Email Marketing is Dead! So Why do Social Networks Email Me?

Email Marketing is Dead!  At least this is what the “social media gurus” are telling everyone and want you to believe.  If this is true though… then why do I still get a relentless amount of email from social networks?  Simple answer, email works and is effective.

Sure, email, email marketing, and newsletters might be one of those “ancient” web technologies.  Email was around before Tim Berners-Lee setup the first web server and the internet was born.  So it is not really a cool or hip technology even if you use Gmail with all the great features it comes with like Gmail Tabs.  There is also Mailman which has been around forever and other free newsletters options like DadaMail and phpList.  By all accounts e-mail should be technology you read about in computer science textbooks and something your parents, or even grandparents, reminisce about… but it’s not.

Many big social networks still use email marketing to constantly engage and remind users to come back.  This includes all the current social media big players like Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, and Pinterest.  ALL of them send you notification emails, newsletters, updates, etc.

Let’s take Pinterest as an example since this image sharing website’s meteoric rise is because of email marketing.  Yeah, I’ll get emails saying I’m wrong about this but it’s true.  Take for instance this old email I dug up from my the dungeon of my inbox from Pinterest regarding “favorite recipes” and cooking.   The first screenshot is the start of the email and the bottom a fraction of the Pins they included in this newsletter.

email marketing is dead

pinterest email marketing

 

While I didn’t find this email of interest to myself I’m sure it worked as 70% of Pinterest users are women.  Why else would Pinterest send this types of emails to users?  Sending millions of emails is expensive so they are not going to do it just for fun.  These emails get people on Pinterest, pinning, re-pinning, and sharing.  This is just what they want.  I’m sure this is in Ben Silberman’s, the founder of Pinterest, marketing plan.

Twitter is another good example of social network that uses email marketing.  If you do not opt out they relentlessly send you daily updates of what’s happened and important tweets tailored to who you follow.  They also send you Tweets when people reply, mention, or retweet you.  You can unsubscribe from this torrent of Twitter emails but they don’t make it easy.

Facebook is another great example as they do they same as their archrival Twitter.  Of course they take it a step further which is one of the reasons I deleted my Facebook account.  When people reply to a post you commented on, they send you an email.  If you haven’t logged into your account in awhile, you get an email.  They’ll try to email you so you can “reconnect” with those people you are not connecting with on Facebook.   If you log in and post, they might send you an email about that.  Honestly, Facebook is pretty relentless in their email marketing.

Then there is also Tumblr, the wildly popular blogging platform.  Tumblr sends you an email whenever your blog reaches a post milestone.  For instance if you’ve reached 100 posts, you’ll get an email about that.   You also get aggregated emails from blogs you follow containing their posts and images.  Tumblr even sends you an emails about posts that you put on your blog.  Unsure why they do this, I guess they figure you won’t remember what you’ve posted?  I guess they think not very smart people post on Tumblr.

Cleary I’ve outlined all these emails are annoying, so why has this old technology endured?  The truth of the matter is there isn’t anything that’s better and more effective than email marketing.  Emails provide better ROI (return on investment) than social networks.  Even all the social media sites know this which is why they email you.

The reason so many new sites, magazines, blogs, forums, etc. use email newsletters is that many users visit a website, like the content, and never return.  However if they can grab your email address that allows them a chance to re-engage you and have you come back.  If they have your email they can build personal connections that are hard to match.  So long as you don’t mark any of these emails as spam or junk and don’t unsubscribe from the newsletter.

Social networking sites understand this too.  They want/need people to come back onto their site, so they use the email base to reconnect and engage with users.  I often attempt to unsubscribe from these unwanted emails but they don’t make it easy.  All those emails must work as they keep sending them out.

Email marketing is dead? Hardly.

By the way, feel free to sign-up for my email list with exclusive content. :)

Cision Spam

This morning I got an email from a company called Cision, which I’ve never heard of. Here is the email;

Hi Adam,

I hope this email finds you well.
You have a free profile in Cision’s media database, which allows public relations and marketing professionals to find out about you and your areas of expertise. To ensure that you receive the pitches you want, when you want them, we encourage you to look over the questions below and reply to this email with any feedback.
Additionally, your tips and quotes may be included in an upcoming Cision marketing campaign, focused on automotive journalists. We look forward to hearing from you!

Regards,
Beth Blanchard

This email from Cision made me think, “WTF?” As I never voluntarily signed-up for this media database and certainly didn’t give anyone permission to quote me without my knowledge. Below the email there was some of my information along with questions they wanted me to answer.

Adam Yamada-Hanf
Co-Founder, Car News Cafe
Topics/Coverage: Automotive; Cars; Editor in Chief
E-mail: adam@carnewscafe.com
Phone:
How do you prefer to receive press materials?
What kind of information do you prefer to receive?
What will catch your attention?
Does your blog host paid placements or sponsored content?
Do you have any advice for PR professionals?
How about any pet peeves?
Do you use social media like Twitter or Facebook to gather leads and story ideas? Can you be pitched via these channels?
Preferred Contact Days(please check which option you prefer): M __ T__ W__ Th__ F__
Preferred Contact Time (please specify AM and PM):
Preferred Contact Method (please check which option you prefer): E-mail__ Fax__ Mail__ Phone__ Website form__

Why would I answer all these questions from a company I haven’t heard or was referred to personally by someone?  Since the email came from a generic email address – us.mediaprofiles AT cision.com – and not from a personal email address from Beth Blanchard, I know it was automatically generated.  It’s common for marketing and press relation companies to send out bulk emails.  I was going to reply to this email but before I wasted time doing that I started doing web searches on Cision.  This so called marketing company is notorious for sending bulk emails to journalists, writers, and bloggers.  Well not exactly.

Apparently how Cision Spam works is they sell your information to other PR companies that spam the hell out of the media, like myself.  So the Cision spamming apparently is almost impossible to stop.  Other companies like Vocus, MyMediaInfo, and Meltwater are also notorious offenders as well but Cision seems to be the only people stupid enough to actually email journalists about it.  These are exactly the type of people (assholes) that attend Affiliate Summit.

I get unsolicited requests and press releases from companies and PR representatives all the time.   Honestly, it’s part of the industry if you work as a journalist.  Usually 90% of the time I know they are not genuine or were automatically sent so I delete them and mark them as spam.  It’s just as bad, or probably worse, as getting Link Requests.

I really have a problem when a company is profiting selling my information without my knowledge to PR companies that have no legitimate interest in contacting me for stories.  These bullshiters are wasting everyone’s time, especially the company’s that hired them.  I’m pretty sure companies that pay to have someone else handle their press relations don’t realize they are using unsolicited bulk spam emails like Cision or it’s customers.  I assume a company believes they are making efforts to make individual connections with journalists for stories.  Not this BS.

To any PR and marketing companies and professionals reading this, these tactics are not helping you with writers and journalists.  We are facing increasing pressure and lower pay, which means less time for everything.  From reading emails and writing stories to sourcing credible leads and sources.  Filling our inboxes with PR spam does not help you, your clients, or us more effectively communicate anything.

I should make it clear, my name and contact information is listed in certain databases and booklets.  I’m very selective about where I get listed and all these places you must opt-in and sign-up.  I don’t want to be contacted by companies that do not have something automotive related or to do with pets (I have two Singing Dogs.)

Have you gotten any spam from Cision or other companies?  As a journalist and writer what annoys you most about getting unsolicited emails and press releases?  If you were successful in stopping the emails, how did you get Cision or Vocus to stop sending you PR material?

Alternative Domain Names, as Controversial as Abortions?

alternative domain namesby Adam Yamada-Hanff

Are alternative domain names as controversial as abortions?  What about politics and hot button issues like education, guns, and healthcare?  This might sound like a joke but I’m actually being serious.

Recently I posted about my negative experience mentioning IO domains to someone at a conference I had lunch with.  I detailed how this domain extension, for the Indian Ocean, lost me a valuable consulting gig or a possible job offer by from the executive I talked with.  I felt the IO domain extension, which in mind I would consider an alternative domain extension, really hurt my chances.  I encourage you to read the post to see why.

I didn’t really put down the IO domain extension but made it clear that for regular people alternative domain names are not ready for primetime.  At least for a non-tech inclined audience.

What shocked me was that I got lots of nasty comments on this article the day it was posted.  Usually when I write an article, even if it is meant to generate interest, it usually takes awhile for people to start leaving comments.  Even with some of my really popular and fun articles like Top Gear USA vs Top Gear UK and Top Gear USA getting cancelled it can take awhile before people start leaving their opinions and weighing in.  This includes when I wrote about mentioning a CO domain I bought to a family member and which they didn’t understand.

My article about my experience just mentioning IO domains people jumped in immediately.  (I try to maintain a clean and family friendly websites for the most part so none of these nefarious comments were approved.) Many commenters made remarks about my intelligence and how I’m not a good web consultant.  How could I write such insults about the greatest domain extensions of all time?  Don’t I understand it’s for Input/Output?  What’s worse is the person who didn’t get what these domains I was talking about must have been “stupid” or “an idiot.”  I’m fine if people don’t like my services or advice but I really disagree that this person was stupid.  The fact is these alternate domain names are just was not in her lexicon and probably won’t be for awhile.

What’s interesting to me is how much people take offense when you say anything bad about the domain name, and more specifically the domain extension, they have chosen.  Clearly a lot of people like, use, and have bought alternative domain names for their business, service, or website.  They really do not like it when you criticize it and feel there is something wrong with other people.

I get why these people are upset.  When someone chooses to build a website on a domain name, they probably took time and care to think about it.  In a sense that is their “baby.”  If you make any bad remarks about where you are “raising” their kid or infer the “baby” is ugly I believe they see it as a direct insult.  Not just on their brand but their abilities and the entire operation they’ve been working on.

I own some domains that are considered alternative, like a ME domain.  I should divulge I did not buy it for building out though but will likely be used as a URL shortener on Twitter and other social networks.  Also I’ve written about services like Short Domain Search which cater to those looking for alternative domain names that are short and supposedly easy to remember.

Even if I’ve written about some of these domain topics, negatively or positively, it still does not give people the right to attack me, clients, and potential clients for voicing their opinions.   Most of their rationale behind the choosing these domains can be pretty flawed to a certain extent.

If you are having trouble finding a good domain, why not try a domain name generator?  I’ve highly recommended Lean Domain Search on this fine web establishment and continue to do so.  In my opinion it is the standard by which all other domain generators are measured.  If Lean Domain Search does not work for you might want to check out NameMesh and Impossibility.  Those are definitely great domain name generators too.  If you find a domain name you like I encourage you to use NameSilo or NameCheap to register your domains.

What do you think about alternative domain names like IO, CO, ME, and others?  Do you agree that your websites are “babies and kids?”  Do you think insulting a person or company’s domain name is as controversial as talking about birth control and abortions?  Let me know with a comment below.

How .IO Domains Lost me a TON of Money

.io domainsby Adam Yamada-Hanff

Recently on this fine website I wrote my sad story how I told a relative about a great .CO domain I purchased. He had no idea what I was talking about or what the .CO domain extension was in general.  I realized as I was writing that post there is an even worse extension I’ve had experience with, .IO which is the country code top level domain (ccTLD) for the Indian Ocean.  Why?  I’ve lost a TON of money because of .IO domains and these ridiculously tech savy, annoying, start-up mofos trying to be all original.

No, I haven’t actually bought any .IO domain names.  That doesn’t mean that I can’t be negatively affected though.  I was out of town at this conference once and someone who had a medium-sized company was interested in talking with me about possibly having me to do some web consulting work for them.  I can’t remember what this person’s position was but she was Vice President or something along those lines.  The company was about 100 people or so it was not large but not small either.

Usually at conferences if people have questions I try to give free and useful advice as much as possible.  Most consultants don’t but this is why people go to conferences honestly.  To get advice you can’t get anywhere else.  Even though most aren’t not going to hire me, I am always hopeful in the future someone will.  Anyway, this executive handled marketing had expressed interested in having lunch with me.  I did not realize this until she approached me but I had given advice to a few people and there was chatter about how awesome I was to do that without expecting anything in return.

When she initially approached she made it clear they were looking for help with web marketing, even though she had a lot of marketing experience.  The company in her mind had made some vital mistakes online and she wanted to talk over things I thought could be improved.  I said to myself, “Wow, this could really turn into something for me here.”  That assumption was wrong, very wrong all because of a mention of .IO domains.

When I had lunch with her the next day she started explaining some problems the company was having.  They had tried Facebook advertising and were having horrible results.  I sent her the link so she could watch the Facebook Fraud video by Derek Mueller.  I then explained that most likely those Likes and Shares were not authentic, even if paid through Facebook, as mostly it seems to be bot accounts or from click farm countries.  I also made small suggestions about website improvements (yes, I know this blog needs a refresh) the company could make, various paid and free tools that might be helpful, some books she might want to read, and recommended they switch hosting providers (they were using NoDaddy hosting).  Then she started asking questions about search engine optimization (SEO) and was relaying to me the company was having a hell of a hard time against competitors.  She also felt like an SEO firm they had used had not delivered.

It sounded like the SEO firm “Guaranteed” a 1st place ranking in Google which is not really possible.  (I encourage everyone to read my 6 Questions to Ask a Search Optimizer if you haven’t.)  I had to start explaining basic SEO principles, since she did not understand them, and that most professional marketers and search optimizers make wrong suggestions to new clients.  Most of the time they will recommend 3rd party SEO resources instead of Google and this really only confuses people.  I explained that Google tries, but does not do a great job, of providing resources for normal webmasters to understand how Google views search.  I suggested that she follow the Google Webmaster Central Blog and watch some of Matt Cutts videos.  (We all know those are marginally helpful.)  While it is useful to follow search news I said, “The major tech and SEO websites make assumptions from reading and watching both of these.  Sometimes what they write is not wrong but it is guessing honestly.  If you want to hear the information unfiltered it is best to get it from the source.  That way, hopefully, you will be less confused. ”  She seemed to get what I was saying here and nodded in approval.  I continued my spiel, “You probably won’t understand everything reading and watching those but it is good to be aware of these.  Keep in mind Google claims they want to help small and medium sized businesses but they don’t really.   The main reason to follow Google is that you will stay updated with their news and requirements.”  Since she had her iPad out on the table I was showing here exactly where to find everything.  She was amazed how little she knew in this new digital age and through our exchange she even said that the company would probably be expanding soon and could use someone like me.  I thought I had this in the bag.

I let her soak in the videos and some of other resources I suggested on her iPad.  After awhile she asked,”What have you learned watching these videos?”  I thought it was a good question and started to explain that Matt Cutts, Google’s head of Webspam and the guy that built Google’s family filter engine, said he didn’t recommend country code top level domain hacks or usage.  I said, “This includes .IO which is a popular domain extension among start-ups.  Originally he said that .IO specifically would be considered by Google only for those that live in the Indian Ocean.  There are not that many people that live in the Indian Ocean though and now .IO is considered generic by Google and not country specific.  It would be bad if I wasn’t aware of this especially if someone was looking into buying a .IO domains and they came to be for advice about it.”

After I said all this… there was a long blank stare.  It was clear she was starting to question who she was sitting down with.  The stare was really to say, “Who is this guy?”  She then softly asked, “.IO?”  This lead to me to try to explain ccTLDs in regards to search engines and how Google views them.  This, I think, she sort of understood but the whole .IO domain extension clearly made no sense to her.   I don’t remember entirely what I said because I was trying to move the conversation out of domains at that point.  There was a definite mention of I/O in computer terms.  (For those that are not aware the IO refers to input/output, which is pretty geeky.)  At this point I knew I had lost any hope of consulting work or a future position at that company.

She did not seem to understand .IO and her eyes and facial expression were a definite indication of confusion.  It just didn’t make sense to her why someone would buy a .IO let alone what the hell it meant.  I believe me even bringing it up in the conversation even baffled her.

While the rest of the lunch went ok, I could tell that mentioning .IO domains really hurt me.  My chances of consulting work or scoring a full time job at this company went down in flames just because of one mention of IO domains.  She emailed me later thanking me for the suggestions and taking the time out of my day and said she’d be in touch.  Never happened.  I even tried to reconnect with her a  few weeks ago but I got no reply.

She did genuinely seem like she was going to offer me something but mentioning this super nerdy extension basically ruined any chances I had.   So that’s the story of how I lost money because of friggin .IO domains.

To all those f$@)@& annoying ass hip start-ups using a .IO domain you made me LOOSE a LOT of money.  After this post if you use a .IO domain and I think your product is good and use it, I still won’t mention your company or service to ANYONE.  You make me loose money, I make you loose money.  How does that feel?  Buy a real domain extension at NameSilo.

I once heard someone explain that the reason he choose a .IO domain was because he wanted to be in the “SoHo of the internet.”  Well honestly that’s great but I certainly don’t live in the SoHo of the internet.  Even if I did live in the SoHo of the internet it would be too expensive for me.  I believe .IO domains are $60 the first year through NameCheap and $100 a year to renew.  That’s damn expensive for a domain name and I’d rather buy a quality domain in domain auctions or the domain aftermarket.  The SoHo of the internet does not pay my bills.

To be fair to IO domains, it is hard to know whether that truly hurt me in the conversation and lost me consulting work.  However, things were going really well up until that point. I can only assume what was going through her heard after the lunch.  I’m pretty sure it was not all positive after mentioning a weird domain extension though.

If a client is using a .IO domain and loves it I probably won’t say anything.  In the future I’ll refrain from even mentioning .IO domains.  I’ll just look confused and awkward.  If a someone asks about using a .IO domain for a web service or app I’ll reply, “Say Hell No to .IO!” :)

What do you think about .IO domains?   Annoying, cool, fun, or it is a passing domain fad?  What do you think of my sad story of losing money because of silly .IO domains?

SweetCaptcha – The Best WordPress Captcha Solution?

Do you hate getting comment spam on your WordPress blog?  I just found a solution that might help anyone running a WordPress website, SweetCaptcha.  Honestly I think this is the BEST WordPress Captcha solution I have come across so far.  Even better than the widely used Akismet developed by Automattic (the company behind WordPress.)

What is Sweet Captcha?  Basically it is an imaged based captcha (Completely Automated Public Turing test to tell Computers and Humans Apart) solution that asks users to solve a puzzle.  While a lot of similar image based puzzle captchas I’ve seen are kind of annoying difficult and require too much thinking, SweetCaptcha keeps it simple.

sweetcaptchaDealing with spam comments on CarNewsCafe, a website I run covering car news, was taking up a fair amount of my time since we can receive over 1,000 spam comments every day. The reason for this is we get quite a lot of traffic now, and spammers obviously like targeting high traffic sites.  I decided to try out SweetCaptcha.  The result?  It has stopped the vast majority of spam comments.  There are still a couple that get through but those are caught by Akismet.

In addition setting up Sweet Captcha was hella easy.  I just installed the plugin from the WordPress.org plugin repository, provided my email, then a few clicks later it was up and running.  Once I realized how great it worked I installed it on several other WordPress sites I have.

I’ve seen plenty of similar types of captcha solutions out there but usually they are complex and a pain to solve.  Most of these captchas are great for keeping spam bots from commenting but it also makes so that humans won’t either.   Anything that takes a long time and is more hassle than they a potential comment thinks is worth it… someone probably is not leaving a comment.

Another type of captcha I hate, math.  I HATE math so having to solve a math problem is a big no-no in my book if you want me to comment on your website.  This shouldn’t come as a surprise as most people hate math.  Clients I work with that have math based captchas I recommend they remove them immediately.  They always experience an increase in blog comments.  Why do you want less people to leave comments?  Sorry math nazis but people just don’t like having to do math problems when leaving comments.

Honestly just as bad as math problems would be reCaptcha.  This came from the useless minds at Google that only think of things how engineers would like them, not real people.  Can anyone seriously read a what those words say?  The problem is a lot of sites use reCaptcha, ugh.

Anyway, having to go in and delete WordPress spam comments in my websites is time consuming every day.  So I figure SweetCaptcha will save me at least 1 hour or more a month since I won’t have to do this on all my WordPress blogs.

My concern with SweetCaptcha, like most, is this might be too complex for some people to solve.  There should be some complexity though to keep the spammers out.

Some of you might be checking the comments below and be wondering, “Hey, why isn’t Adam using SweetCaptcha?”  This site is run on a WordPress Multisite installation and I could not get the plugin configured to work.  :(  Still I’m going to use SweetCaptcha on all my standalone WordPress sites.  That is until I find a better WordPress spam fighting tool.

Like most WordPress plugins SweetCaptcha is completely free.  The developers take donations to help support development and have some premium options so you can your own puzzles or strip out “Powered by SweetCaptcha.”  You can add several sites to one account email address as well.

If you have a forum, e-commerce, or some other type of site you can still use SweetCaptcha. It can be installed custom PHP pages and Javascript applications.  They had a Joomla plugin but it looks like development was abandoned.  The main market they are going after does seem to be WordPress users.

Visit the website here – http://sweetcaptcha.com/

If you’ve tried out SweetCaptcha I’d love to hear your thoughts about it.  Do you love it or hate it?  Do you think it is the best WordPress captcha solution?

Anything you wish would be improved?  If not do you think you will try it out?

Elon Musk believed Tesla & SpaceX would Fail

elon muskWhen Elon Musk was in London for the launch of the Tesla Model S in the United Kingdom he did an interview with the BBC’s  (British Broadcasting Corporation) Business Daily podcast.  He talked with Business Daily correspondent Justin Rowlett about Tesla, SpaceX, and his early career on the internet.  It was a pretty interesting and I was surprised by what he said later in the interview.

“I like working on technology that will have a positive effect on the world. You know, stuff that is going to matter and if we don’t solve it there could be some bad outcome for out future, the future of humanity.  When we started SpaceX, and Tesla in particular, I didn’t think either of them particularly would succeed.”

Justin Rowlett, the interviewer, than asked, “So you imagined both of them would fail when you started them?”

“I thought that was the most likely outcome… Initially I thought I’ll take half the money and I’ll keep the other half, and this other half will probably be lost and then I’ll still have the other half.  That was my initial thought, but then the company’s needed much more money than originally anticipated and of course we had the big recession in 2008.  Well, I could either keep the money, and the company was definitely going to die, or invest what I have left and maybe there is a chance.”

Elon Musk also discussed the early days of the internet and how nobody really thought it would go anywhere at the beginning of the interview.

“When I started Zip2 which was in the summer of 95, nobody had made any money on the internet.  It wasn’t some land of riches or something like that.  Most people didn’t know what the internet was including Silicon Valley.  We tried getting funding from venture capitalists and most of them had never used the internet.  If they had used the internet they were convinced nobody would ever make any money on it.  So our initial goals with Zip2 were quite modest, would we ever be able to make enough buy to eat and pay for rent?  That was our goal in the beginning.”

If you would like to listen to the whole interview with Elon Musk, visit the BBC Business Daily podcast page.  The Elon Musk interview was posted on June 9th, 2014 and is titled “Elon Musk: Space and Electric Cars.”  Be aware that the BBC only keeps podcast available 30 days after airing.

Let me know what you think about entrepreneurship and failure.  Is that just part of the game?  Especially with innovative companies like Tesla and SpaceX?

*Article originally published here