Wednesday, July 30, 2008

45 ways to exploit bored teens for online marketing good

Who doesn't dream of the day when they'll have time to do, try and test all those online improvements that experts rave about? Those ideas that you know could improve traffic, revenue and loyalty if only there were a few more hours in each day.

My solution: Grab a teenager, hijack an intern ... You know why? Most of them know the Web, they know social media and they're cheap. And right now, parents in my part of the world are sick of them hanging around staying up too late, eating too much and sleeping until 1 p.m. In fact, these parents may PAY you to take their kids off their hands.

Bored teenager from of the tasks below don't take experience but require enthusiasm, time and a bit of online savvy and skill.

Here's my mega list of how to exploit these young people's natural skills (inspired by some of the great speakers the Bridge Conference in DC) to boost your online marketing:

Ask them to:

  1. Check for dead links. Some experts say 80% of companies have bad ones.

  2. Review your Web site for old content. Is your copyright notice up to date? Do you still have photos of execs who are now working for the competition, have died, or are suing the company?

  3. Expand your FAQ pages. Ask service and sales to provide an updated list of customers' most frequently asked questions and create a page for each question. Look at the IRS site for a great example of keyword-rich questions that addresses nearly every concern.

  4. Create individual title tags for each page. Many sites use the same title on every page, wasting great search engine optimization opportunities. It's something commonly overlooked, says Stoney deGeyter at SearchEngineGuide.

  5. Make sure your logo is clickable. It is something that drives my Web guru Joy Larkin (aka Cleverhack ) crazy. She always presumes a Web site is unprofessional. That erodes trust. It's also robbing visitors of a useful navigational tool and a quick way to get back to the home page.

  6. Run your online copy through some readability tests like the ones provided by Juicy Studio. If it can't be understood by a 12-year old, chances are visitors will click off without converting.

  7. Update product descriptions online. That's what Debbie Harbin from the Holocaust Museum's marketing department was doing with interns this summer. She was also getting interns to translate their Web site into foreign languages.

  8. Update your Linkedin accounts. Search for existing customers who may want to link with you. Review what your rivals are doing.

  9. Create a list of which senior execs in your company are using social media and who aren't. Execs at McKinsey & Co. who weren't using Facebook were recently encouraged to sign up and network. Not everyone in your company may want to network, but some may do it with a nudge.

  10. Set up a Facebook account for your company. The Holocaust Museum's page was initiated by an intern and has since become an important part of the museum's membership drive. By the way, the biggest growing demographic on Facebook isn't teenagers but professionals.

  11. Research which companies are using social media sites as a defacto Intranet. If you don't have an inhouse intranet, Facebook could be your answer. Serena Software hasn't only initiated Facebook Fridays, it has turned the social media site into the company's Intranet, reports Andrew McAfee in this fascinating new article on the Harvard Business Review blog.

  12. Establish a Twitter presence and look at how other companies like Comcast and Zappos have been using it, the former to improve its reputation and the latter to consolidate a great one. There are something like 1400 employees at Zappos on Twitter. Well, that may be a slight exaggeration but it feels true. Follow me on Twitter too please.

  13. Find money! Nothing like money for nothing. Don't forget to search for advocates and champions who are praising your company or organization on social media channels. Tools like Summize will help you. Jonathon Colman from the Nature Conservancy discovered a group that was independently raising money for his nonprofit on Facebook. It's raised $42,000 so far. You can read his presentation about (Lil) Green Patch here.

  14. Enter or update your company's details in Google and Yahoo! local. And upload photos, videos, etc. It's free and it's amazing how many companies haven't entered all their locations. It only takes a few minutes to do it. When I entered my details for this blog in Google Maps (merely as a test) it took no time at all and my listing appeared two days later. Cool.

  15. Build mindshare and make nice with resellers and distributors by offering to do the same for them and enter their locations in these free local search engines.

  16. Review rival's search results. Ask your interns to search using your most important keywords and tell you who's doing better and worse. If you haven't been using it, you can compare all the sites in your sector using tools like the one by Compete.

  17. Get them to do something similar using Hubspot's Website grader. They can grade your site and your rivals', too. (I'd forgotten until I read Chris Brogan's excellent list of 50 steps to establish a consistent social media practice.)

  18. Create a list of the best and worst techniques being used on rival Web sites.

  19. Sign you up for rivals' e-zines, newsletters, etc.

  20. Check whether rivals are providing content to industry Web sites or industry forums. That can give you a feeling of where to direct your energies.

  21. Identify the newest blogs in your product or industry. A tip suggested by Geoff Livingston who writes the Buzz Bin, his company's blog.

  22. Provide updates on the important bloggers in your industry with updates on news you can use. For example: "Livingston's blog often focuses on social media. His company's just been bought out so that could change ..." or Tacony's "MineYourBusiness has just launched a new industry forum for resellers in the vacuum and sewing machine market ... "

  23. Identify blogs and forums where your company's experts could make a contribution. It is probably up to you, dear Internet marketer, to get the internal expert to respond or get involved. (Can you imagine this chat between your teen slave and the CFO? Teen: "Hey, you should really tell them that's not cool, dude!" CFO: "I'll get right on it. NOT!")

  24. Identify places where your company's reputation is taking a beating. Unless you are Zappos, the most loved company in the world it seems, chances are someone online is attacking you.

  25. Enrol your inhouse experts on lists like "Help a reporter out," a site that matches journalists' need for sources with experts willing to help.

  26. Check out new applications, like Google Earth, and think about ways your company could take advantage of them. I was impressed to hear how the Holocaust Museum was using Google Earth to highlight its work on genocide in Darfur.

  27. Come up with ten ideas for viral contests. Some will be stupid, some will be great. For example, ThePocketGeek viral contest has been a great success, zipping around the world and even winning over a huge following in Paris.

  28. Think of 10 wacky viral video ideas. Gotta love this one here that my mate Dave at the B2Blog spotted. It is by a business to business company that automates pipettes, stuff used in labs. (Can't just hear someone in the company saying, "That'll never work!" )

  29. Ask them to see what kinds of videos and photos are being posted online that your company could use. The Georgia Aquarium tracked down visitors who'd taken photos and posted them on Flickr and turned it into a great engagement tool. One of the creators Andy Mills is barely in his 20s.

  30. Think of a unique widget that could get visitors to stay longer on your site. Kimtech promotes its lab gloves as being greener than rivals with this little online calculator. It shows how its product uses less space and generates less waste than other gloves.

  31. Upload all your photos on to sites like Flickr and Facebook (Facebook is now the largest photo sharing site!).

  32. Check that all images have alt tags. That'll help search engines find you. It's boring and time consuming but it'll boost your search results.

  33. Set up Google alerts and RSS feeds to help you monitor blogs, rivals, trends and news affecting your organization.

  34. Do some mystery shopping! Go undercover for you, order something online from your own site or from a rival's and report back. Download some rivals' whitepapers and see what happens and how they follow up.

  35. Call the phone number on your site and record what happens. Send some e-mail to reps and see what happens.

  36. Launch a link recovery program with your customers and bloggers in your sector. This is a great suggestion by Justilien Gaspard at Search Engine Watch but it is time consuming. In short, you get your intern to track down all the sites that have mentioned your company online but didn't include a link. To generate traffic and improve search rankings, Gaspard suggests asking them to turn that mention into a link.

  37. Ask them to collect e-mail addresses from customers ... One speaker at the Bridge conference talked about using mobile messaging to text someone saying, "Hey Dude, send me your e-mail address if you want to be added to our list." The folks at the Smithsonian asked interns to survey visitors coming in to the admin building in DC as a way of opening the conversation and getting e-mail addresses to grow their list. Only problem, these folks were usually only visiting because they were hot, tired and needed the bathroom. They were cranky. The interns only got 125 addresses over a few weeks.

  38. Suggest/design some signature blocks that your execs could use on the bottom of every e-mail. Industrial marketer and blogger Jim Cahill has a signature that includes an invitation to connect with him on Linkedin and Twitter.

  39. Call a few of your best customers for quotable quotes to put on your Web site.

  40. Collect some of the best online reviews to print out and display in offline stores and offices.

  41. Interview some customers using a flip video camera. Load these on video sharing sites like YouTube and your site.

  42. Come up with some new ideas for cool places to put your URL. Check out GoodURLBadURL for some ideas. Could you send it flying through the air on a ball, print it on the back of a part (like iRobot or put it on invoices?

  43. Devise some survey questions for your site. These are great engagement tools and free tools like SurveyMonkey make them easy enough for any 17-year old to do.

  44. Check for duplicate content. Even well-meaning sites can "disappear" off the Web overnight because they've inadvertently fallen prey to the duplicate content trap.

  45. Send me things you've got interns to do in the past and things you'd really love to do in the future but don't have the time. Thanks.

Posted by Internet Marketing Report Online editor Julie Power on Wednesday July 30 at 6 a.m.

Editor's Update: September 15. If you are looking for the link to the Best Damn Checklist Ever, please click here. We apologize to readers of MarketingUpdate. An error in the publication directed readers to this site instead of to's great list. Mind you, we think the ideas below are worth a look too!



Jim Cahill said...

Julie, Wow what a great list. If I could only tear my teens away from Facebook long enough.

Thanks for the shout out on item 38. I uploaded a picture of the signature to Flickr.

I basically started with one of the LinkedIn Email Signatures and modified the HTML code to add a picture, link to Twitter, etc.

Take it easy, Jim

Peter said...

Thanks for the HARO shout on 25! :)

-Peter Shankman

Joan Stewart, The Publicity Hound said...

Julie, this list is brilliant! I plan to share your tips with Publicity Hounds who are in my mentor program. I might even link to the blog post from next week's ezine.

IMR editor said...

Cool update. Seth Godin was looking for marketing interns. I reckon he could get experienced marketers to work on intern rates for him! But it was only for high school or college students, and he paid them $3,000 a month.

SoulRiser said...

Hi. Nice ideas. I just don't like the way you talk about 'exploiting' teens and the fact that they're 'cheap' - underpaid due to labour laws, actually. I know far too many of them on my site and I wouldn't ever dream of disrespecting them like that.

Anonymous said...

Feh. This list sinks on ice.

KimC said...

My thoughts exactly, SoulRiser.