Saturday, March 31, 2012

Cookie Law (e-privacy directive) : examples, tools and scripts

A collection of links with information about the new cookie law, that is in force in the UK at the 26th of may, and other countries in the EU will follow shortly after that. I still hope, that at least, permission is not necessary for analytics cookies.

Plugins / Checkers

Plugins for browsers to see what cookies there are currently used at your website.

  • A Google Chrome plugin that gives you feedback about the usage of cookies at your site:

  • Another plugin for Google Chrome that gives a detailed report about the cookies your websites uses:


A few photoshopped possibilities can be found here.
Some live examples that I found so far:
  • The site below is using a nice mechanism. People are asked for consent, by a bar at top of the screen. But also a banner is shown at the site, telling the user it's status: Cookie status "opted-out". I think a creative and good example to remember people each time about their cookie status and hoping they change from opt-out, to opt-in. Especially when people have opt-ed in for cookies, I suggest not to show the banner. If people click at the banner or the bar above, a popup comes up with a clear explanation about the sites cookie policy. Interesting also that you can opt-in for multiple sites using the same plugin.
  • This site simply shows a bar on top of the screen:

  • This is a combination of a demo site and a script to make it work. It is from wolf software and a complete package.

There are 8 possible demo's giving you inspiration on how to ask permission. 
- A bar at top and when clicked a drop down with settings expands
- A small box that pop's up and when clicked a drop down with settings expands
- An "on click" change of the settings
- An overlay popup
- etc.
Interesting. many possibilities.

BT already is clearly giving the user control about cookies, by giving control via a link at the footer and is asking (although at the moment only shortly), via a nicely designed overlay permission for the use of cookies.

They also offer a real nice slider, to give control, with clear explanation and easy usage:

Tools/ Scripts that can be used for asking permission
  • The portent script (link below), shows an easy dialog box asking for permission. This script checks if a user is from the EU. Good not to bother users outside the EU with this stupid law.
  • As described above, wolf software has a nice package of scripts to give the user cookie control.
I tried to get cookie control working, but I did not succeed.
  • Cookieq, has a nice example that automatically translates the permission text if you are accessing from outside the UK. Good to remember for international sites.

I will ad more links to the list, when I find them. The best solution, in my opinion is a combination from all of these tools and examples. Be clear to the user about the cookies, not only in text, but also in video for example. If you have multiple sites, try to get permissions for all of the sites at once. If you have an international website, make choices for visitors outside the EU and make sure you have your opt-in text ready in multiple languages. 
Make a campaign plan for asking permission. E-mail marketing and social media could be well used for this.

Cultural differences in international social media

Cultural differences in international social media
Cultural differences in social media
Cultural differences in international social media: Mixi (JP) - Facebook (US)

I like to research and experience cultural differences in digital marketing in general. This time let's take a closer look at cultural differences in social media. There are not only linguistic differences, otherwise you could simply translate everything, but there are also differences in behavior.

So if you are a global player and you have a brand communication manual or a social guide, be aware there might be local differences necessary. Especially in social media, where there is direct contact with fans, customers and their friends, it is so important to communicate the right thing and to understand your audience so you can take the right conclusions.

differences in behavior in social media around the world
Global social media behavior
A while ago, I saw a presentation by Fons Trompenaars and in his presentation he described some real nice cases of different reactions in the world at the same dilemmas.

Trompenaars used the dilemma of a car crash which is entirely your fault, but witnessed by your friend. How will you expect your friend to describe the event to the police? In many cultures they would expect the friend to tell a huge lie to protect your driving license. But in other countries this is out of the question. (Switzerland for example). Same problem. Different reactions. It is the same in social media. You have to understand these fundamental differences. 

It seems interesting to see if social media makes these differences smaller in the long term future.
Different reactions at the same dilemma 

Setting up a global cultural intranet

A company who has setup a global cross cultural intranet, highlighted a few areas with interesting differences in usage from the intranet between countries.
I summarize these differences below with a few of my own additions from my personal experience.
  • Design
    • Just compare some designs from popular social platforms in the world. You will see major differences. People are used to these major social platforms. If you just copy your local design this might not work. In Asia they are used to "icons" and images, like mixi uses in Japan. In the west we are much more text oriented for example. Twitter (and Google) have a minimalist look. The Chinese twitter has the opposite, a very busy look.
Twitter layout versus Sina Weibo Layout
Twitter layout vs Sina Weibo layout

  • Language
    • It's obvious that everything has to be translated. But be aware for language subtleties. Google Translate is not always right. Be careful to use google translate and if you use an automated tool, make sure corrections can be made easily and also by users themselves.
  • Language subtleties
    • As I experienced myself as well, language has to be seen in a context. It is not enough to simply  sent over a word file and let this to be translated by a translation agency. The people who translating a file related to digital marketing, need to have a context. And especially in social media, they also need to have affinity with social media. Otherwise you get wrong translations and as a result user frustrations.
  • Internet performance
    • Google already taught us that websites have to respond fast. If they don't respond fast you can forget about a high ranking. Google does this for the user experience. People do not want to use slow websites. Don't forget if you go abroad that in some parts of the world, the internet connection speed can be much faster. Korea has the fastest internet connections. Your website has to load quickly. If you have servers in the USA, only a few milliseconds delay might give frustration to the user in Korea.
  • Faces and avatars
    • In the west, we like to use a picture of ourselves as a profile picture. In Japan and Korea they discovered that people prefered to upload an avatar.

Examples of differences in behavior and usage of social media around the world.

To get a few idea's of understanding the difficulties for developing a global social media strategy, I wrote down a few examples.

Jack Yan described that there is a gap between Americans and New Zealanders on Twitter usage. NZ people engage more and require less automated tweets. While American's just want a lot of content and don't bother about automated tweets. It's content after all. [difference in behavior]
  • In Europe there are also a lot of differences. French people have a bigger hesitation and observation before they enter in new (social) media. This always takes more time if you compare it to the north of Europe. [difference in usage]
  • In the south of Europe there are big groups of young people who are not active at the web. The north of Europe has a very high penetration of young people online. When people are new online they will of course show a different behavior then people who grew up in a digital environment.  [difference in usage and difference in behavior]
  • Chinese people are very open for people in their social circle but more closed for people outside their circle. This is different than in some European countries or the USA where people are much more open in general at social networks. [difference in usage and difference in behavior]
  • Saudi women tend to connect online at midnight to overcome restrictions. So if you are targeting women in this area, you have to do your postings at night. [difference in usage]
  • In large parts of Asia, people use much more their mobile phone to access the internet. Make sure you have an optimal experience at cell phones when targeting Southeast Asia. [difference in usage]
  • In France blogging is still very popular, while in Germany the amount of blogs are declining. [difference in behavior]
  • In Japan you have to focus at "interest" to reach people, while in the USA the "identity" is central. [difference in usage]
  • In Japan many people use fake names and avatars, while in China you have to use your real name (or be linked to it). This will no doubt result in different behavior at the network. [difference in behavior]
  • Why did Facebook became big in Taiwan? Only because Taiwanese people were able to play FarmVille. So social games seem to be very popular in Taiwan. [difference in usage]
  • In Europe you can ask for a retweet directly (at least in most countries). In Asian countries it is best to ask it in a non direct way. Another example of not copy-ing your retweet action without any adjustments to other continents. [difference in behavior]
Geert Hofstede's 5 Dimensions Model.

When you want the best result in your international online campaigns, it is always good to understand at least the basics from Geert Hofstede's 5 D Model.

In short, Geert Hofstedes model is about individualism and collectivism: what is more important, the group or the individual.

At the internet there are countless articles about mr Hofstede's model and explanation. But his own website has an easy pull down menu, so you can check the values for the 5 dimensions for almost every country.

I describe the 5 dimensions and the (possible) relation with social media.

1. Power distance: This dimension deals with the fact that all individuals in societies are not equal – it expresses the attitude of the culture towards these inequalities amongst us.

Translated to social media, especially in B2B could be that the approach in countries with a high score at this factor needs to be very direct. Authority is very important. So if a CEO is active at the company's social media platform, this might be very powerful. While in countries with a low score at this dimension, it might work the opposite when a CEO is actively posting at the companies social media blog. People will start thinking "hasn't he something better to do"? 

2. Individualism: In Individualist  society's  people are supposed to look after themselves and their direct family only. In Collectivist society's people belong to ‘in groups’ that take care of them in exchange for loyalty.

Individualist cultures, are usually very direct in communication. Collectivist cultures, like Japan are not. A big difference in communicating and getting things done at social media. A simple example. I was once walking with a Japanese person in Amsterdam. It was not warm, but also not cold. We were sightseeing. She said "I am cold". I said "well, it is not so cold, just a 15 minute's walk and then we are at the Heineken Experience". What I did not understand was that she wanted to go inside at the next pub or restaurant. She didn't care about the 15 minute walk. She wanted to drink something, go to the toilet etc. In the Dutch culture you say this directly. The Japanese culture is very different. By not understanding these small things you can have big discussions later :). So learn to read between these lines when you are analyzing your campaigns in countries with a low score at the individualism dimension.
Social media might also change the score of countries at these dimensions. China scores about 20 at the IDV index. So pretty low. Meaning it is a collective society. But as soon as you see the Sina Weibo  page (Chinese Twitter) you will see profile updates all over the place. Also when you have not logged in. Meaning people from a group, you turn into an individual at this homepage, seen by everybody. I know Sina Weibo is partly so big because of the "group" facilities. But it is interesting to follow.

3. Masculinity / Femininity: A high score (masculine) on this dimension indicates that the society will be driven by competition, achievement and success.
What is important in life? Being happy or always to compete and to have success? Is the man equal to the woman or not? Important to keep in mind, when creating campaigns. Is it the man who decides the purchase or the woman? In what aspect is the woman influencing the man and how can she do so by using social media?

4. Uncertainty avoidance: The dimension Uncertainty Avoidance has to do with the way that a society deals with the fact that the future can never be known: should we try to control the future or just let it happen? This ambiguity brings with it anxiety and different cultures have learnt to deal with this anxiety in different ways.
A translation to social media, might be that countries who score high at the uncertainty avoidance, have a fear for privacy issues in the online world and they want to keep control of their data online. For example in Germany this is the case. Germany is really struggling with privacy control and is for example constantly arguing with Google about this issue. I can also imagine that in countries with a high score at this dimension you have to be very clear when you are building mobile apps or apps for facebook about what data you use and why you use it. Otherwise a lot of people might not use your app or only grant you permission to a small part of their data. 

5. Long term orientation: Focuses on the degree the society embraces, or does not embrace, long-term devotion to traditional, forward thinking values. High Long-Term Orientation ranking indicates the country prescribes to the values of long-term commitments and respect for tradition. This is thought to support a strong work ethic where long-term rewards are expected as a result of today's hard work. However, business may take longer to develop in this society, particularly for an "outsider". A Low Long-Term Orientation ranking indicates the country does not reinforce the concept of long-term, traditional orientation. In this culture, change can occur more rapidly as long-term traditions and commitments do not become impediments to change.

Characteristics of the opposite sides of this dimension are:

Long term orientation
-ordering relationships by status and observing this order
-having a sense of shame

Short term orientation
-personal steadiness and stability
-protecting your ‘face’
-respect or tradition
-reciprocation of greetings, favors, and gifts

In social media this could mean that in long term orientation it is even more important who tells the message. People with a higher status are maybe even more of influence then in countries with a short term orientation. This can be a very powerful tool to use in these countries.

But there might also be a difficulty. In the social web, there is often referred to "become a fan". In fact many online campaigns (especially in the west) aim for getting as much fans as possible in a short period of time. But this is in this model a long term orientation. So getting fans in countries that score high at this dimension, might be much more difficult then getting a fan in country's with a short term orientation. Where people click easily at "I like this".


When going international with social media, of course, like always with social media, you have to listen to your users, but listening and analyzing is not enough, you have to understand the differences and read between the lines. Do a proper desk and field research. Use Geert Hofstedes 5 dimensions to understand the basic values of a country.
  • You can't push everything from a central point of view. You can't push everything from a decentral point of view as well. You have to find a hybrid model.
  • For your international social strategy, make sure you hire people who have strong cross cultural skills. It has to be someone who enjoys looking for differences in cultures and knows how to translate your brand or communication into local situations.
  • It is enevitable to hire local professionals as well, especially the social media content managers. International social media is constantly changing and new networks appear and old ones disapear. Small things that might not seem important if you do not know the culture can break your campaign. Destroying a brand is easy; (Re) building a brand is extremely difficult.
  • Like  Fons Trompenaars  said, people all over the world, react differently at the same dilemmas or questions. Always remember that.
  • Create local content. Don't just copy paste. The strength of social media is in unique attracting content and engagement. So create local content, react at local news messages, share local stories etc.
  • The major differences are in these areas:
  1. Visual
  2. Language
  3. Usage
  4. Interpretation (how people deal with communication, questions or dilemma's)

Thanks for reading and greetings,

Alex Baar

Monday, March 12, 2012

EU cookie law: how to visually deal with it

The EU "cookie directive" is forcing European website to ask users for consent for most (marketing) cookies. (cookies which are not part of a service (cookies which are necessary for the service or for the performance of a contract) do not need consent.

Many webshops and websites are struggling on how to ask users their approval for using certain cookies. I photoshopped some idea's and found some example websites with idea's how to deal with the new law in a visual way. Just for my better understanding on what we can do to comply to the law in it's current form I summarized some idea's in this article.
They are just idea's, since I could not find any commercial websites that are already complied to this directive.

There are still discussions and different interpretations between countries. Let's hope the commission revises this e-privacy directive.

But with the information available now,as from the 26th of may this cookie law is enforced in the UK, so it is important to start thinking and developing soon. This 2 minutes video shows what it is all about:


6 ways of dealing with the EU cookie directive are described below.

Possibility 1: (photoshopped) a window that hovers over the website and you have to actively approve or disapprove the use of cookies before you can continue to browse.

EU cookie law: example asking consent cookies
A floating window asking for cookie consent

Possibility 2: This is as it is currently used at ico.gov.uk. A banner at the top of the page that remains there as long as you do not accept the cookie policy. If you do not accept it, certain cookies are not used.

Some kind of banner asking for cookie consent

Possibility 3: (photoshopped) a big banner at the bottom of the screen that is visible at all pages, untill the use of cookies is approved. If not approved, certain cookies will not be stored and there will be a different experience for the user.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Social Media in China: what is Sina Weibo

What is Sina Weibo? Is it the twitter of china?

Weibo, many people in western Europe or the USA, don't know what Weibo is, but in China, Sina Weibo is really big. Sina Weibo receives 1 in every 100 visits in China! If I say: "weibo is a Twitter +", probably you will get an idea.

I started to do some desk research to learn about Weibo. Interesting for myself, to learn about what Weibo is, why Weibo got so big and what can be learned from the services and features they offer and of course it is always interesting to look at cultural differences in (online) marketing.

This article is based on desk research and I will add many links in the article.

Sina.com is an online media company in China. Sina owns Weibo. Weibo is often described as a hybrid form between twitter and facebook. Details about Sina can be found at Wikipedia.

Why did Sina Weibo became so big?

Sam Flemming and Eugene Chew explain why Sina became so big in this interesting video.

An important reason is that they are very good at marketing. In 2005/2006 Sina was very big in blogs. Especially because they made celebrities blogging in China. Some people say Sina has good contacts with the government. In any way, the service they provide is really interesting and in present time at Sina Weibo celebrities still play an important role in their services.

The Chinese internet has always been social. But the Chinese web never went viral.
Weibo made things go viral.You have many ways to share your content. And Weibo has a lot more features then it's western counterpart Twitter has:
  • weibo has comments
  • weibo has rich media
  • you can have a private weibo group (so not the whole world can see your posts)
  • you an have an enterprise page
  • Sina Weibo has functions of many social platforms and that makes it extra attractive.
Sina Weibo is really innovative and many things are customized for the Chinese people.

Chinese people are very generous and open to everybody in their social circle, but for strangers they can be unsympathetic. Weibo is like a big private karaoke room. Important for Chinese because they can express themselves in their own circle.

Sina Weibo looks like this:


The biggest competitor of Sina Weibo, is Tencent Weibo

Comparisment between Sina Weibo and Tencent Weibo

Sina Weibo attracts more adults, celebrities and has more active users
Tencent Weibo attracts more students and has younger adience

Why weibo works better than twitter in China is explained in this video:

A short summary of the video interview:

  • Chinese phrases and sentences are much shorter then in the west. Chinese can say in 2 characters what we need 30 words for. So Weibo is much more focused at content. 
  • Weibo is more technologically sophisticated then Twitter.
  • Twitter is very geekie, with the "@" sign and the hashtags (#), shortlinks etc...weibo is much more easy to use.
A powerful feature from weibo is micro topics. Weibo takes any tweet that is related to a certain topic and creates a unique page with that so users can view and discuss.

Juanmarketing explains more differences between Weibo and Twitter in his article.

Sina Weibo has a higher penetration in China than twitter, in the many countries where twitter is available

How to promote your brand at Weibo?

Here is a nice written article about how to promote a brand at Weibo. What we learn from this article is that you really have to think about engagement and virality. The example "Vancl" that is mentioned in the article is really interesting. I do not see a visual example, but I can imagine that if you let your followers make their own advertisement of your products, this causes a hughe virality. Content is important, but virality is as well. 

It seems like that Chinese celebrities are just as important as celebrities in the UK for example. So think about using celebrities for branding purposes. Weibo is the social tool that has the largest base of active celebrities.

Marc Violo created a nice graphic about features that can be used at Sina Weibo to promote a brand.

  • The purple lines are content drivers.
  • The red lines are interactive applications.
  • The graphic and visual stimuli are the blue lines.
  • The engagement enhancers are the orange lines.
  • and the green ones the data and tracking systems.
As I understood, but do not see in this graphic, Sina has a huge "portal" as well. That probably can also be used as a traffic driver.
Also I have read about new features from Sina Weibo, such as Weibo interview, Weibo live blogging and more. But I have not been able to find examples yet. They are welcome, I am very interested.

Burson Marsteller has published a Weibo Guidebook at slideshare:
A farmer in China got rid of his 700 tons potatoes within 24 hours by using Weibo.
North Korea is appearantly active at weibo as well.
A bike get's stolen, but also found again due to the impact of Weibo.
People use fake "Iphone signatures" at weibo?
Recently Sina Weibo started a charity platform, make it easy for people to follow charity and to donate to charity.

At Sina weibo it was possible to have an anonymous account. But as from the16th of march this will change, due to a legal change in China. This will have some effect at the usage of Sina weibo.


We all know the Chinese social web is evolving and changing fast.This makes it very interesting to follow.
So I think another strong aspect of Sina Weibo is it's current integration with other digital marketing channels. Twitter for example still has no integration with Google.
The Chinese "google" the big search engine in China, Baidu, has now integrated Sina Weibo's real time search results and Tudou, the Chinese Youtube is doing the same. These are important steps to lead to a mature digital web in China. In my opinion very interesting, since the west is going to run behind if you look at these initiatives that are now made in China.


Especially in certain parts of the world, small things and adjustments can become very important to make a success from online services. Weibo is very big and I think they will move to the west as well in the future. Curious how this will work, since also Weibo then has to make some changes in functionality to make it a success in the western world.
As we already think that Facebook is powerful to promote a brand, weibo and Chinese portals are  important to make a successful brand promotion in China and to make your brand go viral.
Human's are social, so it is important to integrate that in the online service. Weibo has threaded comments (unlike twitter) and other features that make this service more user friendly then it's western counterparts.
Make your online service as intuitive as possible!

Anyway at least I have my Sina Weibo account. Feel free to add me!

My Sina Weibo Account
And I must say, although, I cannot read Chinese, it works pretty intuitive! I can imagine already that this can be very much fun to use. I have to learn Chinese though...

Thanks for reading and greetings,

Alex Baar

Some ideas to increase the online average order value

Increasing the Average Order Value? There are many (online) possibilities to do so.
Always keep the first two options (cross sell and up sell) as the "mothers of increasing average order value" in mind.
Increase your average order value by being there at the right time with the right offer
Increasing AOV: be there at the right time with the right offer

Cross sell

Cross selling is when you offer your customers related products that they buy at the same time, for example an HDMI cable with an HDTV, or the matching earrings to a necklace. There are automated tools to do so and there are manual options in most webshops.

Up sell

Up selling means persuading your customers to buy a similar, but higher priced item. The easiest way to up sell is to offer alternative products on your product pages, showing the next few similar, but more expensive products. But you can also be more creative, by using some tools that are described below. Imagine when people see a product page of a product but as an alternative you will see a higher priced item, but higher rated item. Big chance people will choose this better rated item.

  • Reward/Loyalty programme
A loyalty programme that encourages users to spend more for extra incentives. Loyalty programmes are often already present in webshop software packages. Make sure your CRM can work loyalty programmes as well.
  • Gift Cards
Start selling gift cards, that are only available at certain fixed prices. Gift wrapping will also help to increase the AOV a little. Of course you can also give a 5 dollar gift card if people spend over 50 dollar for example.

Increase the average order value by the use of giftcards
Gift Cards also a way of increasing your AOV

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