High Speed Social Fiber

It was late when I got home. I had a bunch of pictures to upload for my blog post and a couple hundred new unread emails. When I did get a chance to check some of my other social media, I saw this message on Twitter

jcnork - @ahynes1 can u go? -New Haven Mayor Destefano joins business & community leaders in promoting #GoogleHaven 100 Campaign

Twitter can be terse and cryptic if you don’t have the context, but in this case, I know what my friend Jack was talking about. He, and a bunch of other friends have been working on a project to get Google to select New Haven as a location to roll out their gigabit Internet. I knew it would be a busy day, but that it would also be an event that I would want to be at.

The press conference was taking place at Fair Haven Furniture, 72 Blatchley Avenue. Fairhaven, with its lovely views of the Pearl Harbor Memorial Bridge, more commonly known as the Q bridge crossing the mouth of the Quinnipiac river, and the looming oil tanks of the Port of New Haven, has never been high on my list of New Haven tourist attractions. As I passed companies like Independent Pipe and Supply, Lynn Ladder and Scaffolding, and New Haven Awning, I wondered what sort of place Fair Haven Furniture would be like. Would it be a struggling furniture manufacturer, trying to hold on to the glories of yesterday when there were many more manufacturing companies in New Haven? Would it be one of those ‘to the trade’ type stores selling credenzas and other office furniture? Maybe it would be a new citizen to our country, trying to make a go of it here in America selling painted cribs imported from China at a really low price.

Since the mayor was there, as well as several news outlets, it was hard to find a good parking place, so I parked in front of a closed gate next to an abandoned building and hoped I wouldn’t get towed. I walked around the corner and found the door leading to Fair Haven Furniture. I was totally unprepared for what I found inside. (If I had of had time to look at the website ahead of time, I probably wouldn’t have been surprised). Fair Haven Furniture is a hidden gem. Since I was there for the press conference, I only had time to look at part of one of the three floors the company has.

The press conference itself wasn’t anything all that special. Mayor DeStefano talked a little bit about the history of New Haven with its port and railroads which fueled the growth of the city. He noted that high speed internet is our generation’s version of ports and railroads and he hoped that Google would choose New Haven as a test bed and that the infrastructure would help lift New Haven out of recession. He noted the importance of the initiative being led by people from the community and embraced by businesses, instead of being a project led primarily by the city.

Andre Yap, Founder and CEO of Ripple 100 also spoke about his hopes that Google would choose New Haven and bring considerable collateral growth. Kerry Triffin, owner of Fair Haven Furniture expressed similar thoughts and spoke with many of the guests who were discovering his business for the first time.

Giulia Gambale Gouge brought cupcakes from Claire’s Corner Copia. The GoogleHaven cupcakes were from suggestions that had been made online for cupcake frostings. Giulia had been working with Claire to help her make better use of social media, and the cupcakes illustrated the value that companies can gain by entering into conversations with their customers on social media.

While I’ve been concerned about what happens to all the energy around GoogleHaven if Google doesn’t select New Haven, I was pleased to see some concrete benefits to New Haven from the Google Haven effort. Businesses and other organizations are working together to increase public involvement in all aspects of New Haven’s social fiber. If that social fiber can ride on top of a high speed fiber network from Google, so much the better.

The Google Haven effort began by citizens stepping forward to help make New Haven better. The city joined the effort and gave it a great boost. Now, we are starting to see some of the benefits of this effort, and are eagerly hoping that Google will join with the effort to give it an even greater boost.

Using the Right Analytics

Yesterday, I wrote a blog post, Why Have A Website? where I said that the answer to that question determines many things about the website. One of those things is what the right analytics are. I’ve spoken about aspects of this in other blog posts and I want to pull together those thoughts in the context of Why Have A Website.

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Why Have A Website?

It may seem like a strange question to come from someone who creates websites, but I believe the question, “Why have a website?” is perhaps the most important are least frequently asked question by people setting up websites. The answer to that question is crucial in understanding what software should be used to support a website, what the website should look like, how it should be promoted, whether or not a website is really needed, and a host of other decisions.

#ff @SMCNewHaven #cttu

@AmyDesmarais @shesosocial @Malafronte @suzicraig @EnzaDandeneau @sbc111 @cdschein @cellularchloe @theMattCrouch @yougottacall

It has been a while since I did a Follow Friday post, but yesterday was a busy social media day, so I thought I would highlight some of the meetings and who I ran into.

The first meeting was Social Media Club, New Haven. @AmyDesmarais of Ripple100 was there, as was Giulia Gambale Gouge of SheSoSocial. We talked a little bit about how the Social Media Club of New Haven could interact with groups like the Connecticut Tweetcrawl and the planning of the Connecticut Podcamp. However, much of the discussion focused on Best Buddies of Connecticut and what the Social Media club could do for them.

I also met Paul Malafronte. Paul does a lot of Joomla work and I do a lot of Drupal work. I’ve been looking for a Joomla expert to handle requests that I sometimes get and cannot handle, and I ended up referring a request I receive to him today.

The second stop of the day was the CT Tweet Crawl. I’ve been to various Tweet Crawls in the past, so it was great to see some old friends. I had a good talk with @SuziCraig about Drupal and Google Maps. @sbc111 also joined in on the discussion. I also spoke a bit with @EnzaDandeneau. Enza is a realtor from Marlborough, where the Tweetup was. She brought in people from the Marlborough Business Association to help them understand how social media could help their businesses. I don’t know how much additional business the Tweet Crawlers brought to the Marlborough Tavern, but there were a bunch of us there for drinks.

I had a few other good discussions, and wanted to particularly shout out to @cdschein @cellularchloe @theMattCrouch @yougottacall. It was a good day for social media networking and I look forward to upcoming Social Media Club of New Haven meetings and CT Tweet Crawls.

#blogchat – A Review

Last night, I stumbled into another #blogchat. This is a chat about blogs that takes place on Twitter. I’ve had mixed feelings about the blogchats, sometimes they seem too focused on the relationship between blogs and marketing and miss many other aspects of what makes blogging wonderful.

The discussion last night focused on metrics. What tools do you use to measure your blog traffic? Which metrics are of the most value? How does this relate to the overall goal of the blog?

There was a lot of interest in Google Analytics. I brought up writing PHP code to customize Google Analytics data, like I did for ecanalytics which I use regularly. I’m also thinking of building a tool that generates a word cloud of search terms. However, most people weren’t all that interested in that aspect of Google Analytics.

One very useful suggestion from the blogchat was to filter out your own IP address when looking at Google Analytics. You can find out more about how to do this on the Google Analytics blog.

There was a good discussion about the value of Search Engine Optimization (SEO) versus customer interaction. Again, this reflects a marketing perspective, but if you change customer to reader, you get a broader idea that still fits. I tweeted, “SEO v Cust interactions: SEO is for getting new readers. Cust interaction is for keeping them”.

As to the bounce rate, I tweeted, “As to bounce rates, I like mine high. It means that ppl are finding what they want w/o having to click on extra pages”. Some of my regular readers will recognize that as a familiar refrain of mine. However, others on the blogchat found this an “interesting perspective”.

People commented that a high bounce rate could also mean “they don't like your site and are outta there!” and another asked “Would you not want reader to stick around for more content?” Again, my thought is coming from the regular reader perspective. My hope is to develop loyal readers that will regularly visit my site. I would prefer to see them exhibit their willingness to stick around by coming back as regular readers and see what is new each day, than by visiting just once and looking around for more content.

Looking at my own analytics, I find that returning visitors have a higher bounce rate and visit fewer pages, as I would suspect, although the difference is smaller than I would have suspected. My returning visitors has remained fairly steady, very slowly inching upward. My new visitors show much more variation.

A final topic was about which sites seem to give the best metrics. Alexa was generally not well regarded. Some asked if it was useful at least for trending analysis. Yet even for that, Alexa seems to change their algorithms enough so that it is not very reliable for trending data. Besides Google Analytics, Quantcast and Compete were listed as the most credible sites for traffic data.

A side discussion also came up about RSS data. If people are reading your content via an RSS feed, it isn’t showing up in a lot of the traffic analysis. Personally, I’m more interested in people reading my content than I am in my own ability to quantify my traffic. Of course, all of this comes back to what are you trying to do with your blog. I am working on improving my writing, sharing my ideas with others, and gaining new perspectives. Keyword analytics can help me to find what others have found interesting. Traffic analysis can help me find other sites where people might be interested in what I’m saying and where I may be interested in what is being said. In addition, I can get a general sense of how things are going.

These goals may be different with some people’s marketing goals. It may overlap with others. The bottom line is to focus on the goal of the blog, and use analytics to see what you can do to better achieve these goals, and not make analytics a goal in and of itself.

So, what do you think? How much do you look at the analytics for your site? Are there things that I should be considering to help me better reach my goals?

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