Topman shows bad judgement in t-shirt design

These were so awful that I had to save them for posterity.

I’m not easily offended, I’m not a feminist in the least bit but I was truly bothered by these two t-shirt designs. Who in their right mind designed these and thought they’d be funny? The first seems to justify violent abuse and the second treats women as animals.

I love a funny t-shirt, but I can’t conceive how these were approved for print. You want good, funny t-shirts? Go to Threadless.com, not Topman.

 

Get a free advice session on marketing & promoting your business

Christmas goodiesIn the spirit of Christmas generosity, I’m giving away a half-day of consultancy to a local startup or entrepreneur who needs help marketing and promoting themselves.

Cambridge and East Anglia are full of clever people doing amazing things, with many solo flyers or startups creating great products. In some cases, you might just need a little boost to get the word out about your product. For others, it’s such early days that you haven’t thought much about marketing yet – you just know your idea kicks ass.

With years of experience in marketing and working with Pepsmedia, nothing excites me more than a promising new business idea, so let’s hear what you’re working on.

Participating couldn’t be easier, here’s what you need to do:

  • You need to be a startup or entrepreneur in the region with a business, project or idea and would like some marketing and promotion coaching (Note: You can be based anywhere but we may run the session online if you’re too far away!)
  • Leave a comment below (or email vero@pepsmedia.com) with your idea, and what your marketing/promotion challenges are or will be in 2011
  • Do this by end of day on December 23rd

I’ll announce the winner around Christmas day (Internet access and family commitments permitting!), who will then be able to redeem their consultancy session in January. The session will either be held at the Pepsmedia office, somewhere local and convenient for everyone involved or, if need be, as an online session.

How will I pick a winner? I’ll choose the startup or individual who I think would benefit the most from this session. If there are more than one great contender, I’ll pick a name out of a hat. You don’t need to be a technology startup to participate; Whatever your market, leave a comment now for your chance to win a free advice session.

How to Market Your Own Application: An Alfred App Case Study

Those who have followed the Alfred development in the past year will know that we’ve discovered a lot through building our own community around it (possibly the most awesome community out there!)

Last month, I gave a talk at Cambridge Geek Nights, sharing some tips, tricks and discoveries we’ve made while developing and marketing Alfred. Did you know that posting a sneak peek screenshots could get you hundreds of excited tweets? Have you considered collaborating with other app developers on co-promotion?

We’ve since had the opportunity to work with other startups on getting visibility and marketing their product. Think we can help you? Drop me a line and tell us about your app!

Why You Should Avoid Mass-Emailing Using the "To" Field

This may seem like an obvious blog post to most readers. If that’s the case, just move along, nothing to see here.

However, if you’re wondering why people have been giving you snappy responses and a stern look when you include them on mass emails where all recipients are in the “To:” field, please take a seat. I’ll explain why you’ll find yourself on the naughty step if you do it again.

First, when emailing dozens of people at once, you’re sharing the recipients’ email addresses with everyone else. Everyone, including aunt Wendy whose old computer is crawling with malware and nasty things that can harvest their address book. And including that careless salesperson who is quite happy to add me to their spammy mailing list even though I’ve never agreed to it. If you think that’s acceptable behaviour, then you should have no problem with me taking your personal mobile number and plastering it all over the city, right?

And secondly, in particular when you’re in a business environment, it looks awfully unprofessional to email customers or prospects openly. If you’re sharing a prospect’s information with no regards for their privacy, why should they trust you with information like credit card details? You’ve lost a sale right there.

Do yourself a favour and learn to use the BCC (Blind Carbon Copy) field of your email client when sending group emails. Even better, use proper email marketing software (Campaign Monitor, MailChimp and many more) and present yourself like a real professional.

Note: I’ve created this post to ensure I can send this link to email marketers and friends who don’t understand why it’s inappropriate to send mass emails this way. Feel free to link to this post if you also need to explain it to someone.

Making the Most of User Feedback

Yay monster cupcakes!

This is the third and final part in a mini series of posts on using a community forum to exchange ideas with your users.

Part I: Why and when should I start my own community forum?
Part II: Setting up your forum: Top tips for using Get Satisfaction
Part III: Making the most of user feedback

In the first part, we looked at the right time and right way to get started with a community forum. As we picked Get Satisfaction as our platform of choice, I then outlined a few top tips for it. Today, we’re looking at what happens once you’ve successfully created a place for conversation and the users begin to trickle in.

If you thought that once the community existed, you could kick back and relax, think again! Now comes the best part: Finally interacting with your users. You’ll meet the most wonderful people, as well as the occasional user who seems to relish being your daily pain in the backside.

So how can you deal with vast amounts of feedback, good and bad, yet retain your sanity?

Continue reading

Setting Up Your Forum: Top Tips for Using Get Satisfaction

Tasty chocolate cupcake

Recently, I started a short series of blog post on using a community forum to exchange with your users. In this second part, we’ll look at why we chose a particular platform and how we’ve used it since launch.

Part I: Why and when should I start my own community forum?
Part II: Setting up your forum: Top tips for using Get Satisfaction
Part III: Making the most of user feedback

Why we chose Get Satisfaction

From the first time I came across Get Satisfaction in 2007, I’ve been looking for a suitable context in which to use it but the opportunity never came until now.

In the early days, what struck me about it was that there was a natural positive aura to the service. Users weren’t simply encouraged to post questions and problems, they also were prompted to praise the product when applicable!

I’ll admit I was also swayed by the cupcake images that are used as default icons for new users. As co-founder Amy Muller said in a 2009 interview with Ciara Byrne, “we felt that cupcakes were associated with satisfaction and happiness. What’s not to love about a cupcake?” Indeed, what’s not to love about a cupcake?
Continue reading

Why I'm in love with IKEA's "Cat herding" campaign

In case the news hasn’t made it to your corner of the office yet, here’s a YouTube video perfect for a Friday.

IKEA’s campaign involved releasing 100 cats into a London IKEA store and letting them roam free. Whoddathunk hanging halogen light fittings made such great cat runs…

Aside from the fact that I’m a total cat lover (an anomaly in my family), the reason I’m head over heels for this campaign is that, for once, Marketing doesn’t take itself seriously. Sure, IKEA isn’t at the awareness-building stage of its business lifespan and can afford to do some pretty creative marketing, as they did with their Facebook campaign in 2009.

It’s refreshing to see a campaign that’s purely done for fun, an idea that doesn’t make any sense and doesn’t try to preach or sell us anything. Have a laugh, spend Friday afternoon spreading the video around and gain that little bit more love for the almighty brand that is IKEA. “Simples!”, as Aleksandr Orlov would say.

I wonder if they just shook the box of Whiskas biscuits to call all the cats back at the end?

Happy Friday!

Why and When Should I Start a Community Forum?

lovely cookies

A week ago, we launched a community forum for Alfred and I couldn’t be happier to have done so.

This series of post covers why we chose to start a forum, as well as some tips for setting up and running your own successful community forum.

Part I: Why and when should I start my own community forum?
Part II: Setting up your forum: Top tips for using Get Satisfaction
Part III: Making the most of user feedback

Don’t forget to sign up to the RSS feed if you don’t want to miss the rest of the series!

Why choose a forum

When we launched Alfred, our main means of support for users was Twitter. When we needed more than 140 characters, we’d swap over to email.

As our community grew, once we found ourselves with a few thousand users reading our tweets (gasp!), yet many asked the same question frequently (eg. Will you be adding x feature?) because they hadn’t seen the older answer to it.

Let’s face it: Twitter is today’s news but tomorrow’s virtual chip paper. It was time to look for a new way to provide answers. That isn’t to say we’ve entirely dropped email; on the contrary, we’re now able to focus email responses on those who really need one-on-one answers.

We chose a forum because it allowed us to answer publicly, leaving longer-lasting, more valuable answers which could be revisited the product evolved. So is a forum right for everyone?
Continue reading

BarCamb 3: Bringing Cambridge together with geekery

BarCamb 3 in Cambridge

On Monday morning, my arms, legs and brain felt like jelly. There was a sleeping bag and some schwag strewn across the living room. And I couldn’t stop smiling. Must’ve been the morning after a BarCamp!

For those who don’t know, the past few months have been spent organising BarCamb with a few other volunteers. The aim of BarCamp events is to bring people from a variety of fields of interests together to do short talks, exchange experiences and generally geek about. For more on this, I’ve written a BarCamp Virgin’s guide last year.

Since this weekend, I’ve recovered so I thought I’d gather my thoughts and write a wrap-up post before my goldfish brain forgets all the best bits.

This weekend included:

  • 54 presentations
  • 10 sponsors
  • 26 trays of sandwiches
  • 45 litres of fizzy drinks
  • 30 pizzas
  • 100 BarCamb mugs & tshirts
  • 1 episode of Doctor Who on the big screen
  • 2 knackered organisers & some sleepy volunteers
  • half a dozen games of Werewolf
  • a few months of preparation
  • 80 or so people who hopefully had a great time!

As an organiser, I attended more sessions this time than with the previous two BarCamps I organised. Probably mainly due to having a fantastic co-organiser, Lee, and a brilliant venue provided by Red Gate in the Cambridge Business Park.

When we kicked off the event, I asked for a show of hands to see how many newbies we had – I was both thrilled and worried that we had nearly 50% newbies. Why worried? Because usually newbies are a bit nervous of presenting and leave the board looking a bit bare for the first day. I couldn’t have been any more wrong because as soon as I invited people to put their topics up on the board, it was like the IKEA stampede and I had to flee the area!

Saturday went by like a blur, attending a few good sessions, feeding over 70 ravenous BarCampers at lunch, more sessions in the afternoon including my own on baked-in virality. As we stretched into the evening, it was comedy to see a group huddle into one of the rooms to religiously watch Doctor Who over pizza and beer.

As all good BarCamps must do, the evening turned into a night of Werewolves, Settlers and the occasional snorer in the corner…

On Sunday, the turnout was smaller but the sessions were still great. We finished mid-afternoon, cleared up the Red Gate office and many of the survivors headed to the pub. (I was pooped, I went straight home!)

You can find a few of the presentations of the weekend on Slideshare, with more coming soon, I’m sure. Some of the presentations topics are listed here, and we’ll aim to add the full list in the near future. There are also some great (and some not so great) photos in the BarCamb Flickr group.

A few attendees asked whether Cambridge Geek Nights were being revived and, in the light of how much interest there is, I suppose we might just have to do that! Beers, geekery and chatting coming soon to a Cambridge pub near you.

[Photo credit: Networking through the day, photo by Martin88, All rights reserved]

SXSWi: Connecting Community Managers

Do you work as community manager? Fancy meeting a few others who work on the front line representing their company?

After meeting a few other company bloggers, customer care people and other community folks at South by SouthWest this week, we thought we’d arrange a little informal gathering before the week ends. It’ll give community managers who work for companies, big and small, a chance to meet others who play that role.

Join us (Ros Hodgekiss, Kelly Rusk and myself) on Tuesday 16th March at 3:30pm at Iron Cactus on 6th Street for a drink and a chat.

Hope you’ll join us there!

[Note: It’s TUESDAY, not Monday as I’ve stupidly been tweeting all afternoon!]

Oh hello there!

I'm Véro - a crafty, knitty, spinny gal who enjoys making (and drinking) a cocktail or three. If you've stumbled here, you might enjoy browsing some of my older posts with the tags over to the right or finding out more about me.

Say hi in the comments or on Twitter! :)

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