Page 3 of 4

Conversation, conversation, conversation

And the topic of conversation today is…? ‘Conversation’ – with Forrester and Hubspot releasing new research.

Forrester have released an update to their Social Technographics Ladder (a way of understanding and categorising different social media behaviours) that includes a new category: ‘Conversationalists’.

They explain this introduction to their model as follows:

Conversationalists reflects two changes. First, it includes not just Twitter members, but also people who update social network status to converse (since this activity in Facebook is actually more prevalent than tweeting). And second, we include only people who update at least weekly, since anything less than this isn’t much of a conversation.

At the moment the data on Conversationalists is for the US only, but it will surely only be a matter of time before this data is available for more countries and is included in their Groundswell Tool.

******

Hubspot have also been busy, releasing their “State of the Twittersphere Report” (PDF), summarised here by TechCrunch.

Hubspot’s analysis is based on over 5 million user accounts that have been registered on their Twitter Grader tool and over 6 million tweets.

Highlights of the report include:

  • User growth has declined – from a high of 13% in March of 2009 to 3.5% in October 2009
  • The average user is following more people, followed by more people and has posted more updates – ie. the user base is maturing.
  • 40% of the top 20 Twitter locations in January 2010 are outside North America (with 65% of Twitter members stating their location in their profile)
  • London is the top self-reported Twitter location followed by Brazil with the US in third

Event notes: an Interconnected Society

Last week I was asked by Jamie Young at the RSA to chair the Interconnected Society session of the Technology in a Cold Climate summit. (See this previous post for the overall outline and the day’s schedule).

Refreshingly, the point of the day was for everyone in attendance to work hard, roll our sleeves up and get involved. Fuller accounts of the day can be found at the RSA blog specifically set up for the research.

The day started with an opening keynote (see video below) from Stephen Timms, Minister for Digital Britain, who reminded us that this was the third time he’d held such a role but also outlined the current digital landscape in the UK and how it affects society and the economy.

Professor John Farrington presents his research. Photo by Paul Henderson
Each proceeding session was then a workshop, with the aim of all the participants contributing to the final report after hearing the research papers given by the academics.

The Interconnected Society session started with Professor John Farrington presenting his research outlining the potential to be gained through having interconnected society. As well as looking at the benefits that such a society could bring he also examined the existing multiple digital divides (technical, geographical, social, economic, cultural, not-connection, connection but disconnection from other social spheres) and issues in rural areas.

This presentation was formally responded to by Julian David of IBM and Graham Walker of the government’s Digital Inclusion task force. Paul Henderson recorded the whole session’s activity, which can be viewed and read here.

We then split into found groups to discuss the presentations and to try to make some recommendations for the final RSA report.

What follows are two of the group’s responses and an interview that David Wilcox made with Professor John Farrington and I.

Six email marketing software services compared

I’m currently planning to start a newsletter (more soon) and so a few weeks ago I put a shout-out on Twitter for service or software recommendations to help me manage the process.

A flurry of responses arrived, including one company who took the time to dig out my email address and email me personally (thank you Alex from delivra.com). I also received several tweets from companies directly, one of whom was rather too enthusiastic and kept pestering me, resulting in my ignoring them. FYI @madmimihelp – can I suggest that one helpful tweet is enough.

Campaign Monitor got a good number of recommendations, which shows it’s still a force to be reckoned with and that it is still the brand leader in the field. It was also one of the companies who tweeted directly (but note, not several times madmimi.com), an indication of good customer service and awareness.

So, the list of possible things to try came to six – a good number to compare – as follows:

For my own purposes I was looking for a service that could handle a small list at a reasonable price, that was easy to use without tech support, that had the option of text only or HTML with a good editor and possibly some customisable templates, that had good list management tools for importing/subscribing/unsubscribing/de-duping, some tracking tools, and that handled data securely.

For fair comparison purposes I only examined what each company claimed about their product on their website, and gathered my list of criteria through reading each site carefully. Many features were standard, such as sending as text-only or HTML, but other features varied more dramatically.

How did each fair?
Here’s the Excel spreadsheet I put together. For reading purposes view full screen. Please contact me if you would like an original copy.

SUMMARY

Mail Chimp 7/10
Great for small to medium sized lists. Nice free option for micro to small lists (0-100 email addresses up to 6 times a month). Good set of plugins for wide number of platforms (WordPress, Joomla, Drupal and more). Reporting seems slightly less comprehensive to other SAAS offerings but certainly adequate.

Php List 6/10
Completely free and opensource, the only downloadable product reviewed. Great for people who know what they’re doing and have a friendly techie to hand. Support is via the community and forums. Think of it as the WordPress for email newsletters.

Vertical Response 5/10
Good for professional operations, TypePad users and qualifying non-profits. The lack of widgets/plugins for non-TypePad platforms makes this offering less appealing. Reporting seems very comprehensive. It was not clear how lists were imported into the system from the information available.

Campaign Monitor 8/10
Great for huge lists, agencies, clients. Easy to see why this is the queen of professional email list management. Security and data protection information needs more detail as whilst it seems comprehensive the descriptions are also opaque. No specific mention of compliance standards. Pricing structure off putting for micro-small lists.

Delivra 9/10
Great for developers and large list management as well as those without tech support. This service has some great features such as Lyris integration, real-time tracking, auto trigger management and what looks like a comprehensive API. Security seems to take a high priority. All heavy duty stuff. This is an enterprise level product and possibly over the top for a small list or your average blogger!

Thru Sites 0/10
Thoroughly disappointing. Not enough information given on the site to warrant inquiry. Company would prefer clients to view and understand the product via a demo. No features list available on the site.

And what shall I be testing?
I think I will give Mail Chimp a go as it seems the right fit for what I am trying to do and it’s pricing model is very appealing. It allows me to experiment with how the newsletter will work at a low cost, but has much of the functionality of the bigger players.

Will keep you posted.

With thanks to: @andjdavies, @fractious, @anonymoustom, @WineOfTheWeek, @sparcd, @Paul0Evans1, @gavinwray for all their suggestions.

*********

UPDATE 18/08/2009: It was looking so promising… Mail Chimp sign-up is optimised for IE.

TIP: do not attempt to use non-domain owned email (Gmail, Yahoo, Hotmail etc) when signing up, particularly using either FireFox or Opera as the fail messages do not fully display and the page does not seem to function as a result, claiming that it requires cookies to be turned on. To save yourself some time and anxiety (if you can face it), use IE and/or ensure you are using a domain email address eg @kathryncorrick.co.uk.