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Reduce your online footprint today!

By Gretel Going

July 22, 2008

Internet PoliceThis blog post, ‘reduce your online footprint’ was written by our former super-intern Will Henchy. If you got here by googling his name because you’re wondering if you should hire him, the answer is yes. He’s fantastic. Otherwise, enjoy his posts–they’re pretty great.

Sure, a marketing and PR company lecturing about not ruining the internet is a bit like an oil company talking about how to avoid ruining the environment, but I think we can help. After all, we’re pretty big nerds here at Channel V. We love the Internet just as much as you do-maybe even more-and we try to make sure that our Internet footprint is as small as possible. We’ve been cutting down on our e-missions, if you will.

Terrifically corny jokes aside, there’s some surprisingly simple stuff you can do to improve your e-marketing or netmarketing or tweeting or whatever you kids are up to these days. These things will not only improve the internet, but they’ll surely increase the efficacy (big words!) of your next online marketing venture as well. After all, if people actually enjoy your content then they’ll be that much more likely to purchase whatever you’re trying to market. So without further ado, I present

7 WAYS TO (sort of) AVOID RUINING THE INTERNET

#1: Do not, under any circumstances, build your website in flash. I know, I know, flash is easy for those of you used to print media. It makes layouts much simpler than CSS does for you folks, but you know what the downside is? It’s terrible. Sites take forever to load. They’re slow. The menus never make sense. Worst of all, it’s impossible to link someone directly to a page. You want your stuff to go viral? Better yet, do you want people to simply visit your site? Good luck if it’s pure flash-having a loading screen on your website is like showing up to a first date with a cold sore. Why not embed the flash content into a nice XHTML website instead?

(Also, come on now, we have AJAX and Ruby on Rails and whatever other buzzword-laden framework of the week we need. You can do dynamic content without flash, and 75% of the stuff you’re using flash for can be done in a better, less offensive manner. I hate flash.)

Major offenders: Every movie website ever

#2: Produce interesting content. Ok, so this is a borderline truism nowadays, but it’s still important. Furthermore, it seems like half of the marketers in the world still don’t get it. So seriously, how hard is this? Get creative and do something fun. Or at a minimum tell us what your company/product does and why we should get it. Oh, and it wouldn’t hurt to produce something that will keep users coming back. And listen, if you really can’t figure it out, then just hire us. We’ll do it for you, ok?

Also, I should just tell you: not all content is good content. A lot of websites out there have plenty of content, but it’s all terrible.

Major offenders: Land Between the Lakes, Disney.com, The Digital Media Arts College

#3: Make your website entertaining. Or make your content fun. Or make something fun. Please. I just want to be entertained here! For some reason everyone seems to want their content to go viral, but very few people actually willing to produce the content that invariably will. If you want something to be popular then it needs to be engaging and entertaining, and you’ll probably have to take a risk or two when you make it.

I know that sounds scary to you McKinsey-style folks, but I’ve got news for you: if you’re serious about your content becoming a hit then you had better take some risks. The worst case scenario is that you botch it and the internet makes fun of you for five minutes. So what? No one will remember you by next month. Not taking a risk at all, on the other hand, means wasted money and boring content.

Major offenders: Audi Elements, the Skype Laughter Chain, the Lotus Evora microsite

#4: Stop using the horrors that are flash and banner ads. Seriously, they’re a major annoyance and you surely don’t want people annoyed at your brand. I bet you even want people to like it. So please, cut it with the banner ads. This goes double for those of you still trying to use pop ups (seriously, guys?), and triply for those flash ads that take over my entire screen or make noise when I visit the page.

Major offenders: Kanoa.net, PointRoll

#5: Pay attention to design. Everyone likes a pretty website, so stop cluttering yours up with useless junk. After all, simple is beautiful (and more importantly, easy to use). Go hire someone who knows what they’re doing, and you’ll get a clean, attractive site like Circa 1979, Astheria, or Volll.

Major offenders: Providence Computers, The Drudge Report, Shadow Marine

#6: Stop abusing social media. Feel free to use it, of course, but the ridiculous and downright brain damaged ways that people use it need to stop. Does your carpentry firm really need its own social network? Or your restaurant? Why not use Yelp instead? And does your retail outlet really need a Twitter account?

While social media might be the flavor of the week (year?) it doesn’t do any good to misuse it. Be sure to ask yourself: does social media actually make sense for me? For a lot of businesses it will, but yours may not be one of them. Don’t jump on the bandwagon just for the sake of it.

Major offenders: This guy, this restaurant, and this random carpenter who apparently really needed to advertise on …

#7: Don’t use social networks in idiotic ways. Ok, so this is basically tip 6.5, it’s important enough to stand on its own. Don’t spam social networks. Don’t use them if it doesn’t make sense (see: that carpenter from tip #6). And please, please don’t try to use networks when you lack a fundamental understanding of them. Spend a little time online playing with them before you finally decide to make an account for your business. It’s really not hard – after all, there are droves of thirteen year olds doing it.

While this may seem really obvious, it’s overzealous marketers like you that have all but killed Myspace. The spammy, cluttered nature of Myspace has greatly diminished its popularity, and now the same thing is happening to Facebook. So before you decide to make your company a Facebook page and spam everyone on your friend’s list, think twice.

Major offenders: Most of Myspace.

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