Archive | February 2012

Leap Year – 3 interesting facts about 29 February

Our obsession with strange dates continues with the 29 February. The oddity that appears every four years*, allowing our calendars to match up with the earth’s orbit.

Here are three interesting bits of information on this special day:

1. Why the extra day?

The leap year’s extra day is necessary because of the “messiness” of our Solar System. One Earth year (a complete orbit around the Sun) does not take an exact number of whole days (one complete spin of the Earth on its axis). In fact, it takes 365.2422 days, give or take.

Source: BBC Magazine

2. How do we calculate Leap Years?

In the Gregorian calendar 3 criteria must be met to be a leap year:

The year is evenly divisible by 4;
If the year can be evenly divided by 100, it is NOT a leap year, unless;
The year is also evenly divisible by 400. Then it is a leap year.
This means that 2000 and 2400 are leap years, while 1800, 1900, 2100, 2200, 2300 and 2500 are NOT leap years.

The year 2000 was somewhat special as it was the first instance when the third criterion was used in most parts of the world since the transition from the Julian to the Gregorian Calendar.

Source: Time And Date

3. Any famous birthdays?

A person who is born on February 29 may be called a “leapling” or a “leap year baby”. In non-leap years, some leaplings celebrate their birthday on either February 28 or March 1, while others only observe birthdays on the authentic intercalary dates.

In the United Kingdom and Hong Kong, a person born on February 29 legally attains the age of 18 on March 1 in the relevant year.

Source: WikiPedia

Happy Leap Year Day!

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You might also enjoy:
+ April Fools Day – Some of Our Favourites
+ Friday 13th – 3 interesting facts
+ It’s a numbers game – 11/11/11 @ 11:11:11
+ Happy New Years – Bring on 2012!

Welcome new readers! If this is your first time here, you might want to start with a new article or read through our older submissions.

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Twitter – Tweeting to your #audience

Facebook, WordPress, Wikipedia, Pinterest (etc etc) are taking up more and more of our time. Twitter has become part of my daily digest of news and information. Twitter is useful in keeping track of popular trends and your favourite celebrities. However you can quickly be overwhelmed by the massive volume of tweets, even if you are only following a handful of Tweeters.

Regardless, Twitter among many are vital tools in getting people interested in your product/service/launch. When picking a business name, you now need to consider if the Twitter and Google handles are available in addition to reserving your domain name.

There are endless articles on the marketing power of Twitter but be wary of how you use this tool. A slip of the keyboard after a few drinks may cause embarrassment to your brand.

The basics:
+ Think before you tweet – Ensure message is appropriate and adds value.
+ Watch your grammar – Use your spell checker.

Make your message count by considering:
+ Using appropriate hashtags – Adding a ‘#category’ to your tweet can attract more readers but importantly those interested in your topic/category.
+ Leaving room for re-tweeting – Allow space for others to re-send your message. They can add a ‘RT’ to the start of your message to spread the word.
+ Including a web link and making sure this link works – Web links draw in your followers and allow you to day more than 140 characters.
+ Quote others – Some say that adding a ‘@person’ to your tweet can gain more attention. It also humanize your messages.

Growing your audience:
+ Interact – Target other Twitter users by directing messages to others (including ‘@person’ in your message).
+ Follow – Follow others. Try and target those with similar interests to your own. Beware of spammers.
+ Include Links – Add your Twitter handle to your website and email signature.
+ Ask – Ask others to follow you.

We are not experts here but try varying combinations of the above and see what happens. Do some combinations work better than others? Let us know.

In the interim, check out our tweets here:
http://twitter.com/SparkNLaunch

+ April Fools Day – Some of Our Favourites
+ Friday 13th – 3 interesting facts
+ It’s a numbers game – 11/11/11 @ 11:11:11
+ Happy New Years – Bring on 2012!

.

You might also enjoy:
+ Startup Myths – I shall not be fooled again by gurus
+ The Bootstrap Challenge – Walking the Talk
+ Social Media Experiment – Twitter, Google+ and now Facebook
+ Project Trout – Social Media Experiment Update #3

Welcome new readers! If this is your first time here, you might want to start with a new article or read through our older submissions.

Where to next? Check out a random article.

Stay in touch: Check us out via RSS Feed, Twitter, Google+ and Facebook.

Join the conversation: Leave a comment or this post.

Project Mackerel – Calling all Beta Testers (Follow Up)

This is a quick thank you to all those enthusiastic people who responded for our call for testers (Post: Project Mackerel – Calling all Beta Testers). We will be in touch shortly with updates and details on our soon to be released prototype for early feedback.

To those people still to reply, there is still time. We are always keen to hear from others. So please get in touch if you are keen to get involved.

—-

Project Mackerel is our very own web portal project. We have been working on an online portal idea to help job seekers impress in interviews. While this is not totally in keeping with the ‘self-employment’ genre of this blog, we are pitching an adaptable idea to try and help those out of work, or those looking for the next step upwards.

We are currently working on our (very) early prototype and require feedback from willing testers. You may be an experienced programmer or newbie web surfer. We are aiming to start initial testing next month. We just need enthusiastic volunteers to give us some early feedback and helpful suggestions.

Anyone interested, please get in contact via the contact links or e-mail (sparkNlaunch at gmail). When replying it would be useful to know a little bit about yourself.

Thanks!

We are also open to any advice in this department. We have been researching and there appear to be various avenues to go down. We plan a later post to document our findings and experiences.

Useful links:
http://betali.st/
http://www.thebetafamily.com/
http://www.entrepreneur.com/blog/222566

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You might also enjoy:
+ Learning From Other Startups – 6 Real Life Stories
+ Startup Myths – I shall not be fooled again by gurus
+ Social Media Experiment – Twitter, Google+ and now Facebook
+ Project Trout – Social Media Experiment Update #3

Welcome new readers! If this is your first time here, you might want to start with a new article or read through our older submissions.

Where to next? Check out a random article.

Stay in touch: Check us out via RSS Feed, Twitter, Google+ and Facebook.

Join the conversation: Leave a comment or this post.

Project Trout – Social Media Experiment Update

Late last year we kicked off Project Trout (Social Media Experiment #1), aimed to share our own experiences with using social media to gain traffic and interest.

Our findings so far are not so surprising:
+ It is hard to get noticed, even in your own niche/field.
+ It takes time for responses.
+ Some efforts have resulted in zero attention.
+ Interest in a tweet doesn’t necessary result in a visitor to your blog.

We have summarized the activities below.

Week 1:
Go live – Blog goes from private to public. 8 initial postings available.
Enabled Google Webmaster Tools.
Enabled Social Media buttons on each post.
Improved header information and text.

Week 2:
Twitter and Google Plus accounts activated. An additional 4 postings made available.
RSS feeds added to Feedage.com.
Twitter: 6 Tweets, 2 Following, 11 Followers
Blog: Some traffic and comments to blog.

Week 3:
Monitored Twitter activity via Twitter Counter.
Added links to FeedShark, a free tool to promote your website.

Week 4:
Experimented with Pluggio and HootSuite to schedule and manage Twitter account.

Week 5:
Twitter: Increased the amount of Twitter users we were following from c. 15 to 350. Had a dramatic impact on followers (peaking around 110). Then a sudden fall over the following days down to nearly 80 followers. Many followers were spam accounts later deleted by Twitter.

Week 6:
No new activity.

Week 7:
Current focus is Twitter and WordPress blog. Google Plus has been neglected for now as difficult to gain a large following as a ‘page’ rather than a ‘user’.
Twitter: 42 Tweets, 300 Following, 92 Followers
Blog: 20 posts now available. Traffic still remains low.

Planned Activities:
More interaction within WordPress community.
Continue Twitter tweets.
Create more high quality content.

Current Links:
Wordpress: sparkNlaunch.wordpress.com/
Twitter: twitter.com/sparkNlaunch
Google+: plus.google.com/sparkNlaunch/
RSS: sparkNlaunch.wordpress.com/feed/

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You might also enjoy:
+ Learning From Other Startups – 6 Real Life Stories
+ Startup Myths – I shall not be fooled again by gurus
+ Social Media Experiment – Twitter, Google+ and now Facebook
+ Project Trout – Social Media Experiment Update #3

Welcome new readers! If this is your first time here, you might want to start with a new article or read through our older submissions.

Where to next? Check out a random article.

Stay in touch: Check us out via RSS Feed, Twitter, Google+ and Facebook.

Join the conversation: Leave a comment or this post.

Podcasts – Hearing and Learning From Others

There is so much literature available online for any topic you can think about. Business, startups and technology bring back millions of results. It is easy to become overwhelmed.

A Google search of the word ‘startups’ finds 32.9 million results. There are 978,000 video results! It pays to be selective.

Personally I enjoy learning from others. Interviews and case studies are a great source of information. You can gain a real insight into how an idea become a reality. Many are more than happy to share the challenges and difficulties they have worked through.

Presently I don’t have too much time to sit down and read articles or books, so podcasts are perfect. Unfortunately a Google search for ‘startups podcasts’ retrieves 24.5 million results! To help out I have listed two of my current favourites:

Techzing Tech Podcast – Their best episodes are interviews with other entrepreneurs.
Business Week – Smart Answers – Recorded a few years ago, the interviews and information is very relevant for new businesses.

As time goes on I will update this list and highlight some particular episodes to check out.

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You might also enjoy:
+ Learning From Other Startups – 6 Real Life Stories
+ Startup Myths – I shall not be fooled again by gurus
+ Social Media Experiment – Twitter, Google+ and now Facebook
+ Project Trout – Social Media Experiment Update #3

Welcome new readers! If this is your first time here, you might want to start with a new article or read through our older submissions.

Where to next? Check out a random article.

Stay in touch: Check us out via RSS Feed, Twitter, Google+ and Facebook.

Join the conversation: Leave a comment or this post.

The Zoo Project – A Fantastic Marketing Opportunity

Appreciated that the entry date has now passed (end of Jan) but spotted this as an interesting project to follow. There are a lot of new businesses starting up trying to operate as the latest network provider between merchants and publishers. Parties are trying to build and offer new platforms to support this growing industry. This competition is offering an incubator for those interested in getting a foot in the door (or more).

The project is organised by Trade Doubler, a well known “Performance-based digital marketer”. More details on the project are available at The Zoo Project website.

Some quotes from the site:

The Zoo Project is a business incubator designed to foster grass roots growth and help drive innovation in the online marketing arena for companies specialising in the Affiliate Marketing industry.

Successful applicants will benefit from open plan business space in the central London location of Victoria, completely free of charge.

I don’t have any links to the organisers or any competitors but wish everyone good luck and will be waiting to see what comes out of this project.

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You might also enjoy:
+ Learning From Other Startups – 6 Real Life Stories
+ Startup Myths – I shall not be fooled again by gurus
+ Social Media Experiment – Twitter, Google+ and now Facebook
+ Project Trout – Social Media Experiment Update #3

Welcome new readers! If this is your first time here, you might want to start with a new article or read through our older submissions.

Where to next? Check out a random article.

Stay in touch: Check us out via RSS Feed, Twitter, Google+ and Facebook.

Join the conversation: Leave a comment or this post.

Happy V Day – Seasonal Opportunities

Walk into any large organisation’s marketing department and there is likely to a be a yearly planner riddled with important dates. These represent opportunities to tailor your message to your customer. Such events require foresight and early planning to land well.

Targeting special events and seasonal opportunities is not restricted to the marketing department. Any small biz owner or startup should be thinking ahead to seasonal events and considering how they can tie into their project deliverables. It may create easy talking points with stakeholders such as suppliers and staff.

It can also help with your planning avoiding periods of time that should be avoided. For example – you don’t want to be stuck selling woolen mittens in the height of summer. Or launching your new website (unrelated to Sport) on the day of the Super Bowl. Or recruiting when all the top talent is on holiday.

While timing isn’t everything, thinking about holidays and seasonal variations may provide helpful opportunities to expand your new idea or capitalise on existing ones.

Two useful articles are linked below on managing the seasonal highs and lows. Mastercard offers a fantastic small business portal for those looking for more handy small biz articles.

These articles promote the following seasonal strategies:
- Make the most of your peak season.
- Minimize seasonal lulls by offering alternative products.
- Defy your slow season by creating a more unique product.
- Be financially disciplined.
- Start a complementary seasonal business.

What have you got planned this year?

Happy Valentines Day!

Links:
Turn Seasonal Lulls Into New Opportunities (MasterCard)
Surviving a Seasonal Business (Entrepreneur)

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You might also enjoy:
+ Learning From Other Startups – 6 Real Life Stories
+ Startup Myths – I shall not be fooled again by gurus
+ Social Media Experiment – Twitter, Google+ and now Facebook
+ Project Trout – Social Media Experiment Update #3

Welcome new readers! If this is your first time here, you might want to start with a new article or read through our older submissions.

Where to next? Check out a random article.

Stay in touch: Check us out via RSS Feed, Twitter, Google+ and Facebook.

Join the conversation: Leave a comment or this post.

Project Mackerel – Calling all Beta Testers

Project Mackerel is our very own web portal project. We have been working on an online portal idea to help job seekers impress in interviews. While this is not totally in keeping with the ‘self-employment’ genre of this blog, we are pitching an adaptable idea to try and help those out of work, or those looking for the next step upwards.

We are currently working on our (very) early prototype and require feedback from willing testers. You may be an experienced programmer or newbie web surfer. We are aiming to start initial testing next month. We just need enthusiastic volunteers to give us some early feedback and helpful suggestions.

Anyone interested, please get in contact via the contact links or e-mail (sparkNlaunch at gmail). When replying it would be useful to know a little bit about yourself.

Thanks!

We are also open to any advice in this department. We have been researching and there appear to be various avenues to go down. We plan a later post to document our findings and experiences.

Useful links:
http://betali.st/
http://www.thebetafamily.com/
http://www.entrepreneur.com/blog/222566

.

You might also enjoy:
+ The Startup Dictionary – Learning the Lingo #3
+ Learning From Other Startups – 6 Real Life Stories
+ Startup Myths – I shall not be fooled again by gurus
+ The Bootstrap Challenge – Walking the Talk

Welcome new readers! If this is your first time here, you might want to start with a new article or read through our older submissions.

Where to next? Check out a random article.

Stay in touch: Check us out via RSS Feed, Twitter, Google+ and Facebook.

Join the conversation: Leave a comment or this post.

Keep It Simple Stupid (KISS) – Ugly Websites That Went Viral

When we were looking into creating a website to sell random products. We had in our head the idea the site had to look sexy to generate sufficient traffic and sales. It had to have all the bells and whistles and we were willing to pay for someone to build it.

We checked out websites and compared designs. Amazon and most other top end online retailers had nailed it. You could purchase anything in one click and photos and keywords made it clear on what you were buying. Easy – we just take these winning formulae and starting selling?

Then we started thinking more about this. How did these sites start?

Facebook has evolved into being an amazing and versatile application. However it wasn’t always so pretty and powerful. Before it went viral how did it look?

Then you check out Craigslist and PlentyOfFish. Not exactly websites likely to be hanging up in your local art gallery.

Moving on from appearance, how did these websites function? How do they still function? Again, Craigslist is a pretty basic website. Even Twitter is relatively simple. Sure magic may happen on the back end in the server room, nevertheless they are not overly complicated on paper.

A great website we stumbled upon compares pretty and ugly banner adverts. Surprisingly the ugly banners had more clicks. Go figure?
http://www.mrgreen.am/affiliate-marketing/the-ugly-truth/

Another blogger that talks about landing pages raises some smart design concepts:
http://www.workhappy.net/

When thinking about your future website – consider simplicity?

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You might also enjoy:
+ The Startup Dictionary – Learning the Lingo #3
+ Learning From Other Startups – 6 Real Life Stories
+ Startup Myths – I shall not be fooled again by gurus
+ The Bootstrap Challenge – Walking the Talk

Welcome new readers! If this is your first time here, you might want to start with a new article or read through our older submissions.

Where to next? Check out a random article.

Stay in touch: Check us out via RSS Feed, Twitter, Google+ and Facebook.

Join the conversation: Leave a comment or this post.

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