06
Aug 10

Facebook Consulting Australia: hire my services

Note: I tailored this message around ‘Facebook Consulting Australia’ to help people find me in Google.

Facebook Consulting AustraliaI noticed a trend this year. More and more businesses are jumping on the Facebook marketing wagon. Although last year Facebook marketing was already hot in the news, ‘mainstream’ businesses are now asking for some Facebook consulting.

Just this month, I was contacted by two clients to help them design and implement their Facebook custom applications (I had the nice opportunity to be sent to New Zealand) so I thought I would make this more official with this article. I am available for Facebook consulting and would love to help you.

My past experience with Facebook

For two years, I was co-running a business that was developing in-house applications and games for Facebook.

During these two years, we reached 10 millions users (French users mainly, I am French based in Sydney Australia by the way), we peaked at 1 million users a day and our applications were translated in six different languages. (while working fulltime for another employer)

I used a wide range of monetization solutions and a wide range of application types (role-playing game, quizz application, serious game, utility application, etc…). You can see the different applications I have developed in the Creations page.

Why you might need some help

Too often I see businesses throwing money on custom Facebook applications development or Facebook pages thinking that just because it is on Facebook, it will go ‘viral’.

Unfortunately getting traction on Facebook is not that easy and it is actually becoming harder and harder as the Facebook market becomes more competitive.

I can’t promise you that thanks to my services your application or page will get 100K fans/friends/likes in one week but I believe that I will be able to give you advices that will dramatically increase your chances of success.

The Facebook world is a different world than the Twitter world, the mobile market and the internet in general. Different rules apply and I learned about many of them one application at a time.

How can I help you?

I can help you define the best overall strategy on Facebook. Should you develop a custom application? Should you promote a Facebook page instead? Should you leverage the success of some existing applications?

I can design your Facebook application with you. I will sit with you and define the wireframes of the first version of your application, you know your audience probably better than I do so we will be working together to come up with a Facebook application idea that will be compelling to your target audience and that will leverage the Facebook viral channels.

I can help you outsource/manage your Facebook application development. I have been outsourcing a lot in the last three years and I believe it is a great way to cut costs without cutting quality if you have good processes in place.

I can develop your Facebook application. Finding time to work on your project as a developer may be harder as I am usually fully booked but this can still be an option.


Contact me at aymeric[at]wiselabs.net if you are interested in hiring me for some Facebook consulting. Thanks.


30
Jul 10

How to redirect all your pages from www to root domain using ruby on rails

I realized today that my current configuration of taskarmy.com and www.taskarmy.com implied that Google considered them as two different domain names. This is bad for SEO for example (plus I had some login issues).

So I decided to redirect 301 all the pages coming from www to my root domain taskarmy.com.

(By the way, why are people still using www? I find this unnecessary.)

Anyway, this is the piece of code you can add in a before_filter method in your ApplicationController in a Ruby on Rails application:

    host = request.host.gsub(/www./,”)

    if /^www/.match(request.host)
      new_url = “#{request.protocol}#{host}#{request.request_uri}”
      redirect_to(new_url, :status => 301)
    end

Cheers,

Aymeric


25
Jul 10

Five years ago exactly, I started my round the world trip

I can’t believe 5 years have passed already, time goes fast and seems to be accelerating.

To celebrate this fifth anniversary, I have brought back online my travel blog where I reported my adventures during my trip.

If you speak French you will be able to learn how I ended up sleeping in toilets at the top of the Fuji Mount or how I found myself hunting for anacondas in Bolivia.

If you don’t speak French, you might still be interested in browsing the pictures.

Cheers!

Crocodile dundee


19
Jul 10

My talk at BarCamp Auckland

On Friday while doing some Facebook consulting, I was offered/pushed to do a presentation the next day at BarCamp 4.

I am posting the slides here for your convenience:

UPDATE: That’s pretty cool, my slides got featured on the homepage of SlideShare!

Tips from a retired Facebook app developer

 

Tips from a retired Facebook app developer – Presentation Transcript

  1. Tips from a retired Facebook app developer
    Aymeric Gaurat-Apelli
  2. Who am I?
    French .Net developer
    Readify consultant in Australia
    Turned into an entrepreneur thanks to Facebook
    current project: TaskArmy
  3. Why I may have a (interesting || different) point of view?
    I am French (let me explain )
    2 years
    6 languages
    15 applications
    3500 dollars a day
    1m users a day
    10m users reached
    20m page views a day
  4. Why ‘retired’?
    Volatile market
    Platform dependence
    API continuous changes
    Gaming business
    There is a thin line between entertaining people and wasting their time
  5. My mistakes
    Business ‘friend’ story
    Php story
    Underused emails
    Lost focus
    Cheaters
    Monetization/Optimization
    Money is a mind twister
  6. Strategy tips
    Make a game
    Listen and interact
    Target on ‘fresh’ markets
    Build a community
    Ask for their email addresses
  7. High potential apps
    RPG-type apps
    Fads
    Event related apps
    Poker app in French 
  8. Game features that worked for me
    Level system
    Progress bar
    Competition
    Against yourself
    Against your friends
    Against everyone weekly
    Against everyone in group
    In-app chat
    Limited amount of actions
  9. Watch out for cheaters!
    People have more time than you
    0.01% of the users can ‘pollute’ everyone else
    Smart vs lazy design
    Care for the community
    Tough challenge
  10. Launching your application
    Friends and family
    Ad networks
    Facebook ads
  11. Facebook ads
    Cheap-ish
    Avoid US, UK, Canada, Australia
    Scandinavian countries are your friends
    The power of the “Likes” criteria
    Start small
    Genetic algorithm
  12. Growing your userbase
    Email marketing is king
    User wall updates
    Page updates
  13. Questions?
    http://aymeric.gaurat.net
    @AymericG

7X589356SJ6Y


02
Jul 10

Customer Discovery Tools for Lean Startups

Running a lean startup? You will find here a list of tools you can use during the customer discovery phase.

Survey and Feedback tools

Although people tend to think of Survey Monkey or Survey Gizmo when I mention Survey, I actually think that Google Forms is very good already, and it is free.

Google Forms

Simply go to http://docs.google.com and select “Create new” / “Form” and you will be presented with a very good form designer.

Google FormsOnce you have created your form, Google publishes it and gives you the link, or you can embed it into your own website.

The answers are saved in a spreadsheet. You can be notified each time someone completes the survey, and you can even redirect the user after completion of the survey thanks to a hack.

KissInsights

KissInsightsKissInsights is a new service from the creators of KissMetrics that allows you to display a non-intrusive but highly effective widget on your website or blog.

KissInsights

Depending on which page the user is in, you can choose to ask some specific questions to better understand your user.

UserVoice

UserVoice You probably know UserVoice or GetSatisfaction that allows you to add a side tab in your pages where users can leave feedback and ask questions. I don’t recommend these services because they are simply inefficient and slow your pages down.

A/B testing

As Ash Maurya mentioned on his blog, depending on whether you are in the Customer Discovery phase or another one, you will be testing different things.

In the Customer Discovery phase, you want to test your unique value proposition (the main tag line on the homepage for example)

I have used the three following tools to A/B test CoachFire and TaskArmy:

Google Website Optimizer is a classic

You can run A/B tests at the page level (send 10% of my traffic to variation1 and the rest in variation2) or multivariate experiments at the page content level.

Visual Website Optimizer is a recent startup that simply rocks

You just have to add a javascript code in your pages and you won’t have to touch your website again each time to create a new A/B test. I found VWO very easy to use with their user friendly designer.

ABingo

If you are writing your application in Ruby on Rails, you can integrate more complex split tests straight from your code.

Analytics

You need to understand your customers/users better. What are they looking for in your website? which sources send better traffic?

Clicky I am slowly going away from Google Analytics in favour of Clicky (although this is an affiliate link, I genuinely recommend this tool).

Out of the box, Clicky gives you actionable metrics, rather than a awful lot of useless data.

For example, it allows you to drill down to a visitor level to understand better how the users coming from a specific source interact with your website:

image

Did I mention that Clicky is real time?

image Although a lot of people refer toKissMetrics when someone asks for an analytics tool, I have never understood what value they add in comparison to the other analytics tool like Clicky and Google Analytics. KissMetrics is all about funnel conversion, which any web analytics tool already offers and having to add yet another script on your page isn’t justified by having pretty conversion graphs.

MixPanel MixPanel is about tracking events and cohorts in your web application (in real time). Something that differentiates MixPanel from other solution is the ability to track server side events too. A perfect use case for MixPanel is tracking the engagement of the users in your Facebook social game.

MixPanel Example

You can find more tool ideas on the Startup Tools Wiki.

What tools do you use to better understand your customers?(when you are not outside the building interviewing them)


02
Jul 10

How to send an email using Postmark in a C# application

Postmark is a service that ensures the email you send from your application reaches your recipient and not its Spam folder (which will likely happen if you use your own SMTP server or Google’s one).

Postmark gives you 1000 emails for free, which allows you to give a try risk-free.

So how do you send an email with PostMark?

First you will need to create an account at Postmark. It will take you 10 minutes to enter your information and to click in the link in your emails.

Then you will need to add some records in your DNS, Postmark explains the steps very well (5 minutes).

Once your account is correctly set up, copy the ApiKey they give you, you will need it in your application.

Then you will need to download Postmark.net from Git. It is an assembly that handles the plumbing to the Postmark API for you.

Note: Add the assembly as a reference (don’t forget to unblock the zip before extracting the dll)

Use the following code to send an email:

var postmark = new PostmarkClient(ConfigurationManager.AppSettings["PostMark.ApiKey"]); var message = new PostmarkMessage { To = email, From = ConfigurationManager.AppSettings["PostMark.From"], // This must be a verified sender signature Subject = subject, TextBody = plain, HtmlBody = html }; var response = postmark.SendMessage(message);

Remarks

1. I advice you to send the email asynchronously to not be dependent on Postmark availability and responsiveness and to log any error.

2. Postmark can notify your application if an email bounces. This is a neat feature.

3. The From email address must be the email address you have verified in Postmark.

Voila!


01
Jul 10

How to build your own widget in Ruby on Rails in 10 minutes

To improve the ranking of my website TaskArmy.com in Google, I decided to provide my users with a widget they can add to their blogs or websites. I will show in this article how I did it in 30 minutes using Ruby on Rails (hopefully you will be able to do it in less than 10 minutes thanks to this article).

1. First I created the Widget controller:

def ilove
  @content = render_to_string(:partial => 'widget/ilove_widget')
  render :layout => false
end

2. Then I created a partial view I called _ilove_widget.rhtml:

<div class="widget-ilove">
<a href="http://taskarmy.com" 
    alt="TaskArmy.com" 
    title="Awesome freelance marketplace :)">
  <div class="line1">I <span class="heart">&hearts;</span></div>
  <div class="line2">TaskArmy</div>
</a>
</div>

3. I also wrote some css related to my widget:

.widget-ilove {
	margin-left: auto !important;
	margin-right: auto !important;
	font-size: 10px !important;
	text-align: center !important;
	width: 70px !important;
	height: 70px !important;
	border: 1px solid #ccc !important;
	padding: 0px 3px 3px 3px !important;
	-moz-border-radius: 10px !important;
	-webkit-border-radius: 10px !important;
	margin-bottom: 5px !important }
.widget-ilove .heart { color:red !important; font-size: 42px !important }
.widget-ilove a {
		font-weight: bold !important;
		color: Black !important;
		text-decoration: none !important; }
.widget-ilove:hover { background-color: #ffe !important }
.widget-ilove .line1 { font-size: 36px !important }
.widget-ilove .line2 { font-size: 12px !important }

4. Then I created a view (not a partial view, a normal view) called ilove:

(function() { document.write(<%= @content.to_json %>) })()

5. I used a css compressor to get my css into one line (I surrounded it with <style>…</style>)

6. The code people will need to add to their blogs looks like that:

<script type="text/javascript" src="http://taskarmy.com/widget/ilove"></script>

<style>.widget-ilove{ margin-left:auto; margin-right:auto; font-size:10px; text-align:center; width:70px; height:70px; border:1px solid #ccc; padding:0px 3px 3px 3px; -moz-border-radius:10px; -webkit-border-radius:10px; margin-bottom:5px}.widget-ilove .heart{ color:red; font-size:42px}.widget-ilove a{ font-weight:bold; color:Black; text-decoration:none;}.widget-ilove:hover{ background-color:#ffe}.widget-ilove .line1{ font-size:36px}.widget-ilove .line2{ font-size:12px}</style>

I then decided to add the widget to my website with a call to action to encourage my users to add the widget.

7. I html encoded the code in step 6 (referred to as HTML_ENCODED_STEP_6 in step 7)

8. Finally, I added this code to my website:

  <div style="text-align:center;">
    <a href="#" onclick="$('#widget-code').show();$('#widget-code input').focus();return false;">
      Add this badge to your blog &dArr;
    </a>
  </div>
  <div id="widget-code">
    Just copy and paste this code:
    <input style="width:98%" type="text" value="HTML_ENCODED_STEP_6" />
  </div>

Tada! I hope you found this article useful!


01
Jul 10

Tips to kick-start the traffic of your new user-generated content website

You are launching a new website but you are facing the chicken and egg problem? You need content to make your website valuable and you need users to add content?

I have launched several projects in the last three years, and here are a few tips I have to help you grow your website.

Preparation

Add enough content yourself to avoid the blank state in your website. It is also a way to show the first users how your application is meant to be used.

Ask your friends or family to check out your website and add some content too. You don’t want to have all the content of the website signed by your username only.

Track your traffic. Set up Google analytics. You want to see what you do to bring traffic works and what doesn’t. Some sources of traffic will bring thousands of users and some only a few. Define goals in Google Analytics to track the quality of your sources.

You need to understand what type of person would want to go to your website so that you can better focus your efforts. At the beginning you must value learning over scaling.

Participate to online conversations

Once you have enough friend-generated content showing in the homepage, you need to participate to discussions to learn and drive some extremely qualified traffic.

Set up alerts in Google Alerts about specific keywords of your niche. For example, for TaskArmy, I am monitoring “find a freelancer” and “freelance marketplace”. Each time someone mentions these keywords on the internet, I receive an email. I can then decide to leave a useful comment with a link towards my website.

Alert: don’t spam, ever. I don’t put a link in all my comments, only when I believe it adds value to my comment.

Make a list of the 5 most popular blogs in your niche and subscribe to their RSS feeds. (I recommend Google Reader to read and subscribe to the RSS feeds).

For each blog article that is posted on these blogs, ask yourself if you can leave a smart and useful comment. It is for me a conscious effort to remember to leave a comment. I read countless of articles online, many of which I can contribute to, but I just don’t naturally think of participating to the discussion.

Leaving a good comment is an art. Don’t spam, don’t be pushy. Add something interesting to the conversation to make your comment remarkable.

Make a list of the 5 most popular forums in your niche and search for topics related to your niche in there. For example, I look for people who are looking for “fiverr clone” to participate to the discussion for mytaskrr platform. (This can also be done from google directly). You can also directly post a message related to your site to learn more about your users.

Use Social Media

Connect on Twitter. Like most of my advices, you should really ask yourself, does this apply to my niche? Depending on your target market, your users might not even know what Twitter is.

1. In Twitter you can save searches. Save searches about keywords related to your business. For TaskArmy.com, I am currently tracking “taskarmy” and “find a freelancer”.

2. Also, start following potential users. It will allow you to follow their tweets and interact with them and they will be notified when you will start following them. (Some even follow back).

3. You can also use Twitter Lists to drive more attention to your account by adding potential clients to your lists, and potential freelancers or by creating useful lists for your niche.

4. Add your twitter account to twitter directories.

5. Put the url of your website in the biography of your account

6. Put the “.com” in the twitter account display name. It is an easy way to get people curious.

7. Grey hat: Twitter allows you to have an animated avatar which allows to differentiate yourself from the other followers of a popular twitter account.

Use Facebook. I will write another article about how to set up a Facebook page and how to use it properly. (I have multiple facebook pages with up to 50K fans). You can also search for groups relevant to your niche.

Join groups in LinkedIn. Participate to conversations. You can also contact the members of a group directly once you have joined a group.

Start SEOing

Start a blog. SEO is probably the best long term traffic driver for your business. You don’t want to ignore it if you are in for the long term. How to run a blog properly could be the topic of a whole new article. Just know this is the best method to drive traffic on the long term.

Submit your website to news aggregator websites. Not only can it drive traffic (very small unfortunately), it will actually give you backlinks that Google uses to rank you higher. You can use digg.com, reddit.com, stumbleupon.com, etc… (Check out socialbookmarker.com for more ideas of social media websites). Note: this has never been very effective for me.

Add your website to relevant directories. Generic directories are totally useless and won’t drive any traffic. Pick a few good quality directories related to your website and submit your website. Finding good directories is the hard part. http://feedmyapp.com was awesome for some of my websites.

Hot tip: If you get reviewed by feedmyapp.com, there is a high probably that you will get reviewed by KillerStartups.com too, which normally charges for their review. WeekPlan.net and TaskArmy.com both got reviewed for free.

Some extra tips

Publish videos about your website and post it in YouTube and Viddler. People underestimate the power of videos. Make sure your video title  and description contains important keywords, and that you fill the tags correctly.

Pay for advertising. Although I believe SEO is a better strategy for the long term, paid traffic is a good option at the beginning. Start small, with maybe $5 to $10 to experiment with keywords, bids and copy. I usually use Adwords, Facebook Ads, and StumbleUpon. I wrote a blog post about it in this article on how to get cheap and targeted traffic. I can personally recommend the Adwords services of Alexander if you don’t feel comfortable setting up your campaigns.

Email marketing. As people register on your website, your email addresses list will grow. You can bring users back by sending them tips or update them about new features available on the website.

Your head has probably exploded if you have read the whole article. Thanks for still being here 🙂

Do you have other tricks you have used to kick-start the traffic of your website?


26
Jun 10

Founder Mastermind Breakfasts, how we do it

Since last year, I have been organizing some casual breakfast meetings with other entrepreneurs based in Sydney.

The next one will be held this Monday (28th June) and we are looking to extend our invitations to new people so it is a good opportunity to share how the event is organized.

Why a mastermind meeting?

Starting a startup is challenging, you go from one challenge to another. Being able to get an external view on what we are doing really help us make better decisions.

Also, hearing what challenges other founders face allows you to do some preventive work when possible.

I find these events very educative and the structure that we use encourages deeper exchanges among the founders and the small aspect of the group lets us open up more easily.

The structure

I would like to hear about your suggestions to improve the structure if you have any.

The structure of the meeting goes like this:

– The group meets once every month or every two months at 8am on a Monday.

This allows us to see results and evolution from one meeting to the other. Some people have complained about the 8am time, and would prefer a lunch meeting. The reason I chose early in the morning and on Mondays is because your brain is fresh and is not busy thinking of other things. It is also quieter during the morning.

– The group is composed of 4 to 6 people, sitting around a table having a coffee or breakfast.

It is really important to keep the group small. You can hear better, and everybody is more inclined to speak rather than being a passive attendee.

– All the guests are entrepreneurs currently building a startup.

It is important to really be actually doing a startup rather than thinking about it. Your contribution is much more hands-on. I am wondering if it would actually be valuable to have people from different industries, different age, different professions to offer some fresh point of view.

– Each of the guests must come with a challenge he faces in his startup.

It can be anything.

  1. “How can I use Twitter without being spammy?”
  2. “How can I shorten the sales cycle for my enterprise product?”
  3. “I am burning out, where can I regain some control on my time”
  4. “What would be a better market for my product?”

– Turn by turn, each of us states his challenge and the group takes 15 minutes to discuss about it and give suggestions.

We try to get one actionable item to do before the next mastermind meeting.

– After the meeting, we send (not always) a recap email to remind what has been said in the meeting and to add some more value by sharing some links to articles to check out.

Thanks Hendro (Moluko, @hwijaya), Ian (Travellr, @aussie_ian), Benjamin (All Over Geo, @benjaminRRR, Ryan (OpenOnDemand,@ryancross) and Patrya (Moluko) for your participation!

If you are based in Sydney and if you would like to join us, please contact me at aymeric/at/gaurat.net.

Do you have any suggestions on how to make the most out of our meetings?


25
Jun 10

Lean startups, beware the social debt!

What is Technical Debt?

In the tech world, we are familiar with the concept of technical debt.

Technical debt represents areas in the code that makes changing something more time-consuming and hinder the stability of the system.

Introducing the Social Debt

I would like to introduce you to something I experienced in my online ventures called Social Debt.

In the lean startup movement, people encourage you to interact with your users / customers as soon as possible to get feedback as early as possible to make sure you build what they want and need.

You need to know that by being in contact with users, customers or even partners, you start to build up Social Debt.

Now people are using your product, customers have paid for a specific service, partners have spent time and money to grow with you.

You can’t change your application as easily as before anymore. People entered data they don’t want to lose, some customers have bought your application just for the exact feature you are trying to remove, And partners are betting on your success and investing time and effort and you have to discuss any change with them otherwise their businesses are at risk.

This is Social Debt. Social commitments you make throughout the development of your product that make future changes harder.

Like technical debt, each social debt increment should be a conscious decision.

Real life example

I am working on the platform TaskArmy.com, a freelance marketplace that aims to be fair for clients and freelancers and try to simplify the whole outsourcing process.

When I started inviting freelancers to the application so that they can add their services, social debt started building up.

For example, at the early launch of TaskArmy, the commission the site was set to 15%. Later on, it was harder to change the commission percentage taken from the freelancers because some had signed in for 15% not 20% or 30%. Social Debt.

When I allowed people to start using TaskArmy for their own niche market, (taskrr), I built more social debt. Today, if I want to drastically change the design of the landing page, I need to add some exceptions in my code to only apply them on my version of the website. Social Debt.

Conclusion

Some changes have to be made and some users will not be happy. You can’t avoid that and you shouldn’t try to avoid that at all cost.

But like taking in more technical debt, social debt must be a conscious decision otherwise you will gradually lose your leanness.

Don’t build up social debt too early to allow you to iterate or pivot quickly and without damage.

How do you manage Social Debt in your application?