EmailTray Universal Smart Email Notifier

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.