Tuesday, 3 January 2012

We're moving!

Effective immediately, I will be posting at http://mikeberryassociates.com.

Hope to see you there soon.



Mike Berry

Saturday, 12 November 2011

Hey, What's The Rush?

I read recently that in the 'Browser Wars',  Microsoft’s Internet Explorer’s share has dipped below 50% of all users (on all devices, globally).  Lest we forget, in 2004, IE’s share was 95%. Firefox was the first real challenger to IE and continues to gain ground, but the big winner is Google Chrome, which positions itself as a new, fast browser.

‘New’ is a familiar advertising copy word which has been proven to be effective (after all, new must be ‘improved’…). But what about ‘fast’? The car manufacturers aren’t allowed to sell ‘speed’ any more but browser makers still can.

Google announced last year that page load speed was going to be ‘a ranking factor’ for a website in its search results. In other words, the faster your page loads, indeed the faster your whole site is to respond to a user’s click, the more likely it is that Google will recommend it when someone searches for a relevant keyword term. Fair enough,  we know ‘user experience’ is important and waiting for a site to do what you’ve asked it to is boring; in the Internet Age, we’re all accustomed to instant results and instant gratification. We don’t like to wait: in short, we have a need for speed.

Moreover, as increasingly demanding web users, we don’t want streaming videos to buffer; i.e. if we’re on the web and on YouTube, we want to click on a video and have it play right through, in the highest available definition, perfectly without freezing or stuttering. And we want the same experience on all devices; PC, Tablet, Mobile phone. As you may have noticed, generally speaking, we’re not there yet.

The earliest web connections were via 56kb/ second modems. Anything faster than this was deemed to be ‘broadband’. Now there’s a global dash for speed; countries are vying with each other to provide a better infrastructure and faster average speeds. It’s almost become a matter of national pride (perhaps replacing the flag-flying airlines of the late 20th Century!). The current holy grail is ‘fibre to premises’; ie a fibre optic cable that goes all the way to the user’s computer rather than to a cabinet at the end of the street from which point old copper wires take over (and slow everything down).

In world terms, the leaders (for average Broadband speed) are The Netherlands, South Korea and Japan.

Europe dominates the list of top ten countries with the highest broadband connectivity.However, Asian cities dominate the list of the 100 fastest cities in the world, with 10 South Korean cities and Japan alone having 59 cities.
Brno, in the Czech Republic, is the fastest-ranked city in Europe and is only ranked No. 55. Eighteen U.S. cities are on the top 100 list, with San Jose being the fastest —ranked 9 out of 100. The average speed in San Jose was 13.7 Mbps. San Jose also had the highest peak speed in the U.S., 38.7 Mbps.

The South Korean city of Taegu is the fastest city in the world, with an average Mbps of 15.8 Mbps. South Korea’s Taejon had the highest peak speed, 55.3 Mbps.

The UK is trailing in 25th place.

In mobile, we’re waiting for 4G: the next generation mobile networks which will power a new age of superfast speeds on the move, via smartphones and tablets.

The adoption of these new technologies is patchy and driven by entrepreneurs as well as governments. Trials are underway in an unlikely group of locations (including  RussiaCornwall and Jersey?).

But will broadband speeds ever be ‘enough’? How much bandwidth does a household actually need? Once 4 family members are streaming HD video perfectly, is that sufficient? What about businesses, or travellers on the move? Finland last year made broadband a 'legal right' of every citizen, but how fast should this be?

Indeed, will we soon reach the point where we are surrounded by a ubiquitous superfast Wi-Fi cloud so we don’t need to choose a coffee shop, hotel lobby or airport lounge with one eye on the data deal?

In this rush for ever faster speeds, who are the real winners likely to be? Well, in short:

a)   the consumer
b)   companies who have built and maintain fast websites.

So Google Chrome browser is fast and it’s growing impressively, taking share from Microsoft’s Internet explorer in particular.

Google Chrome Operating System (OS) is perhaps the first real challenger to Windows as a PC operating system and again it’s all about - speed. The first Chromebooks (Samsung, Acer, …) typically boot faster than other machines. With more and more data in the Cloud and not saved on our hard drives, PCs will boot faster and faster. Manufacturers are racing to satisfy the demands of impatient users.

And by the way, how long are we prepared to wait for our computer to ‘boot up’?. Well, now you ask, why should we need to wait at all? After all, how long does it take for an electric light to come on? Or a car to start up? Or a radio or TV set? Even our mobile phone is faster to get started than our PC. But this will change.
So what does all this mean for marketers? Just that the bar has been raised: the best sites are getting faster. Users are starting to expect this level of responsiveness.  As Google once said, disloyalty is only one click away; keep them waiting, and the users could easily choose to head back to a site that does what they want it to...So does your site need to be faster than a speeding bullet to have any chance of getting to Page 1 on the Google results? Not necessarily. Content is still king, and relevance is still royal (OK I just made that one up) but speed is certainly getting more and more important.

To see how fast your site is, check out Google Page Speed  http://code.google.com/speed/page-speed/

Brands are starting to get the message. Good web designers are now building faster sites and some older sites may find themselves left in the slow lane. So you should check out how your site stacks up. And you’d better be quick...

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Facebook addresses privacy concerns...(again)

Do you care who knows what about you? Of course you do; face-to-face, we all share different stuff with friends, family, work colleagues and strangers. It should be the same in social networks. I believe many social media users are guilty of 'unintentional oversharing' and that it is the duty of the social networks to remind people exactly what they are sharing with whom and to give them the opportunity to change their privacy settings easily.

I just read that Facebook now has close to 800 million users. Wow. Not bad in less than 8 years. But how much does Facebook know about you, your friends and your family? Are you completely comfortable with that? Do you trust them not to abuse this trust inadvertently? Or even not to go 'evil'? And do you always know exactly what details you are sharing on Facebook?

Recently a German Regional Privacy Watchdog, the ULD, took the serious step of instructing website owner sites in Schleswig-Holstein to close their Facebook pages and remove 'Like' buttons from  their websites. They have until the end of September to comply, or risk prohibition orders and fines of up to €50,000. Yeah: they can do that. Other regulatory authorities may follow. And not just in Germany.

But wait; check out this video. This new announcement suggests Facebook may, at last, be genuinely responding to users' privacy concerns in a major way. The Social Media giant is changing radically the way Facebook users control their privacy; starting immediately. In the new Facebook, items posted online will each have their own sharing settings, which will determine exactly who can see them i.e. each posting will have its own privacy settings. When users are tagged in a posting (eg a video or a photo) they will be able to confirm or remove their identity before it appears on their profile.

And there's more:

  • Every item on a user's wall will have its own individual privacy options, (e.g. public, friends and custom). You will get the ability to remove a tag of yourself, OR to ask the person who tagged you to remove it, OR to block the tagger
  • Users will be able to tag anyone, not only their Facebook friends. Then that person can choose not to accept the tagged post onto their profile. Users can ask for tags of them to be removed or have the content deleted completely
  • Geographic locations can be added in all versions of Facebook, not just the mobile app
  • The option to see how others see your profile will be added above the news feed
  • When Facebook members share a piece of content for the first time, their default suggestion will be 'public' (instead of the current "everyone" setting). If a user selects a different option, that will then be their default. 
Of all the changes, pre-approving photo tags must be the biggest and should help to make Facebook even more attractive to many users.

Facebook has promised there won't  be any 'unexpected' changes to users' privacy settings as part of the update process. We shall see...

This new policy represents an attempt by Facebook to address persistent criticism about how members manage (or fail to manage) their personal information. Some have speculated that Facebook might be adjusting its privacy controls in preparation for the extension of Facebook to kids under 13; Mark Zuckerberg has previously indicated he thinks this is a good idea. Facebook have officially expressed the hope that the changes will safeguard users and counter malicious tagging, often used by 'cyberbullies' who like to add other people's names to 'dodgy' images.

Is Facebook only making these changes because it believes it must? Indeed some have suggested Mark Zuckerberg doesn't really understand the concept of privacy, since 'his life is his work' and that he thinks the people complaining are being over-sensitive. However this is to underestimate him. Zuckerberg is certainly not naive and he knows he needs to tread carefully here. For instance, Facebook now acknowledges that it is not acceptable to hide privacy settings in out-of-the-way places and hard-to-find 'account settings' menus.

Many will say these changes are long overdue. So why now? Some will suggest the real reason for the new Facebook 'selective sharing' is a response to the 'Circles' feature of the new Google+ social network...Facebook is not exactly waiting around for Google+ to catch up. It has announced its intention to complete 20 acquisitions this year (11 so far).

Marketers are naturally very interested in those 800 million potential customers and the mega 'dwell time' they spend on the Facebook site. If these new changes keep Facebook growing, advertisers will keep spending on Facebook Advertising and investing time in their Facebook pages, generating even more traffic and revenue for the site which would be good news ahead of its much mooted IPO (early in 2012?).

Whatever Facebook's beliefs about its members' privacy rights, I'm sure we can expect more changes from Facebook soon to strengthen its position and to try to see off the new challenger. 800 million is unlikely to be enough for Mr Z...

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Google+. Tell your friends.

We are, anthropologists tell us, social beings. None of us is an island. As members of 'society', we have connections, of different types, with various fellow humans. These relationships are created and nurtured by communication, i.e. talking, writing and, in the digital age, by sharing content electronically. If we're the sort who likes to classify, we can imagine our contacts in groups; labelled (for example) 'family', 'co-workers', 'thought leaders', 'celebrities' and, of course, 'friends'.

We don't talk with everyone in the same way, or about the same things. We wouldn't share the same stuff with our mates, with Lady Gaga, with our Boss, with our Parents or with our Kids. Most of us dress for work. A night out with the girls or the guys might feature different content, and indeed vocabulary, from a family Wedding and from the Monday Morning Status Meeting at the office. That is of course why we have both Facebook and LinkedIn. Privacy is a flexible concept; most of us share selectively. (Could someone please explain this to Mark Zuckerberg?).

We're living in exciting times. Google+ has just been launched.

Well actually it hasn't yet; it's still in a 'Field Trial'. Right now, across the 'interwebs', Techies, Bloggers, Geeks and Social Media Gurus (if any really exist) are fighting to get their hands on an invitation and then obsessing about every granular detail of what is still an embryonic platform. There are of course plenty of other social networks out there and this one might turn out to be a dead duck. But this is Google, so we should pay attention. Google is being fairly picky about who gets hold of Google+ and we can be sure they're watching and listening carefully to see what we all think i.e. whether they've got it right. (Luckily they have Social Media Monitoring to assist and checking out G+ posts would be a good start). And it's still a work in progress; expect changes. We're some way away from a full launch; indeed Google+ will only really take off if and when friends start recommending it to friends in large numbers, at which time it could spread virally...Facebook better keep announcing 'awesome' things...

So what's all the fuss about? Well Google have had two previous attempts at 'cracking' Social Media; namely Google Wave (too complex) and Google Buzz (err...we went there but nothing happened; let's blame everyone else). Having played with Google+ for the past week, I'm here to tell you this is their best attempt yet. It might even be the first genuine challenger to the mighty Facebook which has recently appeared to stall in the US and Western Europe while still pressing on relentlessly towards 1 billion users globally.

The Google+ user interface is pleasing; Google has taken a lot of trouble considering the platform is still in 'Beta'; the design is clean and attractive and the usability is great; it's easy to navigate your way around.

But we know good ideas often fail. Can Google, at the third time of asking, persuade people to submit to the pain and inconvenience of changing their social networking behaviour by offering something whcih is clearly different and better? (and can it take hold faster than Facebook can copy its cool new features?) Well: it just might.

Google+ features Circles, Hangouts, Sparks and The Stream.


This is great: It’s a hybrid; somewhere between friending and following. You can put different contacts into different groups and target your updates at certain 'circles' only. This neatly resolves issues of what personal updates you don’t want prospective employers or colleagues (or your Mum) to see and, with this feature, Google+ could be seen as a threat both to Facebook and LinkedIn. You can put anyone in a circle, and they can choose whether to reciprocate. Crucially, regardless of whether someone you’ve added to your circles chooses to 'circle' you back, you'll see their public updates.

The animations for creating, deleting and modifying circles are nice and an incentive to move people in and out of your circles. If Google+ does take off, the circles idea could turn out to be its 'killer app'...

Unless of course it's:


OMG:  arguably the coolest feature of Google +, which currently gives it an edge over any other social network out there.

This is a group video chat function. Of course we also have Skype's new video chat service. But for millions of Google+ users, Hangouts could be a fantastically attractive feature. A casual, relaxed place for a video chat with your mates, family or colleagues. The future of social networking(?), this could be the 'clincher' for many Google+ users. (And could be a threat not only to Facebook but also to Fast Food restaurants, Bars and Shopping Malls, not to mention Second Life...)

Google has obviously put a lot of thought into the design of Hangouts, even letting users mute video or audio and giving you a second to make sure you’re presentable (clothes, hair and make-up) before joining the chat.

Not only does the group video chat feature function beautifully, but Google has neatly integrated YouTube into Hangouts so you can all watch a video together. (Remember how we all used to gather round the TV set?). There is a push-to-talk feature when you’re watching a video as a group.

To start a Hangout, you just press a button declaring you are open to hanging out, you choose which Circle(s) of friends to send the invite to, and up to 10 people can be in the room at any one time. The group can collectively talk or watch YouTube videos together. And it's so easy. It just works.

Video chat at last. Together with Facebook's Skype calling, this may mark the official turning point for this 70+ year-old technology. Indeed older readers may recall that video calling was predicted by Hanna Barbera in "The Jetsons" cartoons in the '60s, in which a family of 2062 talked on a video phone. In fact Space-Age housewife Jane Jetson never answered it in the morning without first putting her wig on. Pretty impressive futurism. (They missed email and SMS though...)

Skype, now the world’s largest telecoms company (measured by minutes of phone calls) has been offering free group video chat since last year. Facebook and now Google+ have just made it EASY. Suddenly: if you can Farmville, you can video-call any of your contacts with a webcam.

We can get ready for an almighty battle between Facebook and Google around video calling. And if you throw in Apple's FaceTime for iPhone and iPad2, we can include mobile video chat. Watch this space...


With this feature, you can get a feed of things you love, then suggest things that interest you and encourage your circles to talk about them; these used to be called 'conversation pieces' but now we might say 'social objects'.

This is also a great idea, enabling users to list various topics of interest and monitor news about them in one easy-to-find place. No integration with Google Reader yet though?

The Stream

This is like the Facebook News Feed. But better. It pulls in posts made by the people in your Circles. You, and anyone following you, can also +1 or comment on any post. You can also sort your stream by Circles to view selective posts (e.g. work-related stuff or news from your friends), depending on whether you're in work or leisure mode. This for me again puts Google+ ahead of Facebook.

Overall? Exciting. Google+ genuinely appears to be offering something different (and better) on several fronts; some advantages might take a while to become clear e.g. it might also be big for in-depth discussion of news articles - you can write a longer comment than Twitter allows.

So what about Marketing? Already Brands have been all over Google, asking how they can join in the fun. "Not yet!", says Google; in my opinion, wisely. When Google+ is opened up to businesses (as we can be sure it will be), it will need to deliver immediately; that will need careful preparation. Let's remember that Facebook took the time to build a loyal and engaged member base before going all commercial ahead of its IPO. ("Sell at the top" as they say...)

Personally I'm already keen to use Google+ on a regular basis but I don't feel inclined to maintain separate profiles on Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook and Google+, so something has to go. Facebook? LinkedIn? Of course the tipping point will come when (if?) people start to delete their Facebook profile and switch to Google+; this sort of thing can become a stampede... just ask MySpace how it feels to wake up on the floor with a hangover and discover that the party has moved on somewhere else.

Google has achieved massive success in Search. Their Android mobile platform is at last really taking off. It is, of course, very early days, but Google+ could be their 3rd big revenue earner; suddenly Facebook looks vulnerable. How quickly things change in Digital...

I've noticed that most posts on Google+ are about...Google+. Understandably, people are sharing their experiences, their thoughts, hints and tips and advice. Which is, of course, what friends are for...

Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Email marketing: timeless classic or just horribly old-fashioned?

I recently chaired the Econsultancy Client Roundtable for email marketing specialists. Over an afternoon in London, we discussed email marketing - trends, challenges and best practice. Attendees were people who know; they do this stuff every day for major corporations and charities.

The discussion was very stimulating and wide-ranging.

The whole session was held under 'Chatham House Rules'; so I won’t associate specific comments with individuals.

For the expert practitioners who attended the Roundtable, the big issues in email marketing currently include:

Best Practice

·       Deliverability – still a problem: (ISP throttling, Sender Score, data quality etc.)

·       Email challenges with a range of email clients (e.g. MS Office)

·       Customer segmentation models (behavioural triggers and targeting)

·       E-mail as a customer acquisition tool is virtually dead, whereas for Abandoned Shopping Cart reactivation and customer retention, it’s thriving

·       Multi-channel marketing e.g. e-mail + direct mail, + call centres. Lots of evidence of 2=2=5

·       E-mail Video/ audio growing but still problematic

Research and Measurement

·        Open rates are not a great measure  (consider the rise of image-blocking software) but still widespread. Clickthrough rate is a better metric but not enough on its own

·       List, creative, timing make a difference: normally in that order

Budget and Resource allocation

* E-mail marketing still believed to be under-invested (money, time, people) given the revenue it generates. Attitude seems to be  “It’s not broken, so why fix it?” in some organizations

* Resourcing – What to outsource? Where to find people with the right skills? Generally an HR policy decision. Marketing needs to get more involved.

General Discussion

* Deliverability : do emails even reach the inbox? Still a challenge, with ISPs increasingly keen to protect their users from 'unwanted' commercial messages.

* Integration of email and social media – some suggest email is just ‘another social channel’?  Others consider Facebook and Twitter as eCRM channels. It was noted that you need an email address to sign up for Facebook…

* The rise of mobile email – becoming more important, and in some cases, more likely to be opened and read by a mobile user 'killing time'. But most email is still not optimised for mobile…  Few email senders seem to be treating mobile email recipents/ viewers as a separate segment (yet).

* Amazon's Simple Email Service – picture not clear, but may lead to big drop in deliverability prices?

* Gmail Priority Inbox: email marketers need to get their messages into the 'top part' of the inbox. Along with Microsoft’s Windows Live Hotmail and Yahoo! Mail, email clients are increasingly providing webmail interfaces which make it easier for users to sort email and better integrate social media, videos, and photos. It’s all about protecting the user from 'less important' commercial messages, even if they’re not strictly spam…The challenge for email marketers is of course to get into the 'Important and Unread' section, preferably because the recipient actually wants to read the message.

* New Facebook Messages: can’t be ignored owing to Facebook’s scale, but consensus seems to be that the interface may confuse some users, that take-up of the new service will be patchy and that there is no guarantee that significant numbers of users will want to use the new @facebook.com addresses.

* There’s a general feeling that email has lost some status within digital marketing departments. It may not be as ‘sexy’ or fashionable as Social Media BUT: it’s still quietly making big money for those who know how to get the most out of it. CFOs like this, and they tend to come out on top…

Overall, email marketing appears to be alive and well. Perhaps we should bear in mind that in 1976 Punk Music didn’t kill The Rolling Stones, Elton John or Paul McCartney. (And indeed some might even suggest The Bay City Rollers weren’t such a big loss). In 2011, following the Social Media Revolution, email marketing is certainly changing, but looks to be here to stay.

Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Is SEO the new spin?

We all know digital has disrupted everything in marketing: Advertising, Direct, Promotions, Design and yes, even PR.

Of course journalists have always had space to fill and demanding editors to appease. In this digital age, they are, as ever, under constant pressure to come up with interesting content which people want to read and which sells magazines/ newspapers/ TV advertising. The 'Digital Revolution' hasn’t changed this.

But digital has, nevertheless, changed PR. Today, pretty much all journalism appears somewhere online. Not all appears in print. And people are reading the online stuff! PR agencies report that their clients are at last properly valuing online coverage. Some offline journalists actually prefer to receive 'pitches' via Twitter or LinkedIn; even the default is email. The days of the caricature PR man/ woman, immaculately dressed and spoken, who does most of his/ her business in wine bars, buying journalists lunch, kissing everyone on both cheeks (mwah, mwah) and then taking a taxi back to the office to craft and dispatch a press release printed on crisp white paper (swiftly followed by a hefty invoice, ditto) are behind us, along with yuppies, shoulder pads and other relics of the 20th Century.

On the other side of the fence, we now have a new breed of online journalist whose deathless prose just happens to appear on a screen (PC, Tablet, mobile device) rather than on something made out of a tree. But make no mistake: they’re under pressure to produce great content too. Bloggers face similar challenges; (tell me about it!) ie. constantly needing to come up with fresh and interesting things to blog about (except, of course, for the apparently effortlessly prolific Seth Godin).

So what exactly is ‘online PR’?

Well a lot of people are writing stuff which appears on websites/ blogs etc. and in the main, they are receptive to press releases in whatever format: ie. interesting facts/ useful ideas to help them generate compelling content: after all, that’s their job, and who wouldn't welcome a helping hand?

Interestingly, we are also seeing the gradual emergence of new type of Press Release, actively promoted by 'Digital PR firms' who offer ‘a new PR for the digital age’. The promise is to “get your news straight to the search engines that everyone uses, like Google, Yahoo and Bing”.

The primary objective here is still to communicate with journalists and editors and help them to write a story. However there is also a secondary objective: Search Engine Optimisation (SEO), ie. to get found (indexed) by Google/Yahoo/Bing, leading to appearances in Search results (including searches made by journalists writing stories: truly a ‘virtuous circle’ in which the story can ‘go viral’). The result is a persuasive and informative piece which will motivate journalists to write a story, but which also acts as a mini-website in its own right with a few skilfully-placed links back to the main site; the best of all worlds. SEO PR is a reality.

Check out firms like PRWebPitch Engine and SEO-PR, all of which are experts at the SEO press release. In simple terms, this is a piece of content which is optimised for certain keywords; moreover once it’s up on the web, (preferably somewhere the Search Engines respect ie. with a high PageRank), the inbound links it contains will improve the Search Engine Results ranking of the author’s site.

As with any type of SEO, it doesn't pay to push your luck; if the targeted keyword appears in every sentence it can make the piece unreadable by humans, even if it impresses the Search Engines. In any case Google and Bing are wise to ‘keyword stuffing’ these days. So you need to know what you’re doing.

Econsultancy, in its Report Social Media and Online PR (September 2010) revealed that only 40% of client companies were currently doing any SEO PR; i.e. their press releases are written by people with little or knowledge of/ interest in SEO. This is a massive missed opportunity.

The report includes this quote:

“It amazed me in last year's results, it's amazed me again. Only 40% of companies use SEO press releases and only 56% use press release posting sites. With SEO celebrating its 17th birthday (at least), why are so few companies utilising the most basic form of link development techniques?”
David Hardy, Group Marketing Director, bigmouthmedia

Every SEO marketer knows the importance to Google and Bing of inbound links (= 'backlinks'). SEO PR can be a key tool for generating such links. For (much) more on routine but effective (and also more cunning) ways to get links, check this out from 'Linkbaiter Guru' Kelvin Newman, who has just written the (e)book on this subject: http://www.clockworkpirate.com .

As we have seen, SEO Press Releases serve a dual purpose: this requires a marriage of talents. The skills required here are a blend of SEO and PR; not many agencies currently have both the necessary media relations and SEO skills in-house. Indeed PR agencies are rapidly re-engineering their businesses for the changing media world. It appears some of the smaller agencies are further down the line with this change than the big PR firms. Check out thebluedoor and Red Dog who describe their mission as “creating buzz in a digital world”. For those agencies who ‘get it’, ‘The New Online PR’ is about much more than media relations/ just sending out (e)press releases.

We all know print journalism is shrinking but we also know that there will always be a demand for quality content, whether consumed on paper, mobile or tablet. If you’re not only trying to engage journalists and persuade them to run a story, but also trying to drive traffic to somewhere else on the web, you’d do well to know your SEO before you send out that Press Release.

Digital, and specifically SEO, hasn't killed PR; rather, the two disciplines will increasingly need to work closely together. Client PR Personnel and PR Agencies need to take this on board and evolve, or risk rapidly becoming irrelevant.

Saturday, 5 February 2011

Integrated solutions need integrated knowledge

Seems like everyone's talking about integration of digital platforms at the moment. However in my experience, far fewer people are actually doing it. We still have Search specialists, Social Media specialists and Mobile specialists. They're not talking to each other enough. These silos exist both within client marketing departments and in the agency world.

But the winds of change are blowing; the big ad agencies 'got' digital some time ago and now they're busy developing their high-level strategic and creative relationships into total 360 communications partnerships. The big media agencies are doing the same. These guys are investing in training, hiring digital experts and building structures to deliver truly integrated solutions, driven, of course, by their clients' needs. One example: Search and Social Media have never been so closely tied together. SEO Press Releases, the benefits of which are still insufficiently understood, will rapidly become standard practice. Everything's moving onto Mobile. (Facebook Deals is already causing huge disruptive waves). Offline isn't going away either, although some spend is certainly being switched. And, as we know, all marketing communications drive searches...

In 2011, the various specialist agencies need to understand each other's roles better and clientside marketers, however many agencies they work with, need to know enough about each marketing 'instrument' to conduct the entire integrated orchestra. No matter how senior and experienced you are, there's never been a better time to learn, even (in fact especially) about something you don't currently do.
It's going to be an interesting year!

Sunday, 16 January 2011

Smart(phone) marketing

Cell phone (US). Handy (Germany). Mobile phone (UK).  Mobile device? (Global).

Next time you leave your house, apartment, factory, college or office, take a look at the people on the street. Many of them will be talking. But not many to each other. They may also be reading. But not newspapers. Or typing. But not on giant PC keyboards. Aargh! Quick: better check your smartphone is safely in your inside pocket and, crucially, switched on. Breathe. Calm. It's OK: you're connected to the global cellular/mobile internet life support system. Phew.

How these shiny gadgets have come to dominate our lives. But do they liberate us or enslave us?  How do you feel when you lose yours? Or just leave it at home? Or drop it down the toilet? (sorry-horrible image). Even synchronisation problems are enough to induce a state of near-unbearable frustration and panic in many of us.

On the positive side, how long before your contract expires and you can get your hands on a nice new one? Or until you can afford to buy one? Which do you have your eye on? Have you looked online at the goodies that might be within your reach? Have you discussed with your friends? On Facebook? Twitter? LinkedIn? Read any reviews yet?

Yet despite all this excitement and the strong, positive relationships we have with our 'phones', I would bet that virtually no one unboxes their new 'smartphone' (how long will that term last I wonder?) in anticipation of viewing ads on it.

But that, of course, is exactly what 'mobile marketers' are plotting and in many cases successfully doing. And increasingly, all marketers need to focus time and budget on the opportunities mobile offers. It's their job. Too many people are spending too much time looking at these little screens for mobile to be ignored. The challenge, of course, is to add value and enhance the user's life, creating positive experiences/ interactions around the brand.

Direct marketers used to claim they owned 'personal one-to-one marketing, allowing precise targeting and immediate, measurable response'. But they were talking about direct mail, direct response print ads and telephone marketing. If they only knew it, they just needed to equip each prospect/customer with an iPhone 4, a BlackBerry Torch, a Samsung Epic 4G or even a Motorola Droid X. I'm not saying it will be easy, but the opportunity is undeniable: these gadgets are individual, always on and, err... mobile. The smartphone is the most personal and powerful communication device mankind has yet invented.

American/Canadian author William Gibson allegedly said: "The future's already here. It's just not evenly distributed."  Some people have had cellular telephones since the '70s. But now it's really happening. For those who enjoy a good cliché: from now on, every year will be The Year of Mobile. As someone else once said:  We've only just begun...

Sunday, 5 December 2010

2010: The Year Of The Tablet

What do you want for Christmas? Well apparently thousands of us will be hoping Santa brings us a tablet computer. Last year that wasn't really an option (btw how much am I bid for a 2009 netbook?). On January 27th 2010, at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts Theater in San Francisco, Apple's CEO Steve Jobs proclaimed "Netbooks aren't better at anything!" (although to be fair, Steve, most are at least pretty good at multitasking and many even support Flash). He went on, as had been widely predicted, to introduce a 'magical and revolutionary product': the iPad (not iSlate, iTab or Maclet - OK I made that one up). And the rest already looks like history. What a difference a year makes

Other tablets are already here and more are in the pipeline: e.g. Samsung Galaxy Tab, Archos 101, Blackberry PlayBook, plus offerings from Dell and HP, among others.

Apple has shipped 10 million iPads since April. Apps are selling well at around $5 each. According to a survey of 5,000 tablet users by Nielsen, 91 percent of iPad owners have downloaded an app and over half have paid for content. Early days, but looking like a success by any measure.

The rise of tablets has even offered the prospect of a new lease of life for the beleaguered Newspaper and Magazine industry, whose tough times have continued during 2010. We recently got the first results for the traffic on The Times and Sunday Times new websites with their new paywall (for a great analysis read this by Ashley Friedlein of Econsultancy). If Mr Murdoch can persuade large numbers of us to pay for the news, whether on iPads, Macs or PCs, the entire newspaper industry, and many outside it, will breathe a sigh of relief. And I, for one, will be surprised.

New iPad apps are currently being announced every day from a range of content owners including Wired, Sports Illustrated and The Washington Post. News Corp and Apple have said they will launch an iPad-only publication entitled ‘The Daily’, while Richard Branson’s new ‘Project’ will also be launched for the iPad only. Meanwhile, The Independent’s new newspaper ‘i’ will not be published on the web at all, rather it will be launched as a paid-for iPad app. The new Guardian iPad app is expected shortly.

Crucially, we should remember tablets are mobile devices and we are prepared to pay for mobile apps whereas we seem to expect everything we access on the web via our PC/ laptop to be free (eg. telegraph.co.uk and guardian.co.uk). Don't ask me why this is; I blame the BBC and The Pirate Bay (unlikely bedfellows, admittedly). Interestingly, the new BBC iPlayer international service is launching exclusively as an iPad app...For what it's worth, my prediction is that tablets and laptops will in time merge to form one class of machines with a wide range of specs and form factors. Until then, I'm sure Apple is happy to sell both iPads and MacBook Airs (often 1 of each to the same person!).

So much for the shiny new boxes and their glossy new content. But what about 'ads on the pads'? Check out Apple's iAd mobile advertising platform, launching in Europe this month and offering ads within mobile apps on iPad,  iPhone and iPod touch; brands including Renault, L'Oreal and Unilever are among the first to book campaigns through the network. Allegedly and in typically bullish fashion, Apple won't talk to UK agencies about advertising via iAd, its first ad network, unless they're spending £600k+. Possibly too expensive for a new initiative of this kind in this market. But if consumers continue to consume increasing amounts of content on tablets, make no mistake, we WILL find ways to drive brand engagement on these nice new screens; especially the full 9.7 inchers (and even on Samsung's and BlackBerry's smaller 7-inch models of which Steve Jobs has been so publicly contemptuous).

So, yet again, Apple has invented a new category of device. Tablets have changed the game: things will never be the same. Cue gratuitous link to my favourite TV ad of 2010, for Yeo Valley... over 1,267,000 YouTube hits and rising; 3,348 Facebook 'likers' (remember this is for YOGHURT!!!), narrowly beating (in my book at least) P&G's Old Spice Guy who started out on good old TV and then 'went social' (and indeed viral) at a much lower cost/000 (24,120,000+ YouTube hits, 1,166,000+ Facebook 'likers' and 120,000+ Twitter followers).

OK so maybe 2010 was the Year of iPad. And as for next year? Take your pick. Social Media. Location. HTML5. Mobile internet. Even faster Search. Windows Phone 7 (yes really). Android. Chrome OS. Facebook Places and Deals. Oh...and iPad 2 (new shell, camera, USB port but definitely no Flash).

Happy Holidays!

Sunday, 17 October 2010

Learning AND Doing

After being asked for some advice, I've recently been reading various forums/ online discussions about Digital Marketing training and education. There is much heat vented about the merits of formal qualifications versus professional short courses and 'on-the-job training' (famously favoured by employers who don't want to fund professional input!). Then there's the old dilemma: external 'public' courses or bespoke 'in-company' training? And maybe your next (potential) employer won't believe you really know your stuff without a suitable piece of paper from the right Professional Institution/ Trade Body?

There are certainly passionate Fanbois and Fangurlz enthusing/moaning about particular awarding bodies and, as one would expect in this 2.0 world, plenty of intense debate, involving current students, alumni and even grizzled old educators. Many have strong feelings and entrenched positions. Some maintain that 'academic' education about Digital Marketing has limited value, since it's inherently a practical discipline, while others say it pays to learn the theory as well as to benefit from the hard-earned knowledge of experienced practitioners; why make your own mistakes when plenty of others have gone before you?

I may be missing something here but this situation appears to cry out for that old cliché and refuge of every trainer/ teacher/ lecturer facing a tricky question in real time: "Well, it all depends...".

Are you a marketing manager aged 28, who's so far worked alongside rather than in the online team? Or are you a 22-year-old Business Studies graduate looking to start a career in marketing? Then again, maybe you're a 40-year-old entrepreneur trying to make your PPC ads work better and cost less?

There's room (and indeed a need) for lots of different types of Digital Marketing training and education out there; so: decide which segment of the market you (or your people) fall into and then shop around carefully. Solicit and study peer recommendations (after all, it's digital!). If you don't get exactly what you were hoping for, don't worry. It's (almost) all changing all the time anyway and provided you go to a reputable provider, engage and ask questions, (almost) any training is better than no training. You'll come out with some new ideas, a better understanding of concepts previously incompletely grasped and in many cases an extended network. Then, when you do get (back) 'on-the-job', it should all make a bit more sense.

Good luck!