10 Sep

The Great Net Neutrality Debate

Net Neutrality is one of those ‘on-topic’ subjects that has swung into focus recently and has caught people’s imaginations. It’s not surprising really as it’s something that threatens to change the way in which we are all able to access content on the Internet, so you could say it’s important!

Having watched the oddly compelling video ‘The Internet Must Go’, which is a clever mockumentary on how the big ISPs in America are trying to shape everyone’s consumption of Internet content, I have some observations on how this will pan out. First, if you haven’t done so already, take a look at The Internet Must Go:

Assuming that your ISP didn’t block the video you now understand the problem as perceived by many. There are polar views on the subject although everyone apart from some of the big ISPs agrees that creating a tiered payment system for content is clearly against the principles of the Internet.  It changes everything and is effectively like allowing those with deep pockets to jump the queue for a theme park ride (oh no, they do that already). Alright it’s like only letting rich teams win at F1 (hmmm, I think that’s been happening for years).

Judgment Day

Net Neutrality counters the potential for dominance by one or more ‘super providers’

Seriously, this affects us all; even a telecoms provider should be concerned about the potential for being squeezed out if ‘traffic shaping’ threatens their business. In this blog post, Trefor Davies and Pete Farmer discuss the ideals of an open Internet relating to VOIP provision.

Personally I still believe that this will start the ball rolling towards my preferred and predicted model of Internet Providers rather than Internet Service Providers. That’s not just a simple change of name but a fundamental shift from paying a third party to connect you to all content as you do now, to paying only for the very services you want. Effectively premium services would be available as part of a range of packages, so for instance buying a Google Business package would give you access to those premium services you want in your business, as well as the content you need, and the same would be true at home. It’s the payment for those services that subsidises the connection via the Internet and into your home or business. Some people may be worried about the ‘SkyNet’ dominance that would afford those companies able to offer these services, but I for one would rather be held to ransom by a company like Google than BT!

The good bit is that it is still unlikely that one company or even a few will own and operate all the infrastructure in this model, so there is still plenty of scope for earning rental for transit of services, and thereby for new infrastructure projects to thrive.

26 Apr

When Will Google Fiber Take Over The World?

Okay so this is a bit of fun, but the key message that rolling out fibre broadband connections could take a long time isn’t lost on the majority of people, least of all Cotswolds Broadband, where capital costs are to be kept as low as possible, but it is still a highly capital intensive proposition for a relatively small area of West Oxfordshire in the UK Cotswolds.

The end result is worth it only when you consider broadband usage tomorrow, not today. Soon we will all be clamouring for gigabit services, so copper solutions just won’t suffice.

When will Google Fiber take over the world? – An infographic by the team at Broadband Genie

Creative Commons Licence
When will Google Fiber take over the world? by Broadband Genie is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

26 Nov

Crowdfunding and social media

Social mediaThrough Cotswolds Broadband I have been looking at crowdfunding as a means of raising a significant proportion of the initial capital required to operate a new rural broadband investment fund. When you are talking about generating upwards of £5 million overall, it’s important to get it right, otherwise the business could struggle. So we are looking at how social media can contribute in reaching a wider audience of potential investors.

This is an opportunity for investors to benefit from not only a slice of the equity, but from generous tax relief in the form of the Enterprise Investment Scheme (EIS), as well as future benefits on the successful performance of the business, so it’s all about reaching out to those who already understand the proposition. But are they on Twitter, Facebook and other social media platforms? I doubt it very much.

However it’s the way these types of investment opportunities work that is the key to ensuring that the greatest number of touch points are exploited, not just a blanket coverage. The approach is like the difference between a blunderbuss and a sniper’s rifle: investors with significant tax obligations work through intermediaries; Independent Financial Advisers (IFAs) so it’s that group that we are targeting, and social media has a significant part to play.

LinkedIn is the obvious touchpoint for this group, with a quick scan producing a number of UK-centric groups that are well populated and used by IFAs, the main ones showing over 4,000 members. Reaching out to this target audience can be achieved in a number of ways:

  • by joining the relevant groups and getting involved in discussions, but that’s very time-consuming, risks being seen as a spammer, and wary moderators will see straight through it
  • by posting in the ‘Promotions’ tab of relevant groups, but unfortunately very few people actually visit this tab, which was setup to provide moderators with a means of removing the constant stream of personal promotion that used to appear in discussions
  • by using well targeted LinkedIn ads

I’m not an advocate of social media advertising per se (personally I am not one who clicks on ads in my social media channels), but it certainly has its place, particularly with very focused campaigns, and even more so when a short window of opportunity presents itself. In this case the fund is open for less than three months, so it provides a useful means of quickly reaching a target audience with a CPM campaign to increase awareness and reinforce the opportunity.

Other social media channels have their place, in this instance sponsored stories in Facebook are an effective means of targeting friends of those who already like a page or post. If the campaign has a local aspect or can be targeted at users’ Facebook interests, its effectiveness can be maximised.

The crowdfunding platform itself should provide ample opportunity for users to share content out to their network, so where these shares and comments appear they can be maximised.

So far, these touch points are generating low clickthrough rates, but in a CPM advertising campaign such as this, we are maybe more interested in reach than actions!

Find out more about social media marketing or get in touch to discuss these topics in more depth.

23 Aug

New Instagram Features Make it a Must-Have For Brands

As a mobile-only social media platform, the Instagram experience has always been fun but has had an ineloquent marketing voice. That is until Facebook bought the service earlier this year for $1Bn and now they have added greater integration across the two platforms, meaning marketers can really start to use Instagram effectively.  The new Photo Map and easier posting to Facebook are big improvements, allowing better tagging and brand recognition.

A number of brands have been swift to adopt the benefits Instagram can bring, but it’s early days for most. Those with an eye on the future of mobile oriented marketing will be well advised to start their campaign early and build awareness and activity. To find out more about how Instagram could benefit your brand, please get in touch.

17 Apr

Facebook Pages and Profiles – What are the Differences?

Facebook pages and profilesLike every other social media consultant I get asked this one the whole time, so what are the differences and should you care?

Let’s answer that with a question: What exactly is your brand using Facebook for?

Generally the answer would be to market that brand’s products or services, for which the most desirable function is reach – trying to get in front of the maximum number of potential customers.  And therein lies the first problem with using profiles – they are meant for individuals and are therefore not crawled and indexed by search engine spiders. That in itself should be enough reason not to try and violate Facebook’s Statement Of Rights and Responsibilities, but perhaps you need more convincing:

Multiple page admins. Pages can have more than one admin as individuals use their own profile to login to Facebook and then administer the brand’s page once they have been granted access. It might seem a bit obvious but unless we are discussing a sole proprietorship (in which case Facebook has a solution for that too), more than one person is likely to be responsible for the brand’s output onto social media. It also means that page admins can remove ex employees or others who may have been given access to the page, at a future date.

Interaction with Page Likes. It has been frequently pointed out to me that a page cannot directly interact with individuals. Well that’s not entirely true because once a direct messge has been sent by a user to the page, admins can respond directly to them. However it is true that a page cannot initiate that interaction and that’s the point: this is a marketing medium and spamming individuals with marketing information is the fastest way to getting someone to unfriend you, or worse, hiding posts in their news feed.

Page Insights. Possibly the most powerful aspect of Facebook Pages is the analytics data that Facebook collects on behalf of brands and then shares with them. The power of this data is remarkable and over time builds a profile of users, their habits and the viral reach of content, along with lots of other essential marketing intelligence. This alone should be enough to ensure that a brand uses a Facebook Page rather than a profile.

Facebook Ads and Sponsored Stories. Given the reach of Facebook (845 million users as at December 2011) and its pin-sharp demographic, location and interest targeting, brands can reach the exact niche they serve with ads to support a business page or sponsor stories being shared by their brand advocates.

This is very much a non-exhaustive list of the many differences between Facebook Pages and Facebook Personal Profiles written from the perspective of brands. If you would like to know more about Facebook for marketing then please get in touch.

08 Apr

Please Give Generously to Charity Cycle Ride

On April 13th I will be donning Lycra(!) and setting off from no.10 Downing Street with around 30 other cyclists to raise funds for two charities in memory of a good friend and landlord of our local pub in Chadlington, Oxfordshire, where we will end up on Saturday evening after 120 miles in the saddle.

Mike Willis died in 2010 after a 3-year battle with cancer, so we are proud to help raise funds for Katharine House Hospice and Oxfordshire Association for the Blind. Mike’s daughters Genevieve and Nicola are part of the crowd of former regulars at The Tite Inn and friends taking part.

David Cameron cyclingWhen he was but a local MP and regular at The Tite Inn, David Cameron did a number of charity rides and agreed to set us off from no.10 if he ever became Prime Minister. True to his word we will be starting the ride there at 09:00 on April 13th.

You can help by making a donation for Katharine House Hospice via JustGiving by clicking here – it would be greatly appreciated.

Thank you.

 

 

16 Mar

Lessons learned from Kony 2012

The recent viral documentary campaign to raise awareness for the charity Invisible Children about the activities of Joseph Kony and the Lords’s Resistance Army was universally received as a brilliant piece of film-making and a significant propaganda statement (if you haven’t seen it you should make yourself a cup of coffee and then click the play button below – it’s 30 mins long). There is much that can be learned from this sort of activity and used as a case study of viral capability.

First some facts (at the time of writing):

  1. Nearly 80 million hits on YouTube
  2. Over 1.3m likes and 643k comments on YouTube (comments now disabled)
  3. 17.1 million hits on Vimeo
  4. 21.2k likes and 1.2k comments on Vimeo

Many NGOs and charities have criticised the film as being too simplistic in its argument for the capture and bringing to justice of Joseph Kony. That’s as maybe but it is nothing to do with the success of the piece, since it was all about awareness and fundraising. In both respects it has been massively successful, as the statistics above bear out. However it’s the audience profile that is of interest since this is a political campaign and yet the predominance of viewers are between 13-24, the majority being girls aged between 13-17.

So what causes them to watch the film? The power of social media. Simply put, the film is emotive to youngsters as the content portrays those of a similar age in a regime of fear and oppression, and that’s what causes them to spread the word.  And that’s Jason Russell’s genius – using his son as the central character in the drama and thereby drawing on an audience of active social media players to act as advocates for the cause.

Like all good communication it all comes down to great content – create appropriate and appealing content for the target audience and let social media do the rest – genius!

 

14 Mar

Magic Bus UK roars away

Helping children in India prosper through sportA new website for Magic Bus UK was launched on 5th March 2012 in conjunction with charity fundraising agency partner John Grain Associates. Featuring a multi-level CMS and a fun, engaging design, the site is designed to be easy to manage by the charity and simple to navigate by their supporters, fundraisers and donors. With enhanced visibility in search engines Magic Bus are off to a roaring start with their new website.

As a specialist in websites to support the specific needs of charities, I am often called upon to advise on strategies to enhance online communication channels using websites, social media and direct engagement tools such as newsletters.

Visit Magic Bus UK.

Please get in touch if you have an online project to discuss for your charity.

02 Mar

Facebook Timeline for Brands

Facebook Timeline for Brands

Facebook Timeline can be used creatively by brands

Since Facebook for brands was launched this week (in preview prior to switching them live on March 30th), I have been trialling the service for a number of clients. Here are my observations so far:

  • Firstly it is a huge aesthetic enhancement to brands’ most potentially engaging social media platform.
  • Existing content created at 520 pixels width, such as tabs and apps will continue to display in the new Timeline format. However some work is likely to be required, to change content to fill the new 810 pixel wide space.
  • You can no longer use default landing tabs for non-fans in Timeline, which is a shame.  You can use the new design to your advantage though, but it would appear to me that conversion rates are going to drop significantly as a result of this change.
  • You can use Timeline’s preview on your Pages right now, but I am not generally making Timeline a permanent feature until the end of March, just so that any bugs are ironed out before taking them live.
  • Add milestones to humanise a brand and tell a story over time.
  • Apps appear under the cover photo, so ensure that these are the ones you want to promote to users.
  • Pin interesting content to the top of the Timeline to keep it visible, but rotate this on a weekly basis.
  • The new private messaging feature allows a much better and more personal brand experience, but it needs to be used with temperance, otherwise it is as bad as spam.