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My Digital Marketing Predictions for 2015 - and a recap of 2014

My Digital Marketing Predictions for 2015 - and a recap of 2014

A Happy New Year to you all! 

2014 has certainly been a year of change, both personally and the realms of digital marketing. So before looking forwards here's a quick recap:

So, a pretty good year overall. Onto 2015!

My Digital Marketing Predictions for 2015

My thoughts for the year ahead-

  • This will be the year of the smartwatch. Although there are already watches available to buy the release of Apple's smartwatch will push them mainstream.

  • Google Glass will finally fade from the mainstream.

  • Mobile and tablet devices are going to continue to gain an increasing market share.

  • The internet will go nuts when on October 21, 2015, will be the very same date when Marty McFly went back to the future. There's going to be plenty of articles comparing the real 2015 to the fictional future of the film. Although if someone could invent a proper hoverboard that would be awesome.

  • Paid advertising on social media channels is going to increase as brands find it gradually more difficult to engage with fans organically.

Thoughts? Opinions? Add your predictions onto the comments below...

 

That Sainsbury's Christmas Advert...

That Sainsbury's Christmas Advert...

Ah it wouldn't be Christmas without the annual competition to see who can produce the most tear-jerking multi-million pound Christmas ad.

Firstly, there was Monty the Penguin - the delightful incarnation from John Lewis guaranteed to pull at your heartstrings. The ad had everything that has become a staple of British Christmas advertising; melodic soundtrack, perfect families, snow and this years cutest animal.

Everything was going so well. M&S has fairies, Boots has gone for a rather sad but warm spirited journeys people make at Christmas. And Sainsbury's, well they've certainly thrown a curve ball and gone with the First World War. What could be more festive?

The Sainsbury's Christmas Ad

If you haven't seen it yet the ad focuses on two individuals - one British, one German, who meet in no-man's land during the legendary Christmas truce of 1914. If you haven't seen it, you really should:

The ad neatly features a limited edition chocolate bar which can naturally be bought in store with 50p of every £1 bar going to the Royal British Legion. Although raising money for as something as meaningful as the RBL is a noble thing to do, it's left me though with a rather bitter taste.

Ultimately, however good Sainsbury's intentions are, it's using the First World War to sell it's groceries for Christmas. Not only that but the ad is a sanitised and therefore misleading interpretation of the war.

If you know me then you'll know I studied history at university. One of the best modules I studied was about historiography. And before I launch into a lecture on the topic, in a nutshell it's about how history is remembered - 

Sainsbury's have genuinely worked hard from what I've read to create something which is 'historically accurate'. I'm not the kind of person to sit there and say 'well that button on that jacket wasn't bought into circulation until 1922!' But you can easily see that it's a sanitised version of the war. Real trench warfare would have been full of mud, rats and shrapnel. There would have been corpses left in a cratered no-mans land and the soldiers would have been grubby and worn down. What we are met with here is two bright eyed young men who look like they've spent more time in the make up department than a trench.

The frustration though is that many people will see this advert and think that this was the war. That it is a historically accurate portrayal which is somehow educational. But all it does it perpetuate this myth, alongside the slew of other recent TV productions that the war is this and not that. That it's the Downton Abbey version of war; an escapist viewpoint where we can relive past victories and all be home in time for tea.

War was not, and is not that.

War is a crippling and miserable affair and one that shouldn't be used to make money on the back of an advert for Christmas. If you want an additional insight then you should have a read through this excellent piece from the Guardian.

So back to Marketing - 

In comparing the ads of John Lewis to Sainsbury's who has come out on top?

Well, based on YouTube views (from the official channel videos) the winner has to be Monty with just over 22 million. Sainsbury's managed to pull in 16.5 million at the time of writing.

However, when you take a look at social shares, there's something rather different. The heart-warming story of the boy and his penguin hasn't been as popular, with over 22,000 less shares on Facebook as Sainsbury's ad.

The exact numbers are:

John Lewis: Facebook: 421583 | Twitter: 26964 | LinkedIn: 4379 | Pinterest: 608 | Google +: 15076 | Total: 468610

Sainsbury's: Facebook: 642977 | Twitter: 17318 | LinkedIn: 2728 | Pinterest: 700 | Google +: 18469 | Total: 682192 (Data from Buzzsumo).

First and foremost it clearly shows that Facebook is still the place where stuff gets shared. However, whether it's for the discussions the Sainbury's video raises it's clearly overtaken Monty. I imagine much of the sharing was tied up with the feelings of Remembrance Sunday and the poignant artistic installation of poppies at the Tower of London. But if Sainsbury's goal was to generate social chatter then they've definitely won.

What this actually all equates to in cold hard post-Christmas financial figures we'll just have to wait and see. When you compare direct sales of merchandise that the ads promote, I imagine John Lewis will come out on top. With official Monty penguins selling for £95, alongside a range of other Monty based produce versus Sainsbury's chocolate bars which retail for £1 it seems pretty clear. However, for overall brand awareness in boosting pre-Christmas sales figures, I'm still unsure.

Thoughts? Just add them onto the comments below.

New Home - New Job

New Home - New Job

Many months ago I wrote a post on here about leaving North Devon behind. Well, after an awful lot of discussions, calls and general overall thinking it's been decided that we're off - out of here - the whole family - away, all the way...down to South Devon.

After an incredible amount of wrangling with solicitors, estate agents and a delightful 1.5 hour chat with TalkTalk we're now here in and moved into our new home in Dawlish.

If you're not sure where I'm talking about then cast your mind's back to last winters floods. Dawlish is the place where the train line got washed away. Yeah, that place. Thankfully we're going to a little further inland away from the sea but in walking distance for the warmer weather.

In the intervening months my resolve for leaving for North Devon has grown and grown. It is an exceptionally beautiful part of the world with pristine beaches, stunning countryside and the rest. But that is countered by the incredibly limited work opportunities and a dire transport system. I'm not going to go into any more detail about these, but safe to say that I'm incredibly pleased at not having to use the North Devon Link Road again for a while.

And now for the second big announcement...

A New Job!

For those of you who read my leaving North Devon behind post I was also on the lookout for a new role. Freelancing is fun, but office life is better. Having narrowed down potential locations to either Exeter, Bristol, Reading or London, I've incredibly pleased to say that I'm now going to be working as a Digital Marketing Manager with Optix Solutions, who are based in Marsh Barton, Exeter.

They are a genuinely cracking bunch of friendly people who offer both digital marketing and web design services to a whole range of clients. With some cool offices and a genuinely impressive plan for the future, I'm looking forward to making a proper start in the next couple of weeks.

Plans For the Future

With so many boxes floating around us, the plans for the next couple of months is to settle in properly to South Devon, sort the house out and get this website updated. My cover image of Saunton Beach is going to have to be stored away in place of shot of sunny South Devon.

Looking onwards, I'll be cracking on with work at Optix but will still both be ready and willing to take on any small freelance projects on the side. So if you're keen to know more then just have a look at my home page. Alongside that I'll still adding the occasional post or two on here, so keep a lookout!

Ello, Ello, Ello...Now what do we have here then?

Ello, Ello, Ello...Now what do we have here then?

Ello Background

In recent weeks the word being muttered by those in the digital industries is 'Ello'; The latest social network which has been touted as the new 'Anti-Facebook'. People have been flocking to invite only site, with reports of over 31,000 requests to join being made each hour.

Aside from the debate about whether or not Ello is going to become the next social media network, publicity for it has both spread far and wide, something which few other new social sites have been able to do in recent years. Just have a look at the data from Google trends: 

Ello Trend Screenshot

I managed to bag an invite a couple of days ago so here's my first impressions. And if you're already using the site you can add me at: https://ello.co/danwht.

Ethos:

Although not officially advertising itself as the 'anti-facebook', Ello's mission statement does position itself as the antithesis to Zuckerberg's creation. It has a strong ad free policy and won't pass your data onto any third parties. Perfect for those who are frustrated with how liberally their data is shared elsewhere. 

Design:

Clean, sleek and minimalist it certainly has an aesthetic appeal marking it out from the noise of other social networking sites. The Ello team clearly acknowledge that as the site is still in beta, it's clearly buggy, but I appreciate their honesty with their checklist of future fixes to the site.

How it Works:

Much like every other site you've ever registered with, Ello allows you to add an profile image, tagline and away you go. You add people to follow and they follow you back and share content.

The most distinctive aspect of the site is that when choosing to follow people you can allocate them into two categories 'Friend' or 'Noise', neatly partitioning individuals into people you're genuinely interested in, whilst the others are separated into their own curiosity corner.

Once you login for the first time the site's opening message puts emphasis on people sharing 'quality' content, so as with any new site there is a slew of bearded photographers and graphic designers showcasing their work.

Thoughts:

With the huge amount of recent publicity, Ello has quickly become a viable alternative to Facebook according to the press. Almost all of the aspects of the site are distinctly refreshing and I will be genuinely interested to see how the site evolves.

The one limiting factor though is that it doesn't have any sort of USP. Facebook has it's like button, Twitter its 140 character messages. Pinterest and its pins.

But with Ello?

Well, there isn't really anything.

Positioning about what it isn't deviates from the the positive aspects about what the site is. It will be a great place to network with creative types, but it doesn't offer a whole lot more. You can see photos, status updates and so on, but there isn't anything revolutionary in the way people can create, digest and share content.

We shall wait and see. I'd love to know what other people think of the site, so just stick your comments below. 

Thoughts On Inbound Marketing & 'Quality' Content

Thoughts On Inbound Marketing & 'Quality' Content

What follows is my recent thinking behind the term 'inbound marketing'. If you need a definition, the folks at Hubspot describe it as follows:

"Inbound marketing focuses on creating quality content that pulls people toward your company and product, where they naturally want to be."

And in the words of Google:

"The key to creating a great website is to create the best possible experience for your audience with original and high quality content. If people find your site useful and unique, they may come back again or link to your content on their own websites. This can help attract more people to your site over time."

This paragraph puzzles me a lot.

Why? Because the entire concept of inbound marketing rests on it. The thinking is:

Create great content > Get Links > Better Links = Better Rankings > More Traffic > More Business > More Success.

On paper this should be a relatively easy thing to do but in practice it's incredibly hard. Why?

  • Because you need to out-quality your competitors.

  • And you need to understand that quality content, doesn't mean actually mean quality content.

My Story - The Art of Out Quality-ing 

I'd like to think that the posts I've written on here over the last year and a half would be considered quality content. Most of them aren't life altering treaties but on the whole I would say that they provide something of value. You can see Google's list of what goes into making content valuable here.

Let's see. My content:

It's useful and informative. It's credible. It's unique content and it's engaging.

I actually put quite a bit of time and effort in creating some original. The one item that it's probably doesn't qualify for in Google's grand checklist is that it's more valuable and useful that other sites.

Of course it isn't. Why would it be? 

The issue is that fundamentally as a one-man marketing machine I don't have the time or resources to compete with other major players in the industry. Some marketing companies invest millions into content creation and promotion. This brings with it the ability to create more content, more quickly, and in turn gain more links, more quickly. So they dominate the rankings for search terms in Google.

Even if I became the next Shakespeare, my website is fundamentally not powerful enough to rank for a search term which could attract viewers.

But this is where the issue of inbound marketing becomes apparent. I *should* be able to create the best blog post on the planet, sit back and watch the links and traffic roll in. 

But that won't happen. Until I've got some traffic and links how would anyone ever come across me? It's like opening a store in the middle of nowhere and expecting customers to visit purely because you stock the best products without doing any form of advertising.

The answer up till now has been to promote your content via social media. A tweet here, a Facebook post there. It should all be good. Unfortunately not.

With the algorithmic changes which have transformed Facebook over the last few years (and the recent announcement that Twitter plans to follow suit with a filtering algorithm of their own) it's become harder and harder to actively get your content in front of relevant eyes. 

Unless you have deep pockets of course. Which I don't.

So the budget based alternatives include good old outreach; finding influencers and so forth who can sound their trumpets to the online world to show you how good you really are. 

But then it's isn't really inbound marketing in my view. It's marketing. And this was wonderfully summarised in this recent post from Raven Tools blog.

And that's if your content is any good...

Quality don't mean Quality

As I've said the content I think the content I produce isn't half bad. But what does Google think? Unfortunately words like 'quality' and 'value' are subjective adjectives.

Like great painters one persons interpretation of a canvas could proclaim it's revolutionary. The other person thinks it's crap. But in Google's eyes...

Well, Google doesn't have eyes. It can't tell you what's quality or not. It can only go on the mechanical interactions that its search engines and traffic have with your web page. Things like bounce rates or acquisition of links can influence how valuable something is and therefore where it should rank in Google.

But it doesn't mean it's any good. 

Take recent, almost-to-burst-into-the-mainstream 'celebrity' Alfie Dayes, who with his rather awkward, off the wall vlogs has gained an audience of almost 3 million YouTube subscribers. After launching his own book, he's now overnight sitting at the top of Amazon's book chart, with even the Telegraph writing a piece about 'Who on earth is  Alfie Dayes?'

The book (and the vlogging culture adored by tweens across the world) was rather brilliantly ripped apart by this article from Vice.com. One of the points I picked up on was the quality of the book, as well as the quality of his videos just isn't that high quality. 

It's banal, and like the name of his book a little bit pointless. It'll probably go the way of the Crazy Frog, or Harry Potter and the Mysterious Ticking Noise. Remember them? It's not even that valuable. It's provides a quick laugh but quickly loses it's appeal. 

But again I'm not a machine and instead of assessing quality, or value what Google is really seems to be assessing is popularity.

Maybe Google should reword it's guidelines. Because a piece of software cannot yet perceive quality, or the value that a piece of content can create, it should maybe should focus on creating popularity.

So the solutions? 

  • Find a untapped/low competition source of relevant traffic to either post your content on/or pay to advertise.

  • Fall back on traditional methods of marketing.

Whatever you do, don't imagine that inbound marketing with a 'build it and they will come outlook' is going to bring you much success unless it's tied into a much larger set of marketing tactics.

3 things I wish I'd been told before I started out in online marketing

3 things I wish I'd been told before I started out in online marketing

I've been in a reflective mood recently. Plenty of things have been changing (all for the better) but it makes you think about the steps you've taken in the past to get to where you are now.

I've been working in the world of online marketing for over 4.5 years now. Not a long period of time to some - but when it comes to the changes that have taken place since 2010, it makes you realize how rapidly the industry has been evolving.

Back then it was an era where Instagram, Google+ and the Panda update still didn't exist. Twitter was still new to me and I'd just about given up using MSN Messenger. Those were the days.

But before I launched into this career path there were a bunch of things I wish I could have told my younger self. So here they are. If you agree, disagree or just have a thought you're just dying to share then stick them on the comments below.

The Goalposts move - a lot.

The way in which the online world is shifting is scary. It's amazing -  but it's scary too.

With so many things transforming in the digital world, from technical SEO updates to the latest viral trends it's been really hard to keep up with what I feel I should know.

I spend at least a couple of hours a week sifting through posts finding new things to read about. But you don't learn. You develop. The reason being that what you 'learn' might not actually be correct. From crappy experts dishing out the wrong advice, to the lack of formal qualifications out there you can never be 100% sure that what you're learning is right in everyone's eyes. And even if what you've learnt is 'correct' it still might provide the best solution. And then 6 months later everything has changed again. So you develop instead.

So be prepared to do some serious reading to keep up to date with everything that's happening.

It's REALLY dull (sometimes).

The devil is in the detail with marketing. Aside from needing to be super organised there is a lot of mindless research and number crunching that is at the foundation of everything you do.

And producing it is sometimes really dull. Hours of copying and pasting, sifting through websites or getting Excel formulas to work is part and parcel of the job. (Sometimes though it's kinda fun when you can just plug in some decent music and go on autopilot to get the job done.)

But the best bit for me though is seeing the results this kind of data provides. Seeing a sale, conversion of an increase in traffic is always my star moment when all those long hours have been instrumental in making that action happen.

So, make sure you have a decent Itunes collection and a tolerance for boredom.

It's hard to switch off.

As the online world takes up such a large part of my day-to-day life, it's hard to switch from thinking of it as work one minute and not work the next.

So, when I'm not working I still find myself occasionally flicking through backlink profiles to see why a site is ranking. Or trying to understand how why I keep being offered weird ads on Facebook. Or why Vine is just so popular (something which continues to perplex me). The list goes on.

But the reason I do this is that I enjoy it. The downside is that it makes it hard to actually stop thinking about all things digital when you should be concentrating on other things. You need time to wind down. So because of this I try to make an active effort to switch off.

I don't tweet on the weekends and make an effort to turn off my computer by the same time each night. As well as helping to keep the distinction between work and not work, it gives me time to focus, relax and often acts as good source of inspiration for online ideas.

So by setting boundaries and making down time for yourself massively helps.

You'll NEVER guess what this guy thinks about clickbait headlines...

You'll NEVER guess what this guy thinks about clickbait headlines...

If you've seen a headline like the one above recently then you're not alone. The clickbait headlines are seriously growing in number. After writing this I'm still not sure how I feel about them, but here's an overview of why they're so important in the online world.

Let's go back to basics. Clickbait is generally mediocre content packaged with a super appealing headline that will posses your finger to click a link even if you don't want to.

Once the preserve of the spammy pop-up advert (remember when you were you the millionth visitor to the site and won a prize) they're now being used to much more by sites which are anything but spam.

The one website which typifies the use of the Clickbait headline is Buzzfeed. If you haven't come across it you'll be greeted with a page which headlines like:

24 Things All Perfectionists Have Nightmares About

You Probably Missed This One Thing In The First “Harry Potter” Film

29 Little Things Guys Can Do To Instantly Be More Attractive

Click on any of these and you'll be normally be met with a long old page full of listicles, GIF's, videos and quizzes showing everything that you could easily live without.

Everyone knows the reason why it's popular - do you? 

There's been a lot of discussions about why this sort of content is so popular, after all humanity would not collapse if people didn't know about the '21 Things you should never say to people who are Gluten Free'. But why are companies posting this sort of thing? 

People are bored. People have the internet. Produce enough compelling shareable content that appeals to the biggest and broadest worldwide demographic and you have yourself a winning business strategy.

The gluten free article was posted 2 days ago since writing this and has racked up an incredible 25k shares on Facebook and 446k page views. Multiply this by all the articles on the site and you're talking about an audience of many millions. The most popular article on the site currently is 'Which US President are you' which has so brought in 1.88 million shares in the last 6 months alone.

Why does that traffic matter? 

You can make a serious amount of money.

With Buzzfeed it's all about advertising. They allow companies in who have sponsored articles (known as native advertising) to promote themselves. Just have a look at this post from Transport for London.

Alternative you can just stick advertising on the site and get paid for each click that you send that way. It brings in a serious amount of money. Just have a read through the Viperchill blog posts on others are doing it. One guy is reportedly made $400,000 in a single month.

You'll never be able to guess what's going to happen next? 

If this was something that was happening in a bubble then all would be well, but it seems to be starting to panic major news providers as Buzzfeed has started making in roads to become a serious news provider. Just have a look at this article from the Guardian.

As traditional papers lament the decline of their readership figures as the world moves to online sources for their news, publishers are trying to find a way to bring in extra revenue and are taking a leaf out of Buzzfeeds' book.

These are some of the headlines recently from the Guardian:

  • Psst! Your phone is snooping on you. What you need to know and how to stop it – video

  • Are these the best concert films of all time?

and from the Telegraph:

  • Ice Ice Baby: 10 best ice-bucket challenge videos

  • Should you be intimidated by a swan?

  • How to write the perfect LinkedIn profile in 7 Steps.

I don't know if this is the same for other news publications elsewhere, but it seems like a tacky tone to take when newspapers pride themselves on traditional meaningful headlines and journalism. 

Admittedly these sorts of headlines I picked out above are more difficult to find. The rest of their content is traditionally what you'd expect from the papers. If you want a perfect example of somewhere between the two try the Huffington Post.

But why write headlines like these? To make content go 'viral' > To gain traffic > To gain ad clicks.

The Guardian relies on driving this traffic to more 'traditional online adverts - if there is such a thing. If you look at the bottom of a Telegraph page you'll get regular ads, Google ads and 'sponsored stories' i.e links to other articles across the web. 

The one question that keeps business owners awake at night

Now even Moz is beginning to question it's own approach to generating traffic though headlines. Of course, you want your content to be read and shared, but not at the cost of delivering lower quality more broadly appealing headlines.They'll test and figure it out I'm sure.

It then makes me think about my own blogging and writing generally, should I have called my recent post on destination marketing in Australia.

Streuth - 3 campaigns that have transformed how we visit down under

I'd rather be honest. After all if you've read this far you're hopefully not in the mood to piss about with a quiz on how Swedish you are? (Yes that is another genuine Buzzfeed quiz).

What it does show is that the landscape in which journalism and content is created is still evolving at a rapid rate, one in which Buzzfeed has done incredibly well out of.

How it develops I don't want to say, but my money wouldn't be on it being a long term success story. Things change and the hype about the hype will eventually blow over. Remember how excited everyone was about MySpace back in the day. How about now? 

For now I'm keeping my content style - and their headlines - the same as ever.

How to Search Flickr more Effectively

How to Search Flickr more Effectively

Ah, Flickr - the photo sharing site for over 87 million people around the world. 

What I love about Flickr is that you can use certain photos from there for blog posts. You can even use some of them for commercial use, but that's a discussion for another time. Think of it - a whole fantastic library of photos to use for your projects. The number of photos stored in their run into the billions. 

But finding the perfect photo? That's a bit of an issue.

Think of Flickr as a colossal library. Now instead of employing a librarian, they've asked everyone who donates a book to classify it and shelve it where they think best. The result is that it's a mess, a real mess. A mess librarians would hate.

And although the perfect photo on Flickr might exist, finding it is another matter. 

Flickr uses the data users add about the photo to file them including titles, tags, locations etc, so it should be a pretty robust system, but time again the search engine just doesn't seem to work like it should. 

So here's 3 ways to make searching through the vaults a little more effective when you can't find an image:

Speak French...

Or German, or Polish, Spanish. Any other language that you aren't searching in. Although Flickr is used internationally it still uses the names of images provided by users to categorise photos. And as people use different names for things, you can find a whole lot of similar images all with a different name. Here's an example.

Last week I had a project where I needed to find images of Dandelions (don't ask.) You know the weedy yellow flowers, loved by rabbits, which turn into the things you blow to tell the time. After exhausting a Dandelion search in English, I realised that they're not called Dandelions elsewhere. In French they're 'Pissenlit' in German 'Löwenzahn', Finnish - 'voikukka' - you get the idea. And there you had hundreds more images that you never would have come across otherwise. 

Search Geographically

If you're looking for more photos of a specific place, then do this:

  • Open up any photo and scroll down to see the information.
  • On the right hand side there is often a map of where it's taken.
  • Click that and you'll have a completely different bunch of photos to look through based on geography.

Part of the data which Flickr has is the geo-tag of an image, (normally the longitude and latitude of where the image was taken,) which often is rather different to what you search for by keyword

Search Authors

If you still can't find the perfect image then try the following:

  • Open up a photo and see it comes from an album. Album photos are closely related by theme (most of the time) so you can see what else the author has taken shots of.
  • Open up the authors profile to see their other images. Although most collections are pretty varied (and often number into the thousands) you can come across images that you probably would never have otherwise found. 

If they have too many images to search through though:

Open up the authors profile and then open up their tag list (click on the three dots on the far right hand side of the authors profile.) This brings an alphabetical list of everything they've tagged. As this grows over time it's never going to be perfect, but can you can go through this to see any spelling mistakes or variations on keywords. So just say your searching for 'trees'. You could find 'tree' 'trees' 'leaves' 'autumn' 'woods' and so on to make searching easier.

All of this still takes some digging around, but it definitely opens up the options for images which you wouldn't otherwise find. 

If you have any other tips for searching Flickr then stick them on the comments below!