The Web Wiseguys

Proof That People Want Social To Be Personal

By Holden Page

I am a big proponent of public communication, and I understand the need to keep certain social interactions personal and private. For quite a long time, even I fought against Facebook’s will to make my interactions public, only recently breaking the Facebook barrier between private and public.

Looking at the social landscape as it is today, there is no longer an achievable middle ground. You are either all in (public) with the data you put online, or you avoid the internet in general.

That’s a tough sell either way you go.

Lately though, the rebellion against all your data being public is growing. People are looking for alternatives, and alternatives are finally springing up.

One of my favorite apps that is attempting to go against the public grain is Path. If you are on the unaware, Path is a unique mobile only service that only allows you to connect with 150 people.

This stark contrast from the norm lead to more than one doubt about the apps validity in the market, if comments on TechCrunch are anything to go by. Yet, Path has stood by there decision to be limited, only recently allowing Facebook and Twitter integration as an allowance to blast your photos to the masses.

While Path’s foundation is not suitable for a viral growth environment, interest has no doubt been growing. According to Path designer, hockey-stick growth is becoming a common occurrence for Path.

That’s not to say Path in and of itself will be a success. Path is still a test bed for the best way to create interactive, and private online social experiences. That said, I strongly believe Path has had an irreversible affect on how startups in the future will be looking to usurp the big three (Facebook, Twitter and Google+). Such success from Path has proved that people are begging for a private, yet socially convenient way to share their lives with friends and family.

We have Diaspora’s wild success on Kickstarter to back this claim up as well.

Social networking shouldn’t be about how many people are following you, and how you can leverage your connections to increase clicks to your blog. It should be about connecting with friends on a personal level, and without unnecessary pressure to make your communication public.

Is this the social world you one day want to live in?

Could Hangouts Change Online Customer Service?

By Holden Page

Previous to Hettema & Bergsten I held a full-time position as a Customer Service Specialist at Shopko for almost three years.

As a Customer Service Specialist, 90% of my job was handling customer complaints. I know this sounds odd, but in general I greatly enjoyed doing so. I have always taken pride in my ability to handle nearly any customer.  I appreciated coming up with solutions that would leave both parties satisfied. During my few years in the customer service field, I became a big supporter of face-to-face communication to solve problems. It made the problem personal for myself, and from my experience it made problem solving quicker.

This face-to-face customer service that I’ve come to appreciate so dearly is almost non-existent for online retailers today. In my experience, most customer service calls I’ve had to make have been time consuming and sometimes aggravating. I don’t particularly enjoy having to press 18 buttons before I actually speak to a human.  I must admit, more than once I’ve completely given up on going through the process, feeling that my time was completely wasted.

I find it interesting that for years now customer service has remained so text centric. Most communication is done by email or with browser chat clients. Even when you dial in, most retailers make it a point to say that questions can be answered by visiting their website.

Technology has not done retail any favors either. Only recently has a webcam become the standard in laptops and desktops. Not to mention that only now has high speed internet become affordable for the masses.  But most importantly, as far as I know, no other video chat client besides Google+ Hangouts, can run in your browser and be expanded upon with an API.

I can only hope that as these technology hurdles align, an amazing opportunity will emerge for online retailers. Imagine a “Hangout With Amazon” button to help with a question or return. You could even go further with the idea, and embed the Hangouts button within on a popular product page, where reps could stand by to answer customer questions.

Video customer service was attempted by retail giant eBay with their acquisition of Skype back in 2008. It is safe to say that the experiment failed.  However, I do not believe it failed because it was a bad idea. In reality, the integration failed due to bad timing. Skype also lacked the ability to let third parties develop applications to help online retailers manage their customers.

Most importantly, Google is a company that knows scale, and can no doubt support the infrastructure required to make this face-to-face dream of mine become a reality.

Do you think Google+ Hangouts could be instrumental to making online customer service bearable for the mainstream consumer? Let us know in the comments.

How Aces Hangout Got On TechCrunch

By Holden Page

I got on TC face!

If you haven’t heard, getting on TechCrunch is a big deal. A lot of start-ups have written posts on how-to or have shared how their company got on TechCrunch. Recently Aces Hangout, our latest product, has achieved this golden rite of passage and so far it has led to great things.

Since the TechCrunch post, many have asked how I made it happen. Some have requested my help in getting them the almighty TC mention. One even demanded my help (Pro tip: Do not do that. Giant “Faux pas”). Most of these requests I avoided, until now.

Why?

Because I don’t have some super secret formula to getting  a mention on TechCrunch.  Nor do I have awesome insider connections who will publish anything I suggest. What I do have is persistence and a strong will to KICK-ASS at what I do. With that in my mind, as you read, here is how I managed to get Aces Hangout on TechCrunch.

1. I Blogged…I Blogged A lot!

I have been blogging steadily for nearly four years.

This dedication to my work has proven to do great things for me. It allowed me to get a job at Hettema&Bergsten, and most importantly, it allowed me to gain the respect of my peers. It’s not rocket science.  I make the effort to communicate with my readers and equals which in turn has allowed me to chat and become friends with a lot of cool people.

I attribute a lot of my successes to my persistence in the blogosphere.

2. I Got a Real Nice Referral

A friend of mine, who has supported me for a long time, was gracious enough to introduce me to a TechCrunch blogger.

Don’t ever doubt the power of a referral prior to pitching a blogger. A referral will never guarantee you a story, but it will give you a good head start against the many start-ups you are competing against for a bloggers time.

If you have one of these connections, do not be afraid to leverage said connection in a genuine manner. It’s ok to ask, but it’s never ok to demand!

3. I Was Relevant

TechCrunch has many writers. While they all cover a broad range of topics, each writer has their preferences on what they would like to cover.

I feel that people who complain about not getting on TechCrunch fail to realize this.

I did my research and specifically pitched this TC blogger because I knew she covered a lot of Google+ products, more than any other writer on TechCrunch. Since Aces Hangout is exclusively based on Google+ it only made sense.

Think of it this way; would you try pitching a Windows exclusive product to MG Siegler?

4. I Was Genuine

I really believe in Aces Hangout. I’m not faking it. Even if I was to be fired from my job, I would still be a supporter of the product.

I feel this genuine belief that Aces Hangout is awesome showed through in my pitch. If you have that same passion for your product, I truly believe it will shine through in your communications with any blogger you’re trying to get coverage from.

5. We Were Cool Enough

Bottom line: IF TechCrunch didn’t want to cover Aces Hangout they wouldn’t have… No matter how awesome I am at my job.

As I said, there is no golden rule to getting on TechCrunch if you’re a start-up. It takes work, dedication, and a product worthy of someones time. Be persistent, make your voice heard, and you will get coverage.

The Alive Web: Laugh, Blush, Cry and Mean It

By Dennis

LOL! One of many terms that we frequently use to explain our emotions online. Personally I don’t always Laugh Out Loud when I use the acronym, it is mainly a sign of appreciation in stead of an accurate translation of emotions.

Nevertheless, I have many emotional experiences online, I can find myself screaming at my screen or rolling around in laughter but these moments do not give me the same raw emotional experience as I get when arguing or laughing with friends offline. Is LOL the best the web can do?

Take the way we play online board games for example, the experience is far removed from around-the-kitchen-table authenticity. In general the game play is more mechanic, we use acronyms in chat windows to discuss great or horrible moves and we often play complete strangers.

In Real Life (IRL) mechanical games die a quick death around my kitchen table, there is no muted experience when somebody is outrageously lucky and I’m not in the habit of only playing complete strangers. The game itself might be fun but the web is certainly not alive like the analog world. That, however, is about to change.

For about a month now we have been developing a game for Google+’s awesome Hangouts product. In short, Hangouts is the first free, high quality, video conferencing service with an API that I know of. That might sound a little meh at first but the implications of a service like this are far reaching.

During our game tests (we’re translating the home game poker experience online) we have had long discussions about whether to call or fold, we have had people bullying each other into making bad decisions, we have had long authentic laughter and lovely bloopers such as saying “that looks good!” and then realising that the opposing party heard it. The game in short is nothing like the mechanical point and click that online poker is today.

After playing several of these games I started to realize what a seismic shift the Alive Web actually is. Once you have tried it you will start looking for the raw authenticity that a Hangout based experience can deliver, it’s addictive in the best sense of the word.

After all, why do we go through the effort of setting up a time, fixing stuff to eat, inviting friends over and playing games together? Because the experience is real, it’s authentic and until now, nothing has been able to translate that.

Take that raw emotion and mix in some of the amazing people that are developing on the G+ platform and you are looking at something that will change the online world as we know it. Ask the people that have helped beta test our game, they understand.

The world is looking for more authentic experiences and those experiences are called “The Alive Web”. Welcome to the next wave.

Google+ Hangouts: A Hook That I Am Caught On Emotionally

By Holden Page

We at Hettema & Bergsten are huge fans of Google. With our team spread all over the globe, Google products have played a central role at bringing our team together and helping us accomplish our goals.

Google products have typically been text/data based with little to no emotion attached. That’s why my favorite Google product thus far, and I believe the most essential product to our team, is Google+ Hangouts.

When I first started at H&B I must admit communication was a little one-dimensional (hey, when will this task get done?). With our team spread across the continents and with each of us having different communication styles, team building seemed to suffer. Yes, over time, my personal communication with members of the team developed but still lacked a defining emotional singularity.  I never had that feeling that we were a team bonded by a common goal. That is until we started using Google+ Hangouts for weekly meetings.

Every Monday for the past month our team has held a Google+ Hangout to align our goals and catch up on ideas/disagreements that may have gotten lost between emails. Our first meeting, while a little bit awkward because of networking hiccups, was the first time I “met” many of my co-workers.

I say met because it was the first time we all laughed together, made fun of each other and basically just acted as a team.  These things are vitally important to connecting a team and with Hangouts, Google has made it easy for anyone to do this.

Emotionally, this is a big hook for Google+ and the Google ecosystem as a whole. It is an emotional hook that Facebook has yet to compete with and no one else has matched. That’s a pretty stunning head start for a social network that is far behind.

Social Media Tools To Help Analyze Your Reach and Strategy

By Holden Page

Whether you believe it or not, social media progress is measurable. To do this simply takes a critical eye with a knack for numbers, and reliable tools that provide consistent and measurable results.Here are five tools and resources I have personally leveraged to provide insight into our own team’s social media progress.

1. SocialBro
2. TwitSprout
3. Clicky Analytics
4. Bit.ly
5. Zarrella’s Hierarchy of Contagiousness

1. SocialBro

I am a big fan of native platform solutions. At times, browser interfaces feel spare in the feature department. SocialBro leverages the Adobe AIR platform to bring the native feel of an analytics program, to your Mac, Windows, or Linux based machine.

In-depth analysis, practical overview upon first opening the app, and multiple Twitter account support is necessary for a social stats nut. SocialBro features all this and more. Check out the video tour below.

Socialbro – Explore your Community from Socialbro Explore your community on Vimeo.

2. TwitSprout (Private Beta)

My favorite analysis product for Twitter is TwitSprout. As a big supporter of get it and go information, TwitSprout satisfies that nerdy sweet tooth; one page at a time.

TwitSprout condenses all your Twitter stats into one PDF document, using easy to read graphs, with necessary information prominently displayed. Make no mistake, TwitSprout is not a replacement for deep analytics packages such as SocialBro or TwentyFeet. What TwitSprout excels at is providing pocket-sized social stats.

3. Clicky Analytics (Freemium)

An important part of your social media analysis is measuring results on the web properties you control. While Clicky Analytics is not a social analytics program at heart, it provides a feature unmatched by others.

The ability to track your visitors in real-time, at any time, with their exclusive “Spy” offering.

An essential part of being active in social media personally, and professionally, is being able to respond to traffic and conversation quickly. Clicky Analytics has never failed me in this department.

4. Bit.ly

While I know it may be over-used in lists, it is nonetheless a valuable tool you must leverage. Even on social media sites that don’t require shorteners (Facebook, and Google+), Bit.ly is still a popular and efficient way to track clicks.

My suggestion for teams? is for you to sign up for a general user account today, and shorten every URL through that Bit.ly account. At the end of the week, analyze with the rest of your team what links lead to more clicks, and how to keep those results consistent and growing.

Fun tip: You can also integrate Bit.ly with Clicky Analytics.

5. Zarrella’s Hierarchy of Contagiousness

Knowledge is power, and social media isn’t just a guessing game. It is measurable, and if you doubt me, you haven’t read this book.

Available for your Kindle or Nook, Dan Zarrella has some wonderful statistical insight and analysis that can only benefit your social media efforts. This book will also give you a greater understanding of what and how you should be measuring yourself, and your teams social media activities.

Pro-tip: This book is available FOR FREE for Amazon Prime Members. No excuses.

Take Away: Social Media is measurable!

There are a number of tools that can help you improve, and analyze your social strategies. These are a few options that I have personally used with great success. What social media tools do you prefer in an effort to measure reach, and effectiveness of your strategy.