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Front-end Content Management in Joomla!

If you have ever worked with the front end content management workflow in the default Joomla! system, you will appreciate that, straight out of the box, it is not as user-friendly as you might like it to be (indeed, some might say that is a generous description!). Nonetheless, it remains a powerful tool when properly configured — and when the team using it is adequately trained.

This article is excerpted from Ric Shreves’ upcoming title, the Joomla! Bible, from Wiley & Sons. That book is due for publication in early November and can be pre-ordered directly from the publisher at Watch this site across the coming months as we preview more from this new title. This article orignally appeared on the author’s site,

From a workflow perspective, one of the most frustrating limitations of the front end content management system is the lack of an effective, configurable notifications and tracking system. The more complex your content structures are, the more significant this limitation becomes.

The problem is purely a practical one: As Authors contribute Articles, the Editors have to be notified, then the Editors have to find the contributed Articles and edit them. Once the Articles are edited, the Editors need to notify the Publisher who again has to find the Articles and publish them.

While relying on notifications is fine up to a point, if you want another way to add some more certainty to the process and make it easier to deal with once the Editors and Publishers are actually working inside the system, you may want to consider the following – it’s one way I’ve found that seems to improve on the default approach.

Basically, the essence of this approach involves the creation of a Content Section and two Content Categories that are specifically for the use of the front-end content management team. Here’s how to set it up:

1. Create a new Section, name it “Submissions.”

2. Set the Access Level for the Section named “Submissions” to Special.

3. Create two new Categories inside the new Section. Name these two new Categories “To be Edited” and “To be Published.”

4. Next, create a new Menu Item on the User Menu. Select the Menu Item Type toCategory List Layout. Name the new Item “To be Edited,” and select in the Basic Parameters the Category “To be Edited.”

5. Finally, create another new Menu Item on the User Menu. Select the Menu Item TypeCategory List Layout. Name the new Item “To be Published,” and select in the Basic Parameters the Category “To be Published.”

All the tools are in place, now you need to instruct your team on how to use them.

  • Instruct the Authors to assign all new Articles to the Category named “To be Edited.”
  • Instruct the Editors to check the “To be Edited” Menu Item each time they log in. Once they complete their edits on the pending Articles, the Editors must re-assign the Articles to the Category named “To be Published.”
  • Instruct the Publishers to check the “To be Published” Menu Item every time they log in. The Publishers can then assign the pending Articles to the proper Sections and Categories and publish the Articles.

This approach has two main advantages. First, it makes the editing process easier to manage, as all the Articles appear in the same place and move logically from station to station in the workflow. Second, you gain the ability to set a specific template to the entire front-end content management work flow by associating that template with front end content management Menu Items. (For example, a nice wide template makes it easier to use the editing window, and a lightweight, clean template without unnecessary graphics or module assignments can speed your work.)

While this is not the only way to crack this problem, it’s easy to set up and simple to remember and train against. Have you found another solution? If so, please share it using the comment controls on this article.

Facebook 101: Profiles, Groups & Pages

One of the most common — indeed perhaps the most common question we’re asked during client consultations is: “What’s the difference between Facebook Profiles, Groups and Fan Pages? Why would I want one and not the other?” The questions go right to the heart of one of the most confusing aspects of Facebook.

The issue is made all the more confusing by the visual similarity of these items and by the fact that Profiles, Groups and Fan Pages have common aspects and features. The good news is that there are unique attributes and advantages to each and it is easy to understand once you grasp the purpose behind their creation.

Let’s start by looking at their commonalities: All three types of Facebook pages provide the same basic functions, that is, the ability to post messages and various media that are viewable to others who chose to join or follow that particular page. Beyond those basics, however, these items diverge.

Take note of this fact: At present, Groups cannot be converted into Fan Pages, so your initial decision may have consequences down the road. Choose wisely!


What is it for? Profiles provide personal data and informal information sharing.

Who should have one? Individuals

Suitable for commercial purposes? No (See,

example - Facebook Profile


  • Limited to 5,000 friends.
  • Can only send direct messages to people, 20 at a time.


  • Indexed by external search engines.
  • Can restrict access to your information.
  • Can obtain personalized URL.
  • Can add applications.

>> Learn more about Profiles on Facebook.



What is it for? Groups provide a focal point for people with a common interest.

Who should have one? Any cause, event or matter that appeals to a particular group of individuals.

Suitable for commercial purposes? No (See,

example - Facebook Group


  • Updates to the Group are often missed by members. People have to visit the Group to see what is happening.
  • Group administrators are only able to send direct messages if the Group has less than 5,000 members.
  • Not indexed by external search engines.
  • Does not support Facebook applications or customization.
  • Content is not visible to non-Group members.
  • Cannot obtain branded URL.


  • Unlimited membership.
  • Can have multiple administrators.
  • Administrator names are visible.
  • Choose your Group’s visibility: either Open to anyone, Closed (must get administrator approval to join) or Secret (by invitation only).
  • Can appoint “Officers” (really only useful as a means of granting recognition to someone; being an Officer does not give anyone special privileges)
  • Able to create Events and send the Members invitations.

>> Learn more about Groups on Facebook.



What is it for? The promotion of an organization, a public figure, a product or a brand.

Who should have one? (1) Any entity that desires a branded presence on Facebook. (2) Anyone who needs the ability to accommodate more than 5,000 followers.

Suitable for commercial purposes? YES.

example - Facebook Fan Page


  • Generally open to anyone. Admins can only restrict access by age and location.
  • No direct messaging function (though you can send updates that appear in the Fan’s timelines, see below).


  • Unlimited membership (aka “Fans”).
  • Can have multiple administrators.
  • The page creator and administrators are anonymous to visitors.
  • Includes a Wall — similar that in Facebook Profiles. You can control what is shown there.
  • Fan Pages are visible to everyone.
  • Indexed by external search engines.
  • Supports Facebook applications and customization (using Facebook Markup Language).
  • Provides use and membership statistics (aka “Page Insights,” see image below).
  • Can specify the landing page (the tab) for arriving visitors.
  • Can add, edit (limited), and delete tabs.
  • Have dedicated space for company contact information.
  • Each tab has a unique URL.
  • You can get branded URLs (See,
  • Sending an Update to Fans causes the message to automatically appear in all the Fan’s timeline.
  • Able to create Events and send the Fans invitations.
  • Can obtain Facebook Fan Page widget to help promote the Page (this is free and available from Facebook).
  • Fans can subscribe to updates by SMS.

Note: Facebook calls these simply “Pages” but that generic name is one source of the confusion many people experience, hence in this article we’ve used the more distinctive label “Fan Pages.”

>> Learn more about Fan Pages on Facebook.

example - Facebook Insights

In sum, if you are an individual, all you need is a Facebook Profile. If you have a special interest group or network, then consider Groups. If you are a business looking to build brand and promote a product or service, then Fan Pages are your best bet for engaging your customers and stakeholders. From a commercial marketing perspective, Fan Pages provide five key benefits that Groups cannot match:

  1. The ability add applications and thereby create a richer experience.
  2. The SEO benefits that come from having your content (and your links) spidered.
  3. The ability to obtain a branded URL for your Fan Page (and thereby control your brand on this important channel).
  4. The ability to publish the to Fans’ timelines.
  5. Access to insight metrics on activity.

Joomla! Performance Tips

The struggle for optimal site performance is a battle all web designers & site owners face from time to time. You see a lot of sites on the web that load slowly or perform poorly. While some sites have hosting issues, most are simply built without performance in mind. Joomla!, in and of itself, is neutral in terms of site performance; it’s how you configure it and what you do with it that creates — or prevents — solid site performance.


This article is excerpted from Ric Shreves’ upcoming title, the Joomla! Bible, from Wiley & Sons. That book is due for publication in early November and can be pre-ordered directly from the publisher at Watch this site across the coming months as we preview more from this new title. This article orignally appeared on the author’s site,


This article is an excerpt from the chapter on Site Performance, and it includes information about content and technical issues that impact site performance. As performance factors are not purely Joomla! issues, many of the tips (particularly in the content section) are applicable to any website. Note that Joomla’s caching controls are not discussed in this text below, as the first portion of the chapter (not shown here) deals with Joomla! caching in some detail.


Everything that is on the pages of your website has an impact on the site’s performance. If you build large pages with large files, the page will load more slowly than a smaller, lighter page. While the pages your Joomla! site generates from Components are largely beyond your control, you can have a significant impact on your Articles pages. If you work smart and keep in mind the need to build lean pages, you can serve web pages to your visitors more quickly as well as reduce the burden on your server. Never forget, it all adds up. If you have multiple visitors on your site simultaneously, the page each is viewing contributes to the load. Saving a few kilobyte in file size here and there can add up quickly.

Here is a list of issues and tips you should consider when creating content for your site:

Avoid Large Files

This is most commonly an issues with graphical files inserted into Articles. Optimize your images to keep file sizes down to reasonable levels. As image file size is at least partially a by-product of the physical dimensions of the image files (width and height), it is hard to say what is right for your site, however a reasonable goal is to keep your images under 50K in size. If your images are too large to achieve that goal without a loss in quality, you may want to consider whether you need to display images that large on the page, or perhaps you should consider whether a better course would be to display a smaller image, a thumbnail, that is clickable to open a larger image. Note also that for the web, image resolution of 72 dpi is sufficient; anything higher is overkill and unlikely to be reflected in the user’s monitor. If you are using the Firefox web browser, there are two free add-ons that can help you diagnose and solve performance problems. The YSlow and Firebug add-ons include tools that help you identify the sizes of all the files on any particular web page. This is a great way to identify problem areas and bottlenecks. YSlow also provides suggestions for improving performance. Get both extensions from

Save Images In The Right Format

Closely related to the point above is this issue: use the right image format for the content you need to display. The most common formats for web use are .jpg (or .jpeg), .gif and .png. Use .jpg for photos and anything that requires smooth transition from color to color or large amounts of detail. Use .gif or .png for anything that is primarily large blocks of color or black and white. For example, photos are best saved as .jpgs. A chart or a graphical illustration is best served as a .gif or .png. Given a choice between .png and .gif, prefer .png as it produces a smaller file and is copyright-free. Choose .gifs if you need animation, as .png does not support this, or if the file is very small, in which case .gif often produces a smaller file. Tip: .png files can be created either interlaced or non-interlaced. Interlaced files provide progressive rendering, that is, they render little by little on the screen, starting out fuzzy and getting clearer. Avoid interlaced .pngs. They are larger in size and they confuse some users.

Don’t Re-Size Images

Upload your image in the actual size that it will be displayed. Do not, in particular, upload files larger than what is needed then force them to re-size into a smaller display. Forcing the images to a new size not only fails to save file size, as the file size remains constant, but it also forces the system to do additional work to re-size the image dimensions.

Keep Your Code Clean

If you are copying and pasting text into your WYSIWYG editor, pay careful attention to the code that results. While the system will do its best to eliminate unneeded tags and redundant code, it is always best to look at it yourself and make sure that no redundant tags and inline style definitions have found their way into your page formatting. One of the worst culprits in this area is text copied from older versions of Microsoft Word. The clean up option on the default WYSIWYG browser can help, but a manual check is always the best solution. Note also that valid code renders faster, so it is always a good idea to validate your HTML and CSS.

Avoid Tables

To the extent practicable, use CSS to format your page layouts. Tables slow things down as the whole table needs to be assembled before the contents are rendered. Tables also have implications for accessibility. Complex tabular data may require the use of tables, but as a general rule, CSS is the better way to go.

Use Image Rotators Conservatively

Image rotators are Modules that provide a rotating image inside a Module position on your page. A popular technique you see on many websites today is the use of a rotating image on the header of the page. The rotator works like a slideshow, displaying a series of images as the visitor is looking at the page. The problem is that many of the Extensions that provide this functionality require all the images to load before the rotation occurs. This means that a large amount of data is loaded for the page, some of which may be completely pointless as the user has already clicked and moved on before the image displays. If you have to use an image rotator, keep the image sizes small and do not load too many images into the sequence; three images in rotation will perform much better than four, five or six images. If front page performance is a key concern, keep image rotators off the front page.

Use Wrappers Reluctantly

Wrappers are used to display a web page inside of your web page. This means that the Wrapper contents have to fetched and displayed inside your page. By definition this increases the number of HTTP requests that have to be made to complete the page, thereby increasing the loading time of the page. Where the web page you are wrapping is located on another server, the display of the Wrapper content will depend upon the performance of the remote system and upon the quality of your connection to that server. All of these factors add up to a greater risk of disruption and to increases in page loading time. If, on the other hand, the wrapped content is kept on your server, the risk decreases dramatically, but the delay factor remains. If front page performance is a key concern, keep wrappers off the front page.

Limit Use Of Animation

Animation files tend to be larger in size and must load in their entirety before they function properly. Accordingly, limit the use of animation on your page to keep page file size down.

Limit Use Of Flash

Flash files can be quite large in size and they keep your visitors waiting as they spool in to play. If you must use Flash on your pages, use only Flash elements inside the page, rather than use Flash for the entire page content area. Also plan your Flash so that there are not long delays for your viewers.

Don’t Stream Video Until Requested

If you wish to give users access to video files, do not stream the video until requested by the user. While this does mean that users who want to view the video have to wait for it, it does not force all the users to endure slow page loading while a file they may never view eats up their bandwidth.


This section looks at various techniques you can use to tweak the performance of your Joomla! site. Not all of these suggestions will be suitable for your site, but certainly some of them will be applicable.

Use Server Side Compression

Joomla! support the server side compression protocol GZIP. If your server supports GZIP, enable this option in the Global Configuration Manager as it can result in some significant performance improvements. The GZIP Page Compression options are located on the Server tab in the Global Configuration Manager.

If You Don’t Use It, Disable It

Disable all Components, Modules and Plugins that you are not using. Even if you are not displaying the output on the page, the system is likely doing at least some of the processing associated with the feature.

Minify Your CSS And JavaScript

Minification is the process of reducing the size of CSS selectors and JavaScript by reducing unnecessary spaces and characters. While minifying a single selector saves only a small amount, it all adds up and minifying the entire CSS can result in a meaningful savings. This is a tedious manual process, so if you want to employ this technique I suggest you use one of the many tools designed to make this easier. Run a Google search for “minify CSS” and “minify JavaScript” for lists of options. The Joomla! Extensions Directory also lists several Extensions that can compress your CSS and JavaScript.

Be Careful With Google Analytics

Google Analytics, though a wonderful and useful service, can slow down your site. Every page that includes the Analytics code increases your load time as the Analytics script causes the system to wait while it contacts the Google servers. The impact of this varies greatly depending on the time of day, the traffic on your site and the location of your servers.

Be Selective About Your Template

Your Template developer can have a significant impact on your site performance. Many of the lovely Templates I see in circulation rely heavily upon images to achieve their look and feel. The size of the Templates and the number of HTTP requests they generate are not optimal. Select carefully your Template. Look at the file size, and the quality of the code. You want to select Templates that use CSS, not tables, and those that prefer system text to image usage. Be particularly careful of Templates that use images for the menus, rather than system text and CSS. Not only do these Templates have a negative impact on site performance, but they also tend to be less than optimal from the perspective of both SEO and accessibility.

Be Selective About Extensions

Some third party Extensions are incredibly resource-intensive. When you are comparing Components, Modules or Plugins, use YSlow to compare the impact on your page performance and check resource usage on your server. Don’t forget that small differences in performance can balloon into big differences when the site experiences spikes in traffic.

Skip Live Stat Reporting

Components or Modules that produce live real-time statistics on your site can be significant drains on site performance. If you don’t have a compelling need for real-time statistics, skip them.

Disable SEF URLs

Though this may not be an option for many of you, if your goal is performance above all else, disable the SEF URLs option. The conversion of your native URLs into Aliases causes a performance hit.

Optimize Your Database

One of the main performance bottlenecks for any content management system is the database server. To improve performance, you should periodically optimize the database tables. Optimization is performed from within phpMyAdmin. To learn more about this process, visit the MySQL website.

Ric’s List of Incredibly Useful WordPress Plugins

:: Note: This article originally appeared on and is reproduced here with permission. (Ric is one of the partners here at water&stone.)::

This post is one of my favorite kinds of articles: That is, those that arise from real world experiences. A good friend of mine recently moved his personal site over to WordPress. At about the same time I had reason to build a couple of promotional microsites on WordPress. As a result of these two projects I had time to refresh my knowledge of WordPress plugins – and in the process I found some really useful items I’d like to share with you all.

In addition to must-have classics like Akismet or the All-in-One SEO Pack, I discovered a number of newer extensions that address common real world problems. I took the best of the bunch, added it into the list of plugins that make up our standard WordPress deployment, and put together this short article.

If you have incredibly useful favorites that are not on this list, please use the comment form at the bottom of this post to share your experiences.
Without further adieu, I present to you, my dear readers, a list of incredibly useful WordPress plugins:


user rating (at 4 stars
requirements: WordPress API key

The Akismet plugin provides protection against comment spam. If your site has comments enabled, you should seriously consider adding Akismet. The plugin works by checking comments submitted to your site against the Akismet web service. The plugin then marks those comments that resemble known spam. The administrator can review the spam determination under your blog’s “Comments” admin screen.

ReCAPTCHA For WordPress
user rating (at n/a
requirements: reCAPTCHA Public & Private API keys

reCAPTCHA is an anti-spam technology from Carnegie Mellon. The system serves two purposes: Helping prevent spam comments on your site while at the same time using the CAPTCHA process to help validate and clean up scanned words from digitized print works (that’s the source of the reCAPTCHA text). This WordPress plugin is supplied by the people over at reCAPTCHA. It helps prevent comment spam and it also uses Mail Hide to prevent email spam.


All In One SEO Pack
user rating (at 4 stars
requirements: none

The plugin author claims this is the “#1 Most Downloaded WordPress plugin.” While that statement may or may not be correct, there is no doubt that this plugin is incredibly useful. The All in One SEO Pack includes a suite of features all designed to optimize your WordPress site for search engines. The basic version is free (ad supported), while the Pro version is commercial and removes the donation and ad sections.

Key features include:

  • Advanced Canonical URLs
  • Fine tune Page Navigational Links
  • Built-in API so other plugins/themes can access and extend functionality
  • SEO Integration for WP e-Commerce sites
  • Nonce Security
  • Automatically optimizes your titles for search engines
  • Generates META tags automatically
  • Avoids duplicate content

Google XML Sitemaps
user rating (at 4.5 stars
requirements: none

This plugin, despite the name, generates an XML sitemap that can be indexed by a variety of search engines, including Google, Bing, Yahoo and XML sitemaps improve crawler efficiency and can increase the depth and accuracy of the indexing of your site. The plugin supports all kinds of WordPress generated pages as well as custom URLs and will notify all the major search engines every time you create a post, if you so desire.


Contact Form 7
user rating (at 4 stars
requirements: none

Create simple or custom forms using the simple syntax of this plugin. Allows you to create and manage multiple forms and supports Ajax-powered submitting, CAPTCHA and Akismet. The Contact Form 7 syntax can even be used in text widgets.

Register Plus
user rating (at 4 stars
requirements: WordPress API key

Incredibly useful plugin with an extensive set of options for improving your site’s user login and registration form. Want to get rid of that WordPress logo on the login page? No problem with this plugin. How about adding fields to user registration form? You can do that, too. Lots of choices here, including enhanced registration security and moderation.


WP Search Extracts
user rating (at 5 stars
requirements: none

Improve the usefulness of search results on your WordPress site with WP Search Extracts. This plugin adds a filter to process search results and display the content on either side of the result.

Subscribe To Comments
user rating (at 3.75 stars
requirements: none

Subscribe to Comments enables commenters to sign up for e-mail notification of subsequent entries. The plugin includes a full-featured subscription manager that your commenters can use to unsubscribe to certain posts, block all notifications, or even change their notification e-mail address. In short, incredibly useful (assuming your site permits comments!).

WP Ajax Edit Comments
user rating (at 4 stars
requirements: none

A fast, simple tool for administering comments. Enables the administrator to quickly edit or deletecomments without having to go to the WordPress dashboard. Also enables users to edit / manage their own comments and has a variety of configurable options. Note that the developers seem to be moving this plugin to a commercial footing and a recent notice says upgrades will no longer be free of charge.

user rating (at 4 stars
requirements: none

This plugin adds the ever-popular “Send to a Friend” functionality to your site (enabling users to quickly send a link to your article to someone else via email).

user rating (at 4 stars
requirements: WordPress API key

WP-PageNavi adds pagination controls to the pages of your site. Displays page count as well as links for Previous, Next and Last, to help users navigate through your pages. The plugin’s functionality is a step up from the WordPress default installation and can be configured (somewhat) to suit your site’s needs.


Broken Link Checker
user rating (at 4 stars
requirements: none

This plugin will monitor your WordPress installation for broken links and will let you know if any are found. Key features include:

  • Monitors links in posts, pages, the blogroll, and custom fields.
  • Detects links that don’t work and missing images.
  • Notifies you on the Dashboard if any are found and allows you to edit / unlink without having to edit the post.
  • Detects redirected links.
  • Link checking intervals can be configured.

Theme Tester
user rating (at 5 stars
requirements: none

This WordPress plugin allows the site administrator to change and test new WordPress themes without worrying about changing the theme visible to site visitors. Once activated a new page called “Theme Tester” is linked from the Design page where you can activate the test. While activated you, as an administrator, can change themes as many times as you want without affecting what themes the site visitors see.

WordPress Automatic Upgrade
user rating (at 4 stars
requirements: none

The secret to absolutely painless upgrades. The plugin backs up the site, downloads the new files, disables the plugins, installs the upgrade and then re- enables your plugins. It even makes a great cup of coffee. OK, that last part isn’t strictly true.

user rating (at 4 stars
requirements: none

WP-DB-Backup allows you to easily backup not only your core WordPress database tables but also any other tables in the same database. The plugin allows you to schedule the backups and determine where they are kept and in the process delivers incredibly useful peace of mind.

WP Super Cache
user rating (at 4 stars
requirements: none

WP Super Cache speeds your site by generating static html files from your dynamic WordPress content items. After an html file is generated, your web server will serve that file instead of processing the heavier WordPress PHP scripts. Site performance may not be an issue for most sites, but if you have heavy traffic or experience traffic spikes, this plugin is incredibly useful.


Tweetmeme ReTweet Button
user rating (at 4 stars
requirements: none

The Tweetmeme button provides the ReTweet functionality you see on a lot of articles online these days. The plugin of the same name for WordPress includes hashtag support extracted from your post tags and the ability to control the length of the tweets. It displays the count of tweets and let’s you change the retweet source displayed.

user rating (at 5 stars
requirements: a Twitter username

I tried a lot of Twitter plugins recently and at the end of the day I chose Tweet Blender. The author claims that it is “better than Twitter’s own widgets” and I think he may very well be right. Tweet Blender is tag-aware and has support for multiple authors, lists, hashtags, and keywords. Not only can the plugin show tweets from just one user or a list of users, but also it can show tweets for multiple authors AND multiple lists AND multiple keywords AND multiple hashtags all blended together into a single stream.

Report Finds High Facebook Abandonment Rates in Asia

Over 40% of the Facebook Fan Pages created by the Asian travel industry show signs of abandonment, according to the 2010 Asian Travel Engagement Report from water&stone.

The report, based on an industry survey and an examination of well over 100 travel company Facebook pages, found 41% of Facebook Fan Pages shows signs of abandonment. 9% of the Pages had not been updated by their owners in the last 30 days. 5% had not been updated in 60 days and 27% had not been updated by their owners in the last 90 days.

facebook fan page abandonment ratesLead analyst Ric Shreves states “we were surprised by the high number of partially or completely abandoned Pages and Profiles. While perhaps some of these are simply temporarily inactive, that distinction rather begs the point, as part of the appeal of social media is the immediacy and responsiveness.”

Shreves added “while Twitter abandonment ran at 20% — not an insubstantial figure —  the number pales in comparison with the very high rate of abandonment of Facebook Fan Pages. While we can only speculate as to the causes of the abandonment, it is hard to put a positive spin on the creation and subsequent abandonment of branded properties associated with your company.”

The report also notes that inactive or improperly maintained Fan Pages can also be a risk factor. Unwatched pages are ripe for exploitation by spammers, who use the pages to broadcast their messages to the Fans that follow the page.

Shreves states “if you have decided that you no longer wish to maintain a Fan Page, and do not wish to delete it completely, then at the very least take steps to advise your existing (and potential) Fans and also put limits on what can be posted to the Page.”

The 2010 Asian Travel Engagement Report is from digital agency water&stone. The report’s findings are based both on direct data collection from the major social media channels and on a survey of the industry as a whole.

A complimentary copy of the report can be downloaded from

Avoiding Brand Confusion on Social Media

If you go to Facebook and you run a search for “Thai Airways,” you get a search results page like you see in the screenshot immediately below. Which one of the multiple Fan Pages listed there is the official Thai Airways Fan Page? Is there one? Is there more than one?

This situation highlights one of the most common problems facing brands in social media today: Avoiding brand confusion and keeping control of your brand. Though this problem is in no way unique to Facebook, let’s look at the situation facing Thai Airways as an example.

In the early days of Facebook it was possible for anyone to create a Fan Page using a brand name. Last year, Facebook (finally) recognized that allowing people to create unauthorized pages using other peoples’ brands was not an acceptable practice and they took steps to reduce the problem. (Very small steps, but steps nonetheless!) The first, and arguably least effective, approach was to add a disclaimer and have users certify that they had the authority / right / permission to create the page using the brand name. Facebook did not, however, go back to the people who had already created Fan Pages and push them for such assurances, thereby leaving a number of misleading profiles in place.

A second and more meaningful step was to set up a grievance procedure whereby brand and trademark owners could petition Facebook for the exclusive use of their brand or mark. While the redress procedure has been criticized for being mostly show — and being very slow to act — it is a step in the right direction. Companies like Thai Airways would do well to begin to shut down unauthorized profiles, and to reduce redundancy where they have created more than one Fan Page. Your brand is valuable. Take steps to protect it!

Hong Kong Disneyland recently experienced another problem of a similar nature — this time on Flickr. The park maintains a personal profile on Flickr, but does not run their own Flickr Group. They did, however, join a Group created by a third party, and that’s where the difficulties arose.

The third party had created a Group named “Hong Kong Disneyland.” The Group name is a big part of the problem; it is likely to cause confusion among users and create a false impression. Moreover, the Group profile page does nothing to clear up the situation and leaves visitors with the impression that this is an official, or at least officially sanctioned, Flickr Group for the park. The Group has a significant number of members and on the whole is what it should be, that is, a collection of photos taken at the park. However, as membership is open to anyone, there is a potential for abuse — particularly in the absence of proper oversight.

The screenshot at right shows what is occurring in that Group. At least one member is using the Group to promote pornographic imagery. If an unwary visitor clicks on the circled users profile, they are taken to a page filled with pornography. Disney, though neither the owner nor the manager of the Group, suffers from the lack of oversight by the Group owner and has no real recourse. The situation seems foreseeable to us: The brand has failed to control its presence on the channel and has left itself open to abuse.

The lesson here is simple: No one will look after your brand like you will. Don’t delegate reputation management to strangers.

Fragmentation is another branding issue of concern. In the rush to get online it seems that many firms created profiles that were subsequently allowed to lay fallow. Still other brands are now struggling to get things back under control after a fast (and perhaps somewhat uncontrolled) start to their social media efforts.

Wotif is a case in point. In the past, the firm maintained a large number of Twitter profiles, each targeting a different country market. They have recently shifted away from that “pure” markets strategy, choosing instead to consolidate all their non-Australian promotional activity on Twitter into a single profile.

The new profile, named WotifG2G (seen at right), covers all the activity outside of Australia and replaces several country-specific Twitter profiles, for example, the WotifUAE and the WotifAmericas Profiles seen below. Wotif has left up the old Twitter profiles — at least for the time being — and is using them to steer existing Followers and newcomers into the new G2G profile (see, collage at bottom).

Other firms who have spread themselves too thinly, or who now find that brand control is an issue, would do well to learn from Wotif’s exercise. It may be a bit painful, but the short-term pain is offset by the long-term advantages of improving control over your message and reduced overhead.

Note: This article is excerpted from the 2010 Asia Travel Engagement Report, a water&stone white paper. You can view the report in it’s entirety by visiting the online marketing resources page and clicking on the White Papers.

Managing Social Media Marketing

In April of 2010, we released the 2010 Asia Travel Engagement Report. The 65 page white paper looked at social media adoption rates and patterns in the Asia travel industry. As part of that anlysis, we examined the various strategies being employed by companies faced with the challenge of managing their brands and products in the social media space. The article below is taken from the Report. In this excerpt, we take a quick look at the various market approaches being used in social media channels.

Given the wide number of choices available, and the various corporate structures and business imperatives, it should come as no surprise that firms are adopting a variety of approaches to managing their social media marketing efforts. While some firms are happy to present a consolidated front across all channels, others are taking a multi-faceted approach, in some cases mirroring their product lines, in other cases reflecting their target markets; yet other firms seem to mix things up a bit — whether by plan or circumstance, it’s hard to say.


Managing a single set of profiles for a brand seemed to be the exception, rather than the rule, for the companies we surveyed. Despite what would seem to be the gains in efficiency and ease of maintenance, only a minority of the top brands used this approach. Jetstar, Bali Safari & Marine Park, and Bangkok Airways, are all examples of firms that maintain only one official profile on the various channels.

The approach has several clear advantages:

  • Ease of maintenance
  • Consistency of message
  • Better brand control
  • Less confusion for users

However, in Asia, where many firms’ target markets speak different languages and have different concerns and priorities, a consolidated approach does rob your firm of a degree of flexibility.


A number of the accommodations firms in our study employ an approach focused on products, or if you prefer, properties. Many, like Karma Resorts, maintain multiple Facebook Fan Pages, one for each of their properties — and sometimes even for outlets on individual properties (e.g., the Karma Steakhouse & Nammos Beach Club Fan Pages seen in the collage, below). This approach can also be seen with other accommodations brands, including Mandarin Oriental and Six Senses.

Karma Resorts Facebook Fan Pages

Alila Facebook Fan PagesAlila employs a similar but slightly different strategy. Rather than building Fan Pages and profiles for each of the properties in their portfolio, they have centered their social media approach on product lines. The Alila Hotels product receives separate treatment from the Alila Villas product line. All hotel properties are dealt with in the Alila Hotels profiles; all villa properties are dealt with under the Alila Villas profiles.

The approach combines the best of both worlds, allowing Alila to tailor the messages and the content to each product line, but decreasing maintenance costs. The approach also has the added advantage of leveraging the brand across properties and enhancing opportunities for cross selling — a client who enjoys Alila Villas Soori is also likely to enjoy another of Alila’s villa properties. By combining the products into one profile, a visitor to the page or profile will be exposed to related products with which they are likely to have an affinity.

The use of a products-centric approach has several advantages:

  • Easier to manage information & promotions that are specific to individual properties
  • More inbound links to website(s), thereby enhancing search ranking
  • Ability to manage reputation on a per property basis, without fear of spillover
  • Ability to manage crises on a per property basis, without fear of spillover
  • Ability to engage in local languages

The products centric approach is not, however, without disadvantages:

  • Increased management overhead
  • Danger of brand drift
  • Increased difficulty in controlling the message
  • Decreased opportunities for cross-selling

While some of the disadvantages can be minimized where the brand’s social media marketing efforts are managed from a central location by a coordinated team, our research shows that where individual properties are given the latitude to manage their own profiles, the dangers highlighted above seem quick to arise.


Several of the more global brands in our survey employed a markets approach to their social media profile creation and management. The markets approach looks to the brand’s target markets for inspiration and creates profiles that align with those markets. We see the approach used by many of the airlines, including Air New Zealand, who created profiles targeting the various countries they view as key to their marketing efforts.

Air New Zealand Facebook Fan Pages

Malaysia Airlines also employs a markets strategy, but rather than focusing on the geographic location of their target markets, they look to the characteristics of the group. To that end, they have created profiles that are aligned with definitive characteristics of key markets. In addition to a group Fan Page, they also maintain Fan Pages targeting expats (MHExpats), students (MHStudents) and cost-conscious travelers (MHDeals).

Malaysia Airlines Facebook Fan Pages

Malaysia Airlines approach is unique among the companies we surveyed and from our research relatively rare among the industry as a whole.

The markets approach has several key advantages:

  • Ability to align your message with your target markets
  • Ability to run market-specific promotions
  • Ability to engage in local languages
  • More inbound links to website(s), thereby enhancing search ranking

The primary disadvantages are similar to those we see in a products approach, specifically:

  • Increased management overhead
  • Danger of brand drift
  • Increased difficulty in controlling the message
  • (Slightly) decreased opportunities for cross-selling


If you would like to read the entire 2010 Asia Engagement Report, it can be download by visiting our social media resources page.

Page Jacking: Facebook Fan Pages Out of Control

In April of 2010, we released the 2010 Asia Travel Engagement Report. The 65 page white paper looked at social media adoption rates and patterns in the Asia travel industry. As part of that analysis, we examined the various pitfalls that await brands in social media. The article below is taken from the Report. In this excerpt, we take a look at page jacking and issues related to maintaining control of your Facebook Fan Page.

Page jacking was another major issue we found in our research. Page jacking occurs when third parties employ your Fan Page or profile as a means of promoting their message to your followers. This practice is the social networking equivalent of spam and an unfortunate reality of the virtual landscape. The bright spot here is that this is easy to detect and police against, at least in its most common form, that is, the page spammer.

The example at left shows a page spammer in action. Shamelessly, he repeatedly posts his message and (not one, but two!) email contacts.  To give him his due, what he lacks in creativity he clearly makes up for in persistence, posting again and again his promotional message on this neglected Fan Page. The page administrator here seems oblivious to what’s happening. From the date stamps, you can see that the messages have been on the site for multiple days and at one point the administrator was active on the Page after the first round of messages, but did nothing to remove them.

While the example at left shows page jacking via the Wall of a Facebook Fan Page, there are other ways spammers can use the features of a Facebook Fan Page to spread their message. One of the settings on your Fan Page allows you to enable Fans to upload photos to the Photos tab. Creative page spammers use the Fan Photos feature as a way to upload their messages, as you can see in the example taken from the Malaysia Airlines Facebook Fan Page (below).

In this example, the spammers have used the Fan Photos option to upload a variety of messages. The top row shows a (doubled) snapshot of an article from the Malaysia Airlines in-flight magazine. The poster is complaining that the facts in the article are incorrect and that the airline is culturally insensitive. While the use of the Fan Photos to raise an issue about something published by the airline is not necessarily something you would want to discourage, you probably don’t want to it to be addressed in this manner. Worse yet, the bottom row of photos shows an example of the sort of  things you would definitely want to block — in this case the spammer has uploaded an advertisement for their system for making money online with social media (see, detailed view).

Failing to police your page creates a nuisance for your followers and exposes them to possible abuse by third parties. The administrators of your profiles — particularly your Facebook Fan Pages — need to be wary of this sort of activity and take immediate steps to shut it down by deleting the posts before you lose Fans and your brand suffers.

Page jacking can also take a more aggressive form, providing a forum for people to air grievances against your brand or product and turning your Fan Page into a negative publicity weapon aimed directly at you and your Fans, as we see in the next example.

The screen shot at left shows the Facebook Fan Page of Bali Anantara Uluwatu. The property is currently in development. Its location on the cliffs of Uluwatu has been the subject of some contention by environmentalists and others concerned with development in Bali.

Those who seek to stop the development have turned the Anantara Uluwatu Fan Page into their own resource for rallying support to their cause. If you will note the screenshots, you will see that they have not only posted to the Wall, but they have also uploaded Fan Photos that support their cause and even used the Reviews tab (see, below) to further voice their objections.

Again, the administrator of this page needs to take remedial steps to get things under control and to respond to this. As it stands now, the only voices being heard on this Fan Page are those of the critics.

A Look at the Impact of Google Instant

While we agree that the arrival of Google Instant does bear consequences for the search marketing industry, we don’t share the view that it is a complete disaster. The change is simply the latest step in the continuously evolving (and highly competitive) web search market. Google has always been an innovator in this space and, say what you will about some of their recent business moves, their search has always moved forward, towards more complete, more accurate results. Google Instant is simply the next step in that cycle of innovation.

Moreover, Google Instant, by itself, is not the defining event in this most recent series of enhancements. Rather, we believe, it is the combination of Google Instant with the revisions in the predictive query feature that will have the biggest impacts. While Google may have made it faster and easier for people to search, they have certainly raised the bar for smaller firms, or for those who simply have not put the effort in building their sites into something Google considers to be highly relevant.

Several things seem likely to result from these changes:

(1) The low rent business of gaining page views through typo squatting seems to be doomed. Fewer and fewer users will wind up on these deceptive domains due, primarily, to the predictive query feature.

(2) Big brands are favored by Google Instant. On this point, however, let’s not mix up cause and effect: The big brands pop up first because they grab more search volume to begin with and the predictive query mechanism is based on the popularity of the search terms. It’s a logical result.

(3) The predictive query mechanism is going to be very influential. It will steer people along more common lines of research. The bell curve for queries relating to common topics will get taller and a little fatter. People may, in other words, be willing to settle for more generic search phrases.

(4) Though the bell curve will get taller, the long tail will also get longer (and possibly fatter). We think it reasonable to assume that, with a useful predictive search functionality, more people will be able to refine their searches more narrowly. This will drive more traffic into more specific searches, giving people who are properly optimized — and have relevant quality sites — a better chance at showing up on the first page.

(5) Search marketing will have to become more dynamic. Search marketing professionals who wish to be aggressive for their clients will need to be both more sensitive to trending query patterns and more agile in chasing those queries.

(6) Your Google PPC stats may be impacted. Google Instant means that ads may cycle more frequently, generating more impressions. As the users types letters, AdWords display, and they also change as new letters are added to the query. Google is aware of this and has been discussing the issue on their various media outlet sites, so, while they are trying to take efforts to marginalize the impact, it is indeed likely you will see increased impressions.

(7) The long tail will be less attractive for PPC advertisers. Why? Those willing to accept AdWords for their results are going to click out as soon as they see a relevant ad, therefore the value of delaying display until very specific queries are entered decreases.

(8) Good Page Titles are going to become more important. Page Titles are already a key element. Having page titles containing your target keyphrases will be more likely to grab attention and generate clicks.

So, what does it all mean? At this stage it is too early to say with certainty; everyone continues to watch and test. But, as the old saying goes, the only thing that stays the same is change. Google will continue to refine tool and those of us who work in this field will have to continue to watch, learn and test different approaches in hopes of gaining a competitive advantage.

F is for Facebook

What is Google Suggest? You’re certain have seen it, but may not know it by name. Put in simple terms, Google Suggest is the auto-complete functionality you see when you type a query into the Google search box. As you type, Google attempts to suggest possible query phrases to you. As soon as you begin typing, the system displays up to ten suggestions and, as you continue to type, the system refines the suggestions.

Google Suggest exampleThe suggestions you see are drawn from Google’s knowledge of the most popular search queries. In the screen capture on the right, you can see the results from typing “ap” into

For the purposes of this article, Google Suggest is interesting for two reasons: First, with the arrival of Google Instant, predictive search becomes very important to all. Google Suggest gives us some insight into what we can expect when Google Instant makes its appearance here in Asian markets. Second, as Google Suggest is tuned to reflect local search popularity, it provides us with a way to gain some insight into variations between local search audiences. For those of us working in Asia-Pac, this is particularly valuable as many of our clients’ target markets cross national boundaries.


Google Instant asia pacificLooking at Google Instant, we can see several improvements in the Google Suggest functionality. Compare the screenshot at left with the one above. Both show the same two letter search (“ap”), but as you can see at left, Google Instant provides true auto-complete right inside the search box. You will also note that the suggestions display is limited in number to only five. The Google interface has been improved as well, and the suggestions no longer interfere with the first search result. At left, you can clearly see the first search result (Apple), while in the screenshot above you will note the top results are obscured. The predictive auto-complete and the improved interface will have a particularly powerful impact on user behavior, as now the user is both being actively guided in query formulation by Google while at the same time being encouraged to click on the top results associated with that query.


Perhaps more interesting, at least to those of us who work with search marketing, are the insights we can gain into the regional variations in Google query patterns. Google has, over the course of the last year, continued to refine the localization of Google Suggest.

We thought it might be interesting to run a little survey of regional variations, so we went to each of the Google country-specific search engines and tried out Google Suggest. We surveyed Google in six countries in the region and just for kicks, we checked Google Hong Kong in both English and Chinese to see if their were any differences. The survey covers the following:

To run our little experiment, we entered each of the letters A through Z and grabbed the first suggestion for each. We put it all together in a spreadsheet; you can see the results in the table below.

The ABCs of Google Suggest in Asia

Click on the chart to view a larger size.


The results for Google Suggest across Asia show varying degrees of similarity. Of all 26 letters of the alphabet, only one gives the same result across engines. The letter “f” pulls up the same suggestion across the board: Facebook. Solid testament to the strength of the Facebook brand in Asia. Further evidence of the brand’s strength is found in the results for the letter “w,” where “” is the most popular query in three of the seven markets.

Only two other brands manage to achieve a majority result in any of the other categories: “ebay” is the most popular query for the letter “e” in all markets except Indonesia and Thailand. “youtube” also manages to dominate the “y” query in all markets except Malaysia and Indonesia, where “yahoo” was the top result.

Aside from the three examples cited above, there is a moderate to high degree of variance in the results set. The letters “i,” “l,” “r,” “t,” and “v” share no common results, with country-specific variations often reflecting either local brands, like “longdo” (a dictionary popular in Thailand), “lta” (the Land Transit Authority in Singapore), and “lelong” (an online shopping site in Malaysia). Other variations come from topical news stories that were hot at the time we did the research. The result for the letter “v” in Indonesia being a classic example; the result, “video ariel dan cut tari,” reflects search volume relating to a semi-scandalous sex video featuring two local celebrities.


For search marketers, the disparities in the results sets emphasize the need to be sensitive to the regional variations that exist in Asia. If your clients are concerned about markets outside their immediate country, then it is essential you take a look at how the results vary among the countries.

The second lesson we take away concerns synonyms and homonyms: when selecting related terms for optimization, it is important that you assess the popularity of the variations in order that you select the optimal choices — and you don’t miss any opportunities. You can also see in the chart an interesting result in Thailand, for example, where the most popular query for the letter “u” is “utube.”

Third, looking forward to the arrival of Google Instant in Asia, as we highlighted in a post last week, the predictive query feature is going to be very influential and you will need to do your research to see what users are being shown as they type in your target queries. The Google Instant results are visually more compelling and will have an impact on pushing users into narrower search patterns, focused on popular terms.

We hope you enjoyed this little exercise. We would be remiss not to give credit to FastCompany for the inspiration for this piece, with their article, Google Instant Redefines Your ABCs.