Pinterest Success in 2012

I have been seeing bloggers refer to “pinning” images on Pinterest for a year or more and just recently I finally got an account started. Pinterest required linking to my FB profile which was a dealbreaker, but I deleted the app and unlinked it afterwards. I was curious as to why Pinterest was different than other mood board sites (polyvore) I had seen that didn’t really impress me. At the same time I have been reading more about how Pinterest drives more traffic to retailer sites than Google Images, how women are the primary audience and why Pinterest traffic has taken off like a space rocket.

My take on the site as a web analyst, a woman and a user of the site may be different than the media’s perceptions. I concentrate on the behaviors and uses of the site and have listed my opinons on their growth/success here:

Some reasons I think Pinterest has been a growing site:

1. Images do say more than a 1000 words – They can make you feel hopeful, creative, inspired and motivated. Great images move people. That is why good photography is both art and marketing at the same time. (think Flickr/Instagram) What happens when you want to see that powerful/inspiring image again? Do you bookmark it? With your other 1,000 bookmarks? Blogging it has been better, but not everyone wants to blog and some people frown on hotlinking in your posts although that is what Pinterest uses. Flickr has been great with it’s searchable favorites image list, but not everyone likes Flickr like I do. Some people just want to link other people’s photos and not upload their own. Facebook is ok if you want to blast your friends with all the images you save/share about your home remodel project and make everything archived by the borg, but I really think image saving/sharing is out of context on your personal branding page. Capturing and sharing this image information has had a tricky history and Pinterest solved a problem we didn’t know we had.

2. People are busy and ideas are fleeting – Maybe this is the ADHD generation? I am a GenXer. I have way too much to do, a reasonable income and a very short attention span. I have a hard time keeping track of things that aren’t completely essential and ideas are on that list. In a personal example: With my process of moving around a lot in the last few years, my confidence in the house decorating department was a bit threatened from being a bit out of practice. I have made up for it with a huge file of images saved on my computer from design blogs. It was an old school solution to needing a place to look for ideas from images I already filtered and liked. Did it create solutions for my house? Yep, several rooms in the new house have been redone based on color pallettes from those photos. But in a day I may only see 1-3 photos I like from 50+ interior design blogs. In a year that is a lot to comb through and it isn’t share-able offline nor is it accessible from anywhere. So, Pinterest has recently proved more accessible and more shareable for keeping these images. Plus it is free for now. I could see them evolving into suggesting ad based photos by retailers based on your tags/likes/pins in the future.

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3. Trends/Decisions are easier to analyze when you have all the information from multiple sources in one place. I find it difficult to make buying decisions in this day and age because in most every category there are too many brands, products, colors, choices, prices and options to keep straight. (information overload) Making a pinning board for new shoes you are considering buying takes a lot less time than going to the 5 stores in your area and trying to decide that way or ordering online from Zappos and having to return them all. Plus you can save that pic of that shoe you love but don’t need right now for later. Side by side lists and comparisons make shopping a little easier, but in most cases these wishlists really work on selling to you and others. Someone recommends something, you loooove it, click-click-bought. That isn’t really a bad consumer strategy. I have found that if I ever pass on an item and want to look it up to buy later, it is impossible/gone  with how short the merch time is in stores (online and off) and how styles change so vastly that it may never be seen again. (yet the things you’re never very thrilled with seem to pop up again and again in many different stores). Items/Pictures that are popular on Pinterest may have more staying/selling power due to the large audience or they may be more trendy when people move on to the next micro trend. I am not sure yet because there is a lot of churn in products these days, some people consuming constantly, others stopping completely.

4. Like TED some ideas are worth sharing. I enjoy seeing what my friends have discovered and pinned. It tells me what they are into, what is new, what really good ideas/recipes they want to share and hopefully some of those ideas are good for me too. I have found some interesting clever solutions for household annoyances this way. True, this may just mirror the offline world where women would share tips on household stuff while chatting in the yard, but it makes sense for other subject matter/industries too as long as there aren’t proprietary info in the photos and there is a collective community sharing information. This could be a marketing strategy if you have real solutions your product offers and the story can be told in an image that looks real.

5. The biggest reason? Discovery is a process that a lot of us get a big burst of happy from. It doesn’t matter if it is online discovering photos, reading a magzine, watching a TV show, taking a vacation or creating something like artwork or crafts. Many of us have jobs that are pretty specialized and we do a short list of things for the company and don’t have a lot of variety or creativity in our daily lives. I have found that I need some form of creativity (writing, photography, art, dance, design) in order to be happy and I have a feeling that this may be the case for others too. Even the simulation of creativity by discovering and learning from photos of how to keep wrapping paper on the roll with a sliced toilet paper core haves us that Aha moment and makes us feel happier, smarter & more connected. All this in an easy to use format and without requiring much reading for the ADHD generations.

6. Another reason it may be growing is that Pinterest is very accessible on iPads which can go anywhere in the home when you have time to look at it. (the app is just fair, I prefer the full site in the browser on an iPad) It is a guilty pleasure just like celeb blogs on some level. I think mobile/tablet use is making the site more addictive although probably not the main reason for it’s success. Now that retailers (Etsy) has added pin it button to their listings pages I hope more retailers do this to help promote their products. One thing is clear though, it will take 500+ views and likes before you find someone ready to buy, and you will probably have to have some familiarity/trust built with them first. Most people do a lot of window shopping/dreaming on the site, a lot more than buying. But that is part of marketing, getting the word out in the first place, or as some say, creating the need. A large enough audience may just be able to significantly impact sales too.

7. The more I think about it there are more reasons that this site works well and attracts people so quickly. An element of new sites that often works well is keeping the interface simple and the navigation self explanitory. (especially with people who don’t have a lot of time or patience) In this case the content/images take center stage and the navigation/functionality is uber simple and almost in the background. If/when they would like to expand on it they can build more complexity over time and teach the audience along the path to more features just as/or before they get bored with the current ones. Facebook has done this pretty well and has been able to innovate its way ahead of many other sites.

Any other reasons you think Pinterest is growing so quickly?

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WebTrends won’t export data, what’s wrong?

I thought I would share another WebTrends Analytics morsel of information since it is so hard to find information about this analytics software that is quick and concise.

Today I was working from home and our self hosted software would not let me download the WebTrends reports that a client requested. It would abort the process and return to the login landing page each time.

We’re using WebTrends self hosted 8.1 software (not the most recent, yet still solid) and we found that WebTrends 8.1 does not play well with Internet Exporer 8.

We found that if I ran my browser in standard IE8 settings it would not export data and the popup of data processing screen was supressed and the system couldn’t complete the request.

There is a setting in the IE8 browser though that is called “compatibility view” that fixes this problem. Just set it to run in compatibility mode for the data site or all sites if you want and your analytics data is available for download again.

On another note, our recently update McAfee security and virus protection software is also blocking the javascript prompted popup window where the data is usually exported and I can’t download any data at work anymore either. We haven’t found a solution to this problem because the security settings get reset to the standard again when the system finds that the administrator has changed them, usually within a 1/2 hour. No word on if the powers that be would make an exception for my computer somehow or if our maintenance systems even allow that.  

It’s going to be a fun month.

WebTrends Email Stats Reports How To Setup

I love that WebTrends is a good solid web analytics reporting solution, but I really find the setup process for just about anything with this system to be very confusing and lengthy. I’m sure there is a reason for this (could be data integrity processes or cost savings) but I really just need a step by step list when I need to get something done quickly and someone to tell me where these oddball parts of the process exist. Therefore I’m writing a list to explain this process so I have it written down and other people can find this info too.

(technical note I’m using webtrends software 8.1, not the webtrends hosted solution)

Today the task at hand is setting up automated reports of webtrends data to be sent monthly by email. The duration of the data collected and the frequency of the reporting schedule are both flexible, it can be daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly or yearly.

The first step is to go to the administration menu from your login. There go to Report Designer and Templates. You can select one of their templates, I needed to create a new one.

Then name your template. Go to next, select the content by adding (and naming) a new chapter, then adding content to that chapter from the add report link on the menu above. Select the “built in report” list from the drop down to get the standard metrics available in webtrends. Check the boxes of the metrics you want included, I would say 4-8 per report is enough before you have too much data for someone to really use. You can make changes to the layout, although I was not looking for that level of detail now.

Click next at the bottom of the page. Then you have some configuration settings, like for wrapping text lines on long urls (ok) and how many rows of data in the reports (20-50 max for readability, top 5 is good).

Click next again and give profiles access to this report. I noticed mine are already given universal access and grey-ed out so nothing much to do with this screen. Then click save.

Next you then go back to the profiles list (admin menu and web analysis and reports & profiles) and edit the profile you want to get this report to add the report to the profile. This is one of those steps I think is redundant and should be automated or brought into the setup process before this because its confusing. You wave over the profile in the list (don’t click it) and get a menu with “actions” and edit is one of them.

From there go to reports in the top menu and on the drop down go to report templates. Click the box by your report to select it, ignore the second checkbox that is labeled default because it will change the default reporting style in the profile to this new report, and that isn’t the intention here.

Then go back to the admin menu a third time and to the scheduler menu (bottom) and then schedule jobs and click the button for a new job. This is the email setup part. Under job type select scheduled report and follow through the pieces of menu from left to right as you fill out each section. First select your profile you want reported on, next give the report a name and assign it to a user (yourself). (note this is also how to disable the emails with the check box below, no idea why this is hidden here). Report type: general report. Output type can me a database, pdf, excel/csv or pdf. I chose pdf because it looks professional and we don’t have to install Microsoft office/word on the server in order to export it. Its the only option that does not require that except the database. Number of data rows to report is up to you, I usually do top 20.

Next add the report destinations, this is where you need the email info. Add your email as the from, add theirs as the to address. Also, cc yourself on these reports so you get them too. Add the SMTP server address (if you don’t have the SMTP address it will hold up all of your other scheduled jobs, so don’t set this up without it.) So, the software knows where to connect to send it from. (contact IT about this if you don’t have it) You can also FTP it if you like your data that way, or save to a folder on the server. (not as exec friendly though) 

Under templates, complete view is ok. Under reports, here you select the reports you want to include. These are a duplicate of the ones you selected above, maybe redundant but this is literally the process we took on the phone with the WebTrends helpdesk people. Report type: standard again, date range: its up to you. Scheduling is next on the menu, you can’t run it on the 1st of the month because data may not have compiled yet in all time zones so the 2nd of the month is the first you can run a monthly report with the most recent previous month’s data. Ditto lag time for dailies, weeklies etc. Run once or run weekly/monthly/daily, as you choose.

The host binding section he literally told me to ignore. So I have no idea what that means. Then you get a summary page at the end and click save.

You just wait now and see if everything gets delivered correctly. It is good that the report is only generated once per month on the date you specify as a job that processes, so it can run data in the past (vs only from the point you created the report, forward like custom reports do because they create their own database table) and it won’t clog up your processing queue with a lot of memory/processing because it’s just once.

I wish there were short concise directions for setting up webtrends email reports like this on the web already but I realize that nothing is easy or self explanatory with database systems or webtrends. It’s just part of the territory until next generation tools come around, and no I don’t mean Google Analytics (which is almost as confusing now to beginners). Someday this has to get simpler in process so more people can use it.

HyperMilling How to Save Money on Gas, fuel economy and Drive Cheaper

I was surprised to read this article about driving, gas mileage and hypermilling which is basically the art of conservative driving to save gas in general by getting about 30% better gas mileage. Of course the results differ depending on which car you drive (or truck) but I think this article brings up a lot of good points and strategies. Here are some of the tips they suggest for saving gas (and money) and improving fuel economy for your car when driving around town:

1. Accelerate slowly from stoplights and stop signs. This is a huge gas saver for those of us who live in the suburbs and city. We do a lot of stop and go driving every day and this acceleration from the light sucks down fuel like nothing else. They recommend never pressing the pedal more than 1 inch down. Never floor the car or race away from the light. Just accelerate slowly and you will not waste gas.

2. Use your cruise control on the highway and tollway. I never do this but I will start now. If you want to avoid costly fuel surges in your engine, just set your cruise control for 55 mph or 65 mph depending on the speed limit, set your car in the right lane or middle one if there are super slow cars or trucks in the right lane, and get there at a normal consistent pace. The car is better at managing acceleration with just enough gas at a consistent rate than we are. Humans generally pump the pedal when they drive and constantly throw too much fuel into the engine and are highly inconsistent. Anyway, I like this because it isn’t that different from what we do now and it is more cost efficient.

3. Properly inflating the tires impacts the gas mileage very little and turning off the air conditioning on highway trips doesn’t do much either. (turning off the air conditioning in stop n go traffic can help though)

So take 20 seconds to accelerate away from traffic lights, turn off the air conditioning in stop and go traffic and use the cruise control as much as possible when driving on the highway and your gas mileage should go up and your fuel consumption should go down and you should save some more money.

And then there are always the old fashioned ways to save money on Gas like carpooling and using public transit. Don’t forget those either!

 

Super Bowl Sunday 2008 Almost Sold Out

I’m not sure why the 2008 super bowl ads are almost sold out in October when the game isn’t till February but maybe the holidays inbetween now and then have something to do with it. If you are one of the people who is buying one of these very very expensive FOX $2.7 million dollar 30 second ad spots here are some tips:

1. First consider is it really relevant to advertise in the super bowl? Is there a need for your product in February? Is there a relevance to families, football and/or men? These are the core demographics. If it’s not a match, skip it no matter how badly you want the publicity. 

2. Make em laugh. Funny ads have staying power both at the watercooler the next day and for months afterwards. If people relate to the humor in the situation its even better.

3. Use something new. Don’t run some old ad we have seen a million times already. New creative or no creative is the way to go.

4. Don’t bother with celebrities. Unless its particularly relevant to your product. And I don’t ever really think it is. They raise costs dramatically and don’t really raise the appeal of what a super bowl watcher is looking for.

5. Remember to support this really expensive placement so it is not instantly forgotten before consumers get out their pocketbook. Support the super bowl ad with a well diversified campaign offline, online and everywhere else. This means everything from TV commericals for weeks afterwards, search ads, social networking if possible, blogs if possible,  a microsite or at least a mention of the ad on your home page and make it available to view online, print ads if you still do that, emails linking to microsite and coordinating online display ads too.

6. You can make spending this much money on an ad a publicity event in and of itself. It is cheezy though and people don’t really care unless they are benefitting from it. A press release can be ok, and reveal some hints about why the ad will be appealing, but leave the big reveal of the commercial for the actual game. But again this is totally stupid if your ads are not new, not edgy, not funny and not successful. So, proceed with caution here.