November 27, 2012

What Google Could Look Like, Sans White Space

The Real Google

What Google Would Look Like With Wider Wrappers

What Google Would Look Like With 3 Columns, Content Separated By Type


I dunno about you, but I could sure find what I was looking for a lot quicker in that last screenshot... but I'm sure they've done extensive testing and I am just taking crazy pills. They must make more money showing ads in their design.

Granted I have a 17 inch monitor, but there are much larger monitors out there. Its just strange since Google is pushing responsive web design so hard, yet their content max-width is 1040px.

And here's one more, on a search that has a ton of ads. Pretty obvious that the CTR would suffer if the yellow ad box isn't in the top left...but I just like it better this way :)

The Real Google With Many Ads




What Google Would Look Like With Many Ads, And Personalized Results Get Their Own Column




October 26, 2012

You Mac OS Already Has A Free Color Picker

I spent a long long time searching before I realized this, but Macs come with a color picker already installed. You can find the rgb or hex code of any color on your monitor, and quickly copy and paste it.

I use this to get a specific color to plug into my web coding and designs. You might have another use for it.

But the good news is, you don't have to pay for one of these!
In Applications/Utilities you will find "DigitalColor Meter.app". When you fire it up, the application will give you the color code of anything you point your cursor at.

I believe it defaults to RGB values. Obviously, 255,255,255 is white.
But you can go to the View menu and switch from decimal to hex values
And you're good to go! This blue is 85B1CD.
Of course, you're going to hate trying to type the code manually, so just copy it to your clipboard with Shift+Command+C and you can paste the code wherever you like.


September 19, 2012

Spectacle, Alfred, and More of My Favorite (Free) Mac Productivity Apps

I really enjoy finding new tools that make my life easier. These are a few of my favorites that I use constantly. I hope you find something you can use!

Spectacle

This little app lets you easily arrange your application windows. I find it very useful if I want to quickly put two windows side-by-side. I also use it to make a window expand to fill my screen without using my mouse. As in, resize the window to fill my screen rather than going into "full screen" mode (which doesn't work right with multiple monitors).

You can also quickly send windows to the corners, or top/bottom half of your screen.

Get it free in the app store.

Alfred


I use Alfred all day, every day. It is like the built-in Spotlight only much more customizable. It's kind of like Siri, except that it works right and quickly - and if Siri required only typing a few characters. Press a quick hotkey, Alfred will pop up, and you can perform searches or actions on your Mac. It remembers your selections so it gets "smarter". You can also perform a lot of custom searches, like weather, wolfram, ebay, and many others. You can even type math calculations and get answers. 

I mostly use it to open files or to open a file's enclosing folder so I can grab the file or view its info, but it can do so so much more. Note that some people swear by Quicksilver, which I believe is similar.

Learn more and download it here. The basic version, which I use, is free.

Flycut / Jumpcut


Flycut is a clipboard utility forked from Jumpcut. It logs your clipboard history (but not images, blast it) so you can copy multiple lines of text. Useful if you're heavily copying and pasting, or if you accidentally lose something you copied earlier. 

Get it free in the app store.

Dropbox

You've probably heard of this one! But in case you haven't, dropbox is free (up to 2GB) cloud storage for your files. Not only that, but it is very easy to use and access. You will have a folder on your local computer with all your Dropbox files. These files sync automagically with Dropbox in the cloud, so you can always take your files with you and edit them without an internet connection. If you use multiple devices or want to share files with a team, Dropbox is one of the best options out there.

Check out dropbox.com

Awesome Screenshot: Capture & Annotate


This is an extension for Chrome, actually. But I use it every so often when I need to capture a screenshot of a webpage. It can create one picture of the entire page, even though much of the page content can be below the fold. Or you can just capture a select piece of the page, but Mac already has a handy screenshot shortcut for that (Shift+Command+4). You can also annotate and markup on the image, save it temporarily online, save the image locally, etc.

View the extension here

Evernote


Like Dropbox, many of you have heard of this. Evernote is a could-based notepad, essentially. It has a lot of cool features. You can save entire webpages, tweets, text, files, etc. I mostly just use it as a giant pile of my notes and to do lists. Hootsuite also has an app that links to Evernote so that you can save tweets to an Evernote notebook with one click. 

Visit Evernote's website here. Evernote also has browser extensions.

Adium


A great open-source all-in-one chat program. I use it to connect to coworkers through AIM, and friends through Google and Facebook chats in one persistent app.

Check out the Adium website here.

August 31, 2012

Facebook Love

Completely non-scientific. Absolutely non-conclusive. Absurdly useless.
But interesting.

Steady climb until December 2011, steep decline since.


August 28, 2012

Progress & Regression [Pic]


*Note: I feel like I've seen a Hugh MacLeod or something like this before... or maybe my scribble just reminded me of him. Anywho - was just a quick doodle based on a thought I had today. Any similarity was unintentional.  ;)

August 23, 2012

Facebook Is A Marketing Crutch

I believe brands are becoming far too dependent on Facebook. Not all, but enough to concern me.

Over time, companies have come to feel "safe" with Facebook. It sure feels rock solid, right? Almost a billion users can't be wrong. Something this large and successful can't fail anytime soon. Can it? Anyways, it doesn't matter. This is where the consumers are, so this is where the brands shall go.

And so the brands pour time and money into cultivating their Facebook communities. I have no problem with that. The problem is the dependency.

It becomes very easy to lose perspective. Facebook becomes the public face of the company. Interactive, media rich, and exciting. Things just work on Facebook, so full steam ahead.

It happened over a long stretch of time, but essentially this is what companies have said:

"Hey, let's stop advertising our website and only advertise our Facebook page! Oh, let's put the email list to the side - we can talk directly to fans on Facebook! Actually, since we're sending everyone to Facebook anyway, let's put off that website redesign."

And Facebook becomes a crutch. 

You don't own your fans. Facebook does.

You don't own the medium. Facebook does.

The smartest companies use Facebook as a tool. It IS an amazing tool. But I truly believe it will not last forever. At least, not at its current level of success. But it doesn't matter what I believe. What matters is that it MIGHT not last forever. And that alone should keep companies on their toes.

So keep up with your email lists and your blog communities. You own them. You can measure them. You can't lose them. You can have as much marketing data as you choose to collect. You can send any message you choose.

And for goodness sake, do something creative with your website.

Look at BMW. Their website, their US website, and their Facebook page.

BMW.com

BMW US

BMW Facebook

The BMW websites are so boring I want to cry. It's like they are having a mid-life crisis of their own. Facebook page? Bright, brilliant, photographs in every post. Millions of fans and active commenting and sharing. 

Now look at Skittles.

Skittles.com

Skittles Facebook
They have a fun webpage that speaks to their brand. It actually scrolls down indefinitely. It's creative.

Anyways, I've digressed a bit, but my point is obvious by now. Don't do everything through Facebook. You say "of course" but companies are doing it anyway. 

Especially at a time like this.

Facebook has to impress investors. Their stock has plummeted at the time of this writing. What is more likely for Facebook to do - focus on wooing advertisers or focus on happy users? 

I think users are about to get more and more fed up with the way Facebook evolves. Google+ shows just how hard it is to start a new social network. If your friends aren't there, you aren't going to switch away from Facebook. But Pinterest also shows how quickly something new and fresh can take off. 

I think we're just waiting for the right "something" to come along and give us a breath of fresh air, much like Facebook did when Myspace got too advertiser-happy. 

I don't see anything on the horizon, but when it does come it will be quick. Web companies often fall from grace over night. And if Facebook sinks, think long and hard about what you will be left with.

August 20, 2012

Where Do I Find Social Media Content?!?!

Whether you want to be a social media authority figure or just stir up some conversations, you need content. Please do not just become a link-spewing automaton, but here are some places to find current news and links to share on your social channels.

Your Own Content

So obvious it hurts. Use your own blog content, or anything else you have available.

Google Alerts


This is a real fire hose of information. Let's say you are in the tennis shoe industry. Create an alert for "tennis shoes" and (I highly recommend this unless you like a zillion emails) send it to your RSS Reader. 

If you only sell in the UK, your alert could be "tennis shoes site:.uk" to only return stories from .uk websites.

Experiment with how specific you need to be - "tennis shoes" is probably going to give you a lot of junk and little meat. Customize alerts to get a good balance of quantity vs quality.. 

Always create an alert for your company and product names, by the way.

Your reader now has the latest stories/blogs/etc. for you to reference and stay current.

Social Search


Want to know what people are talking about? Easy. Just use search.twitter.com
Or to search Facebook and Google+ also, you can use Kurrently.com

Just like Alerts, you have to find the right balance of quantity vs quality. You may want to stick to the hashtags if possible - this is how users are organizing their thoughts FOR you. 

It may take time to get it right. For example, my main business sells a lot to construction professionals. Searching #construction eventually led me to realize that most professionals are tweeting with the hashtag #aec (architecture, engineering, and construction). Now I have a better way to search the twittersphere, AND I know what hashtag I should be using in MY tweets.

TrendSpottr


Trendspottr is one website that tries to capture trending conversations around a particular keywords. Search for your industry or other keywords, and you can see (sort of) what is trending around Twitter.

This is useful to see what is getting the most attention, and therefore is more likely to stir up interaction if you share. 

Note: If you are not using Twitter, don't dismiss things like search.twitter.com or Trendspottr. You can still take the information to your social network of choice.

Blogs, Newsletters, & Humans

Find blogs or news sources that supply quality content. Subscribe to them, either into your RSS reader or email. This is one of the best ways to find great content, since most authors are either good or bad...find the good ones and your are set.

Most industries have plenty of newsletters. Sign up! SmartBrief has a ton of great digests for finding the big stories in your industry.

Find influential people in your industry. Follow them. Retweet them or use their conversations as a starting point. There are almost always people who devote 24hrs per day to tweeting or posting about your industry. You don't have that kind of time, so just follow them. 

Advice: Use Tools!

All this information can get overwhelming if you aren't organized. Keep your RSS reader organized, and your alerts in folders. When you get 3 days behind and have 1,000 items in your reader, you will really thank yourself that you can go straight to the meat.

By now, you probably realize that I am using Hootsuite a lot recently. I definitely recommend you set up a content-based tab group. This lets you quickly see a snapshot of what is being discussed in specific hashtags (only use a couple of high quality ones). 

Hootsuite also has some apps (plugins really) that you can use. One of them is Trendspottr, which should sound familiar! You can also import a specific RSS Feed into a tab, but since it only shows maybe 10 items I find it useless. You may like it though.

There is also a Hootsuite app called InboxQ that supposedly will find questions based on any topic you choose. I've never had any questions appear, but give it a shot if you like.



By the way, after all these posts I should probably make something clear. I am not endorsed by Hootsuite! I just happen to find some features very useful. I definitely have some serious critiques, but that is another post for another day. ;)

Advice: Respect Others

Don't just take someone else's content and make it your own. Give them a retweet. Give them the link juice. Give them a thank you. No scraping content and putting it on your own website. Play nice. 

This is how you build relationships with the people that matter, anyways - not by acting like you are an island.

Good luck!

August 17, 2012

Wordpress Plugins I Actually Use and Recommend

Just a few of my favorite wordpress plugins, in alphabetical order.

Content Aware Sidebars

Lets you create custom sidebars to place widgets in. I use it to easily change what widgets will show on different pages of my website.

Dashboard Site Notes

If you need to leave yourself notes, or if you share Wordpress with other team members, you can now leave notes and memos. I use it to keep track of my custom edits and leave notes for others. This way I can remember which plugins I'd manually edited, for example, so I don't update them accidentally.

Disqus Comment System


You've almost certainly heard of this. I really like Disqus, especially with the last update. But if you prefer Livefyre or tweaking the Wordpress default commenting system then I won't argue with you.

Easy Fancybox


It's easy. And it's Fancybox. Lets your visitors click images, YouTube videos, iframes, etc. and have the content open in sort of pop out shadowbox. Better than taking them to an empty webpage. See Fancybox in action here.

Hide Admin Bar

The last thing I want is that dumb admin bar at the top of my Wordpress page. I customized the code so it never ever shows up no matter what, but the default plugin still hides it until you mouse-over the top edge of your screen. **I read that the new version of Wordpress lets you turn the admin bar off in settings, so you may not need this plugin.

My Page Order

I got really tired of ordering my pages. This plugin lets you reorder them with drag-n-drop.

Page Links To


Lets you set up custom non-wordpress-page links. I mainly use this to link certain items to "#" with no destination. I also have a navigation item that links to an external website. You can't do that out of the box in Wordpress, the last time I checked.

Slick Social Share Buttons



If you just want to quickly add sharing buttons without coding - this plugin is pretty nifty. You can even add your bit.ly API key so it will auto-shorten links with your bit.ly account. Also works with a couple of other URL shorteners.

Special Recent Posts


Lets you create a sidebar widget for recent blog posts. Can generate thumbnails. You can edit the css to style it. Filter by category, exclude certain posts, etc.

W3 Total Cache

Lots of customization for caching your site, minimizing code, and more. In other words, your site will load faster. I also tried a different (highly rated) caching plugin, but I had issues getting it to work with my set up. I have a private staging domain that I edit from, and push content over to my "live" domain. This plugin worked, the other did not.

Wordpress-to-lead Salesforce CRM


If you happen to use Salesforce, this plugin lets you create custom forms and place them in your pages with a shortcode. Doesn't let you get very complex, but for simple text fields it is super easy.

What Say You, Ladies & Gents?

There are others that I have used and enjoyed, but I didn't feel they were worth mentioning since they either had major issues or were so incredibly specific that you would not likely use them. 

What plugins have you used and would recommend?

August 13, 2012

Using Hootsuite to Check the Status of Your Web Applications

Netflix stops working. Twitter is acting weird. Foursquare won't load. You wonder, "is it just me?" so you do a quick Twitter search to see what issues are going on. It's real-time. It works like a charm.

Well, I got tired of searching every time, so I just decided to try something this morning. I'm really not sure how useful it is, but hey - it's an experiment for now!

I made a dashboard that lets me view all of the support profiles for my most-used web applications. This lets me quickly see any problems, and may even clue me in when product updates are about to go live.

Right now, my dashboard has:
  • @hootsuite_help
  • @support (twitter)
  • @xboxsupport
  • @4sqsupport
  • @netflixhelps
  • @hulu_support
I could also add a stream that shows Twitter search results, like "facebook is down" or something to that effect. 

I've got Hootsuite, Xbox and Twitter in their own separate streams, and the rest all lumped into one stream. Twitter is just too noisy to be in a group - it would drown everything else out. And Hootsuite has broken twice in the last week, so I am keeping an eye on it.



To do this, I just made a Twitter list for each stream that I wanted. That lets me group accounts as I see fit. You can see my current public lists here: https://twitter.com/#!/KennedyPittman/lists  Use them if you want or make your own.

This is obviously going to be the most useful for people who really need to constantly keep up with these support issues. 

August 10, 2012

How to Get Notifications When Using Hootsuite

Hootsuite is a great productivity tool. But it has one major drawback. No notifications for incoming messages or mentions! When someone is talking to me, I want to know immediately. This is especially important when managing brands. Response time can be important.

So here's a workaround I use so that I always know when something needs my attention. It's actually very simple - just use another program for your notifications.



Since you already have Hootsuite open in your browser, it makes sense to me to use a browser extension. This means you won't have any other applications wasting your memory or desktop real estate.

As long as the browser is running, this technique will work. You don't have to be on Hootsuite.com or even be working in the browser to get your notifications.

I use Chrome as my main browser, and I've tried a ton of social media extensions. For Facebook notifications, I like "Facebook Notifications". Think you can remember that? For Twitter, I like "Twitter Notifier". Rocket science, I know. There are many extensions out there, these just behave in a convenient and reliable way for me.

The cool thing about Twitter Notifier is that you can really customize what notifications you want.



You can also change the behavior of the notifications - like whether they go away after a few seconds or stay permanently.


With this setup, you can now have your cake and eat it to. You don't have to actually use the Chrome extensions for anything other than the notifications, but they do come with functionality for posting and viewing your mentions and comments.



Turn Hootsuite, Pandora, or Any Website Into an Application for Your OSX Dock

This is just a little trick that will let you treat websites a bit more like stand-alone applications. I wanted a way to quickly launch Hootsuite from my dock, but you could do this with any website. The result is an "application" that you can place anywhere, including the OSX dock. The website will launch in your browser of choice, just as if you had opened the bookmark manually.

I'm using Automator with a simple Applescript to do this, and then a little nip and tuck to pretty it up. If that sounds like Greek to you, don't worry. It's really simple.

Three of the icons in this screenshot are actually my own applications. One will launch Hootsuite, one Pandora, and that reclining gentleman launches a number of applications and webpages for me when I start my workday.



Before we start, you do have a few other (simpler) options. I could have changed the settings in my browser, so it would always open to Hootsuite.com automatically. However, I launch my browser a lot and I really don't want it to always open Hootsuite.

I could also drag the favicon from inside my browser to my desktop, and that would create a shortcut for me. But this shortcut can't be placed in the dock - and I don't want it cluttering up my desktop.

I've also got a great quick-dial extension for my browser that lets me get to my important bookmarks very quickly. Still - if you find yourself wanting a launcher icon for some website(s), then read on!

Let's finally get to it!

We're going to use Automator. Go ahead and launch that program. If you've never used it before, it should be sitting in your Applications folder. In the popup you are going to choose "Application" as your document type.



Now, you are looking at a blank Automator window. We need to add the action "Run AppleScript" to our workflow, which is easy to do. You see the searchbox? Type something like "applescript" in the searchbox and you will see this:


Now either double-click "Run AppleScript" or drag it over to the empty workspace area. You will now see this:


You're almost done. See the text for *Your script goes here*? Type this:


tell application "Google Chrome"
activate
set theUrl to "http://hootsuite.com/dashboard"
open location theURL
end tell

Now you have this:



I'm using Chrome. You can use any browser. You can obviously change the URL also, to suit your needs. Now just do File > Save and save this application somewhere that you can find it. I recommend the Applications folder :)

You're done! 

You can now double-click your new application and the URL will launch. Drag it to the Dock or your desktop as you see fit. But you may notice that it is a little bit ugly.

Let's make it pretty.

First, find some icon or image you want to use for the new application. Try to find a square image. Using Google Image search is a snap and you don't much have to worry about copyright in this use case.

Now - open this icon image that you want to use into Preview. Press Command+A. Press Command+C. You've just selected and copied the image.

Next, open the info panel for your custom Application (right-click it, select "Get Info"). At the top of the panel is a tiny icon. Click this and it will highlight.



Now press Command+V. You've just pasted your image to the icon.

Close everything. Enjoy.

You Are Dead Wrong

*Orginally posted June 2011


You are dead wrong. I am dead wrong. Everyone is dead wrong.
At least...about SOMETHING. And you don't know what it is.

If every person could write a list of every belief they hold (impossible), you probably wouldn't find two lists alike on the planet. So either 1 out of 6+ billion people has everything figured out...or no one does. I tend to think the latter.

So try extra hard not to dismiss people so quickly. You could be dead wrong. On the flip side, we tend to treat certain trusted sources as if they are always right. Guess what? At any moment they may be dead wrong.

Social Media Myth Confirmed #2 - Experts Do Exist


*Pulled from an old, longwinded blog post I wrote in July of 2011 titled "Four Busted Myths About Social Media...That Aren't Actually Busted"

Confirmed: Social Media Experts Exist

Social Media experts do not call themselves social media experts. Or gurus. Or ninjas. If you see one of these, you are almost certainly looking at someone who is new to the arena.

However, there are a lot of people that I would consider experts. If an expert is someone who has all the answers, then no - there are no social media experts. Nor financial experts. Nor art experts. Nor any marketing experts. But most elements of social media marketing are not new. The creative art, the science of human behavior, the data analysis, etc. are not new concepts. The tools are new.

We are still learning more and more about social media every day. There are new studies and new charts and figures flying left and right. But this will not stop until the internet stops evolving. In other words, never. There are professionals who can diagnose your business needs and create working solutions. Why can't we call them experts?

Social Media Myth Confirmed #1 - Size Does Matter

*Pulled from an old, longwinded blog post I wrote in July of 2011 titled "Four Busted Myths About Social Media...That Aren't Actually Busted"

After seeing numerous marketing bloggers write about how size doesn't matter in social media, I thought I would finally speak up.

Confirmed: Audience Size Does Matter in Social Media

First came the myth that size mattered. Then came the myth that size doesn't matter. 

Truth time. Having a relatively large audience is important to brands on social media. But you cannot count anyone in the audience who is a spammer, bot, inactive profile, or is highly disinterested. In other words, if you have 10,000 followers who all fit into these categories - you actually have 0 followers. So yes, a large fan/follower count doesn't necessarily mean anything. But size does matter. 

Why? Lets say you have 200 dedicated and loyal fans to your Facebook page. After they "like" your page, maybe 2 of them will ever come back to it. But that's ok, because you can still post into their newsfeed. Oh, but they have to be online within the right timeframe in order to see your post. And if your post doesn't get enough interaction, Facebook's algorithm will hide it. Especially if they have a lot of friends. Oh, they might like a bunch of other pages, too. But that's ok because they are loyal to you, so surely they will wade through all the noise to find your posts in their newstream right? 

And on Twitter, the average lifespan of a tweet is what...5 seconds?

My point is - you're always playing against the percentages. What percent of your followers will see X? What percent will share it? What percent will be impacted or eventually act? You need some mass in order to be continually reaching and growing. If your numbers are small, I am not suggesting that you quit. Just recognize that you are going to spend a lot of time reaching a very small number, for now. You have to grow. Size does matter.

I'm on Blogger, Pigs are Flying Somewhere

I've been through Wordpress (self hosted), Posterous, Tumblr, and now I'm trying out Blogger. Why? I love Wordpress but the rest have left me wanting. So I keep rollin' rollin' rollin'. Don't blog enough to pay for hosting, and I like learning each new platform's strengths and weaknesses.

I still use Wordpress and Joomla for professional sites. I admit, I judged Blogger based on all the awful blogs I've seen here.

Never thought I'd use it. But so far I'm actually impressed with the platform. Tomorrow I'll probably find the one missing feature that kills it for me.

Someday I will go back to hosting my own blog again, when I am actually taking the time to write posts. For now, this blog is just for fun. I'll migrate a couple of my old posts. Why not.

Good work. Sleep well. I'll most likely kill you in the morning.

June 25, 2012

Musicians Angry at Spotify Need a Reality Check


Musicians angry at Spotify need a reality check. The consumer has changed, people don’t buy music anymore. They will steal in a heartbeat. You can’t make money selling music anymore and musicians need to figure out new ways to make money. That’s not Spotify’s fault. If anything, Spotify is just pulling some of the thieves away from piracy. Spotify at least pays SOMETHING to artists.

Digital has forever changed how people consume content. Musicians expecting people to suddenly buy albums again is like newspapers expecting people to start subscribing again. It just won’t happen without a major change in people’s buying preferences. Not likely. Thieves SUCK, but they’re your fans. Stop whining at them, musicians. Embrace them on their terms or you will miss out.

This rant inspired by: http://www.inc.com/maeghan-ouimet/spotify-good-for-musicians-or-labels.html