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Make Sure You’re Using AMP Analytics When Using AMP

Make Sure You’re Using AMP Analytics When Using AMP

We recently wrote about how awesome the new Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) technology is for improving page load times on your website. Well, yes it is, but something to bear in mind that we’ve just come across. Google recently wrote a blog post about how to set up Analytics on your AMP pages only 4 days ago, which quite frankly is a little slow since we’ve been using AMP technology for well over 4 months now and it has never been on our radar that this wouldn’t be tracked by default out of the box. Anyway, we’ll let this one slip.

The crooks of it though is that you’re probably not including tracking on any of these AMP pages that you’ve implemented which is a tad annoying. From a WordPress perspective, make sure you’re using the AMP Analytics plugin which will add Google Analytics tracking to your AMP pages when they are loaded by web browsers and Google. You could be missing out on a significant amount of tracking data when tracking the performance of your campaigns. For anything non-WordPress related, you’ll have to get into the tech to implement this manually within your web application which is certainly going to be a tad more time consuming. Drop us an email if you need any help with getting this set up on your own websites and web applications.

60 Seconds a Day Social Media Management with Automation and Technology

Many small to medium sized business are afraid of social media, are unsure what they should be doing on social media and spend an awful lot of time managing social media without any idea of what they are getting back from it. We’ve already covered how to monitor your social media activities and reviewed various tools to help you manage social media effectively. Now it’s time to take this one huge step further to automate virtually 99% of your social media accounts using technology.

If you’re a business owner or aren’t that tech-savvy then some of this may be a bit over your head, so get in touch and we can look to set up the same process for you with ease and show you how to use this system. The investment in this setup using free technologies will pay for itself within a matter of weeks within your business in time saved, allowing you to spend time improving other systems and processes to become more profitable.

Before people start jumping on the bandwagon about how social media should be personal, you should spend time crafting messages and treating every account differently etc. Bear with me. The reality for many businesses is that they quite simply don’t have time to be doing the work that large brands do as large brands have teams of people managing their social media activities in the background. The reality for the majority of small to medium sized businesses is that this is left to either a single marketing manager, a junior member of the marketing team or even the managing director to manage. For all of these people, social media management is not at the top of their priority list and is an area which can be made extremely efficient with technology and automation without compromising on the quality. On the other hand, if you feel that your business needs someone to be doing everything manually, then good on you, you’re probably wasting a lot of time as this is the equivalent of still using a dustpan and brush when you could just use a Dyson or a Roomba.

Now, on to the good stuff. Personally we use a whole host of technologies, automation techniques and manual interactions to manage our social media channels which works for us. Every business is different, so take what you will from this and if this could work for you, then great, you’ll be saving hours or time per week through the use of smart technologies.

 

The Manual Process

Before we jump into the automation, let’s just look at the common ways people identify content to share on social media channels. They are likely subscribed to either a daily, weekly or monthly newsletter from a variety of industry magazines and websites or they use a well-crafted set of followers on social media to manage their news feed effectively. We use a mixture of both, with the main @ContradoDigital Twitter account following relevant digital accounts that share some awesome news about the world of digital. As always, not everything is relevant for what our audience wants, so we need to filter out this so that the content that is shared is highly relevant to our audience who is interested in technology, innovation, digital marketing, security and general digital news.

Based on this, we review the content that is being published around the web and any content that is relevant we also share on our social channels, both company channels and my personal channels for Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook and Google+. We already have technology in place to automate the majority of the social media management process which saves an enormous amount of time already but we wanted to go further and really push the boundaries of what is possible.

We use Buffer to add social media updates to our queue of scheduled posts to be posted out to all social media channels along with Bitly to track the engagement from our followers to understand what content they like to read about. The last piece of the puzzle is how to automate adding content to Buffer with ease. Traditionally we would either favourite a news story on Twitter or open that news story in the browser then use the Buffer Google Chrome plugin or Buffer App on mobile to add this to the queue. While not particularly difficult to do, adding a new story to the queue could take up to 2 minutes by the time the pages have loaded and everything has been completed. 2 minutes, multiplied by 6 posts per channel per day, multiplied by 20 days per month equates to around 4 hrs per month spending time adding content to social media channels for our audience. I’d guess that this is already significantly less than what you spend managing social media channels, but we wanted to go one step further and significantly reduce this to only 60 seconds per day.

What if there was a better way…

 

Introducing Automation using IFTTT

If you haven’t come across If This Then That (IFTTT) before, then quite simply this piece of free technology is designed to automate almost anything you can imagine that you are doing manually. The service links together web based technologies through the use of Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) which can be simplified as systems talking to other systems.

All modern and scalable web platforms have some kind of open API built in with them as they understand how this key functionality automates the work and grows their business. It is this what we’re plugging into to join the dots and save 4 hrs per month.

The logic behind the automation is as follows;

  • When a Tweet is Favorited on Twitter
  • Send this to Buffer to be automatically posted out to our followers who are interested in this content

There is a little more behind the scenes which we’ll talk through in a minute, but that is the gist of the setup.

 

The Process for Automating 99% of Social Media Management

So let’s just jump right into how to get this set up. Once set up, you will be saving hours of time per week managing your social media activities. Most businesses spend an hr or two per day managing social media activities. We spend 60 seconds per day as we’ve implemented the right technology to become more efficient.

 

Bitly

Set up a Bitly.com account if you don’t have one already. This is going to track how many people are clicking on the links that you are sharing on social media on a daily, weekly and monthly basis. Allowing you to improve performance of your social media activities over time.

 

Bitly Click Statistics

 

Buffer

Set up a Buffer.com account if you don’t have one already. This is going to automate all of your social media posts by adding everything to a pre-scheduled queue. Allowing you to simply add a post to Buffer which will then be automatically posted to your default social media profiles that you can configure to send out an update at a set time of day/week as you choose.

 

Buffer Logo

 

Make sure you link your Buffer account with Bitly in the settings to track link clicking statistics through Bitly as we find this provides a bit more insight than Buffer. You also need to set your default social media profiles up. So if you have multiple social media profiles to manage, then set which are your default ones that you want to send updates to as these will be used with this automation setup.

Buffer has the ability to email updates to Buffer which will be automatically added to your queue which is what we’re going to be using to automate things. Find your Buffer Secret Email Address within your account settings;

 

Buffer Secret Email Address

 

Now comes the clever part, using IFTTT.

 

IFTTT

Set up an IFTTT account if you don’t already have one. A component of IFTTT is that you create a Recipe which has Ingredients. Using this setup, you are essentially triggering an action to happen when something else happens beforehand.

In this example, we want to send an email to Buffer from Gmail when we Favourite a new Tweet on the @ContradoDigital Twitter account.

 

IFTTT Recipe

 

To do this, click on the “Create Recipe” button which will guide you through the process. As part of this process, IFTTT will connect with your Twitter account and your Gmail account. All fairly straight forward here. The part that you need to configure properly is what to contain in the email as there are specific shortcodes called Ingredients which need to be included so the correct information is sent over to Buffer to add everything to the right areas. Here you enter in your Buffer Secret Email Address from earlier along with the shortcode {{TEXT}} which will pull in the text from the Tweet you have just favorited and send this to buffer to use in the update;

 

IFTTT Gmail to Buffer

 

Once you’ve done this, it’s simple. Save the Recipe and start adding Tweets to your Favourites. IFTTT runs every 15 minutes or so, fully automated, so when it detects a new Tweet that you have starred then it will automatically post this out to Buffer.

All in all, meaning that we spend an average of 60 seconds per day managing our social media accounts, saving hours per month, allowing us to focus on more productive areas working with clients to implement similar technologies within their businesses to save them time and money.

If you’d like to make your social media accounts extremely efficient like we have and all of this has gone a bit over your head, then get in touch and we can look to set up the same process for you with ease. The investment in this setup using free technologies will pay for itself within a matter of weeks within your business, allowing you to spend time improving other systems and processes to become more profitable.

If Your Website is Seen as a Cost You Have Already Lost

Why is it that so many businesses still see a website as a cost rather than an investment to generate a return? We live in a digital world so why isn’t your online presence at the forefront of your business strategy to increase revenue? Most businesses still have to learn about local search ads on Google maps. Well, after speaking with thousands of businesses ranging from startups all the way up to companies with offices around the globe, I’ve noticed a few common comments and it’s time to debunk some of the common reasons we hear and get serious about your investments in digital channels.

The Current Situation

So many established businesses will happily spend money on traditional activities because that is what they have always done. The world has changed, it’s time to keep up or give up. Traditional ways that money is spent includes sponsoring awards, radio advertising, printed materials such as flyers and handouts, promotional products such as pads, pens and mugs, trade fairs, direct mail, advertisements in magazines and newspapers, printed banners, popup stands and many more methods. Money is spent in these areas without batting an eyelid. Because apparently this is what we need to run a business, right? Have you ever attempted to calculate the return you generated as a direct result of your spend on these activities? I imagine that if you have, you have also struggled to attribute any of these activities individually to a direct increase in revenue.

Let’s be clear here though, I’m not saying don’t do any of these. I’m a huge believer of testing everything and tracking the results. And yes, these activities certainly support your overall marketing strategy. But you have to ask yourself the question, if we live in a digital world, why aren’t you investing more seriously in digital channels? What are you afraid of?

 

 

If you see your website as a cost, you’ve already lost. No matter how much you invest on https://digitalengage.net/who-we-help services. A website should support your business goals, sales and marketing strategy and more. Your website should be a key touchpoint during the sales process or should be directly generating revenue for your business through ecommerce sales or generating enquiries.

 

Digital Doesn’t Work for Our Industry

Seriously? Did I just hear you correctly? I kid you not, this is something we have heard on multiple occasions.

** Takes a deep breath **

You think that digital doesn’t work in your industry? I ask you to prove to me that digital doesn’t work in your industry. I want to see all of the following that you have invested in previously and generated zero results if you truly believe that digital doesn’t work in your industry;

  • Show me your Google Analytics data, how many visits are you getting per month from different traffic sources, what are these website visitors doing when they get to your website (Are they bouncing away straight away? It’s probably because you have a horrible website or you are getting low quality traffic), how many enquiries or sales are you generating through your website? (You aren’t tracking this you say?), is your website traffic increasing or decreasing every month? (You are tracking this on a regular basis aren’t you?)
  • Show me how visible you are on Google when customers are searching for your key products and services? (You are tracking this data aren’t you?)
  • Show me how your pay per click advertising campaigns are performing on Google AdWords (You have tested this haven’t you?)
  • Show me how your social media campaigns are feeding into your digital marketing strategy to connect with key influencers and boost your brand online (You are active on social media on a regular basis aren’t you?)
  • Show me how well your email marketing campaigns are performing, I want to see open rates, click through rates, popular content, active customers
  • Show me your average order values and customer lifetime values per traffic source, I want to see how your individual digital marketing campaigns are performing against your traditional marketing activities. Show me the return on your investments for all of your activities.

During our initial analysis when speaking with businesses, we ask some very probing questions about the businesses we may choose to work with in the future. We want to make sure that you are ready to invest in digital seriously. We want to make sure that you are truly open to increasing your revenue through digital marketing, or whether you are simply looking at digital to dip your toe in and seeing everything as a cost and a tick box exercise.

 

Facepalm Star Treck

 

Generally speaking, when we hear comments such as “Digital doesn’t work for our industry” there isn’t a great deal we can do to help at this stage. Let’s chat again in a couple of years when you’re ready to talk things through seriously and are more aware about how the world has changed. For those who can answer some of the basic questions outlined above, then this is where we come in to get you on the right track and get your digital marketing campaigns performing well.

 

We Had SEO Done Once

Search Engine Optimisation is never done. It is part of an ongoing process designed to increase organic traffic to your website over time and ultimately sales / enquiries / revenue depending on the sector you are working in. We’ve seen businesses who thought they “had SEO done” previously and decided to go no further, against our best efforts to convince them otherwise. Avoid making the same mistakes as we have seen to many other businesses make, invest in your digital channels to build long term results, rather than seeing SEO as “done”;

 

Weve Had SEO Done Once

 

Would you ever see your physical shop or office space as being “done”? Or would you empty the bins daily, clean the carpets, tidy the desks, bring in new customers, promote your shop as being open, walk your shop floor daily, add new products to your inventory, run special offers and promotions to generate new customers and more? It is no different when looking online. The only difference comes down to choice. Each individual business either choses to invest in digital, or they don’t. Living in a digital world, you yourself will naturally research many of the products you have around you right now online in the first instance.

 

We Already Have a Website, Why Do We Need Another?

Is your website performing? No? Is your website mobile friendly? No? Does your website look like it was built in 1996? Yes? Your customers online are looking for a website that sells a specific product or service, is extremely easy to use, is branded very well and fits with their personal beliefs. If you website was built by your friends neighbour’s son who was taking a Dreamweaver course 10 years ago then it probably isn’t going to be relevant for your customers.

A bad website is like turning up trying to sell to potential customers unwashed, unshaven, wearing unfitted clothes with holes in and smelling like a wet dog. If you turned up in person to sell to potential customers like this, how do you think they would react? And how is this different online?

Your website is your digital shop front, make it count and engage with your audience. Website visitors want to see that you care, that you are there to help them accomplish their goal, that you are only a phone call away from being able to answer their queries and that you actually want new customers. A bad website simply pushes people away.

 

Google1998

 

A good website builds loyal customers over time. Your website may not look as bad as Google’s did back in 1998 (although we have seen some that do come close!). Do you think Google would be as popular today if they didn’t invest in their website seriously over the past several years?

 

We Spent 10’s of Thousands on Our Website about 5 years

5 year is a lifetime in the digital world. Traditional civil engineering projects are often designed to last 100 years. You’re lucky if your website lasts 100 months without any input. Unfortunately spending money on digital projects does not guarantee quality. We’ve seen so many instances where companies have spent a lot of money on websites which simply haven’t delivered. Only recently have we seen a brand new website launched that is effectively telling Google to go away.

This is an unfortunate reality for many businesses, which is why we launched our Digital Lifeline packages so you can call on someone to give you solid advice about your digital activities and website technologies. Having bought a website years ago and wondering why this isn’t performing now is a little mad when you compare this to the real world. Imagine if you bought an old car from a sleazy second hand car sales man, you can picture the type, and then you decided not to get an MOT done at all, no services, any repairs were done with your own hammer, screwdriver, car manual and a bit of duck-tape where needed. How do you think your car would be performing today? Probably not very well.

Again, the same is true for your website. If you see your website as a cost, then you have already lost. If you see your website as a vehicle to increase ecommerce sales, enquiries from around the globe and ultimately revenue then you are on the right track. Imagine living out in the sticks, with only a post office and a corner shop in the village. Not a great deal of job opportunities (i.e. personal revenue). In this instance, buying a car isn’t a cost, buying a car gives you freedom to break into new markets such as cities and increase your personal revenue by getting a higher paid job. Your website is no different – when you invest in your website seriously.

 

We bought a website once

 

Your Website Should Generate a Return on Your Investment

Have a think about this;

  • If I asked you to give me a £1 coin right now, how many of you would pop one in the post to us? No-one? Why? We’re a great bunch of folk 🙂
  • As a comparison, if I asked you to give me a £1 coin right now, and I would give you £2 back, how many £1 coins would you send us in the post? I’m guessing that you’d empty your bank account, right? Because you would double your money overnight.

The logic of investing in digital marketing channels is no different. The difference being between traditional marketing channels and digital marketing channels is that you can track every single detail in one of these channels, whereas you can track very little results in the other channel.

Looking at the famous quote;

 

“Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don’t know which half.”

 

I’d like to expand on this quote and be a tad facetious;

 

“Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; It’s the offline half!”

 

Being able to track and understand how all of your marketing channels are performing will allow you to make strategic decisions to grow your business. Simply spending money aimlessly on activities that you’ve always done in business probably isn’t the best approach going forward, unless you are confident that this is already working for you.

 

Next Steps

We work with businesses of all shapes and sizes, some who are well versed in digital technologies and are needing support along their fast paced journey, and also companies who require a good amount of support as they are still at the start of digital journey. We will work with any business who requires our help and is ready.

The familiar quotes couldn’t be truer;

 

“You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink” – Quote

“When the student is ready, the teacher will appear” – Chinese proverb

“A journey of 1000 miles begins with a single step” – Chinese proverb

 

We’re ready to work with you and your company as soon as you are. All of the contents of this blog post are choices which people and businesses can make. People either choose to do something about their underperforming website and talk to us, or they choose to do what they have always done.

The more companies I personally speak with, the more I realise that success in the digital world is not down to our amazing work alone (although this does help!) but it is often down to the choices made by the individuals within either ambitious or struggling businesses.

Remember, all you need to do is ask we we’ll be there to help.

Blue Pill Red Pill

Is it Ok that Google is Tracking Your Every Move?

Did you know that Google is tracking your every single move? No? Most people don’t, yet they are;

 

Google Tracking Your Every Move

 

The above is where I have personally been recently while out and about on the road visiting businesses which is naturally a large part of the work that I do. This isn’t some feature that I have personally set up. No, this is something which Google has enabled by default and means that they are tracking my every move, and yours too. I’m sure there will be some small print in the terms of use somewhere but this isn’t the point.

Google is not alone in this activity. Back in 2012, Apple were found out to be tracking users without permission. With the rise of smart technology such as phones and tablets, which have many sensing devices built in, there needs to be a much easier way for users to understand what data is being tracked and how this is being used.

 

Check what Google knows about where you have been recently

 

To see what Google knows about where you have been recently, click the above link and sign into the (or one of the..) Google Accounts that you are signed into on your mobile phone. You’ll be surprised at what you can see!

 

Clear Permissions and User Control

Currently it is not clear for users what data is being tracked by the majority of software and apps that you are using on your mobile devices. The industry as a whole needs to take more responsibility for privacy and security related issues. Google has recently launched Google My Account which is designed to take this a step closer to where we need to be, although I’m not sure this going far enough;

 

Google My Account

 

If you are concerned about what information Google is tracking about you, it would be recommended to check through the settings for all of your Google Accounts within the My Account feature that has recently launched. Specifically where you can turn off the feature for how Google is tracking your every move if you feel this is a little too invasive into your life. Simply navigate to the Personal Info & Privacy page, then scroll down to the Places You Go section to turn this off;

 

Turn off Google Location Tracking

 

Privacy

The amount of data that is being collected about everyone on a daily basis is enormous. Data that can ultimately be used for advertising purposes, sold to other companies or even stolen by cyber criminals. There are already rules in place around data security including the Data Protection Act which states that any information stored must be;

  • used fairly and lawfully
  • used for limited, specifically stated purposes
  • used in a way that is adequate, relevant and not excessive
  • accurate
  • kept for no longer than is absolutely necessary
  • handled according to people’s data protection rights
  • kept safe and secure
  • not transferred outside the UK without adequate protection

There is stronger legal protection for more sensitive information, such as:

  • ethnic background
  • political opinions
  • religious beliefs
  • health
  • sexual health
  • criminal records

What is interesting when comparing the above with what is actually happening in the world, it takes no legal expert to raise a few eyebrows at the disparity between the rules and reality. What is clear though is that there needs to be a much more thorough and clear process in place for all data stored about people by large organisations. When comparing this to a real world context, if you were being followed around all day, every day, by a private investigator how would you feel?

The Rise of Referrer Spam in Google Analytics

We have been seeing a large rise in referrer spam in Google Analytics which is causing problems for a lot of website owners. There is also a lot of misinformation on the web about how to resolve these issues which we will look to clear up in the blog post and the subsequent resources we have created to block spam bots in Google Analytics. This blog post will look at what causes referral spam in Google Analytics.

 

Stop Referral Spam in Google Analytics

 

What is a Referrer

A referrer is a HTTP Header that is sent to a website when a user clicks on a link from one website to another. For example, within your web analytics software such as Google Analytics, you can see what other websites (the referrer) are driving traffic to your website which can be useful to track how popular your website content it around the web.

The referrer is extremely valuable although due to its nature, it is possible to abuse this information and trick web analytics software into thinking a genuine user has performed an action on an external website to visit your website. When in fact this was just completed by a software script to mess with your analytics data, often to place links into your web analytics platform designed to make users take a look at those which can often be a virus or an affiliate link to a popular website so that they can earn money the next time you purchase something from that website.

 

How Referrer Spam Works

It depends. Referrer spam comes in two main forms, particularly when related to Google Analytics. Sometimes the script will actually visit your website and execute the JavaScript files for Google Analytics, which then sends the data into Google Analytics. Whereas other times data is just sent directly into Google Analytics without the script ever visiting your website. Depending on what is happening within your own analytics software will depend on how you deal with the spam and remove it.

What actually happens with all types of referral spam is that the HTTP Referrer header information is faked. When creating scripts to spam people, to explain this simply, you say what the URL is and what the HTTP Referrer header information is. For example;

URL: www.contradodigital.com

HTTP Referrer: www.another-website.com

So when Google Analytics receives this information, the www.another-website.com shows as a referral website visit which is why it then appears within the Google Analytics reports. The finer details are a little more complex than this in the background, but this gives you a basic understanding of what is happening.

 

Referral Spam that Visits your Website

One way referral spam gets into your Google Analytics reports is when a spam bot actually visits your website and loads the Google Analytics JavaScript.

 

How Referrer Spam Works When Visiting a Website

 

From Google’s point of view, the data that has been received for the HTTP Referrer is genuine and there is no way of determining any difference. Hence why this data is sent straight into Google Analytics just like a valid website visitor’s data would be sent into Google Analytics.

This type of referrer spam is actually reasonably simple to block using the .htaccess file. Read up on the finer details on the resources page about how to stop this. Essentially, you can block certain website visits if they have come from a certain source. For example, you could block anyone trying to access your website if they have come from www.google.com. But you wouldn’t do that, that would be insane. Instead, you can identify the spam domains and block access from these.

 

Referral Spam that Sends Data Directly into Google Analytics

Other types of referral spam will send data directly into your Google Analytics account without ever visiting your website. Which makes dealing with this type of referral spam a little different. How this actually works is that a script sends the data directly to Google Analytics and associates this with your account. Your account has an ID number which looks like, UA-00000001-1, then another website owner has an account like UA-00000002-1 and so on.

So how these types of scripts work is that they simply send the fake data directly to Google and the different accounts, essentially looping through the account numbers hundreds of thousands of times so their referral spam ends up in as many different accounts as possible. The data that is sent through into Google Analytics by spammers can be customised to whatever they like, which is a little annoying for website owners and a continual job to keep up to date with this.

 

How Referrer Spam Works when Sending Data Directly to Google Analytics

 

What this means is that you need to take a different approach to block this type of spam from Google Analytics. This needs to be implemented directly within Google Analytics. There are two things that you can do within Google Analytics which are blocking spam bots that Google is aware of and also blocking individual referral domains that aren’t being blocked by default. There is a full guide on how to block this type of referral spam over on our resources page. If you have any specific queries about how to deal with referral spam within your own Google Analytics account then get in touch and we can take a look at what the solution will be for you. If you are interested in reading the highly technical details behind what is happening, then this post explains this in great detail.

Creative Entrepreneur December 2014

Just before Xmas I was invited to speak at the Creative Entrepreneur event at Media City in Manchester to share insights into how online retail is changing. In-between speaking, it was great to listen to other online retail experts to hear their thoughts about where things are heading. So we can take a look through some of the discussions points in this blog post.

Creative Entrepreneur December 2014

 

ASDA

First up we heard from Dom Burch, the serial speaker and senior director or marketing innovation and new revenue at Walmart UK (Asda). He shared his insights into how some of ASDA’s recent campaigns have been hugely successful in many aspects online and offline.

Dom’s first tip was around innovation and the importance of innovating throughout your entire business, regardless of how big or small you are. Innovation is key to long term and sustained growth. Simply dipping a toe in the water isn’t going to cut it here, Dom advised that you need to be giving projects at least 6 months to succeed (or fail!) so that you can be confident that you have exhausted all possibilities for the idea and had the time to gather data and assess the results accurately.

With all innovative ideas, you are starting with a goal of some kind for the business. Starting with ambitions to “become a big business” is equivalent to starting with the idea of “making a video go viral”. It’s simply the wrong approach to take and will inevitably lead to disappointment as goals are not hit. Instead, start with goals that are relevant for your business, goals that are in-line with your customer demands and goals that you can actually influence.

In between these ideas, Dom shared a few interesting statistics about ASDA;

  • ASDA FM listeners have more people listening that Radio 1 and Radio 2 combined
  • There are over 18 million customers who visit ASDA stores weekly
  • ASDA’s website has over 300 million impressions every month

These are quite similar figures to what was announced last year at a digital marketing conference in Manchester.

With ASDA spending over £100 million per annum on broadcasting adverts, Dom’s approach was to get the PR team using Twitter, which was quite a challenge. Spending as little as 2 hours per week on Twitter, the newbie-to-Twitter PR team were already having a conversation with the editor of Vogue within 2 weeks. Where else could you get this kind of conversation going in 2 weeks? It simply wouldn’t be possible.

Another tip came in the form of doing something yourself first so that you know how to do it. This is something that I firmly believe in personally and in business. If you don’t at least understand what is happening, how can you ever hope to really manage this process? This is not to say you need to be an expert in every aspect as this would be impossible. Instead, it is hugely important to get a good grasp on every aspect within business and digital so that you can fully understand why things are being implemented and the reach they will ultimately have.

 

Build Measure Learn Iterative Process

 

The simple process above will help you to build fast, fail quickly and innovate throughout your business at speeds you have never done before. Ideas are worthless, implementation is key and the only way to see what does and doesn’t work is to loop through the process as fast as possible, while giving every idea the time and energy to succeed.

Have a think for a moment, what are the 10 ideas that you have been talking about in your business last year? I can guarantee that there will certainly have been more than 10 ideas, but what were the 10 most important ideas? How many of these have you actually implemented, 5, 3, 1, none? Start the year off as you mean to go on. Run through these 10 ideas and measure everything to see how they impact your business. Capture the data and make informed decisions about the success of each campaign or idea.

For established businesses like ASDA, they aim to spend between 1-5% of their marketing budget on what Dom called “Trial and Error” campaigns which may or may not work. For businesses within the SME market, I would suggest this should be much higher as you are often still in the stages of experimenting with campaigns to see what works for your business. We naturally review and manage a lot of campaigns in the day to day work we do, although even we cannot tell you with 100% accuracy what will or won’t work for your individual business. We can certainly take into account the years of expertise and make a highly educated decision, although every business and every customer is different.

ASDA know that 74% of their customers are on Facebook, 20% are on Twitter and 15% of their customers watch YouTube daily. This information allows ASDA to invest their digital marketing spend in the right areas and not simply spend money on ‘more followers’ with no engagements. Their YouTube strategy focuses on how-to style videos and researching products which are broken down into 3 main groups;

  • Hygiene content: Something that is core to what you do and for your core target market
  • Hub content: Regularly created content designed to push this in front of your audience
  • Hero content: Large scale campaigns to raise brand awareness, think about the epic Volvo Trucks campaign

The next of ASDA’s campaigns that was shared was with the involvement of Tanya Burr. Who you ask? Ask your teenage daughter if you have one. If you don’t, like me, then I also had to Google her to find out a bit more about her! She is described as a “Beauty, Fashion, Baking, Lifestyle Blogger & YouTuber” in a nutshell. And more than that, she has 1.2 million followers on Twitter. This is the reason ASDA worked with her, to reach this huge audience. The reach that ASDA’s products gained on social media was astronomical, just take a look through the number of views for each video that they produced together and you will start to understand how collaborations like this can pay off. Where else could you gain that kind of reach? To put things into context, Game of Thrones receives around 1.3 million views every week, which is less than what ASDA managed to reach with this collaboration. Likewise, Tanya Burr has more followers on Twitter than Sheryl Cole, Madonna and BBC Radio 1. Just because you have likely never heard of people like Tanya, doesn’t mean that they aren’t hugely successful.

When looking at YouTube videos specifically, always keep an eye out on the engagement levels and not simply the number of views of a video. Any brands that have a lot of views yet very few likes/dislikes means that they have likely paid a lot of money to drive traffic to the YouTube video and no-one liked it so they just bounced straight back out again. High engagement levels allow you to listen directly to your customers in ways like never before. ASDA’s videos with Tanya weren’t simply ‘buy this product’ videos, that’s boring and a fast way to drive customers away. Instead, they focused on food, health and wellness, beauty and style.

ASDA took this whole campaign one step further by creating the Mums Eye View YouTube channel which linked together their partnerships with Tanya Burr, Zoella and the Lean Machines. Google them all to grasp the scale of what is being achieved with strategic partnerships. This is a very young audience that ASDA was targeting here and one that has clearly paid off. With reports of as little as 2p per view of a YouTube video, 70% retention rate, 4 minutes minimum viewing time with an average of 7 minutes in length per video. You could only achieve these results with effective digital marketing that focuses directly on your customers. Not once did ASDA think “let’s make this video go viral”. What this also shows is that people like long form content on the web. No more do videos have to be 2 minutes in length, don’t be afraid of pushing the boundaries to meet customer demands.

This brings us nicely onto newspapers and traditional newspaper advertising. Quite frankly, no-one reads newspapers anymore, and I don’t say that lightly. Ask yourself, when was the last time you bought a newspaper? Personally, I can’t remember the last time I bought one, other than on the occasional times when I’m featured in one to keep as a little memento. Keep everything into context, could you seriously generate a response of someone looking at your advert for 4 minutes in a newspaper? I don’t need to answer that for you, it is clear. For ASDA, they know that 4/5 people don’t shop in ASDA and that is OK. So why spend £150,000 on a single press release in a national newspaper when 4/5 people of the people still reading newspapers aren’t ever going to be interested in ASDA anyway?

The summary of Dom’s keynote speech was that brands and businesses need to take a step back and see what is happening in the world. It’s time to start creating more content that relates to your audience.

 

Cyber Security

The next session was all about cyber security and the steps you can take to protect yourself. You need to look no further than the recent headlines about how many companies have been hacked into last year with millions of customer details stolen; eBay, Sony, Moonpig and endless more including 273 million customer details stolen from Yahoo and 250,000 customer details stolen from Twitter.

Some interesting statistics announced around cybercrime included that it costs the UK economy over £6.8 billion per year and the global economy £238 billion annually. With 81% of large businesses having experienced security breaches in 2014. The cost of a typical breach is now at £1.15 million, up from £600,000 in the previous year.

Some of the most common attacks are due to very basic hacking just after Update Tuesday. Windows PCs are updated every Tuesday with security patches that have been identified to keep your system and data safe and secure, yet so many people either ignore the messages on their computers or simply turn off the automatic updates. This is mad! As part of the weekly update from Microsoft, the hackers use this information as a shopping list of exploits on computers around the world they can attempt to get access to. If your system isn’t up to date, then you could be at risk.

Moving onto more sophisticated attacks such as DDoS attacks, which stands for Distributed Denial of Service attacks, these can bring down websites with ease. To the point at which you can actually purchase an attack on the black market to target a specific website for a specific amount of time. Unlawful and illegal hacking is turning into an underground commercial business. DDoS attacks are actually quite simple;

 

How DDoS Attacks Work

 

This method for DDoS are often using thousands, hundreds of thousands if not millions of computers from around the globe. For example, here you can see a short visualisation of a DDoS attack happening in real time on my personal blog a couple of years ago;

 

 

Have a read more about the full details if you are interested. The exact same thing happened to Mastercard, Visa and PayPal when they decided to stop sending funds through to the hacker group Anonymous. Whether you agree or disagree with this is another discussion all together and one that doesn’t have a simple answer. The important point here is that DDoS attacks are a real and present threat for businesses. While it is unlikely that you will encounter the wrath of some of the more prolific public hacking groups, the reality is that a lot of business websites for SMEs are hosted on cheap and nasty web servers that are poorly configured and have very little security built into them. Make sure your web server has the right protection in place to at least minimise the chances of DDoS attacks affecting you. The unfortunate reality is that if someone is determined enough to bring your website down, they will do. You can make it harder for this to happen though by having the right infrastructure in place for your website.  Aren’t sure if your website and web server is protected? Then get in touch and we can review to check for vulnerabilities.

Moving away from hacking and looking at other types of data breaches now. Some of the most common data breaches often come in much simpler formats and often due to human error, aka. lack of awareness about threats. Threats including basic passwords on mobile and tablet devices to avoid automatic access to cloud based file storage systems for your company if a device is lot of stolen, to a deeper understanding of programming languages to avoid rookie mistakes.

Website vulnerabilities in particular happen for a number of reasons including unpatched software/content management systems/plugins, poor coding practices, poor server configuration, unencrypted data and more. Getting all of the above right is the absolute minimum businesses should be doing. Simply having a website built and not thinking about on-going updates is madness with how easy it is to exploit unloved websites. Every website should have regular and on-going maintenance to keep the website, content and data secure.

As of this year, there will be new EU Data Protection legislation that will be coming into force that businesses must adhere to. All of which is designed to move the current legislation into the digital age where customer data is collected at an alarming rate, often with very little visibility about what is being collected. This is likely to include full disclosure when data breaches happen so that customers are aware of what has happened. Far too often, businesses try and sweep large data breaches under the rug and hope that no-one will notice.

During the session, a live demonstration was given showing how easy it is for someone to steal your details – Even with my background, I was surprised at the level of things that can be done to steal personal details without you ever knowing what has happened. For example, simple things like clicking a link in an email can allow hackers to steal all of your saved login information in your browser. It really is that simple. Likewise, downloading a seemingly normal looking file from an untrusted source can result in a Key Logger being installed on your computer which will then be able to ‘read’ every single key you press, including your online bank account details and email passwords.

You may have heard about the infamous Stuxnet virus that swept the world almost by stealth last year. If you haven’t, you really need to read a few articles about this serious security threat; Wired, Business Insider, Wikipedia and what is even more worrying is that the source code for the virus is now publicly available on certain websites.  As a quick overview if you haven’t come across Stuxnet before, the virus was designed specifically to find a physical controller located in power plants that controlled the heating/cooling of the nuclear material. As you can imagine, hacking into this and reporting an incorrect figure would lead to catastrophic results. This shows how sophisticated hacking has become. Some sources say that the virus was created by the US to target Iran’s nuclear facilities – how true this is, I don’t know. Other notable viruses including Duqu and Flame again highlight the level of sophistication that is happening right now.

Other common hacking attacks include the likes of SQL Injection attacks and Cross Site Scripting (XSS) attacks. Have a read up on these, again hugely important issues to be aware of and protect yourself against. Inexperienced and junior people working in digital are often oblivious to all of this type of information and most importantly how to protect against it. Always work with a company and people who are professional and have a very deep understanding of the industry they are working on. Remember the quote “If you think it’s expensive to hire a professional to do the job, wait until you hire an amateur”.

Now can you see why it is important to keep your systems, website and servers secure? Good, I’m glad the message has been received. If you don’t know what to do next, then get in touch and let’s have a chat.

 

Online Retail Panel

Online Retail Session 3

Next up was the panel that I was part of alongside three other digital agency owners in Manchester and London along with the Head of Online Retail for Iceland Foods, Andy Thompson. The session took a rather interesting turn to talk around a lot of digital topics about business growth through online retail, internal communication challenges and solutions along with some blindingly obvious opportunities for large brands to improve their sales online. The talks should be going online once they have been edited which you can look forward to watching, so for the meantime, here is a quick summary of the whole event and more information can also be found on the website;

 

 

Online Retail Panelist

Digital Marketing, SEO and the Internet of Things

The last few sessions of the day are combined within this section. We heard from many different speakers and panellists in the final sessions with lots of great tips for businesses. One key message that is extremely relevant for the SME market is that you simply can’t have social media accounts without creative content. You need to be creating your own content and sharing this socially along with utilising other great content around the web to fuel your social media channels.

 

The Tales of Things by Oxfam

Oxfam was involved in a very interesting project with the University of Salford titled The Tales of Things. Oxfam have invested £1.4 million over the past 3 years with the aim of revolutionising business systems and processes through the use of digital technologies. The Tales of Things project was a very interesting one and one which I believe we will start to see more of over the next few years.

The idea was around selling donated products that also have a QR code attached to them. Customers looking at the item would then scan the QR code to listen to a short story from the person who donated the item. Oxfam found that this actually increased sales by 57% in the Manchester shop. They then extended this into Selfridges in London where celebrities donated items with the same concept behind. Within 14 weeks, they had this technology applied in 10 Manchester shops. This is ultimately a historical archive for objects that are traded, thus turning an object into something more than an object as it has a story behind it.

Personally I hate QR codes with a passion due to the way that they are misused in 99% of circumstances by businesses. Although in this instance with Oxfam, this is a really great way to bring things to live and genuinely adds value to the product being purchased and the customer experience.

This project has been on-going for a few years now so have a good read about the finer details over at the BBC, Oxfam and Tales of Things.

 

Cool Tech

Where would we be without a blog post talking about some cool technology that is on the horizon? Here is a really cool digital air hockey game that Tom Cheesewright and I played (which I think I won, Tom may disagree, not that I’m competitive in any way! );

 

Digital Air Hockey - CreativeEnt

Image courtesy of Aleksej Heinze

 

And this was even more amazing, a 3D holographic projection (apologies for the poor quality, it was taken on my smartphone);

Summary of Event

Overall, the event was excellent with lots of great tips and advice to take away and implement. I’m sure there are a lot of questions about what you need to be focusing on in your business after the security discussions and digital marketing opportunities discussed above. Get in touch and we can talk things through with you to see how we can support the growth of your business.

Keep an eye out for next year’s event