Category Archive Blog

Byadmin

Don’t Shoot….Fire Up the Messenger

We all know the old saying, “Don’t shoot the messenger” a term founded in times of war to protect the safety of those delivering and receiving enemy communications. Today it has less of a life-threatening implication, but a boss reacting badly to difficult news might still be responsible for corporate collateral damage.

Fire Up FB Messenger & WhatsApp

Enough of the negative talk though, this is an entirely positive reference to current communication trends and how I believe we are mostly failing to capitalise on the power of the latest messaging tools.

In private, we all use SMS text, WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger and DM via Twitter or send a note privately via Instagram. We’re comfortable chatting digitally with family and friends in this way, sharing photos, amusing gifs (technically pronounced Jiffs don’t you know) to punctuate a particular mood and generally allow others to participate in the minutiae of our daily lives.  It’s true to say we’re far more comfortable with digital communications and this has somewhat marginalised good old e-mail and for personal communication somewhat left it out in the cold.

Talking of cold, GDPR heralded something of a frosty wake up call for businesses who’d become rather complacent about their flabby, irregularly checked and verified e-mail lists. Some of you may have faced the daunting task of “starting again” to build your prospect database or at best felt obliged to send one of those…”I know you’re sick of these e-mails but…” communique’s flagging up the shiny new privacy policy. I’m not suggesting that e-mail has had its day, it still shoulders a huge workload for businesses across the globe. I’m certain it will continue to do so for some time to come and it will be a long while before we wave goodbye to the overflowing inboxes, spam and oversized attachments that clog up our portion of the cloud.

So, what’s the point of this article? I hear you ask.

The point is there are a number of very positive developments happening within the aforementioned world of messenger apps and they are certainly worth considering for your business.

WhatsApp – Is launching a new feature for group admins which allows you to simply broadcast messages without the fear of being embroiled in a days-worth of small talk. This is an ideal option for any business that wants to communicate with trusted customers, clients. You could send discrete special offers, news or technical information to improve their experience. Equally powerful if you have multiple channels, sectors to communicate with and each sector head could take responsibility for sending tailored messages to their respective groups. By way of specific example a law firm could create a WhatsApp Group for HR managers to share breaking news covering updates affecting employment legislation. That’s just one example, I’m sure you can think of many others relevant to your business.

How to: To enable this setting, open “Group Info,” tap Group Settings > Send Messages and select “Only Admins.” This setting is rolling out to all users around the world on the latest supported versions of the app. [WhatsApp]

Facebook Messenger – FBM has many commercial applications, from adverts to autobot responders but if you’re planning an event and want to increase the reach of your invitation you may consider Facebook’s messengers code.

To introduce the prospect of communicating on Facebook messenger for the first time your contact e-mail list could be issued with your own FB messenger code, (that QR code looking circle around a profile picture). Once scanned the code can provide all the details they need to sign up for the event and receive updates via the Zuckerberg Express. I know they’ve had some bad press recently but you’ll be knocked out by the response rates once customers migrate from e-mail.

How to: Messenger Codes are codes people can scan to start a conversation with your business on Messenger.

You can create a Messenger Code from your Facebook Page or Profile, and you can share them in several places:

  • Your website
  • EMail
  • Your Facebook Pages
  • Fliers, posters and stickers
  • Anywhere you often market your Page or business

You can find your Messenger Code in two ways:

For FB profiles:

  • Open Messenger on your iOS or Android phone.
  • Tap People and then tap All.
  • Tap Scan Code.
  • Tap My Code to view your code.
  • To scan a code, tap People and then tap Scan Code.

For FB Pages:

  • Go to your Page.
  • Click Messages.
  • Click the tool tip to download and share your Messenger code

The stats are stark. Typical open rates for e-mail sit at around 20-25% for a good campaign. Compare this to Facebook messenger campaigns that regularly achieve a 90% open rate. With the opportunity to secure invites via the app and then share useful information just prior, even during and certainly afterwards its one way to engage.

These are just two examples of how the messenger apps are developing and evolving to cater for the commercial world. As long as the communications stay relevant, not spammy, or too hard sell you should be able to develop stronger, loyal connections through these apps. Handle with care and the return will be worth it.

If you’d like to discuss these or other marketing ideas please feel free to connect on WhatsApp and you can join a group I’ve created called Marketing Matters.

Byadmin

Do Your Customers Experience Autopilot Service

Are Your Customers Up in the Air?

With the increased investment in call centre systems and application of artificial intelligence, organisations can swiftly route our enquiries and answer specific questions.  That’s the theory, but the reality is that it leaves us feeling far from satisfied, like indigestion after a fast food meal or disappointing, big budget film that failed to live up to its hype. Why is that?

First let’s look at the specific examples that cause our blood pressure to rise.

E-mails from “no-reply” senders 

These little suckers landing in our inbox are a terrific wind up.  You receive an e-mail that sparks interest but you don’t want to click the link and spend hours filing in forms and sharing info.  You’ve a genuine query you want to raise but… the e-mail has been sent by a one-way e-mail server only capable of giving not receiving.  Any e-mail sent to this address simply bounces back to you.

Auto Answer, Option Rich Call Handling

A famous way of creating fury these multi layered telephone systems offer wide variations of numbered or spoken responses.  Tremendous if you fit one of their categories, don’t have short term memory problems and speak home counties English.  Not so good if you have a non-standard query, or you fail to remember option one when the call handling bot gets to option six, or you hail from Glasgow, Gloucester or Gwent.

“I’m sorry I didn’t understand that please try again”

Webchat

The latest trend seeking to syphon customers away from front facing humans is the wonderful “Webchat”.  Oh, how my heart skips a beat when a tweet of discontent is met with a direction to seek an answer via the all-knowing, fat fingers behind company webchat services.  I’m sure the management meeting that authorised the use of such services had every good intention, but from a customer perspective they are ponderous, mind-numbing torture.  You patiently await the next nugget of wisdom from your web-chatter as the screen says, “your adviser is typing” only to be asked for your security details, only the third time that session!  I’ve discovered they often lack a sense of humour too, not appreciating the typing of “your customer is snoring/ fallen into a coma”

 

Auto-Renewal

The fourth of my “usual suspects” diverting customers attention is the infamous auto renewal.  You’ve signed up for anti-virus protection, design software, web hosting or a Cable TV package and as per tens of thousands of other customers, your busy lifestyle aids the business by rolling over your contract.  At best, you quickly realise and end up paying a month more than you wanted, at worse the supplier points to the small print of the terms and conditions and imposes a swingeing release fee.  At their most insidious, these methods create situations where monthly charges creep up and suggest you should serve a period of notice before ending the relationship.

 

Time to Switch Off the Auto-Pilot

Of course, these “innovations” in customer management offer benefits however it appears to me the larger the corporation the greater reliance falls upon auto-pilot communication.  As far as I can determine auto-pilot just leave customers up in the air. Trying to sort out a mobile phone problem, billing issue with insurance company or technical fault with digital TV is not a straightforward exercise.  No longer can we simply pick up a phone and expect to talk to a human being who has service at the forefront of their mind.  More likely we’re part of the space time continuum caught up in “We’re experiencing a higher than usual volume of enquiries at this time…” My immediate thought when I hear this oft spouted excuse, is of those hundreds of fellow sufferers all hanging on the phone wishing for a time before tech and the opportunity to experience proper service when called upon.

My advice for business owners, customer service directors and marketers…keep it simple and keep it human.  We are sociable creatures that require direct human interaction for reassurance and comfort.  If you want to promote your organisation as the best in its particular field, it must start in the way it communicates to its customers, not as numbers, units, financial returns or demographics but living breathing people with unique and genuine needs.

Byadmin

Give Your Time an MOT

Do you run your day or does the day run you?

Scan through this simple list of symptoms and see which apply to you;

  • Do you find yourself easily distracted?
  • Do you take longer to complete relatively simple tasks?
  • At the end of the working day do you feel deflated as its mostly been unproductive?
  • Is your sleep pattern disturbed?
  • Are you tired more often than energised?
  • Do you get irritated by little things?
  • Are you checking your e-mails several times an hour?
  • Is your smartphone always on and close to you at all times?
Thought Leader

Thought Leader

If you answered yes to any of the above the chances are you’re suffering with a level of stress that is having a negative impact on your quality of life.  We actually need a certain level of stress in our lives otherwise we’d not get much done.  Positive stress, also called eustress, gets the deadline met, the presentation delivered and you on board the right train at the right time.  It delivers adrenalin, excitement tends to be short term but can improve our performance.

Negative stress is where the mind starts to introduce anxious irrational thoughts that appear to be beyond our ability to manage.  It makes us feel bad, it can be both short and long term, has a direct impact on performance and if left unchecked can lead to unwanted mental and physical symptoms.

There are very many causes of negative stress.  It can be a relationship breakdown, new boss, new neighbourhood, too much work, not enough work, starting a family, financial worries, illness or losing someone close to you.

The fact is we ALL face these bumps and hurdles in our lives and for most of us, most of the time we can deal with them without any difficulty.  Unfortunately, the statistics seem to suggest that an increasing number of us are not coping so well.  As many as 12 million adults in the UK will consult their GP about mental health issues each year.  Diagnosed with anxiety or depression typically caused by stress this results in 13.3 million working days lost each year. It’s a sizeable and growing problem.

Here’s the disclaimer…I’m no GP, psychologist, counsellor or psychotherapist but I, like many others have had my moments with this increasingly common problem.  First and foremost, I would suggest that if you are worried about stress and its effect on you make an appointment to see your GP.  If you can sense that there are one or two warning signs and you want to find a way to improve the way you feel I would strongly suggest taking back control of your life.

Of course “taking back control” can be easier said than done but often we fall into patterns of behaviour which help propagate feelings of negative stress.  The result is that we lose control of our time, others fill it all too quickly and with that loss of control comes added anxiety.  The answer is to evaluate those things we are doing that are causing angst and

My “self-help” route was helped enormously by an old friend who I’d overlooked for too many years. The “friend” is in the shape of a number of tried and tested time management principles that I had learnt as a young manager at Thomas Cook and carried with me or so I thought through my career.  What happens over time and new challenges is that we adapt and grow and learn but often let key nuggets of working practice slip through our minds.

I have a theory.  Actually I have lots of theories but this one is relevant to our 21st Century dilemma.  Once upon a time, long ago in the 90’s, talk of computers, online business and e-mail suggested we would have more leisure time. Thanks to the advent of this fabulous technological era we would all be “chilled to the max” reclining on Ikea furniture and enjoying our newly won down time supping on Sunny D or Sprite.

Fast forward to today and that pipe dream of a technological Nirvana is about as far away as anyone could possibly have imagined.  Smartphones, social media, the Internet of Things and now robotics, VR, AR and AI…are you keeping up?  All these new wonderful innovations are not going to create time for us they’re going to squeeze into whatever time we have, competing with the multitude of tasks expected of us.  As life moved faster so did expectations.  News used to arrive via a broadsheet paper stuffed through the letterbox by a schoolboy on a Raleigh 5 speed. Now it’s instantly delivered in our hands via Twitter and we know about a Japanese tsunami before the BBC news team can brief Hugh Edwards.

So with steely determination I attacked the bookshelf in my office, being self-aware enough to know “Googling” the subject would result in momentary success followed by a likely hour of distraction.  I found notes in an old Filofax, yes do you remember those?  I also found a previous blog on the subject and arrived at the following list.

 

  1. Limit screen time – deliberately my first rule. Just see how productive you can be if you step away from the screen, PC, MAC or Smartphone.  Browsing Twitter, Instagram, Facebook or even your e-mail inbox can drain your productivity, step away and see the benefit.  One final point – turn the smartphone/ tablet off at night several hours before you go to bed, you’ll sleep better.
  2. Allow yourself to do fewer tasks. Give yourself a break, the trick is to focus on the things that are important so work out what they are and stick to dealing with them.
  3. Let prioritising and self-analysis of productivity become a habit
  4. Exercise and have a healthy diet. When we’re time starved we cut corners and often that can result in too many fast food meals which can leave us feeling sluggish and demotivated.  Drink can also be used as a self-medication for stress but conversely it can add to feelings of depression and hinder a restful night’s sleep.
  5. Get organised. Being tidy with a system for filing important information can help enormously with your efficiency and taking control of your environment.  It’s true that a cluttered office can lead to cluttered thinking.
  6. When something just has to be done allow yourself scope to lock yourself away to concentrate on the job in hand.
  7. Don’t be phased by a long “to do” list break the tasks down into absolutely must do’s down to non-priorities. Take them out one at a time.
  8. Don’t always start with the biggest task or greatest priority. We all perform better at different times of the day. If you’re an early bird and sharp first thing but fade after 4pm make sure you keep those taking tasks to the morning.  If you’re otherwise inclined reverse it.
  9. Set time limits for certain tasks. You may have a job that’s going to take days possibly weeks.  Set aside a proportion of time to take it on and work though it systematically.  Break it down into sub tasks and monitor your progress.
  10. Reacquaint yourself with the word “No” be polite but assertive if you don’t have the time to take on a particular project don’t be afraid to say so – often things that seem urgent to others are not as pressing as they seem.

If you’ve experienced problems with stress and/or or time management drop us a line today.

David Laud

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Byadmin

How to Choose the Right Platform

Do you know which social media sites are the best for promoting your business?

Have you launched marketing initiatives without considering the subtle and not so subtle differences between the platforms?

Platform2

As social media evolves respective sites take on varying features and functions that for some, like Facebook and Twitter, may see similar developments whilst others such as Snapchat keep themselves distinct.

It might seem obvious but we really do need to note these differences to make sure we’re not heading in the wrong direction.  From the stark 10 second or less Snapchat experience to the Twitter poll these variances are impacting on the behaviour and attraction for users.

In very basic terms there are strengths and weaknesses of these social media platforms and our awareness of them will help shape our strategy.

To determine which best suits your business, ask yourself these questions,

 “Where do my customers go when they’re online?”

“What do they do when they’re there?”

Main activities by media type:

  • LinkedIn – B2b & B2c, growing online networks, sharing content, raising personal and business profile, getting a new job, recruiting
  • Facebook – Primarily B2c personal & social, chatting with friends and keeping up with what’s going on, leisure activities, business users can brand build and advertise to a specific demographic with FB
  • Twitter – B2b & B2c, news, search, trends, less chat with friends more customer service focus, business users
  • Instagram – B2c growing B2b engagement used for sharing personal and business photos/ videos and following accounts
  • Snapchat – B2c sharing quirky photos/videos using filters (face swap), telling stories, product placement opportunities.
  • Vine – B2c high impact when well produced, sharing 6 second videos to convey a message
  • Google+ – B2b & B2c Hard to see beyond the SEO advantage
  • Periscope – B2c & B2b mainly used by consumer brand marketers and a few professional service marketers. Live streaming has risks bus is becoming increasingly popular. Too early to offer a definitive view but worth trialling

Here comes the disclaimer…the above is a generalised view of 8 popular social media platforms.  Your business may have a product or service which is more likely to use Pinterest, Tumblr or of course YouTube.  The important factor here is to differentiate between the sites by applying your needs, customer behaviour and the all important creativity to engage effectively.

It’s also worth considering how users interact with the sites.  Increasingly we’re accessing them via smartphone and tablet.  The age of our customers may also play a significant role in our targeting and there are clear generational divides forming over the preference for apps used e.g. Snapchat and Instagram are the preferred choice of Generation Y or Millennials (those born 1980’s to early 2000’s).

Whatever your target audience you should ensure that you choose the correct platform to launch your marketing activity.  By heading in the right direction you’ll save time and effort by concentrating on those key sites to grow your business.

Byadmin

How to Manage the Top 10 Digital Distractions David Laud

Time is a precious commodity.  We need to find available hours to complete a project at work, enjoy time with family or our favourite leisure activity.  Unfortunately there seem to be more interruptions than ever eating into our best laid plans and none so compelling as the digital distractions we face each day.

Digital distractions

Smartphones have evolved to more than match the personal computer and become the essential companion to keep us connected to the wider world, preventing missing out on any conversation, trend or breaking news.  The trouble is that as humans we are vulnerable to these constant pings, buzzes, chimes and flashes on our devices.  Without a strong and determined approach to manage we can lose focus leading to a negative impact on performance.

Here’s a review of the top 10 distractions and how you can best manage them.

E-mail – Oh boy this is a big one.  Probably worth a post all of its own so let’s concentrate on the key problems.  “Always on” e-mail responders are those individuals who live online and will reply instantly to any message and expect the same in return.  That’s just not practical. If you’re not offering frontline customer service set aside time to review your e-mail, on the hour or three or four times a day.  If it’s truly urgent and someone needs your response they can call you, the old fashioned way.  This may prove controversial but e-mail is by far one of our biggest daily distractions, if you can control the time you invest in e-mail communication you will benefit from being more productive.  If in a position of authority take the opportunity to build a culture where colleagues develop greater personal communications such as face to face or phone contact, it will improve the productivity of the business.

Google – We’ve all come to rely on the search giant but how often does our essential “Google” become a 20 minute meander through associated and sometimes random topics?  Search engines are indeed essential tools to help us in business but don’t let it take control of you.  Start with a clear objective and keep to it. If something else looks interesting note it, bookmark for later.  It’s amazing how these eyeball grabbers are far less interesting a day or two later.

Text/ SMS Messages/ WhatsApp – Depending on the culture of the organisation you may find colleagues and certain customers prefer to text you.  This is an area that needs to be carefully managed and understood.  Text although technically no different to tweet or e-mail are perceived by many as a personal rather than commercial communication.  There is a generational divide in preference so be mindful when you look to use the medium as sender or receiver.  As with e-mail, turn off alerts and check at intervals that allow you to get on with your life.

Twitter – Despite the frustrations many have with the platform there are plenty addicted to the 140 character challenge. That constant need to check if anyone liked or re-tweeted your last post can result in an obsessive compulsive desire to feed the bird with attention every five minutes.  Be strong, keep the bird in a cage and arrange visiting times that don’t interfere with the more important parts of our life.

YouTube – There are only so many cute cat and dog videos, well so you might think.  Every day millions of hours of content is uploaded to video sites and they can be compelling to watch especially when friends or colleagues comment on them.  As with Google, once you drop-by one of the popular video sites you can quickly be drawn in as the pages are designed to promote similarly compelling content.  Best advice is leave it for a lunch break or better still after work or the weekend.  If work related check the length of the content and set time aside after other priorities have been addressed.

Facebook – Despite the proliferation of similar platforms Facebook remains one of the biggest distractions.  Well it’s obvious, you’ve added all your friends, old school buddies, ex-boyfriends or girlfriends, family and those randoms you just can’t remember adding. You may well have work colleagues, some suppliers or customers too.  A whole bunch of conversations in differing time zones and from people at alternate stages of life.  No problem catching up at breakfast lunch and dinner but during the day it will just cause indigestion and interference with your to-do list.

LinkedIn – The watercooler way to network with professionals but it’s equally capable of taking large chunks out of your day.  Who’s viewed your profile? How many likes of your post? Who’s that person trying to connect with you? If you comment on a popular post you may want to turn off alerts each time someone posts and as with others set a time when you can make the most of the site.

Instagram – We can appreciate a good, arty, tasty, funny or clever photo, even better when we can keep up with a favourite celebrity or our family and friends.  The visual draw of picture sites can be all too easy to distract us via their smartphone apps.  What we don’t need is a Biebergram or Obamagram drawing us into a compulsion to quote or share when we should be completing that monthly report. Set a time and schedulegram your Instagram.

News Alerts – If, like me you need to know what’s happening in the World you’ll have downloaded news apps.  Remember you can set alerts and allow yourself the option of keeping these muted or allow their interruption.  News editors will decide on what they think is breaking and important news but you will need to determine what is really worth taking time out to read and possibly share. More than 75% of the alerts will not need to be actioned so keep a sharp eye on your mental filter and avoid being sucked into the newsfeed.

Snapchat – 10 seconds may sound but a brief moment in time but add the time taken to check out your contacts latest “Snap” and the drive to respond with an equally funny use of the latest filter and you’ve lost 10 minutes or more.  Snapchat can have a business application but it is mostly for light hearted fun.  That’s one for your lunch break or after work.

There are hundreds of sites, too many to mention in this post but as a rule we just need to be clear as to what value they offer to our working day and what we really should be doing to move our business forward.  Each of the above can prove very helpful in developing and promoting a brand and serving to educate and improve internal communications.  The danger is with the proliferation of digital interactions and there unfettered use.  By taking a few direct steps to schedule our use of these applications we can better manage our day and be far more productive.

It may also be an idea to look at your company policy on use of internet, smartphones and social media.  Check to see if the policy wording has kept pace with some of the more recent trends and behaviours associated with this technology.

If you would like help with your policy feel free to drop me a line.

Byadmin

Don’t be afraid to fail

C5It’s suggested that we live in an increasingly risk averse World.  I would tend to agree, it’s not so much the meek who’ll inherit the earth as the health & safety officer.

In business we’re challenged with key decisions and often significant levels of pressure and responsibility.  Those who’ve survived the past 10 years may have the scars to show for working through tough times but that shouldn’t prevent a positive view on the future and the all important search for new products, services, markets and momentum.

Innovation and creativity are at the heart of a strong enterprising company and now more than ever businesses need those with an entrepreneurial spirit to step forward.

As children we were free of stress and financial concerns and in play with friends or on our own could tap into the amazing resource of our imagination. Where schools were once guilty of sucking such fanciful ideas out of pupils and replacing with strict discipline and routine they are now actively encouraging creativity by integrating games such as Minecraft into mainstream lessons.

Those of us too old to enjoy the new teaching methods should work hard at remembering a time when we were less shackled and open our minds to lateral thought.

Even brainstorming has been hit by the politically correct brigade but don’t let that stop a session where employees can be allowed to participate in idea generation.

Of course not every idea will be a success.  Even the great Clive Sinclair had his less than brilliant moment {see photo for details} but the fact is it didn’t stop him inventing, creating and trying to develop new and better products.

Ultimately business ventures themselves will often falter and fail but what we learn from such an experience are valuable lessons that can help avoid the same mistakes in the future.

Without the bravery of putting ourselves out there, by speaking out in a meeting or setting out on our own in business we will have the reassurance of not failing. That safety first approach will also potentially offer the ultimate frustration of not knowing what that entrepreneurial version of ourselves would’ve achieved.

If you’ve an idea burning a hole in your brain, keeping you awake, worried someone may steal before you get a chance to do breathe life into it then take a chance.

Now may be as good a time as ever to back yourself.

The best way to predict the future is to invent it

Alan Kay

Byadmin

Anchor Plan

Anchor logoAre you looking for a new, innovative method to connect and broadcast to your network?  You might want to read on…

We have social media platforms that offer every possible form of communication, commonly written, increasingly live streaming video but very few that focus purely on the spoken word.

In February this year two huge fans of radio, Nir Zicherman and Michael Mignano launched a new app that puts voice at the heart of its communication platform.  Anchor based on the East Coast, New York, aims to provide users with an opportunity to create regular feeds and grow an audience similar to that of a talk radio station.

Having opened an account and exchanged a few early “waves” I’m a fan.  The look and feel of the app is clean and functional and I can see immediate opportunities for users to develop strong engagement.  The reason for my positivity rests with the manner in which users “waves” are open to replies and a stream of conversation.

Those who find posting content via YouTube, Periscope, Meerkat and Blab uncomfortable, might prefer to work just behind a mic than a camera and this social media newcomer offers a perfect solution.

Anchor is backed by experienced New York broadcasters and aims to use the power of the audio content to grow an engaged and enthusiastic audience.

If you’re something of a big deal such as Ron Burgundy or simply an aspiring broadcaster wanting to try a new platform I’d strongly suggest having a look at Anchor.

Worth noting however that it’s only currently available in IOS format but the team are working hard on the Android version which will be arriving shortly.

If you don’t have an iPhone but have an iPad you can still create “waves” on a tablet.

For more information and to download the app follow this link https://anchor.fm/

To hear an example of a “wave” click on the picture or this link https://t.co/wG0nSfVwkM

Feel free to connect with me on the app if you decide to weigh up the Anchor.

Byadmin

Friends, Randoms, Connected-men, The Truth Behind Online Relationships

Social Networking

Social Networking

His original research was undertaken in the 1990’s well before the explosion of social media activity and as a result many had started to question its validity in the all new socially connected world.

The original research determined that the average human would have 150 friends (stated as between 100 and 200), those who they would know by name, meet with individually or in a group reasonably frequently and have knowledge of their personal circumstances.

The argument by social media advocates followed the line that Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter amongst others provided an opportunity to reach and interact with far more people and therefore Dunbar’s number needed recalculating.

As ever the whacky world we live in threw up such an opportunity to test this when Dorset bakers and biscuit specialists Thomas J. Fudge’s initiated a rather interesting PR campaign.  The idea was to see the sharing of biscuits with tea or coffee as an ideal opportunity to meet face to face, with more people and actually grow the number of “friends”.  Of course the idea being to promote the quality of the Thomas J. Fudge’s product as well as the quality of relationship building and offer a ready supply of PR opportunities.

The start of the process quite correctly involved research to establish a current benchmark figure of average “friend” numbers on Facebook. Step up Professor Dunbar who worked with the University of Oxford research team and surveyed a mixed group of over 3,300 Facebook users.

The results highlighted that there were wide differences, as expected, in the number of “friends” linked to a user’s account however when the definition of friend as being someone genuine and close rather than simply known to them was applied, commonality in numbers emerged.  The average for women fell slightly higher than men 166 to 146 in group one and 196 to 157 in the second group analysed. This delivered an average of 183 well within Dunbar’s original range.

When it comes to our very nearest and dearest friends, those we would call upon in an emergency, emotional or financial crisis the number shrinks dramatically down to just an average of 5.

So it would appear that these results support Professor Dunbar’s work in the 90’s and clearly indicates that we are ultimately limited in our ability to cognitively engage with others despite the advent of the social media age.  The orbital prefrontal cortex is the part of the brain developed for such social interaction and it comes into play when we are online but more strongly when we meet face to face. So crumbs, the guys at Thomas J. Fudge may well be on to something.

It’s not all bad news for social media though as its effective use can help to prevent decay of relationships.  Facebook in particular can be a very effective tool to mark birthdays, weddings and other notable events that otherwise may well have gone unnoticed and offer support as and when required.  The truth however is that to have genuine effective relationships we need to invest time and effort and not simply be reactive.  That effort can in part be online but if we can we should ideally schedule in a bit of biscuit banter to prevent losing the connection. I’m game if you are…just wonder if Thomas J. Fudge do gluten free biccies?

Paper – Do online social media cut through the constraints that limit the size of offline social networks?

Published in Royal Society Open Science http://rsos.royalsocietypublishing.org/content/3/1/150292

Byadmin

The Power of Influence – Knowing Your Social Media Score

Prior to all things going digital and smartphones embedding themselves in our lives, we had a simpler more straightforward life.  In the past your number of friends could be counted in birthday or Christmas cards or the entries in the address book you kept in the draw of the table in the hall, the one your phone sat on, plugged in to the wall.

The number of business relationships were similarly measured in cards that you bothered to retain, small enough to fit in a wallet or a specially designed holder that you could flick through.

 

The Power of Influence - David Laud i2i

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As we all know the number of true friends or meaningful commercial contacts you have does not equate to how effective you are in business.  Similarly with social media our effectiveness in this medium is not due to how friendly we are but how much value we offer those we’re connected to.

Due to terms such as “friends” on Facebook many are still confused as to the type of relationships they are developing online but there is a very clear distinction.  To prove the point there’s a physical limit to how many people we, as humans, can maintain valuable inter-personal relationships with. At the risk of getting all anthropological with you, there’s real sound research supporting this view.

The science behind this is a calculation known as Dunbar’s number. It’s the limit to the number of people who we can keep regular social relationships with and the range has been static for thousands of years.  Professor Robin Dunbar has determined that the number of inter-personal relationships we can maintain falls between 100 and 230.  It’s therefore a fallacy to think you can realistically build a network of close contacts that count much more than 200 in total.

For those of us looking to social media for a return on business investment we need to look beyond simply acquiring followers.  The true power of the medium is not how many individuals are following, connecting or friending us but the influence of those in our network relative to our own interests.  It is the members reach and collective power applied across multiple networks that offer the greatest opportunity.

Malcolm Gladwell’s “Tipping Point” makes frequent references to how ideas and products catch on by this use of social group dynamics and the manner in which information transmits throughout a group driven by those who have influence such as connectors and mavens.

As a simple example look at the way in which profile pictures quickly adapt to respond to a topical cause, or event. 26 million Facebook profiles used a rainbow filter in honour of Pride and support of the LGBT community.  But be careful when you see a bandwagon approaching, such profile changes can backfire as David Cameron can testify with his recent photo-shopped poppy.

The challenge is to create receptive networks built on mutual understanding and respect in which you can establish a position as a thought leader, originator, sharer and supporter of fellow members.

Great! You may say, but how do I know if I’m moving in the right direction if I can’t count the number of contacts as a measure?

Social influence measurement tools

The answer is to use a measurement tool.  One of the leaders in this influence measurement field is Klout, launched in 2008 it delivers its services via a website and app that use social media analytics to rank users according to online social influence.  They analyse activity across multiple sites that include Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram and Google+. The “Klout Score”, is represented by a numerical value between 1 and 100.

In preparing this article I spoke to Eddie McGraw Director of Communications at Lithium Technologies, owners of Klout, this is what he had to say on the topic of influence.

Influence can be a somewhat hazy term, but how we define it is the ability to drive action. That’s something we can actually quantify – how much your social activity is able to drive subsequent activity. It’s very important for both people and brands to have some gauge of who is and is not influential, so they can determine who the right people are that they should be engaging with.

 

Also, just as important as overarching influence would be subject matter influence – or what we call Topic Expertise. Kim Kardashian has 31 million followers, but that doesn’t mean people should look to her for advice on whether to invest in Apple or Google. One of the things we’ve just introduced is a way of looking not just at someone’s overall Klout Score, but at their level of expertise on a specific topic. This way you can find subject matter experts on the topics you most care about.

 

As Eddie states it’s not all about the numbers of followers or connections, the key is in establishing your clear area of expertise and thereby your range of influence.  Understanding where you are with regard to influence can help you better understand the effectiveness of your time posting content, improving the return for your efforts.  To put a number on it, the average Klout score is around 40.  To establish where you or your firm sits versus competitors you can search twitter accounts via the Klout website.

 

Increasingly brands and industry experts are becoming aware of the importance of social influence.  Leaving social media content creation to inexperienced, untrained or poorly managed individuals is now seen as far too risky for firms wishing to establish a consistent and respected brand.  In professional services, networks will look for and respond more favourably to a tone of voice combining intellect, empathy and personality with a dash of appropriate humour.  The trend is for owners of the business to start engaging more directly as they have the knowledge and gravitas to attract greater numbers of key target followers for their network.  By way of contrast, posting grammatically poor tweets about minutiae or blatant and repeated promotions, will have your network unfollowing in numbers.

Outsourcing the responsibility of social media posting to an agency, no matter how attractive, is also not advisable, as the risks far outweigh the benefits.  In professional service marketing above many other sectors, your credibility can be very quickly undermined if the voice of your chosen channels lacks authenticity.  Better to invest in qualified support and training for your own team and remain in control.

As a marketer one of my regular requests is to help clients build strong networks and then assist them to deliver fresh, interesting content in a manner that helps improve engagement.  By taking structured consistent steps and increasing the profile and social influence of partners, managing partners and specialists, the firm is better placed to demonstrate their capabilities and attract greater levels of interest.

Whilst I would stress that these tools are not 100% perfect, they do offer an essential insight to establish where your profile stands by way of influence and by regular monitoring keep track of your progress.

Suggested social influence measuring tools –   Klout, Kred/ Sprout Social, Peerindex (Brandwatch)

David Laud

Partner i2i Marketing Management

Byadmin

What Can You Do in 1 Second? Try a Boomerang

Boomerang

Facebook owned Instagram is capitalising on the massive popularity of GIFs through the introduction of a new App called Boomerang.

Specifically designed for the smartphone Boomerang enables users to take a photo burst of 5 pictures that become looped as they in Vine but for a much shorter period.

Why might this work for business?

Photos, videos, Gifs, animation are all hot methods of engaging with eyeballs online and specifically the increasingly cluttered world of social media.  Historically for the untrained and impatient amongst us creating a Gif was rather a faff. Now you can do it with one click.

Finding a creative use of moving images, even if it is as brief as 1 second can help make that business stand out from the crowd.

It’s very new, having only launched 22nd October yet major brands have immediately seen the benefit of the app.  Timberland and Elle both showed flicking through their content whilst the Rugby World Cup social media team scored and converted with their early adoption and 1 sec clip of South Africa’s Schalk Burger before their clash with the Kiwis.

The apps key strength is its simple straightforward use, it is pretty much idiot proof…even I could immediately get the app working although my target subjects were not so easy.

It’s also incredibly easy to share the new moving content via a variety of platforms, obviously Instagram and Facebook plus Twitter, Tumblr, Google+ etc..

You can find the app in your devices store under Boomerang from Instagram.  Download, have a play and see how it might add some all important interest to a product, service or topic you want to highlight.

Byadmin

Absolutely Blab-ulous! – Why the Business World is Tuning in to Blab

A new kid on the block of live video streaming apps has an appropriate name,Blab.  It’s similar but sufficiently different to others such as Persicope and Meerkat that I thought it worth investigating.

Blab


The biggest difference with Blab is that it actively encourages others to join in and share the limelight, a bit like Google hangouts but without the overly fussy set up and management.  Four individuals can share screen time with typically one of the four being the host whilst any number of viewers can join in to watch the live event.  The US users are quick to point the similarity in look to the classic TV show “The Brady Bunch” and its opening credits.

The success and take up of Periscope and Meerkat has been possible due to advances in mobile video streaming capability with better wifi and 4G access.  Blab however has more of a “studio” feel.  There are a greater number of professional and good amateur presenters using desktop access and higher quality cameras and microphones compared to the many Periscope users who are just streaming video by way of a variation on a tweet or Facebook post.

It is still early days for Blab, in fact it’s still in “Beta” mode but you can already see how this platform could revolutionise webinars.  The site offers an opportunity for active participation from up to 4 panel members who could each be located on a different continent or just as easily be in the same room.blab logo

Viewers can log in to pre-publicised broadcasts at the allotted time and enable e-mail alerts to remind them when to watch.  The video can also be saved and sent as a link via e-mail or placed on your website to be watched at a time to suit the viewer.

The interaction with twitter is far better via a desktop but if you are on the move and have a healthy connection it provides an excellent method of catching your favourite experts, podcaster or topic of interest.  You can also broadcast your own Blab on the move but if you check out the better received content on the platform it tends to be generated from the desktop pc or laptop.  The reason for this is the scope of information you can gather and use via the screen, helping with visitor interaction as they message you during a broadcast.  Sounds a little manic and it can be but that’s all part of the charm of Blab.

Unsurprisingly the vast majority of users and participants are based in the US but the word is spreading and my guess is it won’t be long before brands and business advisors across the globe start to see the advantage of the format.  There’s certainly no reason why you shouldn’t investigate the possibility of hosting your own “show” where you may participate with colleagues, peers or invited guests.

The screenshot of the Blab featured in the main picture used for this blog involves social media experts Heather Heuman (Sweet Tea Social) and Stephanie Nissen.  They delivered a very informative session with guests taking their hot seat shown as the “call in” space to ask questions, it works very well indeed.

I would recommend having a look at Blab, click on a few shows, if feeling brave take part in a chat or if feeling even braver take a seat if there’s one spare.

Remember that you will need a webcam, yourself in view, good sound quality and hopefully a good background.

Smarter Blabbers introduce their Brands via signs or pictures placed behind them but in good sight, so those tuning in can be reminded who they’re watching.

I can see companies using Blab for internal training or conference calls with the private approved users only feature stopping others joining in.  As a tool for a wider audience it can deliver key messages, seminars, promotions and consultations.

Go take a look at  https://blab.im/ and let me know what you think, see if you agree that it could have genuine appeal for your business.

Byadmin

Working Smart – 6 Top App Suggestions

One of the oft touted benefits of technology; new and shiny gadgets, software or apps, is their ability to make our lives easier, save time and be more efficient.

Not all make the grade, in fact many can create quite the opposite effect and leave you staring at a screen for far longer than you’d want.  The app that promises to make your life so much easier and then fails to act at the all too critical moment

There are however some gems that do indeed work their magic and serve as excellent tools to help keep us organised and in control.  I have 6 such examples here that I would recommend you looking at if you don’t already use.

To Do

Issue #1 – Managing multiple accounts or a single brand across many social media platforms

Hootsuite – there are other platforms such as Tweetdeck that continue to deliver a good PC experience for visibility of activity but for me Hootsuite offers just that little bit more.  The dashboard can take some getting used to but it’s worth persevering

 

Issue #2 – Keeping abreast of news on specific topics

Google Alerts – this little nugget has been around for a few years now but still many are not using it.  I don’t know why.  By searching for Google Alerts you’ll identify a keyword tool that can provide search results for specific keywords on a daily or weekly basis.  You set the time and frequency and provide an e-mail for this digest to be forwarded to.  A great way to monitor yours and your competitors brand along with sector specific items that may be of interest to you, your staff or your customers.

 

Issue #3 – Smartphone Memory Management

CM Security is one tool I make good use of as I have an iPhone and without this very effective app I’d be all out of memory.  There are other similar apps available but CM is one of the best offering a simple click solution to removing excess, unnecessary items.

 

Issue #4 – Keeping on top of followers/ unfollowers on twitter and Instagram

I’ve been aware for some time of the rather short sighted method of attempting to grow a network.  Someone follows you, on for example Twitter and then a week later after you’ve returned the compliment and followed back they “unfollow” you.  Nice!  Surprising how many accounts employ this strategy – if you are please don’t and if you’re subjected to it don’t let them have the benefit.

One of the best apps I’ve found for regularly reviewing those who unfollow and keeping your network to those who you can trust will engage is Unfollow for Twitter.  The same issues arise on platforms such as Instagram, again there is an unfollow Instagram app.  Given the difficulty of identifying these unfollowers, especially if you have a large network, I would recommend uploading these apps and once a week clearing out any accounts that are not following you back.

 

Issue #5 – Sleep patterns affected by late night browsing

Increasingly smartphone users are complaining of tiredness and attention deficit.  This is often a side effect of staying on a smartphone, ipad or laptop late into the evening.  The screen glare of these devices replicates sunlight telling the brain its wakey-wakey time rather than time for bed.  At the point of retiring to the duvet the brain is unable to switch off.

The Opera browser which you can download to your devices offers a “bedtime” mode which reduces glare and keeps your brain in line with the actual time.

I’ve used it and it certainly works.

 

Issue #6 – too many passwords to remember

Do you get frustrated with the number of usernames and passwords your forced to remember or record to access your bank, facebook, twitter, LinkedIn, e-mail accounts, Starbucks app, iTunes, Amazon, ebay, MailChimp….I could go on.

If you’ve a brain that can cope with keeping and retrieving multiple passwords you’re ok but if like most people you can only remember if prompted the 1Password App may well be for you.

Some people keep spreadsheets of their log-ins which is great, until someone unauthorised accesses it or it’s deleted.  The 1Password option gives you a secure vault in which you can then introduce the accounts you want to quickly access.

I’m sure in time the finger print or eyeball scanning will be the way we access our all-important data but until that becomes the norm I’d suggest looking at 1Password.

Most of these apps can be found by searching on your device by the name or if that doesn’t work a quick Google will do it.  If you’ve got a hot tip for a great time saving or efficiency promoting app please drop me a line and we’ll feature it.

 

 

Byadmin

Bad Connections – Social Media Rules of Engagement

Recently we witnessed the media storm related to an exchange between two “professional” individuals on LinkedIn.  By professional I’m talking about a barrister and a senior solicitor.  No lightweights in the legal world.  An associate tenant barrister working toward a doctorate in Law & Sociology at Cambridge University, supporting her research in the fight against FGM and a strong background of working with vulnerable women in a variety of matters.  The solicitor is the joint chair of International IP Litigation & Head of European Intellectual Property at a global law firm.

Bad Connections

So how could two so well connected individuals find themselves at the centre of a media storm relating to the appropriateness of social media communication?

It’s actually quite simple.

The context is key here.  The male solicitor requested to connect with the female barrister on LinkedIn, a common enough action and no issue as the request was accepted.  What happened next is where their online relationship rapidly unravelled.

The solicitor immediately took the opportunity to message the barrister via the platform thanking her for accepting the connection request but then continuing to comment on the quality of her profile picture.  Prophetically he went as far as to say “probably horrendously politically correct” and used the word “stunning” and that it would “win the prize for the best LinkedIn picture I have ever seen”.

In receipt of such a message you could respond in any number of ways including:

  1. Ignore
  2. Reply privately and thank him for the compliment
  3. Reply privately and suggest he needs to think before sending such a message and disconnect from the sender via LinkedIn.
  4. Reply and also post the message and reply publically via twitter

As you will no doubt be aware or have worked out the barrister took option 4.  It’s actually not terribly surprising given her work and the undoubted shock at receiving this message on a platform such as LinkedIn.

Once posted on twitter the media quickly stepped in, spotting an opportunity to create a heated debate centred on a middle aged lawyer and an inappropriate post on social media.  The act of taking direct action via twitter added fuel to the ire of those defending the solicitor and accusing the barrister of an unnecessary overreaction.  The story appeared over the next few days in print and online in The Guardian, Independent, Daily Mail, Daily Express and reported on BBC radio 4, newsbeat on radio 1 and radio 5 along with many other sources.  In addition there were continual re-tweets and favourites of those for and against the actions of the barrister.

I have no issue with the initial response and in fact I was included in the Independent report with a screen shot of my response on twitter.  The difficulty I have is that the media involvement,  rather than raising a very pertinent issue of how we perceive and value roles  in the workplace and the need to communicate appropriately, simply polarised the argument by using terms such as “Feminazi” and digging up unnecessary archive posts on Facebook.

What happened?  In essence a lawyer made a couple of inappropriate comments in a brief message to a recent contact on LinkedIn.  LinkedIn is not a dating site nor is it a platform for lightweight banter.  It is NOT Facebook or for that matter Twitter.  It is akin to a professional networking environment where those you know and work with connect and exchange information with similar minded individuals.

The context in this conversation was entirely wrong as the lawyer did not have the relationship with the barrister that could in any way explain the comments.  By contrast “Friends” on Facebook can frequently participate in lively highly personal exchanges and yes at times they too can be offensive and require intervention.  Users of Facebook understand that there is a level of familiarity with the social interactions on the site. Whilst companies do have their own Facebook pages most users on the platform use it to keep up to date with friends and family and only work colleagues they are particularly familiar with and trust.

With all social media sites there are unwritten rules of engagement, understood by frequent users of the platforms and on occasion those rules are breached either deliberately to cause offence or unwittingly through naivety or lack of experience. This is why it is so important to be aware of the social media rules of engagement.

Apologies have been submitted by the solicitor and his firm.  I would now hope we can move on having learnt something from the incident and not lower the debate into a fight between so called “men haters” and “misogynists”.

How We Use the Main Social Media Sites

LinkedIn – Professional business to business social networking platform, exchanges akin to formal or informal meetings but all within a workplace context.

Facebook – Personal platform for keeping friends and family up to date with your life.  Socially led with focus on activities outside of work, leisure time not concentrating on work.

Twitter – Can be both work focussed and socially focussed but users tend to have either one type of accounts or another.  Great care should be taken in posting both work related content and activities of a more personal nature as it may cause to undermine the professional efforts.  With careful management it is possible to balance both.  In general terms Twitter is less formal than LinkedIn.