First SpeakerBox got a spiffy new office. Now, to match the fresh and open feeling of our new digs, weve got a new website
|Photo Courtesy of Jen Sterling|
The incredible team at Red Thinking
, a Northern Virginia-based design firm, is the brains behind the face-lift. Red Thinking also deserves kudos for the incredible job they did completely redesigning the Small and Emerging Contractors Advisory Forum (SECAF)
website, a process that was managed by us.
Recently I had the chance to sit down and chat with Jen Sterling
, president and founder of Red Thinking, and ask her a bit about her company as well as for some insight into web design.
Q. Tell me a bit about Red Thinking and what your company does.
Red Thinking is a team of brand strategists who each have a special communications talent. Our design team understands visual identity, the power of a strong brand and how a companys clients interact with the company.
We offer logo development, collateral design, trade show identities, advertisements and all manner of publications (including flyers, brochures, catalogues, etc.). In addition to design we offer expert content and messaging development; marketing and brand strategy; and product and company name development.
Q. Since we just worked with you on two website redesign projects, let's focus on website design. How has website design changed over the past five years?
Web design and functionality have changed to reflect marketing trends, visitor needs and technology.
Building websites to appeal to each companys target audience and purpose for visiting a site is extremely important. An ecommerce site must have a well designed shopping cart as well as an ability to search for items. There is a reason that Amazon.com sells everything, its simple for people to search and buy.
We also know (well, weve always known) that strong content that provides fresh information paired with appropriate visuals is the heart of any site. You have to have a message and you have to know how to present it.
Q. How have the advances in mobile technology (the iPhone, iPad, Android) affected how you and your staff design websites?
Success is not measured by how a website looks on your computer. It is measured on how good design and clean coding will allow visitors to find the information they want and need regardless of the device they use to access the site.
Just a few years ago site owners felt that they had to have a lot of bling with Flash applications on their homepages. Flash is now considered a diversion and doesnt play well with new technologies like the Apple iPad and mobile phones. The iPad, and soon many related tablets, will completely change the way people surf the web and use web tools. Sites that render properly on mobile phones are becoming a must have option.
Q. What advice would you offer to the business executive who wants to change up his/her website but doesnt have a clear idea of where to start or what they want?
Hire a professional. Seriously. This is not something you can just throw to the office intern or your cousin's neighbor's brother who took an HTML class once. It is going to cost you some money and it is going to cost you some time. Likely more of each than you want. But it is worth EVERY BIT. Nothing is more important in your marketing arsenal. I don't buy any product or service these days before I review a company's website. Do you?
Q. What are five things that business executives, CEOs and the like must think about regarding brand identity, website design and marketing as we enter 2011?
- You can't stand out if you are not differentiated. You can't be all things to all people... focus on what you do best.
- Content is king. If you don't have anything useful to say it doesn't matter how nice your site looks or how well it works.
- Much like it takes a long time to write a short letter... it takes a lot of time/effort to develop a simple, clean and useable website. Don't rush the process or you will end up with an unsatisfactory result. Then you have to start all over again.
- You must spend money to make money. Don't skimp on your branding/marketing. You don't have to have a Savile Row suit but you can't network wearing a paper bag either.
- Your branding is never "done." Your company and its offerings and people are always changing and your brand must be flexible/adaptable enough to change with them. Constantly review and tweak as you go along so that your brand is always reflective of who you are as a company.
Earlier this week
I posted about Google Chromes charity initiative, Chrome for a Cause. Well, the results are in and the unique donation program proved to be very successful. Google donated a total of one million dollars to five worthy causes based on the five-day initiative. Chrome users opened and donated over 60 million tabs to the cause, which made it to Googles maximum donation amount. Users were able to choose which of the causes they wanted their tabs to support.
The final breakdown is as follows-
14,863,759 tabs = $245,278, which will go toward planting trees in the Atlantic Forest through The Nature Conservancy
14,107,003 tabs = $232,791, which will be used to provide clean water to people in developing nations through charity: water
6,791,848 tabs = $112,078, which will go towards building shelters in Latin America through Un Techo para mi Pais
16,200,412 tabs = $267,336, which will help administer vaccinations against meningitis through Doctors Without Boarders
8,636,519 tabs = $142,518, which will be used to publish books by local writers and illustrators in Asia and Africa through Room to Read
This was the first initiative of its kind for Google Chrome, but with its success, it is certainly not going to be the last. Chrome is already thinking of more original ideas for the future and encouraging users who downloaded the Chrome for a Cause extension to keep it installed for upcoming donation opportunities. So be sure to check with the Chrome blog
to see what they have up their sleeve next!
This month, Lead4ll announced the winners of the annual Technology 500 List. This list recognizes the fastest-growing tech companies based on the percentage of revenue growth from 2007-2009.
Many local companies were recognized in the top half of this years list including:
27 Zantech IT Services
60 Nova Datacom
70 Three Pillar Global
109 WFN Strategies
113 Global Wireless Solutions
115 VitalSpring Technologies
148 Capstone Corporation
172 Astyra Corporation
178 High Street Partners
186 Portal Solutions
194 Orbit Logic
200 American Cadastre
250 Catapult Technology
Top local winners primarily fall into one of two categories: IT services and software. Local services winners include several government contractors, and commercial companies specializing in software development, telecom, IT staffing and Web hosting. Local software winners offer solutions focusing on healthcare, customer service, e-learning and financial services.
The Washington metro area offers a vibrant and growing technology community not just for government contractors, but inclusive of them and this is exciting news. Congratulations to all the winners. - Katie Hanusik
From the boom of the Tablets, to the making of a Facebook movie, to the popularity of location-based tools, technology has intertwined its way tighter into our lives this year, and once again, forever changed the way we live, work and play. Industry trends can be attributed to leaders of sometimes massive, sometimes underground, companies. Whichever the case, and regardless of success or failure in 2010, there are countless executives that deserve recognition, and All Things Digital
is asking you to share your thoughts.
For another week, you can vote for who you think deserves the title as one of the 10 Most Interesting People in Tech in 2010
. Amazons Jeff Bezos? Or maybe Flipboards Mike McCue? You can even choose someone like Director James Cameron, or the one and only, Betty White. (Any loyal Golden Girls fan will know, and agree, that passing up a vote for Betty is a lot to ask...)
Take a quick second and submit your vote today results should be interesting, especially since theres room to explain your decision. Im happy that the top responses will be made public, as it will be fascinating to understand peoples definitions of interesting.
- Mary Evans
Twitter Top Ten. Say it three times fast...
Personally I love a good top ten list and the end of the year brings a plethora of them. Twitter
presents to us the top trends of 2010
and as expected, most of the popular trends speak to a cultural event that the global Twitter community bonds around:
- Gulf Oil Spill
- FIFA World Cup
- Haiti Earthquake
- Apple iPad
- Google Android
- Justin Bieber
- Harry Potter & the Deathly Hallows
- Pulpo Paul (the psychic octopus, also see #2)
Twitter also breaks the list down into sections, including the top ten in technology trends:
- Apple iPad
- Google Android
- Apple iOS
- Apple iPhone
- Call of Duty Black Ops
- New Twitter
- MacBook Air
- Google Instant
Of the tech trends it's no surprise that Apple
took four spots due to their products and platform, but a few things did stand out to me. For one, BlackBerry
was nowhere to be found (not even for the news of their forthcoming PlayBook
). To be fair, the tablet hasn't been released yet but it seems like Research in Motion just can't keep up with the consumer shift to Apple and Android platforms.
This shift is surely one of the reasons HTC
, the phone manufacturer that makes mobile devices on the Android platform, became a much buzzed-about company and earned a spot on the list. Between their well-reviewed phones (like the HTC EVO 4G
and HTC Droid Incredible
) and growing recognition
in the industry, they have really advanced the device offerings for Android and continue to gain more ground among their competitors in the mobile market.
I will also admit I have never heard of RockMelt
but considering they secured a top ten spot despite having only released their proprietary social media web browser in November, I think they've benefited from a lot of Twitter buzz and it will be interesting to see what they do in 2011. Check out their funny blog
post for how they chose the RockMelt name.
Any trends that surprised or shocked you?--Pheniece
Ah, the beauty of December. In addition to holiday parties, present shopping and eggnog drinking, it also typically involves reflecting on the current year and looking ahead into the new one. After living through a mobile year in terms of news distribution, an interesting Mashable
article recently laid the land for what to expect from news media in 2011. Maybe it’s just the inner geek in me, but some of these on the top 10 list really excite me, and some to be honest, surprise me.
Have a look and see what you think. Do you disagree with any, or have any predictions of your own? Only time will tell who’s right, but it sure is fun to dream.1. Leaks and Journalism: A New Kind of Media Entity
– Whistle blowers and the media are to become fast friends. Thanks, WikiLeaks for being a trendsetter.
2. More Media Mergers and Acquisitions
- While some dinosaur businesses models sank in 2010, those that are social-heavy grew. Next year could be an ideal time to engage in partnerships.
3. Tablet-Only and Mobile-First News Companies
– Starting a new news corporation next year? Consider a mobile or tablet platform. Companies already in existence are probably going to put some sweat and tears into beefing up their mobile offering, and place their website in the backseat.
4. Location-Based News Consumption
– AKA, news that follows you. Social media apps will allow for customized news, based on users’ GPS location.
5. Social vs. Search
– Forget about SEO, news outlets are expected to focus on social media optimization. After all, stats show that networks such as Facebook and Twitter are driving the bulk of website visitors.
6. The Death of the ‘Foreign Correspondent’
– Well, kind of. Common citizens are serving as journalists themselves these days, thanks to social media tools. We should expect to see the Andrea Mitchells of the world focus their time in otherwise untouched territories of the world.
7. The Syndication Standard and the Ultimate Curators
– Syndication and development of original content will see a shift in the new year. Pay close attention to the differences in specialized new outlets and those that are mainstream.
8. Social Storytelling Becomes Reality
– Soon there will be no reason for not getting a story across. (As if there’s a legit reason in 2010…?) Rumor has it that social curation will take flight next year, allowing journalists to cut through the clutter.
9. News Organizations Get Smarter With Social Media
– Yay for job growth! News organizations are expected to decentralize their social media newsroom and bring on new hires to fully embrace social journalism.
10. The Rise of Interactive TV
– Another form of multitasking. Instead of sitting on the couch watching breaking news and Tweeting your reactions from your laptop, internet TV will allow you to do it all from your big screen. Interactive TV? Yes, please!
- Mary Evans
Remember the days when you would write a letter to Santa, only to put it in the mail, never hear back and always wonder if he knew the Easy Bake Oven was on your list? No? Just me? Well kids these days have it so easy through the power of technology. Here are a few of the many (and free!) options children have to connect with Santa this holiday season.
The simplest way to connect with Santa is a modern day version of traditional letter writing. Through emailsanta.com
, kids can instantly send Santa their wish lists, and by filling in the blanks on a typical Dear Santa letter, it will generate a personalized reply.
Through Google Voice,
by answering a few questions including name, age and desired presents, Google will generate a very realistic sounding call from Santa. In response, children can leave Santa a message on a toll free number.Santas Good List
Interactive Quiz asks children a series of questions to determine if they should be on the naughty or nice list. Kids might even learn a thing or two about what they should be doing to earn a place on the nice list.
After answering a comprehensive set of questions, Portable North Pole
Personalized Santa Video will tailor a video of the North Pole happenings for you. The video can be geared towards any age group from toddler to adult.
And of course, there is the NORAD Tracking Santa
website, which shows where in the world Santa is at that moment. While this used to be a phone number kids could call to get Santas location, now in the age of Google maps, kids can track where Santa is up-to-the-minute. You can even track Santa on your mobile phone while out caroling and enjoying some eggnog.
So take advantage of all the resources you can and prove that Santa really does exist- and that he emails too!
If you were anything like me last week, you were probably a bit stressed knowing that you only had one more weekend to finish holiday shopping. Not to toot my own horn, (toot, toot!) but Im happy to say that as of today, Ive officially completed making my purchases for the year. (If I was bumping arms with you in the mall over the weekend, I apologize.)
However after talking with some of my colleagues here at the office this morning, I was reminded that there are plenty of people still on the hunt for the perfect gift. If you fall into that category, I might have something that will make your life easier. Its called tweeSP
. Built on Twitter
and powered by Amazon, tweeSP (Twitter / ESP) will analyze a persons Tweets and provide a list of items that he/she may love to see under the tree. Simply enter the persons Twitter handle and see the magic happen before your eyes! Sure, some questionable products may pop up (believe me, Im not interested in a personal fan), but plenty of legit suggestions do appear up in the list. (An iPod nano? Yes, please!) Check it out - its a neat concept and worth a look. After all, you are under the gun time-wise, so what could it hurt?
Oh, and the best part of tweeSP? Advertising fees from purchases will be donated to Toys for Tots. Hows that for holiday spirit?
- Mary Evans
Last Friday I attended the annual Potomac Tech Wire Venture Capital Outlook
with familiar faces as panelists; what an inspiring conversation! Sharing some insights from the esteemed leaders who shared their morning with us.(Please note that I tried to capture as much of the essence as I could, given the swift conversation. Any errors in attribution are entirely mine.)
Moderator: Paul Sherman
, Editor, Potomac Tech WirePhilip Bronner
, General Partner, Novak Biddle Venture PartnersThanasis Delistathis
, Managing Partner, New Atlantic VenturesDon Rainey
, General Partner, Grotech VenturesTige Savage
, Co-founder, Revolution LLCHarry Weller
, General Partner, NEA
The first question got started right away, and hit home, as panelists in years' past have remarked that perhaps the venture capital model is broken. Paul's first question: Why the whiplash in the VC marketplace in just a couple of years? We're seeing new energy and investments. Is the model still broken or regaining steam? Even more so, are we in a bubble again as many people have stated?Phil
remarked that the costs are so low today to start a business, that many businesses can get started without VC investments. That's what the market saw the last couple of years. That is still true, but there are companies who need to scale quickly at some point, and that typically requires capital investments.Harry
contributed that the facts still dictate that VC investments have gone down in the past ten years, so not all VCs have survived. 10 years ago there were 1,400 VCs in the US, today there are around 600. Don
added that what's turned things around in VCs favor are the big hits we've seen, which fuels the investment landscape.
Paul: What advice would you give entrepreneurs today?Harry
: 1) Think about the team you can attract. Very important - if your idea is great, it'll attract great leadership and talent. 2) Go BIG or go home! 3) Think about how your product will play internationally: it's a core requirement in today's world.Phil
: VCs are always looking to "what's next," so think about an ecosystem that can be formed around your idea, like what we are seeing in mobile. There's a lot of opportunity there.Don
: Don't confuse buzz with traction. A company's interaction with its customer HAS to be intimate, organic and real. Also, move your website beyond brochure-ware and make sure it is an engagement tool. Tige
: Be ready to pivot
. GroupOn and LivingSocial didn't start out doing what they are doing today, but they were nimble and quick to pivot to become who they are.Thanasis
: Companies that are doing well are the most focused, and show traction in a niche.
Paul: What has changed in evaluating companies today versus in the past? (answered collectively)
Paul: what is the most overused sentence you hear from entrepreneurs?
- Interested in backing entrepreneurs who will listen to advice.
- Timing and size is important. If a company is too big, they may not present a big enough opportunity. If a company is too small, it may be too soon. It's important to think about timing with investments.
- Determining if a company is ready to execute and be nimble. Gone are the days of big business plans; the Just Do It mantra is what we need to see.
"We're the 'Groupon
' or the 'Facebook
' of the ______ industry..."
"Our numbers are conservative..."
"Storage is the next big thing..."Paul: Given that, what are some great things you have heard from entrepreneurs?
"My contribution margin per acquired customer is XX" (shows they know the importance of low acquisition costs, and track it)
"We need to shut down the company" (shows that the CEO understood when it was time to go home, and that CEO would most likely be worth investing in again)
"I don't need any more money, because I'm profitable!" (enough said)Paul: Give us some companies you like, companies you've invested in, or think are ones to watch: (Note: these are not all the ones rattled off...I caught the ones I could)
There were some great questions at the end, which I'll include in Recap: Part II,
including perspective on the various regions (including the DC area); perspective on the IPO and the M&A landscape; and how VCs are affected by the secondary market (with companies like SecondMarket
Overall, there was an optimistic air to the conference, and a packed room. Paul indicated it was their largest attendance for Venture Capital Outlooks so far! Bubble or brouhaha? Is opportunity knocking on our door?
And finally, since sponsors help to underwrite these events, a shout-out to the sponsors for this program (no, none are clients, just appreciate that they support our community...):Fairfax County Economic Development AuthorityIntelligent OfficeMemoryBlue Rose Financial ServicesDC Represents-- Elizabeth Shea: @eliz2shea
Around the office we are always downloading and comparing the latest and greatest web browsers for our everyday searching. After being made fun of recently for still using Safari, (I know, I know) I switched over to Google Chrome. While choosing a web browser is usually based on things such as speed, features and security, Google recently created an innovative way to get a little something out of which browser you choose.
Last week, from December 16th through the 19th, Google Chrome users could help contribute to a good cause. Google selected five worthy causes
, and by counting and donating the tabs users opened in Chrome, Google contributed to those causes, up to 1 million dollars. The more you surfed, the more Google donated.
To start donating, all Chrome users needed to do was download the Chrome for a Cause extension
and browse the web like they normally would. Google tracked the number of tabs users opened and at the end of each day prompted users to submit their tabs. Users were then able to choose what good deeds they wanted their tabs to go towards from the following options-
10 tabs = 1 tree planted
10 tabs = 1 book published and donated
25 tabs = 1 vaccination treatment provided
100 tabs = 1 square foot of shelter built
200 tabs = 1 person's clean water for a year
Is this the start of new unique ways to donate through technology? We will have to wait and see, but Ill update later this week when Google posts the results of the campaign.
Move aside traditional, generic and interruptive marketing - magnetic content is whats drawing in crowds these days. An interesting article from eMarketer
suggests that magnetic content is taking off and expected to continue trending throughout the new year. What exactly am I referring to? Any type of content that promotes a brand and encourages engagement video, Facebook page, Twitter, apps, etc. Rather than shoving an idea into a consumers face and forcing them to read your material, its almost like giving them the option to learn about your brand and potentially serve a particular need they have. (If you make it fun, interactive and intelligent, chances are someone will pay attention, right?)
According to a study by King Fish Media, HubSpot and Junta42 earlier this year, approximately three-quarters of social media-using companies within the US integrated branded content (a.k.a. earned media) into their marketing strategies. Heres a breakdown of the stats, specifically percentages of US companies that currently have a social media strategy and what types of content they used for their campaigns.
Branded content you create (73%)
Expert content (72%)
User case studies (45%)
User content/reviews (41%)
Information on sales/specials or discount (40%)
Repurposed content from a media company (29%)
Talk backs/forums (29%)
Games or contests (22%)
Pre-/post-sales Q&A (17%)
Obviously companies cant deploy all of these strategies, but its important to at least take a stab at some of them (or come up with your own) in 2011. Times are changing, and its no secret that consumer attitudes have done a complete 180-degree turn since the birth of social media. So study your audience, look at your analytics and see what might work best for your company.
Already seeing stats from current magnetic marketing tactics? Let us know what works for you, or even what doesnt. Share the knowledge, people!
- Mary Evans
Wow and wow! Thank you! I always wished to write in my site something like that.
On Thursday (12/9), Mashable released their ten most innovative viral videos
for the year. Normally, I wouldn’t give this list much thought, but this year brought out several videos that I think have set a new bar when it comes to viral marketing (even beating out Burger King’s excellent “Subservient Chicken
” in my mind).
For instance, the Tipp-Ex “Hunter Shoots a Bear
” video – beautifully executed and, even several months after the fact, I still remember that Tipp-Ex was the responsible party (success in my eyes). I’m also a huge fan of the Call of Duty: Black Ops
video – it’s a brilliant concept (not to mention the fact that it features Kobe Bryant and Jimmy Kimmel) and gets across the scope of the game quite well to viewers who are unfamiliar with the series.
But the penultimate video here, and one that I really think has single-handedly built a brand, is the Old Spice Responses
, featuring everyone’s favorite overachieving Luke Cage-lookalike, Isaiah Mustafa. The commercials were great on TV, and the responses are even better – I mean, what other campaign will help you propose to your girlfriend
What’s your favorite video on the list? Do you think Mashable left any deserving contenders off?
Am I certain? Nope. The definition of espionage is exceptionally broad (see this link - http://goo.gl/TePy1/) and its highly likely that Assange is going to be charged with some form of the crime. What Im trying to point out is that currently, there are no formal charges levied by the United States against the NY Times or Assange. Its, at the moment, a gray area hence technically. But this isnt really about what WikiLeaks did its about what the Times reported based on the information supplied by WikiLeaks. Is the Times guilty of poor judgment? Undoubtedly CNN and a whole host of other news outlets reported on this news and Congress isnt even sniffing them. The real question, and the point Im trying to make, is are they guilty of a crime, specifically espionage? This becomes a lot clearer if (probably when) Assange is charged, but until then, theres nothing but conjecture.
Am I certain? Nope. The definition of espionage is exceptionally broad (see this link - http://goo.gl/TePy1/) and its highly likely that Assange is going to be charged with some form of the crime. What Im trying to point out is that currently, there are no formal charges levied by the United States against the NY Times or Assange. Its, at the moment, a gray area hence technically. But this isnt really about what WikiLeaks did its about what the Times reported based on the information supplied by WikiLeaks. Is the Times guilty of poor judgment? Undoubtedly CNN and a whole host of other news outlets reported on this news and Congress isnt even sniffing them. The real question, and the point Im trying to make, is are they guilty of a crime, specifically espionage? This becomes a lot of clearer if (probably when) Assange is charged, but until then, theres nothing but conjecture.
"WikiLeaks hasnt technically done anything illegal"
Are you certain?
Disclaimer: This post attempts to be politically unbiased any lean, one way or another, is unintentional.
I wanted to stay away from WikiLeaks. The grey area trod by Julian Assanges whistleblower site has mutated into a political minefield, especially in the heavily politicized world of metropolitan DC.
To get it out of the way, heres my opinion on WikiLeaks it mirrors that of Carmen Medina
: WikiLeaks is to Gov 2.0 as Josef Stalin was to the Allies in WWII. I couldnt agree more. To use a less historical analogy, this is burning your house down to solve a rat problem. I agree with Assanges end goal: Transparency. Its needed in the media and its especially needed in government.
WikiLeaks strategy, however, is a dangerous game. Despite Assanges assurances that WikiLeaks strives not publish any documents that could harm individuals
, slip-ups have and will occur. Consider that one published cable identified dozens of locations
of value to the United States Government, giving terrorist organizations an easy to do list.
But thats not the point of this post the ripple effect is in full force, to the point where Senator Joe Lieberman is calling for the New York Times to be investigated for espionage
. Let that sink in for a minute.
Ignore whether or not WikiLeaks/Assange committed espionage (treason is only for US citizens; Assange is Australian although an espionage charge
is possible). A US Senator is attempting to strong-arm one of the nations most established and well-regarded news institutions into not reporting (or under reporting) news that might be embarrassing to the US government.
The Times reported information already made public on WikiLeaks and has specifically refrained from publishing details that could put confidential informants or national security at risk
. Beyond this, WikiLeaks hasnt technically done anything illegal (the source that leaked the information committed the crime, not WikiLeaks [at least, this is how the situation is currently presented - this could change any day, really]
). So if WikiLeaks hasnt committed a crime
what did the NY Times do?
Is Liebermans end goal to shut up ALL news media when it comes to WikiLeaks? Where does this end
? Is this madness
If youve been in PR for the past few years, youve seen HARO evolve from a Facebook group to the machine that it is today. Savvy PR pros scan the daily emails looking for quick opportunities for their clients. So whats the next big thing on Facebook for us? Over at AllFacebook theyve listed out the top ten pages every PR pro should like on Facebook. Its definitely worth a look through my favorite is PR in your Pajamas.
The only idea I think should be added is to follow your local papers and reporters in your industry to keep up on whats being covered in your area.
What do you follow for PR and marketing info?