Be a big business, build yourself a call me back button – for free!

You have seen that button at the site of your bank or your insurance company. The button that saves you the hassle of dialing the number. The button that gives you easy access to their personnel instead of having to wait ‘in line’. The button that you would love to have for your small business. A button that allows your clients to get in touch with you by a single click. Up until recently those buttons were quite expensive. But times have changed and I will show you how to get one for free.

*Warning: This blogpost does assume you have a basic knowledge of websites, plugins and forms*

Ok, that said, how do you get that button? Your first step is to get yourself an IFTTT account. If This Then That is one of the easiest ways to build simple actions based on triggers that you set. The first step is easy. Join them. Fill out your credentials and click “Create account”. Done. That is your first step.

The second thing you need is a website. Obviously you have one of those. And your website needs the possibility to publish forms and send them off to a unique email address with a unique subject line.
On your website, build a form that people need to fill out to get called back. Unlike the instant call back from your bank, it might take a message up to 15 minutes to reach you. That means that it would be a great idea to add a field on when someone would like to be called back. In the example you see, mine says you can be called back within an hour and a half, you can be called back during office hours or that evening after 8pm. Other than that I ask people to leave their name and number. Only the phone number is a required field in this example as that is the only information I really, really need to make that call. Think carefully about what you need from your customers. The more you ask, the fewer will use the option.

To make the build as easy as possible, I will assume you have a Gmail account. If you don’t, you might want to make one just for this purpose. You don’t have to look at it ever again as it will only store an email that will be used as a trigger. But it is important to have one so we can use it as a trigger later on.

Have your form sent to your (new) Gmail address and use a unique subject line. Remember that subject line, because we will be using it a little later on. Content wise, make sure that the email you receive holds the fields you have asked to fill out. Mine tells me that “Name” wants to be called at “time set” on “phone number”. A decent smartphone will even make the phone number clickable for you to respond quickly.

Now that you have your form set up and sending emails (test it first). You can go and log on to your IFTTT account. Once logged in, you will see the dashboard. You can add loads of channels to IFTTT for you to use both as triggers as well as output channels. Click channels in the top right corner and you get the overview of all the channels that are available. Find the Gmail icon and click that. Google will ask you whether you want to grant IFTTT access to your email address. Grant access and the Gmail icon will now be all colorful on the site. Then you click the SMS button. Type your international phone number with all the extra’s. Mine should be written as 00653961138 for instance. Then have the system send you a pin code. Once you have received the SMS with the pin, type the pin in the field and you are connected.

Now everything is set to create your unique task with IFTTT. Click create task on the dashboard. Then click the highlighted “this”. The screen will now show all the channels that are available to you. Click the Gmail channel. You are now asked to set your specific trigger. I have built mine around a search for the unique subject line that I added to the email my form sends. Then click complete trigger.

With the trigger set, we need to define an action that IFTTT has to do when triggered. We need to have IFTTT send an SMS to our number. So, click the highlighted “that”. As a channel choose the SMS channel. You then receive a single option. Send me a text message. And that is exactly the one that we need. Click it and you get a new screen. Here you can set the message that is sent to you. On the right you will see a dark balloon. Click it to get extra options that you can add to your SMS. In my case I had cleaned up the form email so much that I just wanted the Email Body Plain to show in my text message. That gives me the name and phone number of the person I need to call and the time I need to call them at. Click complete action and you are done.

You can now name your new IFTTT task. And hey presto, you have just built yourself a form on your site that notifies you via SMS for free.

If you feel this might be too complicated for you, I can build one for you. (In Dutch as well.) Or you can use my IFTTT recipe.

Advertising your Facebook URL or how to compete with the friends of your fans

Facebook is a marketeers wet dream. 850 million people and they are all waiting for you! Or are they? Lets just pop your bubble. They are not. In fact, they are waiting for you just as much as they were waiting for door-to-door encyclopedia salesmen and dinnertime telemarketers. Encouraging thoughts? Read on. There is hope.

Remember your website? Remember how you pushed it over the past ten years? It became your online home. And it still is and should be. As well as you need an office for your company, you need a website as your official online presence. Not a Facebook page. That is like stating that you are a very serious brand, but your corporate offices are housed in the local bar. So, if you are a serious brand, you put your website on your commercials, posters, business cards etc. Not your Facebook page. As 96% of the people who like you on Facebook never come back to your page. Bring the interaction to your site.

Yes, be on Facebook and integrate Facebook, but don’t push your customers away from you and onto Facebook. Just this week I saw a re-launching butter brand and one of the worlds’ largest mobile phone manufacturers advertise with just their Facebook URL. And lets face it, that is not going to work. Because, who would you rather relate to? A re-launching packet of butter, or your friends who are sending you messages. Right. At your own site you do not have to compete with your customers’ friends. And you don’t want to compete. Simply because you cannot win. Regardless of how fantastic your brand is.

Be on Facebook and six quick tips

If you have read my previous post on Facebook, you might be inclined to think that I would advice any company against being on Facebook. But that is not the case. In fact, I strongly believe you need to be on Facebook.

In my previous Facebook post, I used analytical data from several sources to determine that only 0.4% of your Facebook fans actually visit your Facebook page and that only 0.02% of your Facebook fans visits one of the tabs you put on your Facebook page. However, there is a much more important reason to be on Facebook and even to gather likes on Facebook.

People spend a a great deal of their time on Facebook. They come there to share with their friends. To talk. To hang out. Basically, they are not spending time with Facebook, they are spending time with their friends. That is the reason why commerce on Facebook failed, but also why branding works.

“It was like trying to sell stuff to people while they’re hanging out with their friends at the bar.” That was the feeling why large retailers closed their shops on Facebook. And that is a great analogy. As Facebook is very similar to hanging out at the bar. People share stories, jokes, have fun, play games, exchange thoughts. People are there together. Nobody walks into a bar to buy a suit and neither will someone go to Facebook to do the same.

However, they do talk to the sales manager of their favorite store at the bar. They will exchange stories, ask questions and point others to him. And that conversation is usually what will get them back in the store the next day. That is the power of Facebook. Building that relationship.

Six things to do on Facebook?

  • Be personal
    Not just a company account. Build your presence based on your people and gather them to be the pillars of your Facebook page.
  • Be personal
    Talk to your visitors and your fans. Be genuinely interested in who they are, what they care about and what you can do for them. Not to push a product, but to build a relationship.
  • Be inquisitive
    There is a reason why people like you. There is a reason why they like your page. Find out why. NEVER assume you know! Rule of thumb, if you have not asked and they have not answered, you do not know.
  • Be relevant

    Once you have found out why people like you, you can be relevant to them. You can share with them what they care about. There is a fair chance that they are not interested in you pushing your products. Keep that in mind. But the only way to find out, is to ask!
  • Be sharable
    If you are relevant, you can become sharable. That is the point where you communicate such good content to your fans, that they actually want their friends to know about it.
  • Be available
    The key to it all. You have to be available. People need to be able to talk to you and get an answer. Not just your biggest customers, but everyone. Because it is like that bar scene. If you only talk to your biggest client, none of the others in the bar feel pulled towards you. Even though you might be offering something they want. If they feel ignored, they will ignore you.

StartupBus DC is ready [video]


When I saw this, I just had to share it with you. StartupBus is getting ready to roll from 10 cities in the USA today and it is going to be an awesome ride. Besides building startups on the bus, there will also be competition between the buses and an awesome final in Austin where they will pitch in front of a great jury:

Robert Scoble, Rackspace (Emcee)
Elias Bizannes, StartupBus Founder
Guy Kawasaki, Alltop
Dave McClure, 500 Startups
Paul Signh, 500 Startups
Luis Robles, Sequoia Capital

If you are not on a bus, but want to be part of it, please follow @thestartupbus on Twitter and subscribe to The Next Web’s live video channel where they will be broadcasting live during StartupBus and SxSW!

P.S. And come December, StartupBus Europe is going to ride again as well. So if you missed the bus to SxSW, jump on the one to LeWeb!

Mailbox pollution and the unsubscribe startup

I don’t know about you, but my mailbox is swamped with newsletters, information bulletins and so on. I cannot call it spam, as I might have subscribed to it at some point, given permission through ordering something or it might be of general interest to me. However, it does annoy me. And it annoys me most when I am busy. When I am trying to find that one email, or I am expecting that one response. That is the time when I come across most of them.

All of this got me thinking. Wouldn’t it be great if there would be a startup that offers a service that goes through your email, analyses it, finds all the newsletters and allows you to unsubscribe from them through an easy interface? As a matter of fact, I can think of other things that can come from that email analysis as well.

If you are a developer or a team looking for a new startup idea, here it is. I have got more details if you get in touch with me. And I can be an advisor for your startup to create this. Let me know.

Update:
There are services like unlistr.com (Windows only), unsubscribe.com (can’t get it to work) and unroll.me which is in beta. I love to hear other suggestions

Facebook, fans and commerce [Data heavy]

Ok, here it is: Facebook is not the holy grail in communicating with your customers. It is not even a nice place for ecommerce. And it is not just me that says this. There are actual statistics that say the same thing. Read on to find out why.

Before I start this, let me get one thing straight with you. I like Facebook. It is the biggest social network where people spend most of their time. We already knew people spend one out of every 7 minutes online on Facebook. Now, new statistics show that visitors in January spent 405 minutes on Facebook on average. So, a great place to be.

 

But that is where it ends. A great place to be. And the main reason is that that is what people do on Facebook. They are. They are with their friends, they talk, hang out, joke, play and all that. Commerce is rarely on their mind when they are on Facebook. Something that has been demonstrated last week when American retailers Gamestop pulled the plug on their store on Facebook after JC Penney and Nordstrom already closed their Facebook stores. “There was a lot of anticipation that Facebook would turn into a new destination, a store, a place where people would shop,” Sucharita Mulpuru, an analyst at Forrester Research in Cambridge, Massachusetts told Bloomberg in a telephone interview. “But it was like trying to sell stuff to people while they’re hanging out with their friends at the bar.”

Data from startup PostRocket agrees with the conclusions of Sucharita Mulpuru and gives extra insights into what is happening at Facebook. One of the biggest misconceptions on Facebook has to do with people liking your page. For most marketeers the reasoning goes something like “Hey, we’ve got 4 million fans, so those are people who are ready to buy our stuff.” However, data from BrandGlue indicates that 96% of the fans will never return to the Facebook page after they have liked it! And keeping in mind that a lot of page likes are gathered by advertising on Facebook, most people will never have visited the page in the first place. But assuming that all of your 4 million fans have, only 160,000 people will ever visit your Facebook page again.

Now we get to the PostRocket figures. Through their analysis they have found that the number of Facebook page visits amounts to 0.7% of your fan count. In our example that would give our page 28,000 views. Through the same analysis it was found out that a Facebook page only gets 0.4% of its fan count in unique visitors. In plain English, only 16,000 of our 4 million fans visit our Facebook page on a given day. A good e-commerce site like Gamestop (who had 4 million Facebook fans) brings in around 180,000 visitors every single day. That is over eleven times more!

But it gets worse. Facebook points your fans to your wall. Which means that if you want to sell anything to your customers, you need to install a tab application in Facebook. Data shows that non-landing tabs on Facebook pages only get between 1% and 10% of the page visitors. And the 10% is only reserved for ridiculously well performing tabs offering a direct discount or a super interesting deal. For the sake of argument, lets just take the average. Based on the 16,000 unique visitors we calculated before, only 800 unique visitors will actually be visiting the store (or another tab) on your Facebook page.

Long story short, on average only 0.02% of the fan count of your page will actually be visiting the tabs you created on your Facebook page. Can your situation be different? Of course it can be. Is Facebook a lost cause for companies? Certainly not. But you need to keep in mind that people are not on Facebook to buy. They are on Facebook to share and to hang out. That means that creating a good ecommerce site will easily beat your efforts on Facebook. Just something to think about.

Starting with a passion, a coffee and a bike in Serbia

This morning a friend of mine pointed me to a team of people in Serbia who do what I am always on about. Following their passion and trying to make an impact. Without David’s knowledge he pointed me to an area that has had my interest since the nineties when I met a friend from Belgrade.

This team is based in Novi Sad and wants to reach out in a positive way to the city and its people. How? By starting a Cafe and bike kitchen as they call it themselves. They want to offer great coffee, good food and great bikes. All of them with a sustainable twist to them. I particularly like that for every bike they sell, they are going to donate one to someone who can’t afford a bike.

Yes, it is a business with a business model. Selling coffee, food and bikes. But it is also focused on the community as they plan to make it a place for art, music, free classes and programs. This is an approach I love.

Check out the video and support these guys through their IndyGoGo project.

I’m loving it, are you?

People that know me, know that I am often all over the map. When they think I am going right, I do a quick left and then swerve to the right. Why? Because I love it. Because I am inspired. Well, often anyway. I just love creating big new ideas that might or might not become reality. But I always go for my passions all out. The results? The results are like the email I got the other day from the bus driver on StartupBus Europe. He used to be an entrepreneur in video but the economic situation put him on the bus. StartupBus Europe inspired him to take a new approach and get back to his passion. Those are the emails I love. And that, and other reactions to the impact StartupBus Europe has had on people, are the reasons why I do what I do.

I love people. Yes, that would include you. 😉 And that is why I do what I do. Because I want to share my knowledge, share my thoughts, share my ideas to help you move forward. And I will not be confined to a single space like social media or tech. I promise you that I will go beyond that. My head is full of new ideas and one that I would love to launch in particular. It will take some time before I can share more about that, but it will be something that combines a lot of the things I am passionate about.

And you? Are you inspired? Are you doing what you love? This valentine, consider what your biggest loves are in your life and make sure you embrace them. Whether it is your partner or your passion.

Disappointed in Windows Phone so far. Send me your tips! (Nokia Lumia test)

Last Friday afternoon I got my Nokia Lumia 800 in. First impressions were of a great looking phone with a solid feel to it. The packaging was nice as well, so it all built up pretty nicely. After getting myself a micro sim, the test period was on. I had set myself the challenge to really use it as my only phone over the coming weeks, to see how it would stack up to the iPhone and my Nexus S. Due to something missing on my Lumia, Nokia is going to exchange my phone for another one. Nothing to alarming, but to be honest, I loved the sound of my Nexus S turning on again.

I have written about Windows Phone before. But I had never tried to live with it. And that changed over the course of these last three days. I installed lots of apps, I made calls, took pictures, did video, texted and used social networking sites. Just like I do on my other phones. But it did feel different this time. Let me get this clear. I really do love the feel of the phone. I love the pictures it takes. I like how it integrates things into its user interface. And I definitely, definitely love the looks that Microsoft has given Windows Phone. The tiles are nice and mostly functional. Even though I don’t understand why some are animated and some aren’t.

But in a way, the phone leaves me feeling oddly detached. I am used to the notifications on Android 4.0 and iOS 5. Notifications that tell me when people want to interact with me across all networks. Yes, there is the “Me” tile that I can tap and then go to notifications to see Facebook, Twitter, Windows Live and LinkedIn, but that needs action from me. And as soon as I power up my Nexus S or iPhone, I get flooded with updates that I never saw on the Lumia. And that annoys me. My phone is not about calling. It is about interaction.

And about making a call. That is a completely different problem. When logged on to Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Windows Live and four of my Google accounts, the address book becomes a total nightmare. Lots of people are in several of my networks, which puts them in my address book several times. But not all of them have phone numbers. So, I keep on choosing the wrong contact. And trying to call home, I didn’t even find the number. I am sure there are great ways of streamlining this. I do that on the Nexus S and iPhone as well. But I have not found out how to do it on this one.

I think Nokia made a nice phone, but I am not enjoying it because Windows Phone doesn’t work the way I would want it to. And I might be able to solve a lot of this by choosing the right apps. So, tell me, what are the apps you enjoy most on Windows Phone and why? And how did you sort out your address book? Looking forward to hearing from you so I can give the Lumia a second chance!

Google integrates Google+ in search results and drives competitors nuts

Yesterday, Google announced that they will now make Google+ much more of a search companion than it was. Google will introduce a “personalized search” button you can click to see who of your friends have posted messages that align with your search. To be honest, I had expected things like this to happen from day one. I even blogged about how I expected Google to integrate Google+ into everything they do. And surprise, surprise. They did.

The funny part comes next. Now a lot of people are yelling about antitrust laws and how it is unfair to use your monopoly on search to promote your social network. Which is interesting in itself. I am not saying that they are not doing that. I am just looking at the people making that statement and that surprises me. One of the biggest complainers is Twitter. You know, the company who tried to use their monopoly in microblogging to promote their search capabilities. Apparently, after a period of working closely together, they then pulled Google’s rights to use the tweets of their users in Google’s search results. Only to come back to Google to offer them the rights to use the search at a figure “below $100 million”. Imagine their surprise that Google denied it and turned around to do it themselves. In an official statement sent to a number of news outlets, Twitter even speaks of Twitter as the world’s primary source of breaking news. And Google’s new search results will harm information reaching users. (Read the full statement on TechCrunch for instance.) I would almost call that a “We’re better!” attempt. In an interview with Marketingland Eric Schmidt says that they are not favoring Google+ and that they are willing to talk to Twitter and Facebook.

Honestly, unlike Twitter, I do see benefits for people searching. I believe integrating social networks into search can be a step forwards towards offering better search results. But it will be important for Google to get Twitter, Facebook and others to join their social search attempt. Because even though I do like Google+, I cannot and will not see it as my only source of social search results.

Entrepreneurs don’t care about the current economic climate

Yesterday I visited one of the many New Year receptions of our region. It was hosted by the local chamber of commerce and this meant that the chairman did his annual New Year’s speech. Unfortunately he forgot who he was addressing. His speech was full of the terrible economic climate, the changes we all need to make to not go bankrupt and how the chambers of commerce are going to be reorganized to help entrepreneurs do that. He forgot that he was addressing entrepreneurs. I bet his speech would have gone down welll with governmental types. But not enterpreneurs.

Walking around during the reception part, every single entrepreneur I talked to told me that they are expecting a nice 2012. They all saw new possibilities for their companies or their products. Some of them are hiring for that growth already. Unanimously they thought the speech was crap.

When I headed back home last night, I was happy to see that none of the outside factors influenced the real entrepreneurs. They are not bothered with what the outside world says, they see an opportunity and they move on it. And those will be the entrepreneurs that will make it. The ones with vision for their future, passion for their company and a drive to succeed.

Are you influenced by the news on the economic climate? Or are you seeing new opportunities for you and your company?

Clean up the permissions you have given others

Oh, I will quickly log in with my Facebook account. Wait, I don’t have to register here, I can just use Twitter. Or LinkedIn. Or any of my other social networks. Throughout the day, you are giving lots of services permission to use your social network accounts. It may be for authentication at first, but you will almost always be granting more permissions than the service really needs. And over time, you forget which services were granted what.

Time for mypermissions.org. An easy service that shows a couple of big logo’s from the major social networks. Clicking them will take you to the permission pages for your network account on that network. An easy way to check who you have been granting permissions on what. And believe me, even if you are not that active, that usually still is a surprising list.

Have you tried it already? Has it surprised you?