about Justin Bieber would not.

Keep It Conversational
We can always tell when someone is trying to sell us something. Direct questions like “what are your pain points?” and “What would you like to do better?” are great for people who already believe in your product or service, but not so great when they’re still on the fence. By talking about people just like them, content marketers are better able to answer sales questions without being so direct.

Keep It Helpful
Most customers don’t care about your sales last year, your huge client list or how awesome the latest build is. They want to know what you can do to improve their business and/or make them look good. When we work with InfusionSoft, we focus on how we can make their events easier, not how cool it is that our registration software was built from off-the-shelf parts (though we do throw that in eventually).

Make It About People
It’s human nature to want to know about other people just like us. People magazine has built an empire on the ‘celebs are just like us!’ idea, and content marketing is no different. Make your customers the heroes of your content marketing strategy and not only are they likely to talk you up, potential new customers will see themselves as the main characters in their own tale.

Maybe content marketing is just another buzzword, but it’s a technique that’s been around for a lot longer than most would admit. And it works.

The Weary Traveler

Weary Traveler, by *tinadelarosa

Weary Traveler, by *tinadelarosa

The alarm went off at 6am. What time was it back home? 4am? 9am? He could never remember what states were on what time, nor could he always remember where he woke up.

For the life of the seasoned business traveler, this happens a lot. Morning after morning in hotel rooms, day after day at conference centers, minutes upon hours waiting in line.

Waiting In Line(s)
Oh…the lines. They long, arduous minutes spent waiting to check in. The minutes tick by slowly as each person is methodically led to a check-in station, only to not have their ticket ready. Or not be on the list at all. Or not be in the right place.

But not our guy. Our guy had his ticket on his smartphone. He had registered appropriately, given all of his information and even checked his email when he woke up. He had his ticket, he was prepared.

So why did he have to wait in line? Surely he could be enjoying a quick breakfast or even sitting alone with a cup of coffee. Or maybe he could be making a new friend or be introduced to a potential client.

What Do You Do While Waiting?
He tried to make small talk in line, but everyone else was as frustrated as he was. They wanted out of their metaphorical cage. They wanted to be free of the stanchions marking their path. Some of them were also prepared. They had their tickets marked with QR codes. So why were they being punished with another long wait?

Then he heard a commotion a few people ahead of him. People were getting out of line. He saw a man in an EventDay hat scanning smartphones with his own, and then directing people to pick up their badges at the end of the counter.

These people had escaped the line. They were special, right?

The EventDay-hat-wearing man then appeared in front of our weary traveler.

“Good morning, sir! Might you have your ticket with QR code either printed out or on your smartphone?”

He did, and held out his phone with the QR code displayed. The man with the EventDay hat lined his own smartphone above the traveler’s and the traveler heard a beep.

“That’s it! Thanks for checking in. You can pick up your badge and event bag at the end of the counter. If you walk over there now, they will call your name when it’s ready.”

The traveler picked up his bag and walked to the counter. His name was called and he accepted his badge with lanyard. 30 seconds after being scanned by the man with the EventDay hat, our traveler was checked in.

Extra Time?
The conference didn’t start for another 45 minutes. What ever would he do with that spare time? Maybe he’d meet a friend, maybe he’d shake a client’s hand, or maybe he’d have another cup of coffee.

Maybe he’d sleep in next time.

What would you do with an extra 45 minutes?

(Featured image courtesy of Ben Beiske)

Microsoft BizSpark One Shares Praise

May The Fourth Be With You!

It’s great to be recognized by the boss, praised by family/friends and rewarded by clients. The feeling that we’re doing something worth their time fuels the fire to keep stretching ourselves and improving our service, regardless of the hours and late nights.

But when you’re complimented by people you consider your peers and colleagues, the praise feels a little different. No, you likely won’t get a raise from such, nor will the praise increase your bottom line, but there’s a feeling of accomplishment and validation that only someone on your level can give.

Thanks to Microsoft BizSpark One for sharing some love today. From the article:

“It’s really great to have smart people working on our behalf, and the BizSpark feedback is invaluable for building our company,” says EventDay co-founder Scott Cate. “Because EventDay has grown totally organically, using all our own money, we focus our decisions on a few key criteria: does it work? Is it efficient? And what’s the impact on our wallets? Our BizSpark advisors help to amplify our business and marketing efforts so we can continue building on our early success, and the Windows Azure technology base allows us to put our precious personal dollars toward software development rather than systems administration. These things are a really big deal to a startup like EventDay.”

As one of the 45,000+ BizSpark startups, we can’t thank them enough for the assistance they’ve provided. As Cate said, the combination of BizSpark advisors and Windows Azure technology has allowed us to focus on what matters most: how to solve customer problems.

The less time we have to seek out advice and/or system administration, the more resources we can allot to making EventDay a fantastic company for our employees, our clients and our industry.

While we may never be able to assemble a team of actual superheroes, it feels good to know we can be just as accomplished.

Going Local Can Save Money, Hassle

As part of our ongoing interest in developing community and sharing cool ideas, our team helps out on a variety of local events here in AZ. From Microsoft User Groups to PodcampAZ, we love to throw or help throw free or low-cost events available to anyone with time to show up.

Will It Scale?
But as these events grow, our needs increase. Just yesterday, we spoke with a local venue about having an 800-person event in their space. The cost was appropriate and we had funds to cover, but after a quick budget review, we knew there was no way we could comfortably feed everyone using one of the venue’s “preferred” (preferred means required in the event industry, it seems) caterers.

Show Me The Money?
While we appreciate the skill caterers bring to serving food and refreshments to large groups, not having a huge corporate budget makes paying for things like $4 bottles of water tough. But if we DO decide to go with a catering company, we’d like it to be locally owned.

Think Local
Yesterday, in the middle of negotiations with a venue, our co-founder went on about the importance of supporting local businesses. He asked questions about the catering companies we were considering, and then it hit him: going local may be as easy as walking out the door.

Go Local
Walk out the door we did. About 20 feet outside the main entrance was a locally owned restaurant that gets really busy during spring training and events, but not so much during the hot summer months. Seeing as how our event is in the middle of June, we figured they might like the business and we’d be able to save some money in the process.

Save Money
Right we were. Because we wouldn’t have to pay for servers, delivery costs, marked-up water bottles and soda, the 300-seat restaurant across the way seemed like a perfect choice. Sure, we wouldn’t be able to have everyone sit down, but this free community event doesn’t require us to provide a four-course, sit-down meal. We wanted tasty sandwiches, a salad, and canned soda or bottled water.

Make ’em Happy
The owner/manager was thrilled. Not only was he making our jobs (okay, my job) much easier, we’d be able to save money AND go local. No worrying about clean up, no fretting about anyone charging us $4 for a $.50 Costco water bottle and no worries about set up and strike time.

Plan Ahead
While we know that asking a small restaurant to feed 800 people in just under 90 minutes isn’t going to be easy, we’re working with them to limit choices so they can have as much pre made that morning as possible. We’ve also discussed paying in one lump sum, so we can save time checking out each attendee.

Look Around
While this may not be available at every venue you come across, we can’t help but recommend that more event planners take a gander around the area, even if you have a healthy enough budget to buy whatever food you want. Lots of people win here and we’re happy to know that we helped.

Remember, going local doesn’t just mean buying from companies located in state, it also means supporting the businesses within the immediate vicinity. We definitely love working with locally owned catering companies when our budget is sufficient. Be sure to look around every time!