EmailTray Universal Smart Email Notifier

November 22, 2010

What Facebook Can Do to Win the New Email War vs Google

While both Google and Facebook can take the following advice on how to satisfy email users who want to reduce email overload, big company theory says that the requisite product manager for at least one of the companies will take off early for Thanksgiving, leaving his/her counterpart to design in the following necessary elements that email users will need to combat information overload going forward. I will present the elements as a mild critique of Facebook’s email announcement last week:

1) Facebook Email Needs a Smart Sorting Algorithm: Most of your priority email will not be trivial comments made by friends on Facebook walls. It will be from business people whom you specifically don’t connect with on Facebook. Nobody in the business world who connects on Facebook only with friends and family (100-200 connections) will see much benefit from having a universal Inbox that sorts mail from only their friends into a “Top Priority” folder.

To that end, EmailTray sorts emails based on a smart algorithm that looks at your past behavior towards senders, other EmailTray users behavior toward senders and whether a sender is in your Outlook address book or you were at a sender’s domain recently. Facebook needs a smart algorithm like this, not knowledge about whether a business email is coming from a family member or close friend (because it won’t be coming from either).

2) Facebook Email Needs a Notifier That Works When Browsers are Closed: EmailTray operates when browsers and Outlook are closed. Only Gmail has a notifier that also does this and we can be sure this Gmail notifier will soon be “smart” in that it will allow users to ask that only “Priority Inbox” mail be sent to the notifier for voice or pop-up alerts. EmailTray already has this and it sorts and alerts you on priority messages from all accounts, not just Gmail accounts.

3) Facebook Email Needs to Ensure Read and Deleted Messages are Marked Read and Deleted at Their Source: When someone reads and/or deletes an email in EmailTray, it will be marked read and/or deleted at its source (in Outlook, Gmail, AOL, Yahoo or Hotmail). This would be critical functionality for Facebook or Google to have in a messaging center. Without this, email users will not bother to process email from all their accounts in Facebook because they would still have to go back to Gmail or Outlook to REDELETE or mark AGAIN as read the same emails they already deleted or marked as read at Facebook. Facebook said nothing about being able to do this yesterday. They (and Google engineers) need to look at this because nobody will want to have to duplicate their efforts in processing email.

4) Facebook Email Needs to Authenticate Email (Anti-Phishing Functionality): Facebook has said nothing about authenticating email as having been actually sent from particular major senders like PayPal or Amazon or LinkedIn. EmailTray does this authentication and sends phishing attempts to the spam box with a warning to the user. This is critical because, for instance, 13% of emails that say they’re from Amazon are not really from Amazon.

Where Facebook has an advantage right now is that email users want to see social network photos with their incoming email. The popularity of xobni, Gist and our EmailTray program (formerly SenderOK) attest to the desire of email users to see who’s sending them messages and learn more about them (sometimes leading to the email user connecting with the email sender on Facebook).

Facebook also has an advantage over Gmail in that the idea of having 3 separate Inboxes is slightly better than the new Gmail Priority Inbox solution that can charitably be described as a 2 Inbox solution.

But, as noted in factor #1 above, neither company has invested in a seriously smart algorithm like the one we use at EmailTray (which has 4 Inboxes).

Smart Email Client

EmailTray Smart Email Notifier (Almost a new Email client)

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Click on the above Digg This link if you feel this post deserves to be read more widely. By the way: The instructions for loading Digg buttons on the bottom of WordPress blog posts are severely lacking in competence. Both Digg and WordPress need to get their act together in making it easy to add social media buttons like this.

March 15, 2010

SenderOK Brings Facebook Photos to the Email Header Pane

The merging of social media with email clients continues this week as SenderOK’s free plug-in brings Facebook photos and profile links into a small business card in the message header pane of email clients such as Outlook, Gmail, Yahoo!Mail and Live (Hotmail). If one clicks on the SenderOK business card, one can see message and attachment history for each sender.

Until now, photos from major social networks have been visible in Outlook only via special frames constructed by software products such as xobni and Microsoft’s new Outlook Social Connector, both of which also show a sender’s message and attachment history.

Comparison of SenderOK against Microsoft Outlook Social Connector

SenderOK vs Microsoft Outlook Social Connector

Not only does SenderOK conserve space in Outlook by avoiding the clutter of frames, the ability to see the same Facebook profile photos in the message header pane of Gmail, Yahoo!Mail and Live is a major plus that neither Microsoft nor xobni software provides.

SenderOK puts a Facebook photo inside an email

Closeup of Facebook Photo In the Email Header Pane

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February 12, 2010

Google Buzz Landed + Gained a Beachhead But Needs To Move Fast

Disclaimer: I had two uncles who landed at Colleville sur Mer (otherwise known as “Omaha Beach”) on the 6th of June, 1944 and I do not mean for a beach landing analogy to refer to this particular event nor any of the nations or ideologies involved.  Beach landings happened throughout history including the one for the “rescue” of Helen of Troy. Most have failed due to lack of follow-up, planning or resources.

Google Buzz Market Share vs Twitter and Facebook

Google Buzz Beachhead February 2010 vs Twitter + Facebook

It may just seem like its been a busy (and snowy) news week for social media enthusiasts, but what Google is attempting to do with Operation Google Buzz is a do-or-die business operation that could have $Billions in consequences. Unlike their training maneuver, Operation GoogleWave, this landing is serious. Yahoo, with their Operation Meme and their Yahoo Buzz bookmarking feature, already failed to gain a decent foothold on the lucrative social media “sharing” continent. Google cannot afford to fail here.

The Google Buzz Micro-Blog landing this week has been surprisingly successful among early adopter types. Robert Scoble, for instance, likes Buzz more than he did FriendFeed which is saying a lot. But, just as a beach landing can be reversed disastrously without quick action, Google needs to move very quickly to consolidate its beachhead and move forward to gain significant user ground. Right now, they cannot do this unless they fix some glaring deficiencies that could break their effort:

[caveat: Google may fix these issues over the weekend if their programmers are on the ball - Update:  they weren't on the ball]

1) First of all, Google needs to populate Buzz by allowing Gmail Account Holders to scan their Contact Lists for others who are on Google Buzz and Invite them enmasse like every other social network does via the reputable checkbox permission procedure. Twitter and Facebook allow this and Orkut, owned by Google, allows this. I am assuming that Google has temporarily left out the ability to scan one’s own contacts for other Buzz members because they don’t want to grow too quickly (they don’t want too many people on the beach the first week).

Why Has Google Failed to Integrate Buzz With Contacts?

Why Are Gmail Contact Entries Devoid of Google Buzz Profile Info?

2) While it is great the Google Buzz differs from Twitter in allowing more than 140 characters per post,  each post needs to have a button for would-be readers to shrink them down to a less than 200 character preview…the great thing about Twitter is one can easily scan more than 20 posts to see which ones warrant more attention (Twitter probably could charge for premium accounts where Tweets open up to larger posts on a blog on page 2).

3) This is critical: When deciding whether to follow new followers back on Buzz, users must be able to see what that person’s last post was (or a bio) without clicking further. Twitter allows you to follow back or ignore or block without leaving a page. Google Buzz currently forces a user to click through to see the activity of each new follower and that is a horrendous mistake. It takes too much time. Twitter is correct in allowing new followers to be judged by their last tweet or bio which is placed directly in the list of new followers.

Google Buzz Fails to Describe Followers Without Clicking

Google Buzz Needs to Show a Followers Last Post Like Twitter Does

4) When signing into Gmail, there should be a large and clearly labeled button or link that allows the Gmail account holder to build or edit his or her Google Profile in order to start buzzing (great new verb by the way). As of Friday the 12th, 3 days after the Google Buzz landing, it is still hard for a layperson to see how they can build their profile.  This is like a new house having been built without a front door (where the above-mentioned lack of a “Find Buzzers Among Your Contacts” functionality is like having built a new house without running water).

5) Signing up for Picasa has to become more automatic. Right now there are bugs and extra steps that need to be streamlined. Google programmers should work on this all weekend. The ability to load photo albums is critical to competing with Facebook and it is an advantage over Twitter (which should have allowed this months ago themselves, although Twitter has amazingly held the advantage of being the one site that has been successful in allowing custom backgrounds).

6) For Google not to have provided Blogger.com integration was almost criminal (under the Failure to Promote Your Own Company Products Act) – but neither Facebook nor Twitter have capitalized on the idea that people still use blogging websites like WordPress.com when they might prefer to pay a premium to have in-house blogs hosted at Facebook and Twitter.

Beach landings tend to fail more often than succeed whether in war or (metaphorically) in business. The reason is almost always unpreparedness for consolidating any gains and for fixing deficiencies that either appear because something breaks down temporarily or, worse, because the need for something had not been anticipated.

Most of the above six deficiencies will need to be fixed fast for Operation Google Buzz to save itself from being thrown back in the water with the loss of everyone now on the beach.

Update:  Google Buzz does a great job of presenting this blog article itself – There is more information (with imagery) provided than the Facebook and Twitter posts I made to attract readers.

Example of a Google Buzz Post

The Google Buzz Post for This Article

Allen MacCannell Email: A.MacCannell@SenderOK.com & Mobile: +380 93 031 6742

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Update: While Big Company Syndrome may prevent Google managers from even seeing this post, I had also made a critique of  AddThis.com in this space because they had failed to provide a decent share button so I used Sharetoany.com instead. Showing the flexibility of a good startup, Justin Thorp of AddThis immediately saw this article and answered below that his company will look into making AddThis more user friendly for WordPress.com users. Watching what people are saying on the web is a great way for corporations to avoid being overtaken out of seeming nowhere. Without companies like AddThis paying attention, industries like the Share Button “industry” could get another viable player. With Google Alerts, it isn’t all that hard for a small company to keep track of mentions on the web and respond to them. Google itself, however, is probably too big to pay attention to Google Alerts about Buzz.

Please Share this Post By Clicking On The Share Button Above – I love using Google Buzz by the way. Let me know what you think. What are the strengths and weaknesses of Google Buzz compared with Twitter and Facebook.

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February 3, 2010

Sort Email in Outlook – Triage on the Battlefield of Email Overload

Filed under: Email Deliverability,Email overload,Outlook,Social Networking — EmailTray @ 13:22

While many of us workaholic businesspeople tend to read our email via mobile all day and half the night, we still arrive at work in the morning to find dozens of bold-typed “unread” emails in our Outlook Inbox.

If you have a meeting at 09:00 and it is 08:50 now,  you are going to have to do some triage and it is not wise to do this all manually. You are going to want an educable smart agent to tell you what the priority emails are and sort those emails in Outlook and webmail.

This is where the the updated, Outlook-stable SenderOK plug-in from my company, Web CEO, comes in handy.

With SenderOK add-on in Outlook, just click on the virtual folder VIP first. Read the bold emails in this folder that you haven’t already read and dealt with via your mobile.

Then click on the Important Folder. Read the bold emails in this folder and deal with those you haven’t already dealt with via mobile. After that, briefly check your Routine Folder for emails from people that neither you nor anyone else using SenderOK has ever received an email from, and you can go into your 09:00 meeting without worrying so much that someone important is waiting for an immediate reply. Obviously, you still may have important messages to answer if responding to social media (Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter) messages and mentions counts as urgent and you have manually classified their email notifications as Routine (or the SenderOK database has decided that enough people classify those notifications as Routine to make them Routine for you by default until you manually define them otherwise).

SenderOK at first decides for itself, via a smart algorithm, which email senders are to be ranked VIP, Important and Routine. The algorithm takes into account your past behavior (such as answering back or deleting without reading) when receiving emails from specific senders. The algorithm also takes into account whether that sender has serious clout with other SenderOK users. An email from the real Bill Gates might go directly into your VIP folder without your ever having corresponded with him before.  As more people in your industry use SenderOK, the odds will climb that important industry people will have their emails prioritized for those using the SenderOK software.

You may manually classify plenty of email, including a lot of social media BACN, as “No Priority,” which make them lower in importance than even Routine. The manual reclassification function is very important because it is possible and even likely that some of your historical email processing activity has taken place via your mobile or a device that did not have SenderOK loaded on it…and the activity was, therefore, not processed via the smart algorithm that determines future priority status for any particular sender.

Email Sorting in Outlook

Sorting Email in Outlook

When new emails arrive in Outlook, the default that can be modified in “SenderOK Settings” will show a fading pop-up alert for VIP and Important emails along with a pleasant voice alert. This will allow you to work on other tasks all day long without worrying too much about checking your Inbox every ten minutes to see if the boss or the big client needs anything from you.

I tend to give personal family members VIP status along with the boss and important clients, but some would want to do the opposite.

Another major plus is the way SenderOK will save emails from important people that Outlook or webmail services classified as Spam and sent to the Spam Folder. Once in a blue moon SenderOK might save an email from the Spam Box that really was spam to you, but we can guarantee you that we will save enough really important emails from the Spam Box that you will never want to go without SenderOK again. Say, for example,  you register at a website and receive a confirmation email that you have to click on. Normally, such emails go straight to the Spam Box which is a pain in the neck. SenderOK always knows you were just at that domain and the email is Important. Very often this type of email is sent by automatically by Outlook to the Spam Box. SenderOK pulls it right out again and puts it to you front and center.

One of the more amazing functions of SenderOK is that we work with reputable senders to make sure their emails are not phished by others. Non-phished emails from those we include in this program will appear in the Inbox with their color icon where the Outlook envelope icon is normally visible.

Keep posted for a major update in the next few weeks that will further integrate the emails you receive with your social media network. Right now you can create a photo business card that other SenderOK users will see in their email header panes (Outlook, Gmail, !YahooMail and Live).

Allen MacCannell Email: A.MacCannell@SenderOK.com & Mobile: +380 93 031 6742

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November 19, 2009

Microsoft Outlook Social Connector to Compete with Google Buzz? What Will Competitors Do?

Filed under: Email overload,Gmail,Outlook,Social Networking,twitter — EmailTray @ 14:25

Disclaimer:  This post, originally written in November 2009, has been updated to note that Google Buzz has actually been released as of February 2010 where Google Wave remained in beta and Outlook 2010 is still in the future.

With the breaking news announcement by LinkedIn and Microsoft of the new Outlook Social Connector (OSC) functionality for Office 2010, few bloggers are noting (yet) that this *is* Microsoft’s possible answer to  Google Buzz.

Both OSC and Google Buzz are supposed to revolutionize the “Inbox” (after xobni and SenderOK pioneered the way) by providing photos, profile data and the message/attachment history of people who send you communications. Let’s take a look under the hood of what both the giants are proposing:

First of all, GoogleWave was a non-starter the way it was beta released. The GoogleWave Inbox does not receive Gmail Email destined for the Gmail Inbox. I can’t even send a normal Email to my Name@GoogleWave.com address. Why not? People only want to go to a few places per day to communicate with others. They now go to their Email Inbox and maybe their Twitter application and Facebook page on the web. Does Google expect them to go to another URL (GoogleWave.com) to do additional communicating with others? Waves are like forums. GoogleWave can kill the forum software industry and the need for people to buy domains to park their forums…but will GoogleWave become the first place people go when they turn on their machines? Not until waves share the Inbox with normal Email.

That is where Google Buzz comes in (this post said before today’s update “We’ll have to assume that GoogleWave and Gmail will be merged by the time Outlook 2010 becomes available in “early 2010″. The GoogleWave Inbox will have to accept normal Email. Waves themselves are great. But unless a merge happens, GoogleWave will just be a web portal to find and join fancy forums on subjects we search for).

Microsoft’s OSC will present Email with sender profiles with “rich history” in the Email header pane (like SenderOK now does – xobni does this via an extra “frame sidebar”). Microsoft will immediately get many of the world’s businesspeople as users (many of the 500 Million current Outlook users will upgrade to Office 2010). Users will apparently see Email sender profiles via APIs from social networks similar to what xobni and SenderOK now do for Outlook 2003/7  (currently SenderOK draws from its own social network “business card exchange”). OSC will not have the great xobni multiple PST search functionality nor will it have the excellent SenderOK Email priority sorting functionality. But xobni and SenderOK would both like to get the lion’s share of 500 million users overnight the way Microsoft will.

SenderOK Social Network Email Profile in the Outlook header pane

SenderOK Social Network Email Profile in the Outlook header pane

Who will win the “Social Email Fight” between Google and Microsoft? Well…Google business customers are already reading their Gmail hosted mail inside Outlook 2003 and 2007 (a major win for both Google and Microsoft). If Google wants to really win this, they will need to build an Email client that works offline (Gmail does this but Google has not made it obvious that they can do this).

Otherwise Microsoft *will* win the battle to keep Outlook as the first program businesspeople open on their computers in the morning.

What about Mozilla, AOL and Yahoo? If they don’t move fast, the upcoming OSC vs Google Buzz fight will trample them down (we deleted here a criticism of GoogleWave not being integrated with Gmail because Google Buzz has basically done that).

The competitors of Google and Microsoft may want to give us a call. SenderOK, unlike xobni, already has the technology that works with webmail and our plug-in now provides Yahoo, Gmail, Live and Outlook with photo business cards in the Email header pane.

What about international webmail portals like Web.de in Germany or Mail.ru in Russia? They’ll need to get this type of technology quickly as well. SenderOK is the only company that can provide them with this now.

Regarding social network executives, the Microsoft OSC announcement is a big boost for LinkedIn (who will be providing Microsoft’s first API feed, recognizing the identity of email senders by their email address if that is a registered LinkedIn address for that sender).

The future of social networking really *is* inside the Email client, even if the Email client is in a web browser. If you get a message from someone (and Email and SMS text messages are the dominant messaging form), then the photo and profile data that message associates itself with will become the main place for people to go to update their data. Fewer and fewer people will be heading for specific URLs on the web to communicate with contacts on some socnet site – and this includes Facebook and Twitter.

Twitter applications MUST merge with Email clients. The current separate situation is only temporary.

Final Note: Gmail will soon have anti-phishing icons, similar to what SenderOK does. Microsoft has not announced that they will have this helpful and potentially profitable functionality (corporations would pay to have their logos serve as anti-phishing icons = symbols of authenticated Email).

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October 22, 2009

Reader Statistics for Twitter, Facebook & Other Social Network Notifications

Filed under: Email Deliverability,Gmail,Social Networking,twitter — EmailTray @ 14:34

Anyone who sends Email has an interest in others actually reading what was sent. Social network notifications, often referred to as BACN, are Emails that can be thought of as having been “sent” by people who have tried to interact with someone via a service like Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn.

But do those Emails get read as much as regular Email? Not on your life.

Only about 25% of such Email gets opened and read for more than 3 seconds – according to user statistics for SenderOK garnered from the behavior of 440 anonymous Email receivers over a one-week period.

This is not to say that the Email users don’t care about the attempts by others to communicate with them. It may and probably does mean only that social network users prefer to find out about those attempts only when logged onto the social networks themselves. In fact, we believe that the more one logs onto a social network, the less likely one is to open an Email notification. This is shown for example, in the SenderOK statistic that Facebook use, as measured by the number of notifications received, is 4X higher than Twitter use and 5X higher than LinkedIn use…yet Facebook notifications are only opened and read (for 3+ seconds) 13% of the time while the notifications of the other two have a 25% open rate.

If you think those statistics are interesting, how about this: as measured by when notifications are read or ignored in the receiver’s time zone, Twitter use peaks at 11AM and 5PM while Facebook use peaks at 9AM and 9PM on most days (SenderOK will examine weekend use in a separate study). LinkedIn use is predominantly an 8AM-Noon activity with very, very little activity in the evening. Of particular interest is that LinkedIn users tend to arrive at work earlier than Facebook users do.

Facebook Notification Read Times (Reader Time Zone)
What this means is that a marketer or anyone else in New York City who wants to socially network in real time with others in their time zone, will arrive at work early and use LinkedIn first thing in the morning, especially if they want to connect with the type of manager who tries to get things done before 9AM. Then they will use Facebook exactly at 9AM before “Tweeting the Peak” between 10AM and 1PM. Just before leaving work for the day, one can “Tweet the Peak” once again between 5PM and 6PM (noting that west coast contacts are just getting back from lunch around that time) and leave Facebook messages that will most likely be read around 9PM on a home PC or notebook.

People are most likely to be away from their computers at 7PM their time – which may or may not be an excellent time to catch them on a mobile device (SenderOK cannot yet measure mobile activity).

What does the huge 9PM rush to Facebook mean for the future of prime-time television? That is a question for TV executives to take notice of and ponder. It seems very clear, at least from Facebook notification reader statistics, that prime time television programming is either not holding its audience past the end of its 8PM-9PM time slot, or people are logging in exactly at 9PM to let each other know about what shows to watch the rest of the evening. We’ve found that Twitter is the only social network of the three that experiences particularly heavy activity later in the night, particularly between 11PM and Midnight user time.

Are you interested in more interesting statistics? Here are some:

1) Those serious early morning LinkedIn users will spend an average of 29 minutes reading real Email before they get around to checking your connection request which they could have read first if they wanted to. 76% of LinkedIn users have Microsoft Outlook as their primary Email client. 10% of these users find the LinkedIn notifications going to the Outlook Spam box, possibly because they marked them as spam.

2) Facebook notifications are regularly sent by Microsoft Live to the Spam box (at least this was the trend last week). Facebook is the only big social network whose “notification receivers” are spread out among all major Email client users (Outlook, Live, Gmail and Yahoo – we did not test with AOL). In general, we’ve found that webmail users don’t like getting social notifications while Outlook users seem to have a knack for storing them.

3) For instance, Gmail, Live and Yahoo users prefer more often than Outlook users to cancel receipt of Twitter notifications. We found a lop-sided proportion of Twitter notifications being received in Outlook and it was clear that they were being stored in a separate folder as Outlook users were extremely unlikely to have Twitter notifications go to the spam box.

3) Although Amazon is not a social network, it is of interest to note that Amazon notifications are more likely than any other major “notifiers” to be phishing attempts. 15% of Amazon notifications are not really from Amazon. Amazon notifications are read only during the day, peaking at 9AM, except there is also some brief activity from those above-mentioned 9PM Email users.

As noted above, this early SenderOK Statistics report is based on a relatively small sample of 440 anonymous users. We can, therefore, only talk about the reaction to the world’s most popular Email senders.

As we increase our ability to measure much larger sample sizes, we will be able to help a lot more Email Senders judge the dynamics of their readership.

Allen MacCannell Email: A.MacCannell@SenderOK.com & Mobile: +380 93 031 6742

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August 21, 2009

Twitter’s Box-In Phenomenon: We can only Follow 200 Prima Donnas

Filed under: Social Networking,twitter — EmailTray @ 13:55
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By now, one would think that the Twitteratti and/or the most prescient Internet industry pundits would understand the simple mathematics behind Twitter’s 2000 follow limit.  Quite simply it is this:  Interesting up and coming Twitterers, who are most likely to retweet good content and who are organically growing a following north of 1000, will often find themselves following 2000 themselves and unable to follow anymore until their own following rises to about 1800. After that, one can only follow about 10% more than follow back, which means one can continue to follow only about 200 “Prima Donnas” who don’t think they have to follow back to retain their own readers. Hundreds of over-confident “super pundits” will then have to be unfollowed or else the up and coming Twitterer becomes “boxed in”.

What this means, logically, is that most people (and bots) who think they are important enough to garner a lopsided follower base compared to a miniscule amount of people they follow back – will ultimately lose many of their best readers as those best readers mature into popular Twitterers themselves.

It is common knowledge on Twitter that Britney Spears and Ashton Kutscher are among the first to get dumped by other Twitterers who are approaching the 2000 friend limit because their non-follow-back behavior boxes those people in. This may be OK for Britney and Ashton because these conventional pop stars are not consumer product companies (or high-end product companies) and/or are not hoping to maintain the more successful up and coming fellow Twitterers as followers. They are content to entertain the masses of casual Twitterers who will never have more than a few hundred followers themselves.

On the other hand, Twitterers like Pepsi and Guy Kawasaki “get it” that they have to follow back in order not to lose their best readers as the latter grow and try to avoid getting boxed in.  Pepsi and Guy Kawasaki clearly want to maintain their highest “quality” readers…who are often the ones who are busy retweeting interesting tweets like theirs.

Pepsi and Guy Kawasaki don’t want to be unfollowed as the people most likely to retweet their tweets get popular enough themselves for the retweets to be really valuable.

I know there are some popular Twitterer’s who only follow less than 100 people so they can “read the entire timeline” of their absolute favorite people. They follow other interesting Twitterers on another account or via some sort of feed. Good for them. But this comes at a price. Up and comers are probably going to have to do the same thing with them unless they somehow make the cut.

So what advice will I dare to give the ueber-elite Twitterati plus de confiance?

In a sentence: Unless you want 30,000 mostly spammers and slow movers following you, follow back.

More detailed advice would be this:

1) Follow back if the new follower has more than 500 followers themselves and is not obviously a spammer. An elitist may themselves have gotten 20,000 followers without having followed more than 300 themselves, but most interesting people will get 1 follower for every 2 people they follow until they reach the 2000 limit. After this, most interesting people will have to cut hundreds of people they follow and then give the new people they follow a certain limited time to follow back or face the decision “is this person important enough for me to let them be a Prima Donna”?

2) At least follow all non-spammers with 500+ followers who retweet (RT) you. This should be a no-brainer because RTs are valuable in their own right, they are especially valuable if the RTer has 500+ followers and, additionally, an RT mostly means the other person really is a reader of your content. Based on 1) above, a member of the Twitter intelligentsia would realize that the best retweets (RTs) they get are from exactly the type of people who may soon have to unfollow them in order not to get boxed in. Why would anyone want to lose their best retweeters?

There it is in a nutshell. I won’t advise busy movers and shakers to peruse a list of 100,000 followers to manually separate the quality people from the spammers. Just realize that any given RT will be coming from either a quality person or a spammer but likely not from a slacker. Follow the former, block the spammer and maybe ignore the slackers unless they’re smart enough to RT you themselves.

An RT is currency. Don’t burn it the way you’d burn a $20 bill.

July 29, 2009

Defining Spam Fairly in the Age of Responsible Email Marketing

Filed under: Email Deliverability,Email overload,Gmail,Outlook — EmailTray @ 15:43

Although some bloggers act as if Email spam is worse than ever (and may auto-reply even to their mother that she needs to get with the program and stop emailing) there has been a very encouraging trend in the past few years in that responsible corporations are conducting thoughtful email marketing campaigns with unsubscribe links and/or immediate removal of uninterested parties from their mailing lists.

On top of this, many corporations are using email deliverability services like SuretyMail where they have to pass a strict accreditation examination showing that they follow and will follow industry best practices in not approaching people regularly with their marketing message who have not asked to be approached.

But people still click the “This is Spam” button in various email programs for email newsletters and notifications that they had *asked* to be sent and which they can easily unsubscribe from.

This really isn’t fair to the reputation of the newsletter sender. Google has shown that they partially recognize this by now offering a Gmail function that let’s you ask Google itself to unsubscribe you from a sender whom you are too lazy to take an extra 1 second to unsubscribe from yourself.

But Google’s recent announcement page showed that you have to rudely “Unsubscribe + Report as Spam” instead of just “Unsubscribe from this Sender” which would be more appropriate.

I realize that newsletter and notification senders tend to put their unsubscribe links at the bottom of their emails, but c’mon folks. As long as such senders play by best practices, there is no need to be rude and hurt their reputation for something you asked them to do. Take the extra second and go to the bottom of their email and unsubscribe (if they ask you to remember a password to do this, go ahead and report them as spammers – while remembering, however, that Twitter would actually require you to remember your password to change your notification settings).

There is another type of sender that may be hurt by enthusiastic “This is Spam” clickers: the honest salesperson or PR person who makes a one-time “cold call” Email to an obviously highly-targeted potential client or journalist/blogger on a topic (not related to a commodity product) that the sender could expect the receiver to consider timely, topical and relevant to what they do for a living.

If you believe a cold caller could reasonably expect you to respond to his or her message and not have to apologize for having sent it (apologizing signals guilt as a spammer) then it would be good protocol and good karma to simply respond to their message either positively, not respond at all if you want to think about it or write the sender to say that you will probably not have interest in any future correspondence along those lines.

In other words, don’t hit “This is Spam” if the other person clearly considered you an important contact as opposed to a statistic…and would gladly not email you a second time if you politely told them of your lack of interest at the time. You could badly hurt their email deliverability to others if you hit the spam button without giving them a chance to take you off their list and that can hurt their ability to feed their wonderful children and mother-in-law.

In the end, humans will be rude to those whom they don’t respect…but it is bad karma not to respect everyone who cold calls…approaches you with what they thought was a relevant and targeted pitch.

Enter my company’s email plug-in SenderOK…this plug-in, which will get better with popularity and use and works with Outlook, Gmail, Yahoo and Hotmail/Live. SenderOK will help you know if a sender email address has been spamming everyone and anyone or if they have been getting replied to and are respected by others. A measurement is displayed in a photo business card in your email header pane which shows the sender’s network power. If they’re using SenderOK, you will see their photo profile. You will know if they are serious or if they are a fly by night spammer. They will identify themselves as part of a social network.

Photo Business Card in SenderOK Email Header Pane (Outlook)

Photo Business Card in SenderOK Email Header Pane (Outlook)

The plug-in will first show you VIP emails from your friends and colleagues and those contacts you’ve written to before. It will then show you Important notices from people who are deemed serious and identifiable. If you happen to be receiving newsletters or notifications from a company we have chosen to support, they will have their authentic emails arrive showing their color corporate icon in the inbox. This provides you with a measure of anti-phishing protection. Finally, SenderOK will show you routine notices and stuff that went to your spam box but didn’t belong there, like confirmation emails that you need to click on from websites you just visited and joined.

In the near future, most business email from reputable senders will arrive with color icons indicating that the sender has passed a best practices accreditation of some sort. Black and white email will be seen as either spam or its great Aunt Martha signing onto Yahoo for the first time and writing you out of the blue. See our last blog post in the above link for more on that.

SenderOK Icons in Yahoo!Mail Authenticate Senders

SenderOK Icons in Yahoo!Mail Authenticate Senders

Many of us find that we have to go into our spam boxes and sort the good from the bad and delete things there anyway. SenderOK helps make sure you don’t have to sort when you go there. If you signed up for something like Twitter notifications and we know that company to be reputable and we support them with authentic email icons…their email will bounce out of the spam box and into the inbox (this is fun to watch) at least long enough for you to unsubscribe, initiate a rule to send the notifications to a special folder or for you to tell SenderOK that you don’t want to take the extra second to unsubscribe and please just let that email keep going to the spam box (that you will have to sort anyway).

If you’re capitalist, your idea of spam might differ from those who don’t like free business practices.

SenderOK will help you sort email and recognize true spam no matter what your idealogy.

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July 25, 2009

Black and White Email Turns to Color – Like TV in the 1960s

There are old hands reading this who remember when television was entirely black and white. Monochrome television first appeared well before World War Two but few considered buying a TV set then because radios were in the middle of their Golden Age at the time with incredibly popular programming such as the Green Hornet, the Lone Ranger and Fibber McGee & Molly.  It is true, however, that black and white TV was successfully debuted in the USA in 1927 (see news clipping below) and FDR was televised making a speech at the World’s Fair of 1939. The Germans, Soviets, British and French had all been in a TV “arms race” involving espionage and sabotage…the bombing of Pearl Harbor was actually televised by CBS…Hitler televised from the Eiffel Tower during World War Two after he captured Paris.

The thing was, only “early adopters” had TV sets during this time, which would be similar to the 1980s for personal computers. You can read more about this on a great site called TVHistory.TV

This situation changed drastically after World War Two ended. Americans had spent the war going to the local cinema to see news reels of the troops in action. They now wanted that visual experience in their homes. In 1946, televisions were already a staple in bars and clubs, where major boxing championships played out to hundreds of thousands. In 1947, Kraft Television Theater, Meet the Press and The Howdy Doody Show became major black and white hits.

CBS tried to go straight into manufacturing color TVs in the late 1940s but their attempt didn’t jive with the fact that their proprietary technology did not work with the 10 million black and white sets already in use by Americans by 1949. RCA had a huge Trinitron color TV on the market in the late 40s (it had 3 cathode ray tubes representing the primary colors) but it was only for eccentric millionaires to gawk at and there was still little in terms of color programming. It wasn’t until after the Korean War subsided in 1953 that a standard was approved that would allow programming to work with both new color sets and existing black and white TVs.

In 1954, the first “mass market” color TVs from RCA cost what would be the equivalent of buying a car today.  Few people bought them, even when they could afford it as there was still very little programming for them.  David Sarnoff, the Russian immigrant chairman of RCA, remained in the hot seat with his board of directors until 1964 as all other companies that tried to manufacture and market color TVs gave up.

Dragnet, the famous TV show about LA detectives, was the first to broadcast a color film episode in December 1953.  Nobody noticed because the new RCA sets weren’t yet on the market. In June 1955, President Eisenhower was filmed on a color TV broadcast. Rich people noticed that. But it wasn’t until RCA color TV prices fell and Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Color premiered in 1961 that the masses started to go out and buy color technology. In 1962, the popularity of the “colorcasted” Flintstones and Jetsons guaranteed that color TV was here to stay. By 1966, the NBC peacock was announcing that 100% of NBC programming would be in color. Sarnoff, the father and champion of color TV, would die 5 years later at the age of 80.

Let’s fast forward to 2009.  Black and white email inboxes have been the standard since most of us started reading email in inboxes 20 years ago (thanks to Compuserve).

But it doesn’t have to stay that way and, if the above history teaches anything, it won’t.

Viktor Tatarov, CEO of the WebCEO company that helps webmasters tweek and monitor the hits they receive on websites, has developed a means by which color corporate icons appear in the inbox of major email programs whenever an SPF or DomainKey authenticated email arrives from that company’s domain(s).

These colorful “anti-phishing” icons, often the favicons that appear in the URL toolbar of web browsers, now appear in the email inbox list panel of users of the SenderOK Email Plug-in, which is downloadable at SenderOK.com. This now works in Microsoft Outlook as well as the webmail programs Hotmail/Live, Gmail and Yahoo. Only reputable companies, not spammers, will be allowed to have their emails appear with their corporate icons.

This will be a bolt from the blue for email marketers pursuing the Holy Grail called “Email Deliverability”. With SenderOK icon presentation, spam email will be separated from serious business email literally as black and white is to color. Email that comes from known reputable senders will be saved from the spambox, at least long enough for users to decide whether to unsubscribe or verify that they personally consider that otherwise reputable sender to be issuing spam. SenderOK can also act like a Nielsen rating box, letting senders know about the anonymous behavior of users in terms of how many users opened their email and how many deleted without reading.

Google has just announced that they will be doing something similar with Gmail Anti-Phishing Keys and their new newsletter unsubscribe service, but they are still thinking in terms of black and white…for now.

Take a look at the future which is here and now. Whether Tatarov and SenderOK will get all the credit or whether Google, Microsoft, Yahoo and AOL will develop and implement similar technology on their own, doesn’t change the fact that the email inbox, like television, will after a 20 year delay, finally move from black and white to color.

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May 22, 2009

Will Gmail Magic Inbox be as efficient as SenderOK?

Filed under: Email overload,Magic Inbox — EmailTray @ 15:45

SenderOK, a startup with a plugin known for providing email users with a smart algorithm for sorting and prioritizing email, has just come out with a new version of the software that works with the major webmail services like Gmail, Hotmail/Live and Yahoo!Mail without the user having to have Microsoft Outlook installed.

Coincidental with this announcement, technology bloggers such as TechCrunch started discussions on May 21st about a possible upcoming Google Gmail update with a feature called Magic Inbox (and/or Icebox Inbox). This feature would supposedly do some of what the email add-on SenderOK (www.senderok.com) already does, namely prioritize emails from senders whom the user knows and tends to respond to.

The question is: Will Google – like SenderOK – give priority to some senders who haven’t emailed before and who are not yet in the receiver’s address book?

Will Google – like SenderOK – show the sender’s photo business card when the sender is not a Gmail customer – most businesses do not send Gmail. SenderOK uses a smart algorithm to sort email according to the user’s past behavior and sender importance. It analyzes not only direct contacts, but contacts’ contacts regardless of where it has found such a contact – in Gmail, Outlook, Yahoo or HotMail/Live. It also associates several email accounts with one person, in this way making the sorting much more accurate.

SenderOK’s window, which displays unread important messages by each of the user’s email accounts, is a unique feature.

SenderOK is conscious of its role in attacking the email overload problem that has become one of the most serious of business and social challenges. In search of a solution to information overload, key IT players such as Microsoft (MSFT), IBM (IBM), Intel (INTC), Xerox (XRX), Symantec (SYMC), Google (GOOG) and Basex created the Information Overload Research Group (IORG) in June 2008.

Will Gmail’s allegedly upcoming social filter cause a revolution in email behavior? Time will tell, but SenderOK already has the above functionality and more.

About the Company: SenderOK (www.senderok.com) was founded by the same experienced management team, well-known among Americans, who made Web CEO, http://www.webceo.com, the most popular website marketing and management software in the world. SenderOK has six US patents pending so far.

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