Category Archives: social networking

who are we really?

In a world where animosity is so readily available it’s easy to recreate our personas for so many different purposes.

You have Facebook for your personal life; the fun me, the wild me, the chilled out me. You have Linkedin for your professional persona; the intelligent, robust, dedicated and ambitious me, twitter for whatever persona you choose, or a mix if you dare, YouTube for your more frivolous side that doesn’t mind being exploited in glorious motion and then Flickr, Bebo, Foursquare and so on.

But when online who are we really talking to? Everyone remembers the story of the married, lazy, overweight couple in the US that recreated themselves on second life as something akin to Barbie and Ken right? They ended up divorcing in real life because he cheated on her with Cindy in their virtual life. That’s not really the point though; the point is we have two sloths sat on a sofa with no life which suddenly become the envy of everyone as the picture of perfection in their virtual life.

So are we talking to the real couple or the false couple?

Zuckerberg (CEO of Facebook) has always stood by his premise that transparency will take over but there are plenty of sceptics out there who would argue otherwise. I’m guilty of it myself; I tend to be select with photos before publishing them for the world to see and even when I’m writing on here I’m conscious of who might be reading this.

Then there’s the question of who controls our identity online? Do we as the creator or do our friends, colleagues or even the teams running the social sites in the first place? Is the world going to become more open or are we going to live two lives in tandem?

Who are we online? Who are we really? Who are we going to become? Will we get lost in the transparent world or will we all embed our replicate personas online?

If Facebook achieve their goal of a universal identity system then will technology gain master over humans or will the internet remain a powerful tool for society?

Cyber food for thought that’s for sure…

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Search Marketing explained

Last year the search marketing industry was worth £2.15 billion.

That sounds like quite a bit of money doesn’t it, especially if you don’t really understand what it is and why it’s an integral part of your marketing mix.

Most brands/ businesses have now understood that the internet is here to stay and that if they are going to survive they need to have a presence in front of their consumers online. So, let’s take a quick look at what it’s all about and how to get the most out of search for your objectives.

So what is search media?

Search is not just about SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) and PPC (Pay Per Click), in fact there are many aspects to a search campaign which, could further include; Google content placement targeting (otherwise known as GDN – Google Display Networks), Search Affiliates (networks of websites that you can place media on through a partner), Universal Search (which includes news feeds, video and images), Search re-targeting (specifically targeting those that have already engaged with one of your ads), Social Search, Mobile search, Live search… the list goes on.

That sounds interesting I hear you say but what does that actually mean? The bottom line is by adding search to your marketing mix YOU WILL strengthen your online presence, increase your visibility and in turn increase your business revenue.

And what makes a good plan?

At the offset you need to have a clear objective, do you want to increase awareness or generate sales leads for example. Quite often the conversion is the most important aspect of a plan but also the part that is given least attention. If you have a search plan that doesn’t complete the whole journey then you will likely end up spending money on traffic but losing money on conversions.

Ensure that your plan includes detailed cost breakdown and an attribution of value to each stage of clicks along the user journey. It should have detailed audience demographics and targeting information. If you have an agency doing the plan, interrogate the drop off rates and conversion rates for each stage of the journey, challenge how they will maintain visibility against competitors and ask about their management and optimisation. It’s all very well getting a campaign up and running but the internet bidding world is fierce and you need to stay on top of it.

It’s also a good idea to test your creative whether Ad copy, display or further along the user journey on your landing pages. Try a couple of versions; this is known as A/B or multivariate testing. Which creative performs better? You may find one gets higher CTR but the other drives more actions, work to get the message right for your user.

How do you maximise on your return.

Businesses are shifting their spend to be more weighted towards digital with a focus on PPC and SEO but most are still keen to see more spent on search media in general. Feedback shows that they feel they have an at least adequate return for spend due to its track-ability and therefore accountability.

But is adequate enough? Hardly, continually challenge the cost to conversion, what are you paying per click and how many clicks are you getting (CPC to CTR), are you scaling the spend in line with the reach, unlike some traditional media planning models, online search is very manageable and controllable so take advantage. Always remember to review against your original objectives; what did you decide was going to deem this campaign successful? Is it?

Is that it?

Hopefully that gives you a basic understanding of what search marketing is about but remember it’s a constant cycle:

Plan, Challenge, Review, Optimise, Plan, Challenge, Review, Optimise, Plan, Challenge… you get the idea.

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Is privacy dead?

We’re all used to ticking opt out boxes to keep our details hidden but in a world where everyone is connected over the media of the internet, is the ability to control who has access really that secure?

I’ve had this debate with so many clients, friends and family members and it comes hand in hand with just about every mention of Facebook (I’ll point out now that 95% of these conversations are with older generations).

How many times have I heard ‘But I don’t want people to know what I’m up to every minute of the day’ and then two seconds later a shrieking squeal followed by ‘Ooh look at that picture, my how he’s grown! Quick flick through the other pictures so I can see…’

There are many critics of the internet, Steve Rambam a private investigator specialising in internet cases once said ‘Privacy is dead – get over it’. He may be right, if someone digs hard enough they could probably find some dirt on me but I publicly display what I want people to see and control how that is presented. It seems more that it’s the lack of understanding that people are afraid of.

So in simple words these are the things you need to check for if you’re nervous:

  • Who your information will be passed to
  • Why the information is being collected (if you allow it to be)
  • How the information will be used and when
  • How you can access information the organisation holds about you

All this can be found in any disclaimer for any site you visit or use.

With particular reference to Facebook, read this blog by my friend and colleague Jim. Here he talks specifically about Facebook Privacy. I think you’ll find it very useful.

I don’t really have an answer for you all, being immersed in the digital world I suppose I have more trust in it, I’m just as wary of the next door neighbour who constantly tries to steal my raspberries, the man in the shop who tries to short change me and the estate agents not doing a very good job of selling my house. None of whom I deal with online.

I guess really it’s just having the understanding to make an informed decision about what you share… what do you think?

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What’s all this noise about?

Social media is often met with scepticism when you’re trying to entice a client into their brand interaction world online. The majority don’t want to poke their head above the parapet for fear of being shot down in flames by their consumers, but really it’s not that scary if you approach it in a sensible way.

Start with monitoring what people say about your brand, you can subscribe to services such as Brandwatch to do this. Companies like this will gather data from all different types of blogs including micro blogs like twitter, plus larger blogs like WordPress and Blogger. It will also gather information on your mentions from video and image sites like YouTube and Flickr plus social networks and news sites to name but a few.

Once collected the data is cleansed and analysed for you. By subscribing to a brand monitoring service you will be able to filter through all the online noise and establish who is saying what about your brand including what they’re saying, where they’re saying it and how often. Is it positive or negative? Are other people responding?

By understanding the platform of social interaction surrounding your brand you will be better placed to engage in a considered and appropriate way.

If you’re still not sure most services such as Brandwatch offer a free trial or demo so have  look around and see who’s talking about you.

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Foursquare: The Facts

Foursquare was founded by Dennis Crowley and Naveen Selvadurai.

Foursquare is a location-based social networking website and game.

Foursquare is built primarily for smart phones.

Foursquare has more than 600,000 people checking in at this moment in time.

Foursquare grew more than 10% during one conference (SXSW). That hasn’t been done since Twitter.

Foursquare employ 16 people. The square root of 4 is 16… See what they did there?

If you want to know more, check out their blog.

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Is social media right for my brand?

I get asked this A LOT!

Today was no exception. Social media has fundamentally altered online marketing by opening up the way that consumers can share information, create information and ultimately therefore, add or take, value from that information.

Your brand is no longer in your control online, the conversation is happening but the question clients are afraid to answer is whether they should be a part if it…

The hype that surrounds social media can make it difficult to distinguish which factors will effectively integrate into your overall strategy, but with the right strategy in place it can revolutionise how you communicate with your consumers.

The key to success is the approach. Setting up a Twitter page or Facebook page and asking people to follow your brand or ‘like’ you won’t work. To effectively cut through all the noise your brand needs an informed social media strategy.

Carefully considered insights, best practice case studies and real-time monitoring of your brands buzz will help inform how to implement the most effective social media activity in line with your wider marketing plan. With ongoing monitoring of the conversations sparked online you can then build upon this to inform your brand decisions moving forwards, this information has proved invaluable to thousands of brands already.

I will say again though it does need to be planned, failure to effectively target your consumers can leave you open to ridicule across the web, so I guess my answer is; Social Media can be right for your brand if planned and implemented in line with a relevant and considered strategy. Don’t just jump on the bandwagon for the sake of it.

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What does Facebook publish about you and your friends?

Facebook privacy has been a hot topic for a while now, it’s certainly something I get asked a lot about by those not too familiar with the privacy settings.

Because the settings are too ‘hidden’ or difficult to understand for a vast amount of users, the result is a lot of personal information being publicly available which some users might not want air.

Coupled with the fact that Facebook aren’t particularly forthcoming with how to use the privacy settings it’s no wonder there’s still nervousness around a social network that equals the 4th biggest country in the world.

So if you really want to find out what people can publicly see then here’s a handy tool to help you. This tool requests all data from Facebook’s new api to see what information is available, you simply enter your Facebook username, name, email address or a related keyword and it will display all the information  publicly available.

Be warned you might be suprised at just how much is broadcast…

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Wave 4 is on the horizon

Microsoft have announced the arrival of the latest version of Windows Live Messenger “Wave 4”.

It’s the latest way to collaborate all your social networks, video chats, photo sharing and cloud integration (similar to Facebook Connect) plus it offers integration with other websites so you can share your thoughts with your friends wherever in the virtual world they are.

Video chat comes in HD, the navigation is tabbed and easier to use – meaning multiple flashing windows are a thing of the past – plus it’s available for download for the Windows Phone 7 and iPhone. The beta version should be launched this summer. If you can’t wait that long to find out more the watch this video.


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Blip in the transaction

Blippy, the latest product from Twitter, has encountered some issues in the early days of it’s launch.

Featuring stores such as, iTunes, Amazon, Zappos, Blockbuster and eBay, Blippy provides tweets on who spent what and where…

To add to the seemingly pointless nature of Blippy if you do decide to share your purchase details you could be sharing more than you bargained for as credit card details were found through Google search on Friday, after a data leak…

Rather than who bought what, I think I’d be asking myself why and who cares?

That said it could be a useful awareness building tool for brands if it does take off… maybe.

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Pandora marries Facebook

Soooo…the top online radio service and the world’s largest and most successful social network have solidified a plan for domination of the virtual world.

It seems that you can share music with your friends with no catch (really?) and integrate your Pandora and Facebook accounts without a real-time irritating update of what you’re listening to (really… really?). Pandora pay the license, facebook opens it up…

There are countless other similar music services but if you do the basic math, Pandora + Facebook = bloody easy way to get the music/ life balance.

Following on from my earlier post (which didn’t quite work thanks to the lack of ‘Like’ widgets for WordPress) Facebook will include ‘Like’ buttons which users can embed on other websites, by doing this Pandora can then provide you with the most update musical trends based on what you ‘Like’. Easy peasy.

It’s early days but I guess we’ll find out soon enough whether this genius partnering will come to fruition.

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