2 Day Bootcamp for Business Startups

There are many challenges to face and overcome when starting up a business, from the administration to sales, marketing and PR.

O’Reilly AlphaTech Ventures is sponsoring a Startup Camp to be held on the 10th and 11th of July this year for 6 to 8 startups that will be selected by June 20th from applicants.

Click here to read more about this great opportunity and how to apply…

The Photoshop Anthology book – Get it completely FREE from Sitepoint

The Photoshop AnthologyIt’s not often a great book like The Photoshop Anthology is given away free but Sitepoint have teamed up with 99Designs to do just that!

The Photoshop Anthology: 101 Web Design Tips, Tricks and Techniques is being given away free as a downloadable PDF from the Sitepoint web site, but only until Thursday 12th June so get clicking here to download it now!

Taken from the offer page on the Sitepoint site:

It’s brimming with tried and tested real-world Photoshop solutions that will add impact to your next web design project. If you’ve ever been stuck for inspiration, have puzzled over just how to create a shiny aqua-style button, or wanted to create that seamlessly tiling background image you saw on a site recently, you need download this book.

99Designs is sponsoring this giveaway to promote their service which “…connects passionate designers from around the globe with savvy clients who need design projects completed in a timely fashion without the usual risk or cost associated with professional design.

Also on the 99Designs site is the opportunity to win a MacBook and a money prize of $55,147. Go there now to check out how to win…

What is Web 2.0?

What is Web 2.0?

This is a question I get asked a lot and unfortunately, as is typical with all things Internet, there is no true fixed definition.

User-generated-content (UGC) and Asynchronous Javascript and XML (AJAX) are just two of the terms that get bandied around when trying to nail down just what Web 2.0 is.

Recently a friend of mine, whilst preparing for a job interview, asked me about this and I thought I’d better do some research to give her the most comprehensive answer I could. Considering she landed the job, I think I did ok!

Here then is one of the best explanations I’ve found for the meaning of Web 2.0, even if it is already a year old…

What it means to be Web 2.0 by Satyajeet Singh

Create your own Social Network site fast with Ning

Social networking is all the rage at the moment with social networks like Facebook, Bebo and MySpace in the news almost daily whether it be about the latest subscription numbers or who is making a buyout bid for how much (AOL bought Bebo in March for $850 million)!

All the social networks have a ‘Groups’ facility where you can invite friends to join in to share common interests,  but how much better is it to create your own social network using a site like Ning?

Let’s look at the advantage; As opposed to e.g. running a group on Facebook, you have full control over the site from the branding to the interactivity you’d like your users to have through the use of widgets. It is your own social network. And it’s free.

Check out http://www.ning.com/home/networks to see the most popular social networks on Ning and to give you an idea of what is possible…

SlideShare – get inspiration for your next presentation

SlideShare is the YouTube of the presentation world; it’s possible to find a presentation on practically any subject and many of these are very, very good. I’ve used the site a number of times to get a better understanding of certain topics and create better presentations of my own.

From the SlideShare site:

SlideShare is the best way to share your presentations with the world. Let your ideas reach a broad audience. Share publicly or privately. Add audio to create a webinar.

SlideShare, an Internet start-up, launched in 2006 and has just secured $3 million in funding for the next phase of their development.

British Standards Institution produces a new Standard for web site development (PAS124)

As anyone who has had a web site designed and developed can tell you, the process, from the technology required to what exactly the designer and developer actually do, is hazy at best. For a business to determine the Return on Investment (ROI) is near enough impossible.

Web site design and development is almost an art form and coupled with the fact that the technology employed by web site designers and developers sees marked advancement practically on a monthly basis, it has been very hard to ‘regulate’ in any form.

However, the British Standards Institution has set out to do just that with the development of a set of best-practice guidelines called Publicly Available Specification (PAS) 124 to help businesses get a better understanding before they delve into the actively into the process.

Read more about PAS 124 here…

How ‘green’ is your web hosting service?

We’re all trying to be more aware of our impact on the environment; Recycling household waste, using paper-bags in place of plastic etc. But have you given a thought yet to Green Hosting?

Data centers, like web site hosts, use a lot of power for their systems and server farms to keep all our web sites accessible day and night.

There are now, however, a number of hosting companies that do offer greener alternatives. Check these out:

  1. Green Hosting – http://www.green-hosting.co.uk/green-hosting-packages/index.html from £5 per month (+VAT)
  2. Eco Hosting – http://www.ecohosting.co.uk/hosting.html from £14.99 per year if paying by credit card
  3. DreamHost – http://dreamhost.com/ from $6.95 (approx. £3.50) per month (currently our favorite due to the price, hosting space and bandwidth they provide for the price)

Hopefully Green Hosting will now be another feather in your cap for being more environmentally friendly. 🙂

BSM and The Apprentice – an example of free marketing using an effective email signature

BSM (British School of Motoring), a part of RAC, is using an effective marketing technique by adding to it’s outgoing email signature a link it has made to the first casualty of Sir Alan Sugar’s BBC show The Apprentice.

In a RAC email I received today was the following copy as part of the email signature:

A little note on BSM……..which is part of RAC

Apprentice’s Nicholas passes test with flying colours

—————————————

Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, ruthlessly booted off “The Apprentice” by Sir Alan Sugar on Wednesday, has at least one
reason to celebrate: the driving school which taught him to drive, BSM, today reveals that he has passed his test
first time – with no minor errors.

The perfect test pass, achieved by only 0.85% of learners, comes as the latest success for Brown, 24, who claims
he has never failed an exam and regards his “B” in GCSE French as his biggest failure.

This method of marketing is clever because firstly, there is no cost. Adding a bit of text to your outgoing emails costs nothing. Secondly, The Apprentice is one of the UK’s hottest TV shows, having received in the region of 6.5 million viewer’s for the first show of the 2008 series! That means a lot of people will be discussing it at the water cooler and in the hallway; plenty opportunity for BSM to be mentioned in conversation, or at least remembered, as having done something clever like this tie in.

zoopla.co.uk – find out the value of your UK property

A new site, still in Beta, I read about in today’s Times newspaper is property web site Zoopla! The home page proudly states:

FREE value estimates and more on over 26 million homes
Creating a more transparent marketplace for property through community participation

I had a play about with the site and it certainly seems to be accurate, however I’m not sure how much more accurate it could be than an experienced property agent with knowledge of the area. Giving the home-owner an opportunity to ‘refine’ the property details, like number of bedrooms etc, provides a valuation as well the price homes on your street have gone for recently.

The site is built around the popular ‘social network’ theme and the idea is to get users involved in providing useful area information as well as buying/selling opportunities even if the property is not actually up for sale; a good way to gauge what your home could be sold for if you’re thinking about it.

Give it a try at www.zoopla.co.uk

Queeen Elizabeth & the Royal Family go Digital with their very own YouTube Channel

“Welcome to Official YouTube Channel for the British Monarchy” reads the introductory header of the Royal Family’s YouTube Channel.

Traditionally  the Queen’s Christmas message is televised on Christmas Day and has been since 1957; the move to show the address on a YouTube channel marks the 50th anniversary.

This also marks a shift in the way the Monarchy will choose to connect with the British people from hereon. Internet browsing has shot past TV as the pass-time of choice and recent research has shown that fewer and fewer people watch the Queen’s Christmas message on TV. With so much time spent on social networking sites like Facebook and YouTube it’s no wonder that the Monarchy feels a move to an Internet channel is needed.

Considering that it takes very little time and effort to set up a YouTube channel, there’s no reason why businesses too cannot take advantage of this great marketing tool. Many top universities already use YouTube to host videos of their courses  and it’s possible to find marketing videos for all sorts of things on YouTube and across the Internet.

One of the best uses of a service like YouTube is to host videos on it and then display them on your own web-site or blog. This has a few advantages:

  1. The video now appears in more than one location on the Internet giving it better exposure;
  2. Video takes up a lot more server space than static images and if you’re likely to be displaying many videos on your site it’s wise to ‘host’ them elsewhere and ’embed’ them on your site;
  3. You can use videos hosted on YouTube, or any other similar service, to improve the Search Engine Marketing for your business.

Can your business profit by using YouTube to host promotional and marketing videos?

Use Blinkx Ad Hoc to Generate Revenue from Videos on your Web-site or Blog

If you’re a person who takes a lot of video and posts them up on your web-site, blog or social network then Blinkx may be of interest.

Blinkx Ad Hoc is an easy way to display ads on your posted videos and, following the pay-per-click model, any time an ad is clicked you get paid.

It’s easy to set up an account with Blinkx and you could soon be generating revenue from your videos.

From the Blinkx home page…

Make money every time you share a video on your blog, website or social networking profile. Sound good to you? It’s easy to do! Our clever technology matches relevant, in-video text ads to any video. Whenever someone clicks on an ad in your video, you make half the cash!

Check out Blinkx Ad Hoc today

leonjacksonmusic.com – X-Factor Winner Leverages the power of the ‘Instant Digital Download’

Leon Jackson was crowned the winner of the 2007 X-Factor competition last night. Winning a 1 million pound recording contract, his music single, a cover version of the song “When You Believe”, originally recorded by Whitney Houston and Mariah Carey for the animated movie “Alladin”, is released on CD on Monday to give it a chance of making it to the Christmas No.1 chart position.

However, the song is already available from the official Leon Jackson website (www.leonjacksonmusic.com) for download. For the first time X-Factor has leveraged the power of the “Instant Download” by taking advantage of the obvious frenzy that surrounds the finals of such competitions. Marketing the website and the available download in the final show ensures that the masses of fans that voted for Leon Jackson can immediately satiate their need for his first single before the single even hits the stands on CD!

The Instant Download is one of the most important advantages the Internet brings to a business, especially a business that deals primarily in digital products, or even physical products that can be digitised in some way, for example e-books are digital versions of books, music and interviews can be digitised into MP3s, etc.

If your business can digitise its products then giving your customers access to the digital versions from your web site is a critical revenue channel. Once a product is digitised there are practically no further overheads involved and that single digital product can be sold millions of times and through dozens of partner websites.

Can you leverage the power of the Instant Download for your business?

A Forgotten Market?

Does your website provide a provision to verify delivery addresses via the British Forces Post Office?

In today’s The Independant newspaper, a reader’s Letter to the Editor raises the point that the British Forces Post Office address system is different to the conventional UK postcode system.

Most, if not all, e-commerce websites have a postcode verification system used to ensure delivery is made to the correct physical address, however since the BFPO doesn’t use postcodes British service personnel cannot use these websites to purchase goods.
In a sense, this is discrimination, as much so as not taking into account the fact that the disabled may want to use your website and should be able to navigate it with ease, something addressed by the Disability Discrimination Act of 1995.

We have gotten in touch with the BFPO to ask how best such sites can implement a workable solution and I’ll be sure to post their response when we receive it.

To learn more about the British Forces Post Office system click here…

Gadget Show Challenge Demonstrates The Success of Guerilla Marketing Using Blogs and Facebook

Last night’s Gadget Show challenge results clearly demonstrated the strength of running a guerilla marketing campaign on the Internet using blogging and social networking to drive massive traffic.

Every week Suzi Perry and Jason Bradbury reveal the results of a challenge and last night was the culmination of a 3 week long challenge to see who could generate the most Internet traffic to their videos on YouTube using viral marketing.

Suzi Perry decided to go down the route of an on-line game where the players aim for the highest score to get access to a ‘reward’ video and Jason Bradbury had a friend film him doing the ‘caterpillar’ move on the streets of London. Both videos were posted on YouTube and the number of views tracked for 3 weeks, with a final tally made on the program last night.

The results were astounding, with Jason Bradbury’s video getting 10 times more views, with over 2 million, than Suzi Perry’s which weighed in at just over 200,000.

But, in all honesty, it wasn’t the theme of the videos that drove the traffic. Jason Bradbury went on to explain that he’d blogged extensively about his video as well as sharing it with other bloggers to drive traffic. A friend had also set up Facebook group to drive even more traffic by creating a buzz around his funny video.

This clearly demonstrates that a huge budget isn’t required to generate buzz and drive good traffic to a web site. All it takes is some imagination and knowledge of how to leverage existing mediums like blogs and social networks like Facebook to run a successful Internet marketing campaign.

Click here to read more about running a marketing campaign on Facebook for free

View Jason Bradbury’s ‘Extreme Caterpillar Breakdance’ here…

Dragons from Dragons’ Den Invest In hungryhouse.co.uk

Last night’s episode of the BBC programme Dragons’ Den was of particular interest to me as it featured a company called hungryhouse.co.uk, a web site to make ordering takeaway-food easier, which needed investment to expand their operation across the UK.

Having successfully run the Dragons’ Den gauntlet, hungryhouse.co.uk partnered with two of the Dragons, Duncan Bannatyne and James Caan, who agreed to invest £100,000 for a total equity stake of 25%.

The site has partnered with restaurants in various parts of the UK and provides the user with a single point of access by offering restaurant choice by area and the ability to place orders with the selected restaurant via the site. This does away with the drawer full of takeaway menus and means that a user, presumably, will have access to the latest menus.

It’s a great idea, especially considering more than 100 million takeaways are ordered in the UK annually, however what I wanted to stress here is that the investment was required primarily for off-line marketing, to recruit more restaurants to join the site and grow the coverage.
This is a point many ‘web-entrepreneurs’ fail to take into account. Many believe that just having a web site will generate enough interest in the market and lead to revenue generation. Not so. Off-line marketing is still as important as it ever was especially since it’s fairly easy to get a website up and running, meaning competition is ever increasing.

So, when you’re putting together your business plan for a web-business, don’t forget to consider all the marketing channels available to you, off and on-line.

Has Facebook Crossed The Line With It’s New Ad Strategy?

I don’t think too many of the 5-million-plus members of Facebook were impressed when it sold a 1.6% stake to Microsoft a couple of weeks ago, but the announcement of their new ad strategy will impress even fewer if not actually enrage them!

So what’s the problem with ads being displayed on Facebook pages? It’s free to use after all, and Facebook needs to generate income somehow. Advertising is the obvious route to take. What, then, is the problem?

What has users up in arms is the fact that the new ads displayed will carry the profile-pictures of members as if to say “try this product, I recommend it”. The problem here is that the pictures/photos of members don’t belong to Facebook to use in this way. The legality of this strategy is being hotly debated by privacy advocates and Facebook.

Could a move like this spell the end of Facebook? Probably not. Too many Internet users exist who don’t seem to care about putting their lives on digital display and the fact that their photos will accompany ads may just spur many of them to join up if they aren’t already members.

However, this kind of user will reduce the quality of a network like Facebook and could lead to more ‘responsible’ users going someplace else to socialise.

Read “Will Facebook survive past 2008” for more…

Use Facebook To Run A Free Marketing Campaign

Social networks like Facebook are a marketer’s dream. Social networks, by nature, are viral i.e. they’re built to ‘spread’ ideas, photos, video or anything you can think of to your list of contacts within the site, and they to their list of contacts and so on…

Facebook is second only to MySpace in the number of members it has, however it’s built to be a better viral vehicle for marketing. Whether you’re selling a new product or want to get exposure for a social event, it’s very easy to get ‘eyeballs’ on it using Facebook and what’s more it doesn’t cost anything.

The first step would be to set up a Facebook group for your specific product or service and invite all your contacts to join. When your contacts do join, the feed on their friends’ pages will be updated with that fact and will likely lead to a lot of them at the very least visiting the group page to check out if there’s anything of interest for them. “After all if a friend of mine joined a group it’s more than likely it’ll be of interest to me too” is the concept we’re going for here (you want to be sure to have some compelling copy on the group page to make sure your message is getting across to your ideal market to entice people to join). This will carry on for a while and pretty soon the group will have hundreds of members. And by ‘pretty soon’ I mean within weeks.

Whilst this is going on you want to be sure to have a website, preferably with a descriptive domain name that users can relate to the Facebook group, where members can find more details of your product(s) or services or whatever it is you’re marketing. Why? Because the site is under your control; you’re not limited in what information to host on the site or in what manner. Also, having a website allows you to capture the email addresses of your visitors so you can start marketing to them directly.

Drive the members of the group to the website (it could also be a special page you set up on an existing website created just for members of the Facebook group) using teaser information like articles or special offers/discounts. This will lead to more people joining the group so they can take advantage of the special discounts thereby continuing the viral campaign for you.

That’s it! Using this simple method you’ll be driving traffic to your web site in no time.

Here are a few links to help you set something like this up:

  1. Hosting and domain name for your site (if you don’t currently have one) – DreamHost
  2. A Cynergise article on using descriptive domain names to drive more traffic to your site from Facebook and elsewhere
  3. A brilliant email management tool to help you capture and manage your email list for direct marketing

If you’re setting up your Facebook marketing campaign and web site and need some advice don’t hesitate to contact us – we’ll be happy to help.

alibaba.com – promotional items website

If you’re running a business you’re likely to be using promotional items, like free gifts with every purchase, to get your customers coming back for more.

A great website to source such promotional items, as well as other products, is alibaba.com – based in the Far East, this website gives you access to numerous suppliers, manufacturers and importers or exporters of all sorts of stuff, using an easy to use interface to search by product type and/or region.

Check it out today by clicking here.

How Stuff Works, the website

A really useful website I recently landed on is ‘How Stuff Works’. As the name of the site suggests, it covers everything you’d ever like to know about cars, motorbikes, alternative fuels, werewolves, Google Phone, fleas, ghosts and a whole bunch of other stuff you didn’t know that you didn’t know!!

Just a few of the interesting articles are listed below with a link to the article on the How Stuff Works site (each link opens in a new page so this list remains) :

Drop us a note below if you find an article our readers might find interesting.

Click here to visit the How Stuff Works home page 

SAGA Zone – The Social Network for Over-50s

If you thought social networking was only for the young, you’re wrong. Today sees the launch of SAGA Zone, a social network for over-50s, created by the insurance and travel company SAGA.

In a four month trial, over 13,000 users signed up to SAGA Zone signifying that the Internet is not only the domain of the young. In fact in the UK the elderly make up 30% of all time spent on the Internet, a study by OfCom has shown.

Click here to visit SAGA Zone and be sure to pass this on to any 50+ person who enjoys using the Internet – this will right up their street.