Dialogue. In their language.


Knab. Putting financial tools in your hands.

Banking 2.0
There is a new bank in town. A Dutch-born answer to the Too Big To Fail banks that have dominated the country’s (and international) headlines with news of exorbitant bonus policies, risky investments with customer funds, state bailouts and the invention of high fees that are popping up everywhere.

The bank aims to turn the banking world on its head with services that place financial planning and management at the fingertips of the customer – in a language they understand.

Funded by Dutch Insurance giant Aegon, this bank is a sister to the already successful and ground-breaking online personal investing bank Alex that operates under a similar philosophy.

Compelling banking model
With a bulk of my clients hailing from the Financial and Sustainable Banking sector – and as someone personally drawn to the concept and practice of sustainable, social banking – you can imagine that I was very curious to learn more.

And as a copywriter, content strategist, and localisation specialist who often works translating concepts from Dutch to English, my curiosity peaked even more.

An unfortunate name
But then I saw their name…


A deliberate choice as they aim to turn the banking world around (hence the their name being ‘Bank’ spelled backwards), putting ‘the customer before the bank’ – in Dutch as it puts the ‘K’ from ‘klant’ (customer) before the ‘b’ from ‘bank’ as Knab itself explains.

Logical, if not a little gimmicky, and makes more sense in the Dutch language. But in the international community, and particularly the English-speaking community, the brand’s intended word play gives a very different message.

It refers to something many think we’ve had enough of from the banking sector at this point. And with a €15 per month administrative fee for a personal bank account plus various digital and live support services, I wonder if their target community will truly see asking a €180 per year minimum to be as ground-breaking as the brand promises.

It certainly doesn’t help that their answer to the question ‘Why Knab?’ is that they want to empower their customers with the right financial ‘tools’.

I sincerely hope they are not looking for international press, much less that they have international growth ambitions.

Localisation and branding
Localisation is about communicating your message and brand in a language that reaches out to your focus communities and invites dialogue. This can be taken literally and traditionally as applied to translation – but it should also be considered when reaching out to a specific community who shares your main language.

Knab seems to have missed the mark on both fronts. Firstly, by assuming their big brand message on turning the bank world upside down falls flat once those fees are discovered. They are walking a thin line in the juxtaposition between their band promise and the reality of their highly fee-based service.

When companies with big ambitions create a brand and brand promise, language localisation is often not even considered. Especially in a country like the Netherlands, where most of the population speaks some degree of English and thus has a false confidence in their English abilities.

The importance of bringing a native English copywriter on board when building an internationally ambitious brand is essential, whether those ambitions are to enter the market or merely gain international attention for your model.

A native speaker with copywriting, branding, translation, digital community and content experience can bring in the best of all these worlds in order to make your brand and business ready for this vast world we live in.

So how does your company consider localisation?


Will GrouponNL improve their copy?

I tweeted about the poor copywriting with which GrouponNL has been bombarding my inbox and iPhone app – a great disservice to their small business cutomers. I wonder if it will have impact… TBC

@GrouponNED Your copywriting is a real GroupOff. To begin, the intros are random, uninformative call-2-action fails. Train your writers!
October 3, 2011
@unklsara we’re sorry to see that you don’t like the way of writing from our writers..
October 3, 2011
@GrouponNED Up your CTR just by improving 1st sentence. Jokes are out of context, give no product info. Most read this 1st, esp. on mobiles.
October 3, 2011
@GrouponNED Eg, Track Pants: ‘Een icoon word je niet zomaar. Daarvoor moet je minstens een leven vol hypomanies, rock “n roll…’ Hunh?
October 3, 2011
Een klassieker onder de trainingsbroeken. Speciaal voor de dames! http://t.co/XMqOzUdk #adidas #hebbenhebbenhebben
October 3, 2011
@GrouponNED Een klassieker onder de trainingsbroeken. Speciaal voor de dames! http://bit.ly/obHj7I <– da’s beter!
October 3, 2011
@unklsara we will send your tweets to our writers, so the can read your comment.
October 3, 2011
@GrouponNED Great. Remind them: treat 1st sentence as a short call-2-action in context of product. Otherwise you do ur customers disservice.
October 3, 2011

Marieke van eBookers bestaat!

I will never doubt eBookers’ social media abilities nor their community management ever again…

When HuffPost Met AOL: “A Merger of Desperation”

Dear Huffington post,


Your announceme­nt about your merger with AOL has brought me to tears. You were the quintessen­ce of cutting-ed­ge, social, human news and your online community was a wonderful, thriving refuge for me where I could exchange thought, opinions and knowledge freely. So much that I trusted you to link my membership to my Facebook account.


This post and the e-mail linking to it was clearly written by a communicat­ions consultant (trust me, I know, I am one myself) and rings of industry buzz-words like ‘engagemen­t’ and corporate-­y phrases like ‘A Merger of Visions’ and ‘We’re still traveling toward the same destinatio­n, with the same people at the wheel, and with the same goals, but we’re now going to get there much, much faster.’ Not the usual brutally honest eloquence we are so used to from Ms. Huffington­.

Oy vey.

Combine this with the idea that my info via my HuffPo community forum membership via my Facebook account is now in the hands of the corporate-­y company that probably wrote all this (or hired someone else to do that) – and I will soon be signing off. For it is not only the merger, but the subsequent ‘anti-community engagement’ tone of your message, that has poisoned everything that this community is all about.

Oy va voi.

What should you have done? Told us the truth. Told us you needed the funds. Told us your plans. Told us how you are going to get AOL to respect us. Told us what AOL really has to offer this community. Told us how you are going to protect our private information. Or not. Or told us that everything we post in this community will be analysed inside and out and sold to marketeers and companies hungry for this information. Told us the honest truth. You, of all people, should have known that this community is filled with intelligent, socially-aware people who read between the lines. That we don’t like being lied to and used.

As for all of my friends that I have made here – it was lovely to know all of you in one of the best online communitie­s I have ever been a part of. Here’s to some other person starting a new HuffPost where we all may be able meet again.

Me. Respect that.

Read the Article at HuffingtonPost

What do blood libels, sign language and child development have in common?

scoop.it screen shot, language content & communicationThe answer?

They are all content that fall under my curated scoop.it page, Language, Content & Communication.

Scoop.it is the answer to the soon-to-be ‘sunsettedwww.delicious.com. Think of it as a social bookmarking tool with an upgraded engagement design.

You create a topic and Scoop.it crawls the web searching for and suggesting content related to your topic. You select (or ‘scoop’) the content you want and ‘purge’ the content you do not. Scoop.it then places the selected content on your own curated page, a page allowing for basic to standard personalised design and editing.

This page can then be posted, shared, and/or further curated and updated. Page visitors can suggest additional content and you can add any new content via the site or through their toolbar – which allows you to send new content directly from any other source on the web. Your page can then be easily shared on Twitter and Facebook by you or any visitor. Finally, Scoop.it offers direct insight into statistics and analytics, greatly appreciated once you have got it going (or depressing if you have just started).

Restless Natives Daily, Papaer.liWith content curation being all the rage for 2011, Scoop.it seems to be one to look out for thanks to a simple but personalised look & feel, high user-friendliness quotient and editorial control. Still in Beta form, membership is invite or upon request only. Given this Beta version, I can see it clearly benefiting from a few more upgrades, such as more dynamic user-generated design, broader content input possibility, blog integration and word-of-mouth. And I will very much be looking forward to the mobile app they are promising.

But one thing is for sure, Scoop.it offers the user much more editorial and content control than its Twitter-linked content curation peer, Paper.li, which pretty much leaves you at its mercy when determining content and publicity. While Paper.li has the look and feel of an edited e-zine, your best content input is a Twitter handle or list – Paper.li curates all the content without you having much more of a say about it. And I still have to figure out their algorithm for selecting which random Twitterer is chosen to be listed as a ‘top story’…

What are the most effective Twitter bots for increasing followers and traffic?

What are the most effective Twitter bots for increasing followers and

This is a question I am often asked – and I’ve seen it posted on my twitter timeline either as a crowdsource question or a guru response. And recently, I came across it (in various forms) on Quora.

My answer? None. You are the most effective bot. Stop thinking about a quick surge in followers and traffic when it comes to Twitter. It is true that it can be a powerful medium to get messages across and do everything from inspire community (yay!) to falsely impose a brand (boo!). But folks, this is 2010 and social media tools like Twitter are not TV spots – that old form of advertising to a mass audience is dying out quicker than your Twitter followers can grow with the best of mass social media community cultivating bots.
Instead, go for a slow simmer – collect and engage with followers you can share a fine to outstanding connection with.

Think of it this way… You are a web app marketer looking for work. You are crazy about cheese, wine and a big film geek. You’ve just moved town. You want to find people who interest you, hopefully many of these people find you, your mind, and your work interesting. And they’ll want to help you out, help you settle in, see you become a success.

Choose your own adventure

  • Get Him to the GreekAdventure 1: You enter a club with a million people in it, and try to start up a conversation. No one hears you, save maybe one drunk person who will forget it all tomorrow. You start screaming, grab the mike, do some bad karaoke. You wake up the next
    morning, you’ve forgotten the name of the person lying next to you
    and suddenly discover there are a hundred people in your apartment. Congrats, you have a lot of people at your pad! But the more you awake into the morning after, the more your realise that there is neither content, nor much conversation going on here. Just a bunch of strangers trying to sell you spam.
  • Adventure 2: You look up the best local cafe to hang out in town, order a toasty. Delicious. You ask the waiter where the cheese comes from. Great conversation, and a new contact to boot. The waiter sends you to a local cheese shop. Turns out the gal there is not only a cheese connoisseur, she belongs to the Wine & a Movie club. She invites you to their next gathering. Great people, lots of fun, and as you are all hanging around discussing the movie and the wine,
    you start throwing out your ideas about an app that pairs wines food and movies, asking their advice and getting their suggestions and even a few who seriously want to work with you to make this thing happen. So, flash forward, your Wine & Movie club provide the base content and add some new ideas, the app is launched, you introduce the waiter to the president of the Wine & a Movie club, they fall in love, she hooks the cafe up with a great discount on some new wines, the cafe hosts an app lunch party attended by a happy restaurant critic and a local movie star… well, you get the picture.

Moral It initially took a little more time, energy, creativity and work but the quality of the contacts you made was both valuable and authentic – ultimately leading to a dream situation.

Social Media Monitoring In essence, when it comes to Twitter, if you are looking for a tool to boost your followers, you may want to consider something that will help you find the right followers – try a Social Media Monitoring (SMM) tool. This is a tool that focuses less on bigger numbers and more on managing and cultivating – adding more quality while you up your quantity.

Does this tool exist? To be honest, nothing out there has convinced me that it is better than the human touch. And I doubt anything ever will. The closest I have come to is tweepi.com, an SMM tool that qualifies the quantity. Tweepi.com suggests followers for you based on your current followers and those you follow – and their connections. It provides an extended spreadsheet that lists useful info for each follower/follow (eg, bios, locations, how often they RT, how often they tweet, etc).Tweepi

Mind you, it is up to you to interpret this info. As with any excel spreadsheet, the more info cells you request, the more gets squeezed in, the more you have to interpret. You can sift through the suggested tweeps, as well as your current list, and follow or unfollow at your will to rid of the inactives and hone more quality followers.

I, Twitterbot
At the end of the day, all SMM tools can only be is just a means to give you a little boost and a little more overview. Your biggest tools are time, patience, dedication… and yourself. Just like Momma said. Be you.

You may not be the most well-known kid in the Twitterverse, but you’ll surely be amongst one happy cluster of stars.

Assange: the Perez Hilton of the Cybermovement? No thanks.

Just because someone is at the least not a fan of Assange, or at the most disgusted by him, does not make him/her against transparency. It could mean that s/he just does not support Assange as being the champion in its name.

I personally do not like that Assange is a self-proclaimed hero who has convinced others that he is indeed just that, because I do not think he deserves the title. I do think the US government, in their typical and abhorrent manipulative reaction, are enabling this title.

But Assange himself seems to have a demeanor of megalomania that I quite frankly find revolting. He seems more interested in getting people to make him a hero and increasing his site traffic than truly dedicating himself to establishing good transparency protocol. He seems, quite honestly, to be using the tactics of an angst-ridden 16 year old to get his message across, rather than the keen craft of a Bob Woodard (Watergate). A Perez Hilton with an infantile James Bond identification judging from the picture that greets you when you arrive at the Wikileaks site (once you’ve found it, that is).

But in reality, the cables he’s been leaking seem to be primarily fodder for the equivalent of a gossip column from a wannabe political insider. The Perez Hilton of the cybermovement. The Gossip Girl in the High School of the Social Web. Spreading gossip about others in the name of her own popularity in order to hide her own insecurities, and without engaging in meaningful discussion.

If he really were the true champion of transparency, then he would post all correspondence between himself, his lawyers and the Swedish women involved regarding what actually happened in Sweden. Whether he believes has something to hide or not.

That said, I find it abhorrent that governments are arresting 16 year olds or bullying companies to remove their business tools from his hands. I am constantly reminded of War Games and The Falcon & The Snowman – in both movies you become sympathetic to the young protagonists because of the intelligence that feeds their curiosities, and forgive the young men for the consequences of their actions because they were after all children with a justified desire to break the hypocritical code of the adult world… and not truly aware of the effects this could have.

But Julian Assange is not 16. He is an adult. And an adult should stand prepared to open themselves up to vulnerability and deal with the consequences of his actions – be they personal or political.

And yes, those governments and companies that lately have had too much control over our game of life should also be held up to the same accountability.

But this proverbial sticking out of the middle finger (Assange) and sending a child to his room (US Government) is not how to solve problems democratically from a philosophical standpoint – and it certainly is not the strategy in this day and age of the social web.

In this brand new world, when you want to be a game changer, you have to understand that changing the game is not simply doing one single action and running. To change the game, you engage in open dialogue with your ‘followers’ about the effects of your actions and you allow yourself to be vulnerable to criticism and, ultimately, you adapt your game.

It would be wonderful if Wikileaks would actually remodel its site to reflect its inspirational namesake: the community-adapted Wikipedia. Let the international community adapt diplomatic protocol. Then it would be a true champion to transparency and democracy, one that the US government and all governments could look to for inspiration when it comes to transparency-lead democracy.

For another interesting post on this matter, I highly recommend reading this.