Eddystone Beacon Starter Kits

My quest continues for hands-on experience with Eddystone Bluetooth Smart beacons. So, I recently ordered starter kits from two of the highest profile manufacturers – Estimote and Kontakt.io. Each contained three beacons and each landed in Toronto at about CDN$120.


The Estimote Development kit I received included three beacons, a small sticky card with coloured bits under a clear plastic sheet (use remains unknown), a baby business card from a co-founder and on the back side of the book cover-like box top, advice that the beacons were already turned on and that I should download the app to move on. In brief, I connected via the app with each beacon in turn, changing the URL assigned to one of my choosing and fiddling with the ad interval and signal strength settings. The settings screens presented in the app are very similar to those produced in my Sensoro beacons using the Sensoro app. It may be of interest to note that while each manufacturer’s app will find all Eddystone beacons in the space, settings can only be changed “in the family”. Trying to alter settings on an Estimote beacon with a Sensoro app will invite a password request, preventing most troublemakers from changing the URL you selected.
I visited the cloud panel or dashboard where each beacon appeared with some settings information, including the goo.gl-shortened URLs each is broadcasting. To be clear, I shortened my selected URLs at goo.gl. It is possible that the app might have done that for me. I didn’t test that.
I quickly discovered no way to alter the URL from the dashboard, so wrote Estimote about it and was told that, no, this kit didn’t contain beacons with that ability. That was the other kit at just under twice the price. Nothing I read about either kit before placing my order hinted at that particular difference. It isn’t of great consequence to me because I did not specifically buy this or any other kit with a large installation in mind. I just wanted the experience offered by each from set up to discovery on my phone. Chrome for Android will discover none of these because I did not choose secure URLs (https). The Physical Web app sees them clearly.
Before moving on to Kontakt I want to mention two points of comparison between my Estimote beacons and those I received from BKONConnect in Nashville, TN, the only supplier of the three located in North America. That is one of two reasons for their hardware being considerably less expensive to land. The BKON product was not “turned on” when shipped. With each beacon the kit included two AAA batteries and a screwdriver for removing the back panel to install the batteries. As their founder pointed out in a tweet, installing the batteries yourself is the only way to ensure fresh, full battery life. The second point of difference is that the Estimote beacons in this kit cannot be set without physical contact. The BKON (and Kontakt) beacons can. Visit my congratulatory tweet to BKONConnect after receiving their kit.


Their kit includes three beacons and a card with what they call an Order ID taped to a white space on the printed card, obviously a simple way to use the same card for every kit shipped. The card includes a link to get started. It went nowhere. Not having been born yesterday I navigated my way to a page that did work and opened an account. Meanwhile, I downloaded their app, from my desktop to my phone. Then I searched for directions on how to activate my beacons. Step One. Enter your Order ID. Step Two. Select “Add Devices”. When I made that selection I was advised to enter a correct Order ID. I had. I was concerned about a notation next to the space for making that entry, one that cautioned that this ID could only be used once. Eventually, through their support, I discovered that I had previously logged in with a different email address. When I used Facebook to log in I discovered that my three beacons were already registered to me.
Selecting the pencil icon next to any beacon opens a new screen where settings including URL may be changed and saved. Initially, nothing I did caused any of the beacons to appear in my Physical Web app with new URLs. The default Kontakt URL stubbornly held the ground. Finally, I realized that I had to “syncronize” the settings using the app available through the app store. One hopefully helpful note: entering “Kontakt” into Google Play brings up nothing useful. You need to use “Kontakt.io” to get what you need.
My experience with Kontakt has been somewhat frustrating. Most recently I entered the settings for one of the three beacons, and finding that the URL set was not one I assigned, tried to change it. After entering a goo.gl shortened URL I selected “Apply Configuration”. I was told we were syncing with the Kontakt cloud, the text went from grey to black, signalling an end to the process – but the URL that appeared was an older goo.gl, one that when I first looked had defaulted back to a Kontakt URL. I was eventually successful in adding my Facebook profile, shortened in goo.gl, but it was neither straightforward nor quick.


Both kits provide the opportunity to test the hardware and associated apps and dashboards. Both make possible organizing a demo and for prospects of yours who do not have a secure website, it is not the fault of either kit maker that the mobile Chrome browser won’t discover them. The Physical Web app will but eventually you’d have to have the conversation about securing the site in order to make discovery more mainstream. At this point I’m leaning toward BKONConnect’s solution, having found their dashboard friendliest of the three.

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The Apps’ New Competition – Progressive Web Apps

Applications (apps) intended to be installed on Smartphones and tablets have been around for years. App Stores first appeared in 2008 and quickly became busy destinations. In 2013 Apple released a protocol known as iBeacon and various manufacturers built devices supporting the protocol in fulfilling its purpose of broadcasting a radio signal over Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) which could be received by Smartphones and other mobile devices. (BLE, unlike previous versions of Bluetooth, has a tiny impact on battery life if turned on all day.) Apple introduced iBeacons to its retail stores and other retailers followed suit. In general terms, the purpose was to alert users of an Apple app that there was content available nearby. When thinking about iBeacons, it is helpful to remember that they are recognized by an app, to which the user gave certain permissions at the time of install. Those permissions might include the right to know your location, your name and other personal details, and this information allows the app provider to build a database about you – when and how often you visit, what you purchased, how long you were in the store, how you moved through the space and more. In return for divulging your personal identity, you are likely to receive offers, loyalty points, expanded product information and other value adds both in and away from the store.

Apple’s iBeacon versus Google’s Eddystone

Until the summer of 2015 the Apple iBeacon standard owned the road. Then Google introduced a protocol they named “Eddystone”, after a legendary British lighthouse. While Apple’s protocol is proprietary, Eddystone is open source, with several frame sets, the key one being Eddystone-URL. A beacon running the Eddystone protocol can be made to broadcast a URL, a web address that anyone suitably equipped (on both Android and iOS mobile devices) may receive, discover and choose to visit or not. And herein lies the key distinction between the two protocols. iBeacon needs a dedicated app to receive its broadcast. Eddystone’s signal can be received by the Chrome browser, the Opera browser, with others coming onboard. Dedicated apps are costly to develop, costly to persuade people to install, take up space on both the screen and in onboard storage, and only serve one master, which means the user has to be really attached to the app provider. Otherwise, the app will be ignored and likely deleted to make room for something else. Eddystone requires only the browser Android users are likely to have, and that’s more than a billion people. And the Chrome for iPhone version will receive Eddystone broadcasts too.
App-less discovery of beacon-delivered content nearby is a game changer, and Google’s recent initiative, Progressive Web Apps, takes it to a new level. Google has created a toolkit for developers that allows the creation of websites that look and function like apps, including features like an icon on the phone’s home screen and offline functionality. What they don’t require is installation or updating because at heart they are delivered to the phone from the web. Here’s an example:
washingtonPost_PWA225 washingtonpost_send2phone600
This is the splash screen of the progressive web app created for The Washington Post. You can fetch it yourself from here. As you can see from the invitation below, accessing this content requires only a link, not an app install. And once you’ve clicked on the link sent to your phone you can choose to place an icon on your home screen, providing virtually identical access as to any real app you’ve installed. The PWA delivers on the promise of near-instant load times and scrolling shows virtually no lag. The jury is still out on how much content you can access once you’ve gone offline. I got some but not all. But further to the plus side, these apps never need updating, don’t take storage space and can be created at a cost that makes the solution affordable to many prospects that might not want to take on the cost of a custom app and the effort to get it adopted by a large enough audience who then must get attached to it or the effort is in vain. According to Google, every step in an app install decreases the number of people who will complete the process. From 1,000 who begin the process, something like 240 will complete the installation, and the number who go on to regularly use the app is deeply depressing to developers.
As the politicians like to say, “make no mistake about it.” This development will be huge over time. Imagine receiving a beacon notification on your mobile Chrome browser inviting you to click through to content like the invitation above. In two clicks you have the PWA available.
If the revolution in proximity, place and context has you by the throat, check back here from time to time. We’re on the story.

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DIY Eddystone Beacon Settings -Beyond the URL

How successful would I be at getting your attention by blowing a dog whistle? Not very unless you were already aware of me. The Physical Web has much the same problem. Bluetooth LE (BLE) radio broadcasts are “there”, but invisible unless you possess the tools to receive them, the dog-ears if you will. When Apple introduced the iBeacon in 2013 the idea was that a custom app would recognize a given beacon’s ID and present content to the device holder. A beacon in this environment, with user permission at time of install, could wake up an app to deliver content. But app development can be prohibitively expensive for many otherwise interested parties, and with so many apps available, offering device real estate to any given option can be a hard sell. So, when Google introduced the Eddystone-URL protocol, requiring initially just one app for any available content, it generated considerable excitement.

Eddystone-URL enables a beacon to broadcast a simple web address or URL. The promise is that a variety of mobile browsers will enable detection of the broadcast and display the address. Chrome for iOS can do it now. Opera for Android makes the same claim. The Physical Web app does it for Android and in early 2016 Chrome for Android mobile will offer the feature. As big as that is, the even bigger news is that it will beep discreetly just once when it becomes aware of content nearby. No need for dog-ears. You can ignore it but at least you will know there’s content available.

The DIY Piece

This development allows for a near future where we can “surf” reality, where the digital and physical realms connect. What excited me when this opportunity began to sink in is that almost anyone could participate. For example, I could create a web page to sell something, like my car or my guitar. I could edit my beacon’s settings to broadcast the address of that web page. I could put that beacon in my car and advertise to anyone walking near, provided that they meet the specs – a Bluetooth LE receiver (like a Smartphone) with Bluetooth enabled and the desire to look.

I needed proof of concept and with beacon purchases, a few dead ends and hours of reading I got it. Around my keyboard as I write this are five Eddystone-compliant beacons, each broadcasting a different URL. When I pull down the notification screen on my Android phone I see a notice that there are beacons nearby. If I click that notice I will usually see between two and four lines that resemble search results, each of them clickable. Why I don’t see five every time is a function of settings and battery conservation, of which I will say more a bit later in the piece. When I do see all five here’s what it looks like:
I chose common sites, mostly with short URLs because there is a character limit. If you need to, you may use a URL shortener like bit.ly or goo.gl.

How you edit beacon settings to change a URL differs with devices and apps. I use an app from Sensoro, the manufacturer of my five Eddystone units. Of the five, three came in a kit whose maker purchased the beacons from Sensoro. Two I purchased direct from Sensoro. Their app allows me to edit settings on those beacons but when I try to use it on the kit beacons I’m asked for a password I don’t have. That is a security feature that prevents someone with the app from editing settings on another owner’s beacons. To edit the kit beacons I need to use the kit maker’s app.




In the example above I’ve picked a popular website for the URL broadcast. Were I to create my own web content, I could revise it at any time without changing the URL. That would go a long way to addressing the management issue, assuming I was satisfied with initial settings for advertising interval and signal strength. If I wanted to have regular access to those and other settings the cloud platform is more practical.

Look at the centre panel. Here I can select how often per second I want the beacon to broadcast its advertising packet, in this case the URL I’ve chosen. The more often it broadcasts the more likely the receiving browser or app will be listening just then. The penalty is shortened battery life, the same reason that the listening side isn’t listening without pause. Mobile devices run on battery power too and the harder they work the sooner they need a charge. But if you own a coffee shop and your beacon is offering a free donut to passers-by you want to reach as many as possible, and that means broadcasting as near-continuously as possible.

I am on the road to learning to speak beacon. I look forward to meeting you along the way.

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Beacons Bridge the Digital & Real Worlds

Twenty years ago I saw my first billboard displaying a World Wide Web address. Not surprisingly, I was in San Francisco. About 10 years later many of us were visiting that web from mobile devices without wired connections, often accompanied by a cup of coffee. Search got dramatically better when we were able to disclose our location to Google and to apps like Facebook and Foursquare, among others.

Mobile devices enabled with BluetoothLE radio transmitters can sense the proximity of devices called beacons, and receive a transmission from them. Putting aside the science for the moment, let’s explore the possibilities this creates – and they are extraordinary.

Proximity Targeting

At this time it is possible for something you carry to detect a signal from both stationary and moving objects equipped with the BluetoothLE radio transmitter, a tiny device requiring little power, and able to wake up an app, or simply offer a connection you may accept or ignore. Both approaches involve permission. In the case of the app, you gave it when you agreed to install it, although agreeing to provide your location may be a separate step. The alternative case involves choosing to see what is available around you. In this illustration, the transmitter offers a menu, each item on which was created by an individual who wants folks nearby to know something about him or his business.

beacon on the Physical Web

What can be done with the recognition of proximity is a dizzyingly broad canvas. You might put a transmitter on your dog’s collar and the information someone finding him would need to get him back to you up on a webpage. When a smart device gets close to the lost animal it can receive that web link, open it and mend your heartache. In other cases a visual trigger might cause you to look for content in your immediate surrounding. The image below demonstrates how something called “the Physical Web” is brought to our attention via the placement of a logo on a door, even the window of a car for sale. Currently, Android users would access whatever notification there is via the Chrome browser on their Smartphone. Apple users have that same choice and a couple more. An alternative approach is the creation of a zone, a proprietary solution in which beacons in effect map out a shopping street or mall. A beacon at the entrance to the zone explains the voyage. Subsequent beacons may offer content from specific shops and attractions. All of this location-relevant content comes via an app, created to support the zone. So, the Smartphone Chrome browser in one case, a dedicated app in the other.


Contextual Awareness

At another point on the spectrum the same recognition of proximity could navigate you through an airport, taking you to your gate and providing on-time information. It can assist vision-impaired individuals in crossing similar spaces with limited human intervention by triggering speech modules to provide information and direction. And in a retail store, it can not only identify that you are standing next to the TV wall, it can measure how long you’re immobile (dwell time) and decide that you might be interested in information about one or more of the products near you. It might even change the video playing on a screen to one offering features, price, warranty and so on. These examples introduce proximity’s twin – context awareness. When our device is understood to be near an object, event or thing, an app may make an assumption regarding what we might welcome, perhaps because we are stationary for a measurable period. If you’re stopped before a store display, you might receive a choice of items to learn more about. Typically, this kind of engagement comes from a “beacon-rich” environment, where the danger of “spamming” you is understood and where care is taken to provide relevant content, not just another push.

Can You Play Too?

There is no doubt that it will be businesses large and small, in segments including retail, healthcare, transportation, events, stadiums and attractions, that will dominate the disbursement of proximity beacons and the content they reveal. But no one is excluded from participating.  

This kit includes three beacons, an app for your Smartphone and an online dashboard to assist you in identifying each separate beacon and assigning it a task. If you know nothing about writing code you will still be able to assign content, thanks to the software provided, and what you assign will still be available to Smartphones with Chrome browsers active, and Bluetooth enabled. If you work from home you could broadcast an ad for your business to passersby. You could advertise a car or boat or camper for sale, or an apartment for rent. And of course you could lose-proof Fido with a specific version of the beacon known as a sticker, intended to be stuck to an object. Sticker starter kits are also available.


Starter Kits:

Starter kit at USD$79

From USD$99
Sticker kit available

Starter Kit €99

Other options include purchasing just beacons and buying into a closed system solution for instructing and managing them. One example:
Beacons from Estimote start at USD$30 each.

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Bluetooth Beacons Have Us Surrounded

Some years back Apple introduced a two-way radio called Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) to its Smartphones. More accurate than GPS, particularly indoors, Bluetooth is a game changer in many sectors, most immediately in retail stores. With what does it communicate? That’s where Bluetooth beacons, and more recently stickers come into play. But before we go any further let’s use another game changing communications tool to set the stage.

The video demonstrates how beacon technology has already begun to change our interactions with bricks and mortar environments. So let’s get clear on what moving parts make possible what we just saw. First you need a device with Bluetooth aboard AND turned on. Then you need to install an app friendly to the specific beacon environment you’ve entered. Finally, to get the full effect, you need to give the app permission to track your location. Some information will be available if you do not but you aren’t going to get size, price and availability on the garment you just picked up if the app doesn’t know you’re next to it. Like email today, this is permission push marketing. And like email, how much to push is a concern.

 Let’s say this beacon is near a large flat screen television. There is good information available about the television but if the visitor starts moving again in three or four seconds have they shown enough interest to justify pinging their phone and delivering TV-related content?

When I saw some of the numbers attached to beacon uptake I wished I’d known enough two years ago to look at investment opportunities. This chart from sweetiq.com presents a ten-fold increase in the number of retailers using beacon technology – over just three years!

retail beacon uptake

Retailers are Jumping on Bluetooth beacon proximity marketing

Estimote stickersThe beacons we’ve seen so far are about the size of a hockey puck. But beacon maker Estimote also has a line of what they call “stickers”. Stickers can turn things into “nearables” – smart objects fully detectable by your mobile device, one suggestion that stopped me in my tracks being – your dog. That’s right. It’s conceivable that a lost pet could tell its story to anyone with the right app on their phone. That beats the heck out of a chip under the skin in my book.  The Estimote website is well worth a few moments, as it tells a complete, well-illustrated story of both beacon formats, including pricing for developers interested in becoming familiar with and ultimately being able to build solutions around the hardware. And the market for what beacons and stickers can do is there.

  • 1 in 3 shoppers would rather find information using their smartphone than ask a store employee, and for electronics and appliances that number is closer to 1 in 2.
  • Over 40% of shoppers look for offers on their mobile devices while they’re in store

Beacon maker Estimote claims a global network of 45,000 developers, and growing. You probably aren’t one of them. I know I’m not. But if you’re itching to play with your own beacon (a 3-pack sells for USD$99) there is apparently an app-making tool for iOS that allows non-developers to create apps without a line of code. More about it here.

There is more information available at bluetooth.com, including a list of devices currently Bluetooth-enabled. I was pleased to see my Sony Xperia on that list.


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Use Mobile to Promote Your Bricks & Mortar Business

The Tsunami of mobile device adoption offers a world of opportunity to promote your bricks & mortar business. And it begins with making your website mobile-friendly.
Searches are increasingly coming from mobile devices and Google wants the results to deliver satisfactory experiences for users. Forget page one if you’re not mobile-friendly.

Now, some ideas to promote with mobile:


short code messaging sells burgersIf you’ve ever seen an invitation, on your smartphone or a sidewalk sign, for example, to “text insert a word to 33145 to get your discount coupon” or some other goodie, you’ve seen short code at work. Even a sole-location burger bar can afford to put together a short code campaign. Short code numbers are rented out and assigned to campaigns for periods of time. Big companies often buy a number but most of us take advantage of the “shared” option, where one number can be used by multiple campaigns, each separating itself from the others by the choice of the word you’re asked to text. For a full explanation, with examples and video read my blog post.


twitter feed in WordPress site

Put your twitter feed on your website. Now that you’re mobile-friendly, inserting your feed will display properly and give you double coverage, to both your Twitter and website audience. look over to the right hand column (or scroll down if you’re on your phone) to see one of the widget solutions in WordPress. Learn how here. If your site doesn’t use it, there are other methods.

Twitter Cards are a means of promoting in your feed by creating a card intended either to drive website traffic or encourage downloading an app. For most SMBs the obvious choice is site traffic. Cards, once created, are tweeted, for free to just your followers or to a larger audience with demographics you select, for a fee. Start with free cards to get a feel for the approach. Read my blog post to learn how.

Just as you can boost a post in Facebook you can Quick Promote a Tweet. Read more…


Build a Facebook Audience from Website visitors

All online activity leaves footprints and Facebook offers businesses a method for building an audience from visitors to their (your) website. It’s called a “tracking pixel”, a snippet of code that, when properly pasted into your posts and pages adds any visitor to an invisible list. You may run ads to that audience (very inexpensively) and a look-alike audience can be created by shared characteristics because Facebook knows so much about its users. With a few clicks, you can double the audience for your boosted posts and other ad options. Read our WordPress “how-to”…


Live stream video from your premises using Periscope, an app owned by Twitter. Whether you’re putting on an event or just having a busy Saturday, positioning a Smartphone camera on the action makes live streaming video available to your followers and anyone they share with. You can schedule your stream in advance to build a larger audience. Viewers can like and comment so be prepared to engage with them. Live streaming is a two-way street. To get a feeling for live streaming from a mobile device, download Periscope (and Meerkat if you like) and view some of the available programming. You may choose to save your stream with Periscope for twenty-four hours, time to use your Facebook page and your email list to invite viewers who missed the live event. Your first broadcast won’t likely challenge the one restaurant chain Applebee’s pulled off from Times Square but you’ll be ahead of the competition. More…

The underappreciated QR (Quick Response) code remains a useful tool for engaging visitors, providing expanded product knowledge or just a means to save contact and website information. Unlike the product bar codes  on packaging, QR codes are two-dimensional, containing data across and down, which makes them capable of communicating more information than their one-dimensional sibling. Consumers do morepre-purchase research than ever and many would prefer to begin the buying path without a salesperson. QR code campaigns are also simple to design and implement – and they’re trackable.

Mobile can build your business, is doing it for others every day.


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Engage Prospects with Animated Video Storytelling

Telling the story of your business, product or service in a whiteboard animation has proven to outperform talking head formats, largely because it’s hard not to watch and easy to recall. It is also surprisingly affordable.

Take two minutes to watch our demo. If you agree that animated video storytelling is unusually engaging, let’s talk about telling your story. Go ahead and play it full-screen. When you’re done you will find some useful detail under the player screen:

The majority of our custom whiteboard animated video projects are made from a few standard ingredients:

  • Script
  • Sound file of narrated script
  • Background music and sound effects (ours, and both optional)
  • Client-supplied logos, images and copy – i.e. address, website, email, etc.

Pricing is largely the product of time invested. If we write the script that adds time. If we record the script versus having you send an audio file, that adds time. That said, a typical two-minute piece, similar to the one you just watched, will seldom exceed $300-$350. (And yes, it is possible to pay as little as $200.) That’s a lot of performance for the price. Everything is accomplished with email, the web, a Dropbox account (ours) with a link sent to you (to download your finished video file) and occasionally a WebEx meeting or Skype session. We use WebEx and send you an invitation to join a meeting, if and when necessary – which is a rare occurance.

What Do You Do With the Finished Piece?

  1. Something called embed code is provided for you to paste into blog  posts (as above), into web pages, and elsewhere. We’ll talk more about that when we talk.
  2. A file in MP4 format which you may upload to your Facebook page, to YouTube. Again we can discuss further options.

To start a conversation, use the comments area below or email David@FaceliftMarketing.ca

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Analytics Helpers for Google & Twitter

Do you wish for a simpler path to pulling the essentials from your Google analytics? Would you like to make Twitter more productive in your business? I am going to introduce you to three analytics helpers for Google & Twitter to consider bringing on board, all of them free at the entry level.

  1. QuillEngage (beta),  available here, links directly into any Google Analytics account you can access, offering data in actual paragraphs of text, supported by graphs and charts.


Data is available for week or month and while date range is not selectable, the app archives all reports and makes them available on request. Data is available on trending in sessions, pages/session, time on site, traffic sources, devices, referrers and more.  Here’s an example from a weekly report:


You may request that reports are emailed, enter more than one address if you have a team involved, and you may download reports in Word format. If you manage client sites, being able to email reports for discussion is far easier than multiple real-time logging into Analytics for a telephone review. The app is currently offering no paid option. This may change when it comes out of beta but for now there is no reason not to take it for a test drive.

2. QuillConnect, available here, begins with an analysis of your place in the “Twitterverse”. How long you’ve used the platform, how often you tweet on average, versus your followers, then looks at your activity for the most recent week, what interests you share, and don’t share, with your followers, what hashtags your followers are using, even advice on how you might increase your follower count.


I haven’t used QuillConnect for long enough to know if it updates automatically every week, but that seems likely. Not surprisingly, you’re invited to tweet your report to your followers. That’s called marketing. 🙂

3. Meshfire, available here, begins by having you select a goal from a limited choice, explaining that more, and more complex goals will become available as you progress. So you might select adding 25 followers in the next 14 days, or attracting 25 mentions, retweets and favourites in that same period.

Meshfire for Twitter
You can connect accounts like bit.ly and Buffer for use within Meshfire along with several others useful in team management. For example, if you connect Buffer, when you have tweets scheduled in the app, they will appear in the “Outbox” area of Meshfire. If you have team members contributing Twitter content, their contributions will appear in the “Pending” column to the right of your “Scheduled” (Buffer) tweets, awaiting your moderation.

Meshfire and bit.ly and Buffer
Like Saturn’s rings, Twitter and Google Analytics are surrounded with apps to assist us in assessing the result of our efforts, in presentations we can take in with minimal effort. If you find any of these useful I hope you will leave a comment. Meanwhile, thanks for visiting.

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Tool Tips for Online Marketing

I consider myself a fairly normal participant in social media marketing. In part that means spending a large chunk of my time reading other marketer’s content, searching for tools, tips and tricks to increase my worth and improve my results.

Today I will take time off of taking and give back, with a short list of apps and tools that make my work easier and my time more productive – tool tips for online marketing.

  1. Buffer – this app’s key strength is its ability to schedule your tweets and posts. Using the free version you must choose a single network, and Twitter works best for me. If I write a tweet at 6:30 in the morning I know it’s not prime time for sending it into the world. Buffer allows me to select a time, to the minute, and the date. Given the speed of the Twitter feed, posting the same content more than once makes good sense. Make a slight change in the subsequent versions and schedule them over the following few days. Using Twitter’s analytics you’ll discover in time what works best for you.

Desctop screenshot

2.  Awesome Screen Shot – is the tool I often use to create images like the one above. Like Buffer I reach it via a button in the Chrome browser, and I should make clear that you need to add these apps to your browser before the buttons of which I speak appear. Some install in multiple browsers. Some have favourites. awesome_screen_shotI’ve chosen Chrome for all of my app button installations. The image at left is the drop down that appears when I click the Awesome Screen Shot button. I get most use of the “capture selected area” but as you can see there are a number of other options. When you’ve made your selection by drawing a rectangle around the chosen material, you are offered the choice of cancelling or capturing. When you choose capture a new tab opens and your selection appears with a tool bar above giving you access to text, arrows, underscores etc. When you’re “Done”, a new tab opens with options that include “save” to your hard drive. I don’t think I’ve used any others. Here is an example of a capture, marked up with some of the tools available.

3. Bitlink – is a very useful tool if you frequently add links to content. Yes, it shortens any URL, which in itself is often useful, (think 140 characters) but it also makes the resulting bit.ly trackable so by accessing your account you can view the number of times your link was clicked. The idea is to select bitlink when you’re on a page you want to link to in a tweet, post, blog or pin, to name a few. Here is what appears when you click your bitlink button:

Select “Copy Bitlink” and paste away. Note that you can try to create a custom link by adding your choice of descriptor. My attempts have all returned the response that the choice already exists. Here you’ll find the directions to easily install the bitlink to your Chrome toolbar. If you don’t use Chrome there’s a second choice, to simply drag a button to your browser toolbar.
I hope you find these apps as useful as I do every day. If you’d like to know about the tools I can’t live without let me know in the comments section.

If you have anything to say or ask about this post, why not join the conversation on my Twitter or Facebook site.

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A Facebook Ad Audience from Site Visitors – How To with WordPress

Facebook makes it possible to create a list of visitors to your website so that you may:

  • Build a Facebook ad audience to which you can advertise, and
  • Create a “lookalike” audience based on the nature of your visitor pool, to extend the target audience for your ads.

in a WordPress.org site, using a recommended plugin to make short work of the job. Naturally, sites not built on WordPress can also take advantage of the program and we will address that in a separate post. The image below is a capture from the website home of the plugin. Step one – download the plugin .zip file. Then, in your WordPress dashboard, select “Plugins”>”Add New”. There are two ways to install a plugin. One uses the search bar to find and install. The other uses the Add Plugins selection “Add Plugins”. This is the right choice when you have downloaded a plugin zip file to your computer. You will be asked to browse to that file and install it. In seconds you will be asked to activate it.

Once activated the plugin will appear in the dashboard sidebar on the left and it’s here that you will determine where to install the conversion pixel. Click the plugin name to open your options. I chose to add it to both pages and posts so that any visitor viewing any of that content will be captured to my audience list.


The process works when the conversion pixel code is pasted into posts and pages, either as you create them, or by opening existing content in the editor and adding the code where the plugin has created a place at the bottom of the page. Once you’ve pasted it, don’t forget to update the post or page. If you don’t the code won’t be added:


As I have found with other code samples that will be used time after time (like the Twitter follow button),  saving code to a text file, from which you can copy and paste repeatedly, saves time and grief as you use it over and over. But hang on, where do we get the conversion pixel code?


Facebook walks you through the steps here. You may choose from a number of conversion categories, each of them explained if you click on the name, such as the one underlined in red. If you follow the steps outlined you’ll end up creating the conversion pixel you need to copy and paste into your site content. Then it’s a matter of allowing time to pass while your audience numbers build. When you’re ready, return to Ads Manager and select “Conversion Tracking” where you’re invited to create your ad:


Feel free to use the comment box below to ask a question or rate the value of this post, and thanks for visiting.

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Twitter Feed In WordPress

A client recently asked about adding a Twitter feed to a website. I know he chose a WordPress theme when the newest site was built and many millions of other sites are built on it too. So, not surprisingly, there are a number of solutions, some using code, some using Plugins or Widgets, some free, some with premium options and so on. For the purpose of this post I selected a simple plugin-widget that was as simple as install, configure settings and save. The result is visible in the right hand margin, above my post collection.

I made my selection and in the WordPress dashboard selected “Plugins”, “Add New”. Enter the exact name of the plugin in the search box and hit enter.


In seconds I was invited to activate the plugin. Then, because this particular solution is a widget, I clicked on “Appearance”, “Widgets”. The display that results shows my installed widgets in alphabetical order on the left, and the locations in which I might choose to display the Twitter feed on the right. In this image you see both the widget named on the left and the location I selected, in the Primary Sidebar between my share buttons and my post list.


FeedSettings There are a few settings you can tweak to choose a colour or add a border, yes/no to a scrollbar and of course the Twitter handle for the feed you want to appear. I chose “netvideomaker” to display my tweets, leaving off the @ sign. the image at left is a partial view of the selections available.  I mentioned at the top that this particular solution requires no API or code but clearly there is a “Twitter Widget ID”. Since I didn’t insert it I have to assume it comes with the plugin installation.

For the moment I’m satisfied with this straightforward  approach to displaying my feed in the sidebar of my posts and pages. But I said it isn’t the only solution. Elegant Themes has a post on the subject that presents a number of alternatives, with illustrations.

Pinterest for Business

In only five years, Pinterest users have created one billion boards. More than 14 million articles are pinned every day, 80% of visitors are on a mobile device and two-thirds of all the content people Pin is from a business website. Rumours persist that they are developing a “buy” button. If you sell anything that should make your hair stand on end. Yikes.

In the video below, Kevin Knight from the partnerships department talks about how to make “beautiful” pins, create thoughtful descriptions, and help pinners take action.

In this video he talks about the art of making boards and what he says reminds me of the advice generally given to businesses learning social media marketing. Remember that you arent’ advertising, you are sharing a persona and hoping to attract a following of folks who share your interests and values. 

For more solid information and additional content links, read Chris Crumm’s article on WebProNews.

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Writing White Papers: How to Capture Readers and Keep Them Engaged

A Video Game-Changer – Whiteboard Animated Video

This is video’s year online according to the research. One of the emerging game-changers is something called whiteboard animated video, visual elements drawn before your eyes, with music, narration, images and titles flying in and out in ways almost impossible not to watch. But their appeal, particularly to marketers, doesn’t stop there. Compared to talking head video these animated presentations are

  • 15% better remembered by all age groups,
  •  three times more likely to be shared,
  • receive more than twice the recommendations and are
  • more than twice as likely to make a sale.

Add remarkable affordability and you have a fast track to new business. No location shooting, no site meetings, everything done in the digital realm, including your online preview when the project nears its final cut. Watch our latest production and see if you don’t agree that the level of engagement is what every business is looking for. Take the full screen option for the best impression:

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Mobile-friendly websites to get ranking boost

Whether you provide, pay for or DIY SEO, April could be the cruellest month. Toward month end, Google will roll out a mobile-friendly ranking system for search. Given the explosive growth of search on mobile, not being mobile-friendly could cost you most of your investment in SEO. We Canadians lead the world in searches per capita and the 82% of Canadian business sites that are not yet mobile-friendly are making life awfully easy for the 18% that are.

Social media marketing aims to create new revenue, ultimately, by using multiple means to deliver increased website traffic. This graph, from Google’s “trend” site, demonstrates just how big a deal SMM has become in less than a decade:

You can get a pretty good idea of the state of your site just by visiting on a mobile device. Google’s top suggestion is to, you might have guessed it, Google your site on a mobile device. A while back they introduced what they call a mobile-friendly label, which either appears or does not in your search listing. Look for the words “Mobile-friendly” under the url.


You may also choose to use Google’s tool. There’s nothing complicated about it. You are either “awesome” or you aren’t. If you flunk the test and use WordPress, Google offers a link to support for getting yourself fixed.

notMobileFriendly250If you don’t use WordPress and fail the test Google provides a few questions, each linked to supportive content. Regardless of how your site was built, if it matters to your business you need to find and implement a solution. Google suggests the following are key to getting the mobile-friendly label:

  • Avoid software that is not common on mobile devices, like Flash
  • Use text that is readable without zooming
  • Size content to the screen so users don’t have to scroll horizontally or zoom
  • Place links far enough apart so that the correct one can be easily tapped

Should you be among the startlingly high number of SMBs that DON’T HAVE A WEBSITE (!!!) consider beginning with a WordPress or other responsive theme. We use Genesis in WordPress and as we’ve pointed out, we got “Awesome” on the test.


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How to Promote Your Post

I find it difficult to imagine finding more good information on promoting a post than is included in this infographic and the supporting content.

Courtesy of: RazorSocial

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44 Pro-recommended Social Media Tools

It isn’t often that I find so much useful in a single post. This is a rare exception and it’s no surprise that it comes from the SocialMediaExaminer.  Snip.ly is an app that installs in your browser. When you find content you want to share you can use it to create a link to the content AND create a personalized call to action to accompany it in your share to whatever common platforms you’ve given Sniply permission to connect to. My first effort, visible across the bottom of the screen capture links a post on this site to the blue button.



When I tweeted the sniply, a link was automatically inserted to deliver a visitor to the blog post. Here’s what the tweet looked like:


Clicking the link brings up both the SME content and my sniply call to action, as the first image above describes. The red arrow in that image and the red oval above were both added in a second recent find, namely AwesomeScreenshot, available for Firefox, Chrome and Safari, lets you capture what you’re viewing and mark it up, then save it.
To view the SME content visit my Twitter feed – @netvideomaker.

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Goals in Google Analytics

I am no longer surprised when a new client or prospect admits to not having opened their site analytics in, well, maybe never. That doesn’t discourage most from tweaking the site and hoping for the best. The environment of the web provides the best opportunity ever for measuring the results of our actions and any professional marketer will tell you that analysis and measurement are essential. So, lets talk about setting goals in Google Analytics.

You open analytics and you want to see what your visitors look at, how often, how many pages, visit duration, and bounce rate. You manage to find “users flow” under the “Audience” selection in the left hand column. You get a lovely, quite artistic image that I find virtually useless. Here’s an example:


You can export this to PDF among other choices but I find it frustrating no matter where I look at it. Fortunately, there is a simple solution for anyone with administrative access. You can create a goal and once done view the data in an entirely different presentation:

firstGoal600This format presents columns of data from number of sessions through new visitors, number of pages viewed and so on and each column can be sorted, so if you want to see what pages have the highest bounce rate, sort it from high to low.  There are many goals available pre-made and ready to import. This is one. It’s called the “content analysis dashboard”. Notice that across the top I’ve blown up the word “Admin” to show you where to go to access goals. The screen you see has three columns. This image is of the third, furthest right, and in the list of selections I’ve underscored “Goals”.


Selecting “Goals” brings up another screen:

goalAssortmentYou can spend a while here, selecting categories and looking at the various goals available to import. When you make a selection and press “Import” you will shortly see the word “Success” appear top centre of your screen. Return to “Reporting” (seen at the top of the next image) and under “Dashboard”, select “Private”. Any goals you’ve imported with appear and be accessible. In this case it’s the “Content Analysis Dashboard” we selected from the screen above, where it is the first goal described.


When you select that goal what you see next is a series of columns providing different segments of the data from the “Users flow” screen. I selected the top right offer and was presented with what you see in the second image in this post, with page visits and related data in an easily digestible, sortable format.

Now you have access to hard information about how your site is used and can make informed decisions about what content is working for you and what isn’t. Like anything else you’ve worked at learning, spending time in Analytics is its own reward.

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Exploring Google Analytics

Working at a client site, asked to deliver a top line on their site’s performance from Google Analytics, I was reminded that many website owners don’t look at site performance, ever or infrequently and not in any depth. Yet they make tweaks, add and remove content, change colours and so on completely without input as to what is working or not working already. Back at the home office on a Saturday morning I assign myself the tast of exploring Google Analytics. I opened up the report for this site (thanks to the Analytics plugin for WordPress) and then started a YouTube video, available below, in which Stasia Kudrez, President of SEM Training, walks her audience through the A-B-C’s of Google Analytics, with examples from one fictional and one real website. I highly recommend doing what I did. Use the video pause button to follow along in your analytics. Unless you’re already very well versed in this tool I guarantee you will learn valuable lessons.

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Twitter Cards for Business


There’s a new tool in town and no matter what you’ve heard, it’s not me. It’s the Twitter Card, a business card-looking combination of image and text intended to increase website traffic and conversions from Twitter. The cards are free if you select only your followers as the audience, and you probably should for starters. If you later decide to reach a larger, targeted audience, you can ante up budget and set dates and so on. To get started, visit Twitter Ads, register, with a credit card that won’t be charged for a followers-only card campaign, then click on “Create a Campaign”. If you’d rather learn how to do this from the source, Twitter’s Brendan Zhang hosts the webinar I viewed, which you’ll find here. You will have to trade some personal info to get to the slides. Or you could stick with me for a few more minutes. From the dropdown options select “Website clicks or conversions”. Keep your eyes up on the next screen. What you want is the navigation link named “Creatives” at the top of the page. Click it and select “Cards”. With the new page open, select “website” from the four choices across the top. You’re going to be asked for four things:

  • an image – 800 pixels wide and 320 high. I’ll show you my first one in a minute:
  • a URL to send followers to, in my case a blog post on this site
  • a headline, up to 70 characters in length
  • a CTA, chosen from a dropdown list. I chose “Visit Now” because I was linking to a web page (blogpost)

You should have no difficulty with the rest of the process. It’s just filling in blanks, and it looks like this:

webcard_build_screenYour first attempt won’t say “edit image” under the first chore – “Card image”. Mine does because choosing to edit my card was the only way to get this screen up. The others will be blank until you populate them and the call to action (CTA) will be yours to select. I said I’d show you my image. That’s it on the right in the centre of the card. Built in PhotoShop with a free graphical element. For a better look and the story behind why I wanted to do this today, visit this link. That’s it. Please feel free to comment or ask a question in the space below.

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Writing White Papers: How to Capture Readers and Keep Them Engaged

Share One Thing in Social Media Marketing

OneThingbetter social media marketing
If you follow social media marketing you know that advice often comes in the form of “Nine Tips” and “Seven Tools”. Some of it is great content. What if we SMmarketers decided to contribute one thing whenever something special raises its head? We’d all get better, we’d all be move valuable to clients in our markets, we’d all bring clients more customers and more revenue. Why not? So, join with me in Tweeting #OneThinginSMM and let’s see where it goes. Remember to tweet early and often. (Feel free to add your one thing as a comment below. I’ll be sure it gets shared.)

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