Business Cards Are Still Best Practice

October 5th, 2010 Stacey Schneider No comments
Business Cards

Various business cards found in my purse this morning

I am working with a client that is going to their biggest tradeshow of the year in the next couple weeks. They are in DC and I am in Atlanta. In this digital age, it is amazing how closely we work – and yet, I have never met them in person. Ironically, I am recommending they update their business cards for the show. In today’s world you can do business without meeting people. The smart phones have been working for years on how to make business card information electronic with the advent of the vcard, Bump, LinkedIn, and even Facebook. It is just as easy to text someone your number or say look me up, and everything is there – perfect, organized, and searchable.

But the business card is still alive and thriving. In fact, just this week the Washington Post reported that business cards are thriving in a digital age. They cite that companies like Staples have seen double digit growth in sales of business cards over the past several years. This is despite the continuing trend of trade shows declining, and travel budgets being cut.

This shows you that the internet can’t completely squash the value of networking. People use business cards to improve the perception of professionalism, authority, and experience. We’d like to think the interaction you have with the person you gave your business card to is enough to make sure you stand out, but just in case, you should make every effort to make sure your business card stands out when they empty their pockets. Here are some quick pointers that I like to follow when designing a business card:

  • They should start a conversation. Many times business cards can be an icebreaker. Either at the beginning of your conversation, or maybe extending it by a minute or two. Be different. Use funky design, print them on different paper or even plastic or rubber, put a clever phrase or series of phrases on each card, make them dual sided copies with one side internationalized, try different shapes (not as big of a fan of those though, especially if they don’t fit in card holders nicely). Bottom line, your card should stand out in the heap and be recognizable.
  • Don’t mess with the basics. Don’t make yourself mysterious and just put your name and a phone number, or worse a website. People will think you just troll bars for a living and aren’t serious about making impressions. On the flip side, don’t burden it down with too much information like your LinkedIn profile, every instant messenger handle you have and your star sign. They really only need basic info – title being very important. Keep it simple and clean. Try not to list more than 3 telephone numbers, and consider hard if you really need to put that fax number on there.
  • Less is more. Especially if you use paper, there should be plenty of blankspace on at least one side – people like to make notes, particularly at a conference. This gives them room to write their own notes to remember you by. It also helps you in case an important prospect comes by who claims, “I just ran out of cards!”. Now you have a convenient card to share with them, and of course, upon seeing your clever card they’ll start a conversation about how great they are and ask for one to keep.
  • Always make sure it says what you do. Include a short one liner that expands on your business. Or bullet points the services you perform. Keep it short, a business card is no place for a book. But it really helps sort through the sea of cards you get after a conference or business mixer to remember who did exactly what.
  • Marketing to your audience is powerful even on a little business card.

    Know your audience. This is probably a given, but market your cards to your customers. In fact, don’t be afraid to put marketing on them. My client’s competition is internal folks searching for the news themselves. Their service makes creates custom news summaries that beat the pants off of Google Alerts. My first recommendation was to put one side of it with a Google Search box saying something like ‘better news summaries than google alerts’. Don’t be afraid of the marketing, and don’t be afraid to make it useful. You cater to bars and restaurants? Print your card on a matchbook instead. Landscaper? Put grass seed in there and say ‘For a fresh start’. Or put a coupon on your card – just makes sure they can keep it and you “collect” the coupon by stamping it. This of course helps with the conversation a bit, but is also free marketing walking around in their pocket.
Categories: Marketing Best Practices Tags:

New Blog Updated: Selaenergy.com

September 1st, 2010 Stacey Schneider No comments

Its been a busy summer here at Silicon Spark, and the blog has been sorely neglected! We did some work for a cool solar energy company, Sela Energy. The main website already existed, but the blog on the site needed some help. The main site is HTML, but the blog is WordPress.

First we needed to upgrade wordpress to the latest version, 3.0.1.

Next we styled the website, added widgets including a new photo gallery widget called Cincopa Gallery Widget. Sela Energy had been putting together blog posts with lots of pictures and the formatting was pretty difficult. This new widget makes it easy to upload, create a custom screenshot gallery feel and embed into the post. For a client that isn’t too HTML savvy, its an ideal solution – and even for those who are, its a great timesaver!

We also added TwiBadge, one of my favorites to embed twitter into your blog. (Its even on this site!) Since Twitter and Facebook are something the CEO wants to focus on to build community, we also embeded TweetMeme and Facebook Share into the blog post itself. In order to make it easier on the eye, however, we wanted to make it stacked. This seems to be quite a challenge. There is one forum trail that put us on the right path here: http://wordpress.org/support/topic/aligning-tweetmeme-and-facebook-share-button. Reality is though it only took us part of the way. Ultimately the styling in the respective widgets that worked for us was:

Tweetmeme: float: left; margin-right: 10px;
Facebook Share: clear: left; bottom:-70px; float: left; margin-bottom:150px; margin-top:10px; margin-right: -52px; margin-left:10px; position: relative;

Finally, the navigation on the main site was done in Flash. In order to better embed the site navigation, we edited the flash file to have the blog on the main navigation, created a custom blog theme and embedded flash for navigation in both the main site as well as the blog. Overall, the blog, which the CEO had previously described as a “sore spot” in his business was transformed into “something he is proud of.” Check it out:

Categories: Software, Website Design Tags:

Making a Video Using an iPhone, Flash, Garageband and iMovie

May 14th, 2010 Stacey Schneider No comments

In addition to being part of Silicon Spark, Joanna Duff also is a singer-songwriter who plays at local venues every month or so for an additional creative release. Her next show is June 4th, and we decided to shoot a video. I have done a number of traditional software demonstration and training videos, and even produced a launch video for Hyperic’s Cloud Status. I really enjoy the creativity and recording. I have also been teaching myself more of the basics in Flash lately. Traditionally I assigned all Flash work to creative staff, but decided this would be a great time to practice some of the skills.

Here is the result:

To create the video, we really only purchased a few props including a remote control car, a toy dinosaur, and a 12 pack of Natty Light for all under $30. The rest we had.

  1. Plan the video. Joanna wrote a script for the voice over. It was just a short one page Word doc, but it helped guide us on what kind of footage we would want. We laid down the first cut of the audio so we would know how much video we needed to shoot. The first track was about 35 seconds so we figured we needed about 5 times that amount in footage of the racetrack, plus knew we were laying down a raw track of just Joanna for the end. (Ultimately, we thought of something funnier to put in the middle section, so I did re-record the audio later, but this was a good guide).
  2. Record the audio. We recorded the voice over using Garageband sound effects, wrapped over a vocal that I did using my Blue Snowball microphone. We could have used the built-in mic from my Mac, especially because it was meant to have noise in the background but I much prefer the clarity the microphone provides and to add in noise on purpose. For sound effects, we added crowd cheering, drag race and sports car racing from the iLife library. We also recorded the voice under the Male Speech instrument and then dropped the pitch -6 so that my female voice would sound a little more male.
  3. Shoot the video. We shot the video on Joanna’s iPhone. My backyard is currently a construction zone, so we had lots of woodscraps to create our “racetrack”.
  4. Create the video project. Then I created a new project and a new event in iMovie. We imported all the iPhone video clips right into our new event and started editing. I have also used Screenflow and Final Cut Pro in the past for video editing, but I wanted to compare the prowess of iMovie to the others. Final Cut Pro obviously has a lot more bells and whistles – particularly for layering and transitions on the video. But iMovie really did well. I laid down the car sound effects directly in iMovie and merged the crowd and my voice over in Garageband. I was able to mix them in iMovie fairly easily – just drag and drop. The audio track was constrained to how much video I laid down, so it was hard to use the length of audio as a guide for how much footage I needed to mix in, but overall that is fairly trivial.
  5. Build custom animation. Two sections needed flash footage, which I custom-built in Flash. These two pieces were fairly quick and dirty to make. I took a single graphic and made a 100 frame Motion Tween. A good reference for how easy it was to create is out here on Smartwebby. Essentially though I created two tracks. The lower track was all black so when my upper track spun there was no white space. The upper track had a black border and my image or text. Once I had created the top track, I placed my cursor out on track 100 and hit F5 to insert a frame. I then right clicked and created a motion tween. Then every 10 frames I went back and hit F6 to create a new keyframe and adjusted rotation and scale so it would spin and pulse. Publish the output as a Quicktime movie and you are ready to import that into your iMovie Event for use in your video.
  6. Finalize editing. I played with video clips ensuring the voice and sound effect track made sense with the video that was overlaid on top of it. This is important to give the video more impact and also the main reason it is important to lay down the audio first. Its way easier to clip in video footage than redo your voice over countless time to match the video.
  7. Export the movie. In iMovie,  using Share > Export Movie and selecting Large format as a .m4v, you will get a video that is high quality and ready to upload to YouTube.

The whole video took about 30 minutes of filming, including setting up the shots. We ended up with just over 6 minutes of video. The recording of audio and editing took about 2.5 hours – including building both the flash movies. This falls right in line with what it takes to build software demos (aside from the demo set up itself which can obviously vary). A good rule of thumb that I have for video production is it is roughly 3 hours of work for every minute of output on a custom build. This video seems about the same. Of course, if your video is templated and you are just importing clips and editing them together this estimate does not apply. We can shoot and edit a 6 minute guest video at the aquarium on Final Cut in about one hour and drop it into a much larger video template, but for a custom video – this seems about right.

Categories: Marketing Promotions, Video Tags:

New website: TomcatExpert.com

March 16th, 2010 Stacey Schneider No comments

Once again, we have had the opportunity to be involved in a really cool (and open source!) project. SpringSource approached me a few months ago to help build out a new community on behalf of the Apache Tomcat community.

The Enterprise Tomcat Community

The Enterprise Tomcat Community

The site launched this morning, along with a press release by SpringSource. This was an interesting project for many reasons.

First of all, sheer impact on the size of the potential community.  Apache Tomcat is the world’s most widely used Java application server, powering at least 75% of all java-based websites. With more than two-thirds of large enterprises relying on java applications to power their business, including more than 400 out of the Fortune 500, there is constant pressure to provide infrastructure that is cost-effective, and easily supportable. Certainly with such immense popularity for Tomcat in any enterprise, there is domain expertise in the market.  However there lacks any single source to consolidate that information specifically for enterprise users.

This brings me to the second point, of how to build a community that isn’t duplicated and isn’t technically “owned” by the project itself. The tomcat.apache.org site offers a wealth of documentation and open mailing lists, and is currently the best source for general information on Apache Tomcat. Our goal is to create a complimentary community for the enterprise class users, who rely on Apache Tomcat to power their business, with information, advice and discussions from experts who are experienced at deploying applications at scale with minimal downtime.

In order to effectively build out a complimentary community, it was critical to keep the community neutral as well as not duplicate any content that currently exists on the official site from the ASF. Although sponsored by SpringSource, content on the TomcatExpert.com site is managed by a team of Apache Tomcat committers and recognized java development experts from several companies which helps to keep it neutral. Known on the site as Tomcat Expert Contributors, these experts act as a quality control board to ensure only the best information is reaching the Tomcat Expert community. Essentially, they ensure that all answers on the site are “sanitized” for the enterprise user. Additionally, the only people actually from SpringSource who are Contributors are also Committers on the Apache project, which helps to keep content very balanced between TomcatExpert.com and the ASF.

The site format for TomcatExpert.com breaks content into three sections:

  • Blog. Best practices, insights and news on the latest innovations and deployments using Apache Tomcat directly from our team of Contributors. Initial topics will include high concurrency connection pooling, a detailed series on cost justification, assessing candidates and moving applications from a commercial JEE app server to Tomcat, analysis of management and operations tools, as well as publicizing the features and thought behind Tomcat 7.
  • Knowledge Base. Published history of over 10 years of common enterprise customer support cases.from the SpringSource archive. This resource initially has about 35 articles and presentations loaded, and will continue to expand over time.
  • Ask the Expert. Forum where enterprise users submit questions to be answered directly by the Tomcat Expert Contributors. This is different from the Apache mailing lists in that the question queue is not open for anyone to answer. Only contributors, our validated Tomcat Experts, will provide the answer, so answers you get will come from a qualified expert. Comments are open for the community to weigh in, of course.

Finally, another reason to be excited by this project is that it is backed by SpringSource, which should excite users because they have both the history and reputation of making huge contributions to the Apache Tomcat project successful. SpringSource has built a business all around deploying web applications at scale and leveraging open source. A couple years ago, Spring acquired Covalent, a company that was built to be a professional support organization for Tomcat. They have over 10 years of domain expertise of deploying and supporting Apache Tomcat in enterprises of all sizes. Much of that company expertise is being poured into a public site for the first time. Additionally, SpringSource has a long history of being a principal contributor to the Apache Tomcat project, with SpringSource employees having been responsible for 95 percent of the bug fixes to Apache Tomcat in the past two years and are also currently leading the community project for Tomcat 7.0, due out this spring.

We are going to continue to build out more content and functionality to the site over the next few weeks. So stay tuned! For now however, I want to offer a huge round of congratulations to the entire team that helped bring this vision to fruition: Shannon, Linda, Joanna, Charlie, the Matts, Giorgio, Andy, Filip and Mark. It has been a great group effort. Thank you!

New Website Live: Sauce Labs

November 3rd, 2009 Stacey Schneider 1 comment

For our first year in business, I am amazed and honored by the projects we’ve had the opportunity to work on. We’ve got several things cooking here – but the latest project to go live is that of Sauce Labs.

This is a company that is founded by the original author of Selenium, the open source web test automation software. Since I’ve spent so much of my career doing web applications development and go-to market, I’ve seen Selenium in action and know that the ability to simultaneously test across browsers is critical—especially when something new like a new release of Firefox or Internet Explorer or even a new operating system like Snow Leopard comes out. Problem is, Selenium while hugely popular, has never had any proper commercial backing and maintenance. So updates to ensure it test correctly across the same updates it is supposed to cover can be problematic. So when we had the opportunity to work with the Sauce guys to help take them to market to fix this problem, we jumped at it.

http://saucelabs.com

http://saucelabs.com

Today, we’re launching a new download, Sauce RC which is basically Selenium IDE & RC wrapped into a nice installer with a host of bugfixes to ensure it works across the latest browsers (even last week’s Firefox update!). But where the Sauce products really gets interesting is their Sauce OnDemand hosted test automation cloud. Here, you can use your Selenium or Sauce-based test scripts, upload them to the cloud and run against 10 popular browsers. Being a cloud-based service, you pay by test minutes that are incredibly affordable. Instant access to test infrastructure that you don’t have to maintain. What web application software development company wouldn’t want to have access to that?

There’s a lot more to come to continue building the Sauce portfolio of user services out, but for now I’d like to congratulate the Sauciers that invited us to be a part of this project – John Dunham, Jason Huggins, Steve Hazel and of course the always helpful rock of our development Santi Suarez Ordoñez. And of course – to the Silicon Spark team – Joanna “I will be one with Github” Duff, and Shannon “Python doesn’t scare me” Dunn. Great job everyone!

New Website Live: thedwyerlawgroup.com

September 17th, 2009 Stacey Schneider No comments

Summer was not slow for us here at Silicon Spark. One of the projects we took live is The Dwyer Law Group. If the name sounds vaguely familiar, it is – LoopFuse’s CEO Sean Dwyer referred us to the project at his dad’s law firm, after we took the LoopFuse site redesign live earlier this summer. A law site was a first for us, but we were up to the challenge – see for yourself:

The Dwyer Law Group new website

The Dwyer Law Group new website

As for how we got there—first, we needed to find out what content we had to work with. And frankly, it was gold. Matt Dwyer is a board certified personal injury lawyer rock star. His firm has one of the highest winning and money awarded per plaintiff in the southeast. He’s recognized as one of the top trial lawyers in America—and his results speak for themselves. We needed to reshape the messaging to speak more to victims, and assure them that they were going to be taken care of well with Dwyer Law Group, but that wasn’t hard. Its always easy to sell something worth having.

Next, we turned to the website look and feel itself. We looked at lots of law sites, trying to capture the tone and feel of these sites and see what worked. Reality is, we saw lots of sites—but everything looked somewhat dated or amateur. We’ve been used to businesses that really use their website as a tool to drive business. Matt Dwyer knew he wanted that too—his son explained the power of that to him and he jumped at the chance to have us figure that out. We came up with a new design that places strong personal imagery that victims can relate to, loaded headers with keywords, and tailored text to suit victim need, as well as introduced a sidebar concept that assured visitors of their reputation, ability to garner high monetary awards, and to ultimately contact Dwyer Law Group. There was some obvious attention to SEO that needed to be done, and we’ll be looking to turn on adwords regionalized shortly, but for now—the site is out there for the whole world to see. Hope you never have the misfortune of a personal injury, but if you do… it should be a lot easier to find the best lawyer in the southeast to represent you.

New Website Live: Contegix.com

July 22nd, 2009 Stacey Schneider No comments

All the sparkplugs here at Silicon Spark have been busy the past month. We’re working on several of new websites, whitepapers and some juicy press releases. One project in particular went live last week, and I thought I’d share. About two months ago, Matthew Porter reached out to me to help with his website. Matthew is the CEO of Contegix, a popular managed hosting provider. I personally worked with Contegix back in my Hyperic days–they were both a customer as well as a vendor for us, powering the RHQ project with Red Hat and also Hyperic’s CloudStatus. Contegix is an awesome partner to have – their service is unparalleled in the industry. And their customers are their biggest fans and best publicity ever, in fact they just recently won the Linux Journal’s Reader’s Choice Awards due to such a passionate following of their customers. So, when Matthew called asking for help to create a new website – we jumped at the chance.

With the exception of the legaleze for their acceptable use policy and service level agreements, we re-wrote the whole site, changed the layout and really brought them an updated, slick new look. Over time we’re going to be adding more components to the site such as a screenshot gallery for the managed applications, more diversity/offers on the right sidebar, and definitely more information and details on their upcoming cloud release. For now – check out how cool this website is-and tell us what you think!

Redesigned homepage for Contegix.com

Redesigned homepage for Contegix.com

Redesigned solutions sections on Contegix.com

Redesigned solutions sections on Contegix.com


Branding Exercise for Websites

June 12th, 2009 Stacey Schneider No comments

I have been doing a lot of websites lately (last one to go live was Loopfuse). One of the first exercises is always to do a messaging/branding exercise. I thought I would share a quick and easy exercise to help you focus your brand message.

I find it is usually best to have a couple key executives and your star sales rep answer the following questionnaire:

  1. What are the biggest problems your customer want solved when they come to your business?
  2. What are three gaps or complaints customers have about your industry?
  3. What positions do your competitors take in addressing customer problems? (identify competitors if possible)
  4. What three things could you do that are different from what others are doing in your industry?

The questions are positioned in a friendly way that helps extract a market profile and competitive positioning. Each question helps approach the challenge of messaging from all angles:

  1. Customer pain. The biggest problmes helps identify the customer point of view, by identifying their pain points. Its useful to have the sales folks answer this question because they can best assess why customers are typically arriving at their doorstep looking for your products or services.
  2. Gap assessment. Next we take the first step to differentiation here – what are the gaps in the industry and are you actively working to close them. Many times this question leads to new product ideas and services. If you can answer this successfully, then you have a successful edge in messaging where you can offer something that is critically lacking in your industry.
  3. Competitive edge. Understanding your competitors helps in a variety of ways. One, for a marketing consultant like me, it helps to narrow down a lexicon of terms that are popular. But for businesses, it helps to map out competitor positions so you can find the specific area/sub-segment that you compete successfully in. This is critical to help attract customers and to stand out in a crowded marketplace – especially if your market is primarily driven through the web. This can identify keywords that are needed in your message to better power search.
  4. Differentiation. Many companies think they can’t come up with three – but usually when they sit down, they can come up with many more. This question is easily answered once you get through the previous three, and helps to solidify the three key points you want to emphasize in your value proposition.

OK, so now you have those answered. What’s next? The messaging exercise itself. While the survey helps to kickstart it, its very important to remember that this is a process – and its usually not quick. Many companies review/revise messaging one or two times a year. Its really hard to get perfect. My best advice is to timebox it (say 2 weeks) and to make sure stakeholders get their say (the questionnaire is a great way to involve them). Then promise to continually review. While a perfectionist myself, I am also a pragmatic believer in the 80/20 rule when it comes to messaging. Get the majority of it done to where you are comfortable – and then try it out. Your customers and prospects will be the best litmus test of how they respond to the message, and often times its more important to have a message than to wait for the perfect one. You can always evolve that message over time – and evolution is going to happen anyway, so embrace that.

Here are the key points that you should try to cover in the messaging exercise:

  • Mission Statement. What is your company trying to do? This message is sometimes used publically, especially in blogs (our mission at XXX is to ..) and in the About Us page of the website. Mostly, however, it is an internal message. It helps to keep focus on what market you are trying to serve and what kind of a company you want to be. When developing this message, it is useful to remember the old PR mantra of F-B-O – try to be the first, best or only in your market. This assures that your mission is unique and noteworthy.
  • Value Statement. This is an external message. This is what you say to your customer. It should be used in your PR slug, in your elevator pitch, and it should be prominent all over your website. Be sure to keep the message directed to a customer, and articulate what value you provide to them. Think about how you save them time, money, or worry.
  • Value Propositions. Identify three specific statements describing specific value that your products or services bring to a potential customer. These are the three legs of the stool that support your value statement. You can have more if need be, but consider that this then becomes really long to describe. Keep it simple, and your customers will grab onto the messages more readily.
  • Call to Action. This one is typically overlooked, but especially in developing websites, its critical to force action into your site. The goal of a website is to attract potential customers – and to do so, you want to spur them into action. Again, it should be short and think of selling the value and then what reaction you want – a free trial, a talk with one of your experts, or just straight out buying your product.

Good luck, and of course, if you need any help – the gang here at Silicon Spark are available to help you with your messaging exercise.

SpringSource + Hyperic = Better Together

Hi all,

This is the post I accidentally posted prematurely a couple weeks ago. Since its now relevant – I decided to repost it. Congrats to the team once again!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
SpringSource + HypericRumors have been circulating for a while now, and today it is official. I’d like to congratulate all my friends at Hyperic on this new marriage. I’d also like to offer some outsider-former-insider perspective on why I think this is a great thing for both companies.

First, a short reminder on its history. Hyperic was born from a previous company called Covalent. Covalent (v1 as we like to refer to it), simply put was formed to commoditize the Apache project. It built tools and contributed modules to Apache that helped users deploy it faster, improve reliability, and ease management of the performance of the applications running on it. This last bit was what would become Hyperic. Hyperic grew the project as a separate entity to leverage its modular architecture to cover even more technologies. More than 75 in fact, including JBoss, BEA WebLogic, MySQL, Red Hat, Microsoft technologies, VMware, Citrix XenServer and more. A few years ago, while Interface 21–the previous moniker for SpringSource–was expanding their capabilities to make Java Application development faster, more reliable and more scalable, they looked at Hyperic to embed as their management project. Working at Hyperic at the time, the Spring engineers quickly earned the respect and admiration of the Hyperic engineers. They did nothing short of an awesome job extending and improving the embedded Hyperic application for Spring. Last year, SpringSource aquired Covalent Technologies (also sometimes called v2 internally) to add its products to their portfolio – adding commercial support for Apache and Tomcat in the process. An aquisition that has been met with resounding success from Spring’s customers and the Apache and Tomcat projects as well.

With this in mind, here are the top 5 reasons why I think this new arrangement for Hyperic and Spring is good for all.

  1. Java. At its core, Hyperic is a java application. I haven’t seen a code audit recently, but would guess its 95% java. A lot of the projects such as Hibernate, ehCache and others that Hyperic uses, Spring has tremendous depth in and will help the Hyperic application grow. While Hyperic supports lots of technologies well, including .NET, I would guess that 80% of Hyperic’s install base uses it to manage Java. They may manage more than Java as well, but 80% of them have Java applications under management with Hyperic. Spring, while definitely a Java company has also been having big success in .NET and other environments. I think this will ensure that the Java interoperability in the overall data center will be more secure, stable and faster to develop and deploy and that Hyperic’s coverage and capabilities will only expand.
  2. People. Between working with the Spring engineers on the OEM project, and the Covalent folks on the original Hyperic project, there really isn’t a better marriage out there for Hyperic to hit the ground running and develop really cool products fast. At Siebel, I went through several aquisitions. They were long and painful, mostly because whole new groups of people were inserted into a product development team that didn’t understand the core technologies. Not so here at all. Also, worth noting, all of Hyperic will stay intact in engineering, sales and support. Javier included, and in fact – he’s going to get back to working on product, and that dude has a lot of pent up creativity he is about to unleash. This will be good.
  3. Open Source. Building on the previous statement, a lot of the core dependencies for the project are based in open source. These components, like MySQL, Tomcat, Hibernate and others have a wide pool of talent in the marketplace already. Sure, the specific applications may be slightly different, but there is a lot of shared knowledge here, so it usually isn’t too hard to get anyone not familiar with the project familiar quickly. I assume its the same for the other Spring products as well.
  4. Groovy and Grails. Hyperic added some new functionality about a year ago to do live scripting and integration using Groovy. Our engineers loved it. So did Hyperic users. In fact, they’re regularly asking when Hyperic is going to provide native management for Groovy. Groovy is growing amazing popularity in the cloud, and Hyperic has been focused on this area for a while now. Spring bought the Groovy company a year and a half ago. While likely not the intent to just marry Groovy and Hyperic, I think that it makes the likelihood that Hyperic plays even better with Groovy soon.
  5. Money. Two years ago, I cringed while watching Javier be interviewed at JavaOne by Cote. I cringed at the part where Javier was saying that Hyperic is the cash register of open source. I shouldn’t have cringed. It was true. Open Source companies are making money for the most part by selling either two things – better manageability and predictability of their software, or better intelligence analytics. So they looked to OEM either a management platform like Hyperic, or a reporting/analytics platform like JasperSoft. Hyperic OEMed JasperSoft with its Operations IQ product. Spring now has full reign for both of these very lucrative offerings to their customers.

All in all, I am feeling pretty proud today of my fellow Hypericans: Javier, Morgan, Sachs, Doug, Charles, Trav, Marty, Chip and all the rest of the A-list team back there at 609 Mission Street. I may be far away, and no longer an employee, but I am feeling pumped about this new development and am excited to see how it unfolds. Who would’ve thought that the whole old gang of Covalent v1 would be back together again today?

Note: While I am a former employee of Hyperic, and they are a client, this note is entirely my own thoughts and not that of Hyperic. I, of course, was not part of the conversations of putting this deal together – nor do I know if I fully represented the opportunities here.

Designing Your Market Presence for Twitter

April 6th, 2009 Stacey Schneider No comments
Twitter

Twitter

The internet is all a-flutter over Twitter these days, and the consensus is that its here to stay. The tool helps companies promote thought leadership, improve reputation and monitor brand. That is, of course, if you know how to use it. For most marketers, Twitter seems too amorphous of a tool to really harness. Truth is though, its really not that hard. Here are the basics to getting your company Twitter-fied:

  1. Sign up as your company. Create your twitter name as the same name your company has for a URL. This is how people will search for you and also secures your Twitter presence as the official company profile. While a lot of individual users, like the CEO, CMO, CTO or whatever other personalities you may harbor at your company may also have accounts and presence on Twitter, you should not make the mistake of having any of them as your official voice. Individual accounts will no doubt get cluttered with messages to and from people in that individuals life – from old college friends with inappropriate memories, creepy cousins, and the random troll from your last job. While entertaining, conversations will digress from your business. Keep your official presence all about your company.
  2. Maintain a constant presence. Twitter can seem intimidating to some companies because of the time it takes to maintain. In today’s world, everyone is strapped – how can a marketer justify dedicating headcount to monitor something like Twitter? In today’s internet landscape, it may be better to ask how can you not justify it? Twitter offers companies an invaluable tool to help navigate leads and improve customer service.  Prospects that may not have reached out to you yet ask their peers before contacting sales – you have the opportunity to find them and convert to a lead. Leads evaluating your product or customers considering renewing again may indicate to their friends and colleagues about problems they are having, and you have the opportunity to provide assistance proactively to help the sale or save the account. In short, Twitter is a sales tool. So, As a generic company account, remember that this account can be monitored and updated by a team of company spokespeople from marketing to sales to tech support.  Spreading the work around may help to keep up with constant activity. Another common fear is how much time to spend trolling on Twitter. You can mitigate this too to a manageable level. In fact, rarely is it important for you to respond in minutes. While impressive, nettiquette is closer to the daily level, so build it into your daily routine for when you check out news or go through your email inbox. To make doubly sure important tweets aren’t missed, sign up for TweetBeep, and get alerted by email whenever a specific word or phrase is tweeted, such as your company name or product name. Send the alert to an internal email alias so more people are kept abreast of the types of tweets that are happening and can respond. And don’t hesitate to follow your competitors terms as well – any problems with people trying to use their products could be an opportunity for you to reach out to them to offer an alternative, as well as help keep abreast of current concerns in the market at large.
  3. Make your Twitter page professional. Your twitter page isn’t part of your core website, but you should think of it as an extension of it. Spend the time to create a web design that is consistent with your website. Add your website URL, and company description to the page and be sure to include ‘contact us’ information. While the only clickable text is the standard Twitter fields, don’t hesitate to use the background image for additional information. Check out how software provider, Hyperic, uses the custom image background to enhance their Twitter page with sales and product information.(Editors note: Hyperic is a former employer of mine, and a current client.)

    Hyperic's Twitter page

    Hyperic's Twitter page

  4. Follow the leader. Twitter is a useful tool to proactively find prospects and problems, but to use it as a thought leadership and news tool you need to have a following to be speaking to. Follow the people you want to follow you. Go through your main contacts and see who they are following – you may find media contacts, other related contacts in their company, or thought leaders on your industry out there. On a weekly basis, check out all your new followers and see if they have any more followers you want. Twitter notifies the account owners whose new and following them, which will bring to their attention that your Twitter presence is out there. Also, a growing trend is to reach out and thank new followers for selecting to follow you. Use the @ reply to make sure they get the message, and personalize it for their interest. All your posts are public, so a generic greeting is pretty transparent. Another alternative is to direct message (DM) the new follower in private, but then you miss on promoting the new relationship and publically welcoming the new follower. And don’t forget, they may choose to re-tweet (RT) your message and comment on it. So in general, its best to treat all twitter messages as public.
  5. Monitor your popularity. Unfortunately, Twitter doesn’t allow you to see your number of page views or tweet-views. Followers is a good measure of how many people are interested in your company, but link views is a really good measure for how useful your twittering actually is. Use links in your tweets to other content to measure how often your tweets are clicked. TweetBurner is a free service that helps you shorten your URLs, freeing up precious character space, and measure how many times your links were clicked. Design your tweets to reference other content – from blog posts, to product documentation, use it to generate interest in larger content as well as measure how interesting your content actually is. Set goals to increase the average click-throughs over time, and keep an eye on what content works, and build followers to up this number.
  6. Advertise your Twitter feed. Make sure people visiting you the ‘old-fashioned’ way know about your Twitter feed. This works well to show that you are a modern company, and that you are easily accessible. The name of the game is to get followers, so you can build a regular dialogue with a community at large. Advertise your corporate Twitter page on your website, email signatures, and company newsletters. Make it easy and obvious for people to check out your feed, and subscribe.

In short, by making Twitter a company-wide initiative, you can easily harness all the benefits of reputation management, prospect building, lead conversion, customer support and competitive intelligence with minimal effort. It does take some diligence, but the benefits can be outstanding. Try it, you’ll see.

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Stacey Schneider is a marketing consultant who specializes in helping companies transform their internet presence into a sales tool that helps lower cost of sales and improve pipeline performance. Schneider has over 12 years of advising companies of all sizes on sales and marketing automation, public relations and website development. You can follow her on Twitter at http://twitter.com/sparkystacey.