Armadillo Studios Inc.

Google Street View: What Does it Mean For Your Business?

Google Street View “rolled out in Canada yesterday morning”:http://www.techvibes.com/blog/google-street-view-now-available-in-canada. While many people are finding it to be one of the Internet’s greatest time occupiers, it does have important ramifications for your business.

*Google Street View* is essentially a street level enhancement to Google’s powerful online mapping system – Google Maps. Users can now zoom in on any address in a major metropolitan Canadian city to see a panoramic view of the area. Below are some examples of Google Street View in action at some of Calgary’s most famous intersections.


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But as a small business how is this new feature important to you? Right now it seems like a nice novelty, but what will it mean for potential customers?

First and foremost, if you happen to run a storefront business; a repair shop, a flower shop or a clothing store, when potential customers use Google Maps to find your location they will now see a street level view of your storefront. Unfortunately, for a business standpoint there is no control over the view that is available for customers to look at. Any business with information updated on Google will be tied to this viewpoint, whether it’s a flattering photo or not.

Second, if you are a Realtor or a business tied directly to the Housing Market, Google street view will be an important tool for your business. Not only will users be able to see an honest street level view of your property, but they will be able to explore the surrounding neighbourhood and the local amenities. Again, depending on the state of the property and the time the Google Car visited your neighbourhood, this might not be the most flattering photo.

So What Should You Do?

It would be almost impossible to fight the impact Google Street View will have on your business. Google’s current stanglehold on user search and business information is impossible to ignore. So our advice would be to *embrace the service*.

Google allows you to embed the streetview application directly into any web page, so leverage this feature. For Realtors this means embedding street views of you properties directly in to your showcase page. For businesses with store fronts, this means embdedding the application on your contact us page and replacing that outdated Google map.

Google Street View might seem gimiky at first, but like all of Google’s previous technological breakthroughs the business ramifications will become apparently very shortly. So rather than fight it, embrace it.

Did You Know 4.0?

It’s a pretty tired cliché, but sometimes pictures (and beautiful fonts with great statistics) speak louder than words.

If you haven’t seen it yet, this is the fourth in a series of viral videos detailing the new Media Climate. The latest rendition promotes the “Economist’s Media Convergence forum”:http://mediaconvergence.economist.com/ in New York and without question it is a pretty important view for any sized business. (A special thanks goes to “Andrew McIntyre”:http://twitter.com/andrewmcintyre/statuses/4172911339 and “Roger Kondrat”:http://twitter.com/Roger/status/4153967351 for the link)

Hootsuite: A Twitter Campaign’s Best Friend

With hundreds of Twitter applications available at the moment, it’s easy to get lost in the sea of promises. As with any technological movement, many apps are popping up to take advantage of businesses and users trying to promote themselves using Twitter. Unfortunately, a majority of these apps are probably useless for most businesses looking to start a twitter campaign, but a few seem to be invaluable. In our opinion, the one Twitter application that every business needs is “Hootsuite”:http://www.hootsuite.com.

Built by Vancouver’s own “Invoke Media”:http://www.invokemedia.com/, Hootsuite is widely regarded as an “indispensable tool for Twitter Power users”:http://www.invokemedia.com/hootsuite-wins-best-app-at-shorty-awards/. After toying with the application for our own Armadillo Studios Twitter campaigns and for our first “two private campaigns”:http://blog.armadillostudios.ca/article/twitter-for-the-calgary-market, we have to agree with that judgment.

Why Use HootSuite?

*Hootsuite* is an online tool that leverages information from your Twitter stream into a similar, yet powerful interface. Hootsuite’s interface is like flying first class to Twitter’s economy class web interface.

While an upgraded interface really doesn’t justify Hootsuite’s power, the real benefit comes from the application’s ability to *add multiple admins to a single account, the integrated tiny-url creator (Ow.ly), to schedule tweets to post on a time delay and to view the metrics on links that you send out*. All the bells and whistles that can really enhance any sized Twitter campaign. Whether it is for a large company, non-profit or for a small-medium sized business.

But in our opinion the two aspects of the Hootsuite application that make it worthwhile are the *Time Delay Posts* and *the ability to view metrics on links*.

Time Delay Posts

The beauty of Twitter is it’s simplicity. You post short snippets throughout the day and your followers (or potential customers) read your tweets. Unfortunately, there are a couple of occasions where the ability to schedule tweets can be a real benefit. Either for maximizing your potential readership or when you know you won’t be online for a certain time period.

For example, say you religiously post a “#FollowFriday”:http://mashable.com/2009/03/06/twitter-followfriday/ recommendation every Friday at 10:00am, but you’ve got a morning meeting this Friday. Hootsuite’s scheduling app allows you to create the tweet on Monday and schedule it to post later that week. Simple as pie.

Now the previous example was a very simple run down of the benefits, but you scheduling of tweet to coincide with a product or site launch can help to focus you on the important tasks rather than worrying about tweeting at the proper time.

Viewing Link Metrics

Embedded in the Hootsuite application is the tiny-url creator “ow.ly”:http://ow.ly/url/shorten-url. Like all tiny-url creators it allows you to take a long link and shorten it to a 10 to character link. *The ow.ly service embedded straight into the posting interface on it’s own, is a fantastic addition to Hootsuite*.

But it gets better.

For all links which use the ow.ly tiny-url, Hootsuite will track the metrics of that link. It will track the amount of followers opening the link over a variety of time periods; providing you with some key information, which can determine what the optimal time to make a post is or what subjects are producing the most interest. Two critical bits of information for any campaign.

Your Campaign’s Best Friend

Without question, Hootsuite is a great addition to any business driven Twitter campaign (or for personal users interested in their own metrics). Rumor around town is that “Invoke is launching a 2.0 version, which includes multiple columns and other bells and whistles”:http://www.techvibes.com/blog/hootsuite-2.0-get-your-beta-invite-here. But in the meantime give Hootsuite a try. We promise you won’t be disappointed.

WestJet Embraces Twitter

Update at the bottom of the article

It is well known that one of the major industries to really embrace the Twitter phenomena is the “Airline Industry”:http://simpliflying.com/2009/three-ways-airline-brands-can-make-money-from-twitter/. The first company to truly leverage Twitter in to a profitable business model was the successful low cost carrier “Jet Blue”:http://www.nytimes.com/2009/07/05/travel/05prac.html?hpw. Since then there has been an explosion of carriers trying to reach out to customers and promote a variety of special ‘twitter’ deals. From major carriers such as “United”:http://twitter.com/UnitedAirlines to low cost carriers like “SouthWest Airlines”:http://twitter.com/SouthwestAIr and the aforementioned “JetBlue”:http://twitter.com/jetblue, but until recently none of the Canadian based carriers have leveraged the service.

But as June 28th, Calgary based “WestJet has launched it’s own twitter account with a series of free flight give-aways”:http://www.newswire.ca/en/releases/archive/June2009/26/c2375.html. The company which has built it’s reputation on exceeding the service expectations of customers and coupling that low cost fares, is one of the great examples of corporation that can really leverage twitter.

With this press release, it does look like WestJet is kick starting their service with a great campaign by giving away free flights to a random group of initial followers. This is a simple way to create a viral buzz and garner a solid base of followers. It also looks like Westjet is going to send out special tweet deals like their American counterparts have. Which are both great steps for building a great following.

-*Unfortunately, there is a gaping hole that WestJet is not addressing*. Now this is based solely on their press release, but it does seem that they have ignored the important aspect of customer service.-

As noted in a variety of articles and blog posts on the topic of the Airline Industry’s usage of twitter, the truly successful companies such as *JetBlue* and *SouthWest*, have really improved customer relations by utilizing “twitter to quickly respond to customer questions and issues”:http://www.socializedpr.com/jetblue-engages-in-real-conversation-on-twitter/. These companies have used the tool to engage their customer base by answering questions, helping with reservations, and addressing customer service issues. Which in turn has enhanced their corporate image and provided real-time friendly face to the customers.

Below is an example of the success of JetBlue’s campaign:

Morgan and I exchanged a few emails and I learned that Morgan is behind JetBlue’s tweets, and not a bot, and that Morgan is very well informed on social media ethics and aware that corporate use of Twitter can be tricky. *I am impressed that Morgan was watching Twitter closely enough to sense an issue, responded quickly, apologized, and removed the two of us from @JetBlue’s list*. This served as a demonstration of the company’s active participation in the Twitter conversation, its willingness to course-correct, and of the new speed of social media with which corporations have to contend.

Good or Bad, WestJet’s adoption of Twitter is a great step for the full integration of social media into the consciousness of the Canadian Public.

*So Kudos is in order for WestJet*.

*Update*: Shortly after launching the article and linking it on Twitter we received this fantastic response from WestJet.

So we’ll gladly enjoy our fine steaming slice of humble pie and completely applaud WestJet. If anything, this little exchange further shows the importance of not only leveraging twitter to promote your products, but to also use it as a real-time customer relations tool.

Job Seekers Leveraging Twitter

Yesterday afternoon, we had a great interview with Danielle Suchet of CBC Radio One for a segment on *Job Seekers Leveraging Social Media in the Struggling Economy*. We had a wonderful chat with Danielle and a couple of quotes were broadcast during the segment.

If you happened to miss our comments, the CBC Calgary has posted a synopsis of the segment – “Calgary Job Seekers Tweet To Find Work”:http://www.cbc.ca/canada/calgary/story/2009/06/09/calgary-jobs-twitter-social-networking.html?ref=rss. Including a great little snippet of the interview:

Posting links on Twitter *will not eliminate the need for traditional job boards or online listings but it’s an avenue to reach a wider audience*, said Connor Turner, owner of Armadillo Studios, which consults on social networking for small businesses.

“People are using Twitter and Facebook just to get the word out there and show a connection and then drive them back to the original form like their website and the job posting,” he said. “*It’s just an indirect way, a more personal way to get out there and touch people and provide the information that people are looking for*.”

If your curious about our Twitter Consulting services, feel free to have a look at original article – “Twitter For the Calgary Market”:https://www.armadillostudios.ca/twitter-for-the-calgary-market/.

SXSW09: Pictures and Diagrams in Thoughts – Monday Wrap-up

Monday’s panels took on a very visual tint.

Opening the day was the arrival of the Texas Sun and a panel called “Shift Happens: Moving from Pictures to Words”:http://www.sxsw.com/interactive/talks/panels?action=show&id=IAP0900080. The panel featured some of the core brains behind the great “CommonCraft”:http://www.commoncraft.com/ explanation videos and “VizTalk”:http://www.vizthink.com/blog/ , two companies that are transforming how we explain complex issues and concepts by utilizing our basic need for visualization.

The entire talk resided around how corporations can utilize simple drawings and images to covey the complexity of ideas. Whether it is a brainstorming session on a company vision or to define a complex set of corporate strategies, the companies featured in this panel are aligning themselves with corporate companies to produce visual elements that make it easier for their customers or employees to understand.

A great example of this concept from the work that “Sunni Brown”:http://sunnibrown.com/ is doing via VizTalk. I’ve embedded a couple pieces of her work to give an example.

!http://sunnibrown.com/wp-content/themes/sunni/images/vois-thumbnail-sketch-1-440×338.jpg!

!http://3.bp.blogspot.com/_D3qn1sofjqM/SPUqX4lAnxI/AAAAAAAAATo/xqNuVrvG-D8/s400/Virtuous+and+Vicious+Cycles.JPG!

The second panel of note was the final panel of the day called “Color Angels: It’s Not Just Black & White”:http://www.sxsw.com/interactive/talks/panels?action=show&id=IAP0900201 featuring three of the top Women Designers in the world. Of note was “Veerle”:http://veerle.duoh.com/blog/about/ one of the most brilliant designers in the industry and an inspiration to Armadillo Studios.

This panel discussed the use of Color in Web Design to help usability, resolve culture color difference and to enhance a corporation’s branding. The discussion touched upon ideas regarding the cultural differences in colour recognition and techniques to allow color blind users to read your web site.

As a designer these colour issues are sometimes forgotten. An example that was given was the difference in color layouts for a Chinese Wedding web site where Red means fortune, while the color white tends to represent death. Which is counter intuitive to North American tradition. Then the panel wrapped up by examining some case studies in colour design and the latest trends in the industry.

And with that the third day of panels was closed. With the sun shinning and the annual “Big British Meet-up”:http://sxsw.com/interactive/parties_and_lounges and the “NXNW”:http://raincitystudios.com/taxonomy/term/477 SXSW really kicked off.

SXSW09: Core Conversation Sunday – Blogging And It’s Future

Sunday morning was a bit of a white wash and continued the tradition of picking panels that were _not the talk of the day_. Including walking to, but not into the “Is Spec Design Evil?”:http://blog.wired.com/business/2009/03/is-crowdsourcin.html and then opting for a bit more downtime.

To combat the losing streak it was decided that attending some “core conversations on blogging”:http://sxsw.com/interactive/talks/core_conversations would be the perfect ailment for the panel woes.

Core Conversations are round table discussions with experts on a variety of topics. The ones chosen for Saturday were “Is the Personal Blog Dead?”:http://www.sxsw.com/interactive/talks/core_conversations?action=show&id=IAP0900456 and “Blogging Skills and Beyond”:http://www.sxsw.com/interactive/talks/core_conversations?action=show&id=IAP0901320. Both were intriguing in regards to the development of a online Personal brand and the evolution of the blog. But the main synopsis of both panels was that *the concept of a Personal Blog has transformed from a daily log of your life into an element of a selection of applications that creates an online personal brand*.

With “growing presence of Twitter”:https://www.armadillostudios.ca/twitter-for-the-calgary-market/, facebook and other online Social Media applications, the blog has changed in the past three years. The entity it was before has now died. Rather now professionals should be utilizing their blogs in conjunction with other applications for networking and to promote their own professional personal brand.

The Blog should be an entity to promote your services and your knowledge in a long format, while professionals should utilize Twitter, LinkedIn and Flickr to connect with people and drive them to the respiratory of your thoughts and ideas which is located on your professional blog.

As a company that specializes in developing personal branding in conjunction with customized blogs, these two sessions where an inspirational take on what has been considered a fading element of the online persona. It was great to see some optimism and some brilliant points.