The madness that is Hodor and Yo. Or is it?

Yo LogoOne constant source of bemusement – well, really horror – is the inefficiency of social media to deliver a message to it’s intended recipients. In any company setting, saying “I didn’t receive your message” is the management equivalent of “the dog ate my homework” excuse at school; it is considered a very rare occurrence and the excuse a poor attempt to seek forgiveness.

Sending bulk (but personalised) email to a long list of people who know you is just the start. Routinely, 30% of what you send will end up finishing short of your destination; no matter how many campaigns i’ve seen from anyone, none get higher than 70% delivery to the intended recipients. In practice, the number routinely read by the recipient normally bests at 20-30% of the number sent. Spam filters often over-zealous too. With practice, you get to find out that sending email to arrive in the recipients in-tray at 3:00pm on a Thursday afternoon local time is 7x more likely to be read than the same one sent at 6:00am on a Sunday morning. And that mentioning the recipients name, an indication of what it’s about and what they’ll see when the email is opened – all hooked together in the subject line -vastly improves open rates. But most people are still facing 70-80% wastage rates. I’ve done some work on this, but that experience is available to my consulting clients!

So, thank god for Facebook. Except that the visibility of status updates routinely only gets seen by 16% of your friends on average (the range is 2%-47% depending on all sorts of factors, but 16% is the average). The two ways to improve this is to make your own list that others can subscribe to, and if they remember to access that list name, then they’ll see the works. But few remember to do this. The other method is to pay Facebook for delivery, where you can push your update (or invite to an interest list, aka ‘likes’) to a defined set of demographics in specific geographic areas. But few guarantees that you’ll get >50% viewership even then.

So, thank god for Twitter. Except the chance of some of your followers actually seeing your tweets drops into the sub-1% range; the norm is that you’ll need to be watching your stream as the update is posted. So you’re down to using something like Tweetdeck to follow individual people in their own column, or a specific hashtag in another. You very quickly run out of screen real estate to see everything you actually want to see. This is a particular frustration to me, as I quite often find myself in the middle of a Tweet storm (where a notable person, like @pmarca – Marc Andreessen – will routinely run off 8-12 numbered tweets); the end result is like listening to a group of experts discussing interesting things around a virtual water cooler, and that is fascinating to be part of. The main gotcha is that I get to see his stuff early on a Saturday morning in the UK only because he tweets before folks on the west coast of the USA are headed to bed – otherwise i’d never catch it.

Some of the modern messaging apps (like SnapChat) at least tell you when that picture has been received and read by the recipient(s) you sent it too – and duly deleted on sight. But we’re well short of an application where you can intelligently follow Twitter scale dialogues reliably for people you really want to follow. Twitter themselves just appear happy to keep suggesting all sorts of people for me to follow, probably unconscious that routine acceptance would do little other than further polluting my stream with useless trash.

Parking all this, I saw one company produce a spoof Android custom keyboard, where the only key provided just says “Hodor”. Or if you press it down for longer, it gives you “Hodor” in bold. You can probably imagine the content of the reviews of it on the Google Play Store (mainly long missives that just keep repeating the word).

Then the next madness. Someone writing an application that just lists your friends names, and if you press their name, it just sends through a message to them saying “Yo!”.

Yo! Screenshot

Just like the Facebook Pokes of old. A team of three programmers wrote it in a couple of days, and it’s already been downloaded many thousands of times from the Apple App Store. It did sound to me like a modern variation of the Budweiser “Whats Up” habit a few years back, so I largely shook my head and carried on with other work.

The disbelief set in when I found out that this app had been subject to a $1.5 million VC funding round, which valued the company (this is their only “significant” app) at a $10m valuation. Then found out one of the lead investors was none other than a very respected John Borthwick (who runs Betaworks, an application Studio housed in the old Meat Packing area of New York).

His thing seems to be that this application ushers in a new world, where we quite often want to throw a yes/go-ahead/binary notification reliably to another entity. That may be a person (to say i’ve left work, or i’ve arrived at the restaurant, etc) or indeed a device (say ‘Yo’ to the coffee maker as you approach work, or to turn on the TV). So, there may indeed be some logic in the upcoming world of the “Internet of Things”, hyped to death as it may be.

John’s announcement of his funding can be found here. The challenge will no doubt be to see whether his investment is as prescient as many of his other ones (IFTTT, Bit.lyDots, Digg Deeper, etc) have been to date. In the meantime, back to code my own app – which is slightly more ambitious than that now famous one.

Email Subscriber Lists: Thunderbirds are go

Thunderbird One

I’d had someone last week ask where the “subscribe” button to my blog was. I didn’t have one. Also conscious that I need to get an email out to a portion of my LinkedIn contacts, I thought it was time to invest in a proper email platform. The WordPress WPMU Dev Community always appear to be in awe of Mailchimp, which has all the features to run professional looking email campaigns and which is free to use for subscriber lists of less than 5000 contacts. It also has excellent integration with WordPress.

I have downloaded my LinkedIn contacts into one list, which I will only use one time as part of my next role landing effort. I was taught many years ago that 70% of all roles tend to come by personal referral and which tend not to get advertised – and hence a small one time plea for referrals. Mailchimp allowed me to customise the email subject lines with people’s Christian names (Surname available also) and to lay things out very neatly. I then spent quite a considerable time laying everything into one of the many provided templates to look nice, and added pictures of some of my accreditation certificates on the end.

The dialogue you go through to finally release the email (in both HTML and Text forms) is really quirky and amusing (it shows a chimps finger dripping sweat about to press a big red button, and afterwards high-fives as the email send goes underway). 5 minutes later I have 21 out of offices and my first reply. Looking good.

The reply email action also allows you to pre-populate the subject and the message field, so it minimises the amount of work the recipient has to enter to reply back to you. Overall, very well thought out from start to finish.

I created a second “Simplicity Sells” mailing list which is totally empty – but which is populated by people who want to subscribe to this blog. After adding in the WordPress Mailchimp for WP Plugin, I put the widget in the right hand bottom footer. That, however, is right at the bottom of a potential very long list of posts, so I elected to add a custom “Subscribe” page using a short code and linked this onto the top menu. All worked first time, and confirmed my email address correctly – and into the mailing list things went.

Reading more on the Mailchimp blog and their knowledge base, you can see a lot of the hoops they jump through on your behalf to run a mailing list for folks that willingly subscribe to your content. Impressed.

All running fine so far. Let’s see how this rolls over the next few days.