Tuesday, 6 August 2013

Best Practice in UX - Ideal Airlines

Airline websites are well known for being a User Experience (UX) nightmare. Those hard-to-navigate menus, 'best offer' pop-ups and terrible colourschemes are enough to put anyone off air travel. This clever agency has shown the way to change all that, with their fantastic concept video.

None of the suggestions are ground-breaking, but when well-executed with good design they would make booking a flight an altogether more enjoyable experience. Well played.

Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Top 5 Tips : Twitter Analytics

It seems Twitter are finally rolling out analytics to us mere mortals, after being available to verified accounts for some time. Although it they're currently only available in the U.S. some U.K. users can navigate there too, via the "Twitter Ads" option on the dropdown. It's only a matter of time before we can all use them, so you need to brush up on the basics.

So, how to use Twitter analytics? Here's 5 tips to get you started:

1. Don't get too obsessed with stats!
Twitter is, and always will be, about personal connections. Of course we all have a narcissistic interest in how many people are listening to us, but paying too much attention to 'what makes a popular tweet' will mean we end up sounding like an empty, self-serving, brand. Or worse, the PR agency of a brand.

2. Decide what you want to learn from the analytics
If you're just a curious individual that's fine (but be careful of tip 1). If you're a business owner, do you want to find out how to reach more customers? How to get more interaction? Or how to keep people tuned in? It's easy to spend hours looking at analytics and not actually come out with any useful conclusions.

3. Pay attention to 'unfollows'
Trace what you tweeted when your unfollows spiked. If you're building a following it will be useful to know what turns people off. But again, don't get obsessed with not tweeting the "wrong" thing: genuine, honest tweeters will always gain more followers than they lose.

3. Look for patterns
Do certain types of tweets get more RTs and fewer favourites? Are your pictures more popular than vines, or vice versa? Is there a particular hashtag that has worked well for you?

4. Dig Deeper
Twitter's analytcis interface is well designed and easy to use, but to get full value from it for your business account you need to click that 'export' button. You can get a full list of all your tweets, with Retweet, Favourite and Reply numbers next to them. Let the number crunching commence!

5. Look 'around' the figures
A high volume of replies or RT's isn't always a good thing. If you see an unusual spike remember to go and look at the tweet itself and get a feel of the sentiment surrounding it. It could be that this particular post was shared for the wrong reasons or that the replies are asking for more information - all things that can be turned into a positive by an adept Social Media Manager.

Monday, 29 July 2013

Digital Shoreditch and the great tech swizzle

I'm beginning to think it's something about Digital. Perhaps the nature of an emerging industry, or the monopoly of skill currently held by the few. But that doesn't make it right.

Im talking about the way companies think its fair game to ask tech professionals (or graduates) for their 'game-changing' digital concepts, without fair acknowledgement.

The first time this happened I was at an interview for a start-up website, which helped people locate a restaurant which catered for dietary requirements. Ethical company, you might think. But when they asked me to sit down for half an hour and "think of as many good ideas as I could" for the website, my heart sank.

Eventually I was told I didnt get the job because "I wasn't close enough to the cause" (don't get me started on the ethics of not hiring someone because they aren't a vegetarian) but I later noticed some of my ideas appearing around the site. 

Perhaps that's just the nature of the recruitment process, especially in digital where 'ideas' are key and it's assumed anyone can come up with them. But I'd be highly surprised if a designer was asked to design a poster in an interview and that poster was then used in a campaign without thier permission...

Anyway, on to Digital Shoreditch.

It was my first year there this year and I did enjoy the event overall. We went to the 'make and do' session as it was the only one which wouldn't mean a day off work. At the beginning, after the (amazing) selection of pastries and coffee had been consumed  various companies asked for our thoughts/ideas/help on the digital problems they were having and then we would think about solutions throughout the day, whilst going to workshops and presenations etc.

Fair play to the companies - this is exactly the right sort of event for asking that question. A lot of curious, innovative digital minds are bound to come up with something. True enough there was collaboration, coding, brainstorming, the works. It was great. Some organisations were more structured than others in how they wanted the ideas presented at the end and the household name TV company that I had opted to helpjust requested I dropped them an email.

So I did my thing, came up with a pretty decent strategy, wrote it up as a powerpoint presentation and emailed it to them that day. Then nothing. This is the last I heard from them:

And that was ok...except that they didn't.

I know that we were all there out of personal interest and a willingness to help, I get that, and I'm not expecting payment or anything. But I did hope for at least an acknowledgement of the trouble I'd gone to, and if they do use any of the ideas I'd quite like to be involved.

Is that too much to ask? With the world becoming seemingly more social and collaborative, I felt like this was an opportunity, but instead I'm left feeling a little cheated by the whole experience. Is this justified, or should I have just kept my ideas to myself and attended one of the weekday sessions instead? Thoughts are welcome...

Monday, 8 July 2013

Introducing 3D screen covers for the iPhone - EyeFly3D

I've never been that excited by 3D, mainly because of the requirement for ridiculous glasses. But this innovation does seem pretty cool.

EyeFly 3D is a (relatively) cheap screen protector for your smart phone, which, when applied, enables the viewer to see 3D effects on the screen without the need for glasses. A cool, simplistic, concept which will, in their words "transform your mobile device into your own portable 3D screen".


The product has had some trade press attention (MIT Technology Review, CNet Asia, Gizmag) and, as it bypasses what I reckon has been the main barrier to mainstream adoption of 3D (those damn glasses) it may just be a success.

The only barrier I can really see with this, is the lack of 3D mobile content available. EyeFly 3D have produced an app to "render content for viewing on your device" but this seems a little long-winded and has earned bad reviews. As well as existing 3D films, EyeFly 3D need innovative organisations to come up with original 3D content specifically for mobile and it's uncertain whether this will happen. 

But, as they saying goes "build it and they will come"...

We shall see!

Tuesday, 21 May 2013

5 Tips on Content Marketing for Business

I went to an excellent talk by Jasper Martens from Simply Business this evening.

Simply Business are an insurance company, but you wouldn't know that from their content (more on that later!). Jasper was brought in to manage their social media output and revolutionised their marketing approach through clever use of shareable content such as free user guides.

Here's the top 5 tips I took away from the talk:

1) Content doesn't have to be about your product as long as it is in line with your BRAND.
Jasper found that he didn't end up creating content about insurance - customers found that a turnoff and wouldn't share it. Instead he focussed on a brand 'attribute'  which was that Simply Business wanted to be known for positivity towards small businesses. From this it was a natural step to creating guides aimed to help and advise this market.

2) Don't waste time trying to grow platforms that don't work for you.
Simply Business recognised that Facebook was not very successful for them in their B2B marketing efforts. Instead of trying to improve here they focussed on producing great content which could be shared on Facebook but did not depend on that channel for success.

3) Activities can BE content!
Similarly, Jasper found that his Google hangouts were only attracting double figure live audiences, despite telling people about them via mailouts to a six-figure email database. Not deterred, he recognised that the discussions held on the hangouts made great short videos and put them on YouTube, where they continue to reach a much wider audience.

4) Benefits of content marketing aren't easy to quantify.
A question from the audience (and a very common one at all social media talks I've been to) is how does this improve acquisitions? The answer is it is very hard to tell - difficult to track a sale back to the free download which created the initial brand awareness. At this point I thought it might be an idea to experiment with offer codes unique to the user guides, to help prove business worth, although you would have to tread carefully in order not to erode goodwill by appearing salesy.

5) The content has to be GOOD.
Easy to forget this one. 'Content for content's sake' will be without substance and won't help anyone, least of all you! Simply Business produced a Google Analytics guide of such good quality that Google linked to it from their help pages. It doesn't take an SEO expert to guess what a link from Google will do to your search rankings!

Monday, 20 May 2013

“Interesting”, you might say, “but how is this related to digital”? Well the video  may appear to be about direct marketing but it raises some very pertinent questions for digital marketers too!

In the clip above, Target has achieved every marketers’ dream – being able to predict what the consumer would like to buy and when – in fact they've done this so accurately that it has actually worked against them in this case.

Digital marketers like to do this too and they have even more powerful tools at their fingertips. When a company sends a mass email out, unlike more traditional advertising and marketing methods, the company is able to track exactly which customer responded to which offers via click-through data.

They can observe the individual’s behaviour on their website: which pages they responded to, purcased from or shared via social networks; where on the site they spent the most time; and which page they finally left the website from.

Although most companies wouldn’t do this level of granular analysis on individual behaviours, companies with large volumes of traffic can begin (at the very least) to guage which campaigns are working, what messages work for which demographics and at what point they will buy, and to adapt their campaigns accordingly.

The recently released Sitecore 6 CMS allows website owners to tailor the content that is displayed according to previous activity - a powerful tool meaning those interested in a certain topic (i.e on a page or blog post about pets) can then be shown pet offers or taken to the pet offer page. This means websites can be much more targetted (if you forgive the pun!) and we will begin to see more and more companies using amassed historical user data to promote products which are increasingly relevant to the individual viewing the site.

Sunday, 19 May 2013

Moo Cards - the calling card of the Tech Professional. (Plus 10% off for Digilance readers!)

Ok so this post isn't purely about digital - more about the 'real-world' paraphernalia even we digital professionals sometimes need, and our provider of choice!

In 2008 I was working in Old Street. This was before the term 'Tech City' was coined, but it was still a hive of digital activity and tech start-ups and I'm sure I remember the phrase 'Silicon Roundabout' being bandied about. Back then I worked in a shared office with other digital types and I saw lots of funny little cards exchanging hands. These weren't the traditional size of business cards (how did those become globally standardised by the way? Who decided that? Must have been a ploy from someone who wanted to produce a business card holder...). These were small rectangles, which sort of reminded me of the space a tweet would occupy (yes, I was a Twitter addict even then!) and had the most wonderful selection of colourful images printed on them. Each one seemed to be different and personal to the techy type that proffered it.

When I enquired I was answered with great enthusiasm: "why they're mini Moo cards!", "We love Moo, great little company" and "Everyone in digital has them. In fact, I know people who won't take you seriously as a tech start-up if you have the old business cards!".

When I moved away from Old Street I didn't see many Moo cards and assumed they hadn't managed to go mainstream and move away from being a tech geek's calling card. But I did see the odd advert online which meant they must be ticking over ok...then one day recently I overheard someone in a non-digital setting comment "what cute little cards" and I knew the Moo card was back!

As I'm branching out into doing more freelance work, Moo were my fist point of call for cards. A natural choice and I'm glad to see they're doing so well. I ordered the cards pictured above (and a few other designs), and then (as Sod's Law would have it) discovered that attendees of Digital Shoreditch also get 100 free Moo cards. No problem though, I've ordered even more!

And, for my lovely digilance readers - a 10% discount off all Moo orders when you order via this link. Enjoy :)

Monday, 13 May 2013

Social Media Case Study - Twitter customer service

The conversation above started when I recieved an email from the trainline about thier new 'print-your-own-ticket' system. Not entirely convinced by the practicalities, I took to Twitter to see what others thought.

As I had used @thetrainline handle out of courtesy I knew they could see my tweet, but as it was not wholly positive - or directly addressed to them as a question or complaint - they had the option not to reply. Many companies wouldn't have done, shying away from negative publicity or thinking an interaction with me wouldn't be productive. 

Trainline however saw an opportunity to try and convert me and did so in a very friendly professional manner. A great example of how social media can be used to intercept negative public sentiment and win the individual around. They cited others using the system successfully (but without coming accross as provocative) and hashtagged the word 'convenience' (the aspect I had thought would cause issues) to reaffirm just how easy it is.

They also used lots of smiley faces to show that even if they were disagreeing with me, they were being helpful not confrontational and this kept the tone personable the whole way through. Angus identifying himself at the beginning meant that a level of trust was built up as I was now tweeting with an individual rather thn a faceless entity.

It really is a good example of company tweeting and I'm sure they actually wouldn't have thought in this level of detail about the language used (once tone of voice and editorial style is established, responding on social media in this manner begins to come naturally) but I hope it is useful to dissect the elements that make it successful here. 

Let me know if you've seen (or had) any other great customer service responses on social media.

Friday, 10 May 2013

Stop. Yammer time!

What is Yammer?

Yammer is an "enterprise social network" which was acquired by Microsoft in summer 2012 and now forms part of thier Office 365 offering. It's an internal social network for businesses - similar in audience and tone to LinkedIn, as a communications platform for professionals - but with the added security of being limited solely to members of staff.

A 'company social media network' would never take off, would it?

A few years ago I wouldn't have been convinced by the need for a company social media platform. On a personal level, the social media sphere was somewhere I interacted with friends and was ocaisionally (and hopefully not intrusively) marketed to by businesses. It definitely wasn't somewhere I would interact with senior colleagues and nor did it need to be - emails and the company intranet would suffice. Companies' awkward failed attemps to set up company Facebook groups were a thing of ridicule not lauded as a great example of internal comms.

What has changed then? Well, on a personal level I think social media has become more pervasive in our lives, and the line between social networking and professional activity has become less well defined. What used to be a flat-out ban on social media usage in the workplace has in some companies become more relaxed and in others even encouraged.

Ok, how can Yammer be used by businesses?

Yammer's website claims it is used by more than 200 companies worldwide, including Shell, Xerox, CapGemini and Westfield. Employees use it for:

  • Posting what they’re working on into the social space, to see if others they don't know are working on it too, or working towards similar goals.
  • Crowd sourcing answers to problems or issues by asking questions and posting polls
  • Sharing insights they’ve come across elsewhere to act as inspiration.
  • Share successes in the hope they make work well for others.
If you still can't quite picture this, it might help to think of a practical example. Take the Food Standards Authority - they have a central organisation with many, many field inspectors, who will need to keep in touch with central management on a regular basis. It would also be beneficial to share their experiences with other field workers. Using Yammer, they could all post any difficulties they may come across in certain areas, photographs of situations and advice on how to avoid them etc. alongside recieving updates from central office on the latest regulations.

It does sound quite useful, and also fun, but then obviously I'm quite a fan of social networks. Stop me before I start to Yammer on...(sorry!).

Wednesday, 8 May 2013

Could it be...a good example of a QR code? I'm as shocked as you are.

I'm normally pretty skeptical of QR codes. It's one of those digital fads which seems to have come out of nowhere, yet been embraced over-enthusiasticly by any company that wishes to appear cool and up-to-date.

The problem is, most companies don't seem to have grasped the basic requirements:

1. People need to be able to scan them with a phone
2. People will need internet access to connect to the page you are sending them to

This makes them wholly unsuitable for, say, an advert on the underground which regularly disappears behind a train, or a motorway hoarding. Some uses just seem absurd. There's no way I'm getting my phone out to scan a bananna (more of these ones on wtfqrcodes.com)!

The QR code above, however, makes a bit more sense. The bit of card which allows me to remove a tabag already has a practical use, is branded on the other side, and therefore has a small square space which would otherwise be blank. Whilst you could try to write something on there, or stick a URL or Twitter handle, I think a QR code isn't a bad call really. If making a cuppa at home, you probably have time to investigate or if you have a takeaway tea like I did from Waitrose, it's an interesting 2 minute activity while drinking it (yes I still did feel a little silly scanning my tea, but pretended I was texting and hoped no-one noticed!).

The link goes through to a page about their tea selection, which is fine, but for me it would have been more appealing if it had some sort of gamification element, such as an offer, or hidden page that only the teabag QR code took me to. Nevertheless, I think Twinings should still be applauded as a case study for a good practical use of the QR code, where so many others are failing miserably to do so.

Monday, 25 February 2013

Don't 'get' social media yet? Next!

As the consumer becomes more trusting of online purchases they also become more demanding of brands in the online sphere. It's no longer enough just to have a Facebook page - you have to maintain it and make it interesting. You can't just tweet out marketing messages, you have to engage and entertain. So when a brand hits a duff note with their social media interactions - bad service, lack of professionalism, whatever -  it's no surprise that customers react badly, and being social media they do so publicly.

Many brands are afraid of social media as they fear the reprisals of unhappy customers. There is an argument that you have to sort out your service before you 'go social' but however good you are, there will always be someone who has been on the unfortunate end of a human error and has cause to complain.

The social media 'secret' here is not to avoid it - but apologise, genuinely, and offer to make ammends. All this should be done publicly and may result not only in a happy customer but in an audience who admire your customer service. Turn the situation around to your advantage.

This is clearly something Next's social media experts weren't keen on recently though, or perhaps their digital agency's weekend cover isn't that strong. Whatever the reason, it wasn't advisable for Next to post the following, when a customer swore about their delivery service:

The user's original tweet said "Fucking Next wankers! It's a pissing Sunday you bastards & I've wasted four fecking hours for a delivery you forgot to tell me isn't coming." - admittedly not the most eloquent of complaints, and some people may well have been offended. Notice though that she doesn't use their handle or even a hashtag. It's really unlikely anyone except her followers will have seen it, well until Next tweeted about it that is. She also tweeted at them that she was "pissed off" and perhaps this was what they objected to - but it's hardly a hanging offence and I might be using that level of profanity if I'd been made to wait 4 hours on a Sunday for nothing.

What Next don't seem to realise is that they can't control the Twitter channel any more than they control an individual's chat with friends. @Ox_bex was just tweeting to her followers - telling her friends how she felt, and Next had no more right to ask her to stop than management could interrupt a conversation she was having in a pub.

The Twittersphere reacted badly. Word spread about the response, there was a big online backlash   and various media marketing and tech blogs wrote about it. Some felt the request was tantamount to censorship and the worst kind of brand protectionism, others thought it was just terrible customer service.

I would be more sympathetic if it as a small company or family business - when you are personally invested in a brand it can be heartbreaking to see it besmirched online, even if you were to blame for the bad experience. But a brand as big as Next should know better (or should employ people that know better) than to coerce people into keeping quiet about an issue. Why not try to solve it? An apology, an offer or even a bit of humour can go a long way to appease a disgruntled customer. Clearly this High Street retailer has yet to realise this. Until they do...well...next please!

Wednesday, 20 February 2013

What will happen to the Pope's Twitter account?

Pope Benedict XVI shocked the Catholic world on 13th of February with his resignation announcement, but the Catholics weren't the only ones left wondering.

A mere couple of months earlier, the Pope had joined Twitter, and gained over 70,000 vast amount of followers in mere hours, even before he had started tweeting. @pontifex, as the account is called, tweets religious statements and reflections and has posted 36 tweets to date.

But what made the Pope decide to join Twitter in the first place? Was it pressure from some sort of Catholic PR machine? A statement from the Vatican said

'The Pope's presence on Twitter is a concrete expression of his conviction that the Church must be present in the digital arena'

so perhaps the initiative was driven by his holiness afterall. The Pope's resignation, however, has been markedly absent from his feed and he has posted tweets about Lent since the announcement.

But the big question is - as with all temporary offices - what will happen to the Twitter account when he has left? Although the law may be yet to fully catch up with this, Twitter accounts are generally regarded as the property of the person that is named in the handle and whose email address is linked to it. If it is an official account run on behalf of a company it is the property of the organisation who employs the individual.

Some companies are become more and more savvy about this, with contractual clauses governing the retention of the accounts - meaning that any followers accrued are the 'contacts' of the company and cannot be 'poached' (or taken with) an individual when they leave.

In politics this can cause issues, for example the @MayorOfLondon account, and all it's 630,000+ Boris fans will all become property of the next mayor if Boris loses an election, as he has a role-related handle rather than a personal one.

For the Pope I suspect that the same will be the case. @pontifex (and also the 8 different language versions of the account) refers to his role rather than Pope Benedict as an individual, so it belongs to the Vatican and eventually the next Pope. Not that Benedict will mind I'm sure (some reckon it was Social Media that made him feel too old for the post in the first place!), but will the next Pope want to continue the tweeting?

A new Pope will undoubtedly be younger, as the Vatican will seek to prevent any more resignations and stay 'in touch' with the younger church, so I'd predict he will want to carry on tweeting. Watch this (140 character) space! 

Wednesday, 2 January 2013

MeatPack 'Hijack' campaign - location-based win, or near miss?

So (as per tradition) I've resolved to blog more in 2013 - setting up Seeningreenwich last year meant Digilance has suffered a little!

First post of the 2013 is inspired by this article on Econsultancy, which spotted a location-based campaign by a Guatemalan shoe store Meat Pack. The idea behind it is that you download an add-on to its existing loyalty app called ‘Hijack’ which then rewards customers by giving them an innovative way to earn a discount.

As the Econsultacy write up puts it:

"Every time one of the ‘Sneakerheads’ entered competitor store the GPS function showed them a countdown timer and an offer for money off shoes.

The discount started at 99% off and reduced by 1% for every second that passed. The timer stopped when the user reached a Meat Pack store.

More than 600 shoppers were hijacked from the competitors within a week, with one of them getting 89% off his new trainers." 

Brilliant idea. Tempt customers away at the point of purchase, with a better offer from your rival store. The countdown timer not only means there's a sense of urgency, but introduces gamification, making the experience fun.

But there's one big problem. The app is an add-on for people who already have the loyalty app. This means they are already loyal shoppers and would have bought from Meat Pack anyway. What's to say that he die-hard "sneakerheads" have not got wind of this discount and gone to a rival store purely so they can then race back to meat pack and get a discount? (If you can't imagine this happening, just picture the scene if apple had run a similar promotion - half the offices in Old Street would be empty as employees raced between Currys and the Apple store, anxiously looking at thier iPhones...).

Ideally for maximum 'conversion', Meat Pack should instead try to target people who are not already loyal customers. There's not an obvious way to do this - even push notifications would require an app - but perhaps if they created an app that less obviously branded and just for the 'Sneaker Fan' it would be a way to get the all-important new customer. Check-ins are another opportunity and if they could somehow harness the Facebook or Foursquare check-in and run the promotion to target these, I think they'd be on to a winner. In conclusion - great idea but not quite there yet!