Category Archive Technology

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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

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

Smartphones – Are They Creating Stupid People?

I’m not the first to write on this topic nor the last but it’s the subject of today’s blog because I feel quite strongly about this growing phenomenon.

Smartphone chain

 

There are an estimated 1.8 billion of us using smartphones and this year alone will see a further 25% increase in ownership. By 2017 a third of the World’s population will be glued to their touch screen devices.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m someone with a long record of smartphone ownership from early HTC varieties through to iPhone but I’m not such a fan as I was.

Millions of us are struggling with an addiction to the smartphone.  The proliferation of these super slim, super smart devices gives us a look of that 24th Century imagined world of Gene Roddenberry.  How long before we’re moving from “hang outs” to “beam ups”?

 

So what of this reference to making us stupid and why am I not such the fan that I once was?

It’s not that your smartphone contains anything other than a deep pool of wonderful treasures.  We have ready access to apps that can help with every single facet of our lives.  They keep us fit, healthy, on time, up to date with international, national, local and personal news and entertained with games, TV, radio and our favourite songs.

We can’t hold back progress with technology and let’s face it we’re pretty insatiable when it comes to the fast moving consumer gizmology but I do think we’re struggling to keep up.

As humans we are undeniably an adaptive species.  Evolving from hunter gatherers to hot shot gamers with each generation bringing their own unique code of knowledge and rules factoring the software into their lives so that it becomes intertwined with everyday living.

It’s this interdependence of human and technology that is starting to bother me.  It’s also a reason why primary schools are starting to build lessons into the curriculum to help explain how these instruments work.

Our recent trip to the USA was great save the occasions the location visited either A) didn’t supply wifi or B) did supply wifi but at such a poor level that it brought immediate frustrations.  I even went to the trouble of buying a portable wifi hotspot so we could retain connectivity whilst traveling up the coast from LA to San Francisco. It cost a few dollars but nothing compared to the potential costs if we’d relied on the local networks for our downloads.  We ALL had smartphones and we used them, pretty much constantly.

At work they can be a real boon, mobile access to e-mail, online searches on the move and that feeling that “you’re always in touch”.  Trouble is, I’m not so sure that’s a good thing.  Here are a few of the issues I have with how we are currently using our smartphones;

  1. Work e-mails synced with the device, as boss or manager you’re now giving the “always on call” message and allowing others to expect instant responses to colleagues, suppliers and clients.  Client enquiries are of course important but so is managing expectations.  Offline time is essential and healthy.
  2. Due to 1. Many of us have become addicted to checking our inbox. Ask yourself this question, when do you first check and make a last look at your e-mails?  Typically the honest answer is before you get out of bed and when you get back into it.
  3. Social media apps – if you have them on your smartphone the chances are it’s the primary method of staying in touch on those channels. For social media issues read the e-mail problem in 2.) It’s addictive and the thought that you might be missing something compels you to check your accounts several times an hour.
  4. Conversations are punctuated by the constant reminder that someone far more important is trying to grab your attention. The ping of text, vibration of a tweet or whoosh of an e-mail. Gosh you’re popular…and very rude too.
  5. Eating out with a loved one, colleague, business associate or client. Being unable to eat a meal without posting each course to Instagram means you’re not alone, you’re sharing the experience with hundreds if not thousands of people, most of whom are looking to trump your effort with one of their own.
  6. Important information can be stored in your smartphone and there are great apps to help you be better organised. The device is not however a real person and the distraction of keeping one eye on the screen when someone’s talking to you means you won’t recall the detail, very likely you’ll not have a clue as to what’s being discussed.
  7. Time management – we all know from the early days of the internet and search engines that once we got the idea in our head we could literally search for anything…that’s exactly what we did…for hours and hours. We can lose ourselves in a time vacuum that sucks the productivity out of our day.  The trouble with smartphones is the size of text on screen and time taken to absorb anything of consequence.  Find another way, or better still ask yourself if this particular browsing session is really that important.
  8. Feeling constantly tired? Here’s the thing.  If you’re on your device at 10pm, 11pm or even midnight and later you’ll be getting messages through your eyes that it’s daylight.  The screens luminescence confuses our brain and when you dive under the duvet it won’t get the message to switch off.  Hence it takes considerably longer to get to sleep and its quality is adversely affected.  So of course you feel tired, you’re not getting enough sleep.  When you’re tired you function poorly and decision making can be harder with mistakes often made.  Worse still if you need to concentrate by driving to and from work or operating complex equipment.

Selfie time.  No please, don’t take another profile pic for Facebook, instead take a look at yourself properly.  When was the last time you truly studied how you’re running your life.  Heads up from the screen and take pen and paper to write a list of positive actions that can help you take back control.

Last year for the whole month of October I ran my #Offtober experiment.  I turned off my smartphone at 8pm each evening and didn’t switch it back on until 8am.

The result of this simple step was improved sleep it also had a positive impact on mood and overall well-being.  Like many of us I’ve since drifted back into bad habits but rather than wait for October to come around I’m going to set myself clear rules so I can get the benefits of the tech without the downside.

No doubt many smug readers, my wife included will nod sagely and say, I told you this ages ago.  Well yes, you probably did but I was face deep in technology at the time.

David Laud

Byadmin

How to Turn Your Smartphone into a Virtual Reality Headset

With technological developments continuing to move forward at a scary rate I’m pleased to report on a quick, easy and relatively inexpensive way to bring yourself up to date in one very entertaining area.

How to Turn Your Smartphone into a VR Headset

How to Turn Your Smartphone into a VR Headset

Virtual reality (VR), augmented reality or immersive multimedia capability has been with us for some time but typically confined to high end gaming and specialist applications.

Way back in 1968 Ivan Sutherland the renowned computer scientist and Internet pioneer created the very first VR headset, although it was so heavy the unit needed to be suspended from the ceiling.

 

 

Almost 50 years later and we now finally have the technology in our own hands and a headset that can be made of…..cardboard!

So how do you enter the VR world via your Smartphone?

  1. Order your headset. No this won’t cost you hundreds of pounds or dollars, I picked my headset up for £10 Check out this linkhttps://www.google.com/get/cardboard/get-cardboard/ you can also search Amazon for Google Cardboard compatible headsets there are plenty to choose from.
  2. Now whilst you’re excitedly awaiting the postman go to your smartphone and search for the Google Cardboard App. Whilst you’re there you can also look for and download a number of VR apps such as flight simulator, roller coaster and VR designed games.
  3. When the headset arrives you might need to engage your local IKEA Ninja to make sure it’s properly constructed. Don’t worry it’s not too complicated but remember it will be housing your smartphone so make sure it can’t easily slip out.
  4. Follow the instructions and load an app on your smartphone place it into the headset and enjoy the ride.

The Google Cardboard App comes with a variety of experiences not least the opportunity to take a virtual tour of locations around the world through Google street view.  This includes trips to the Eiffel Tower, Colosseum in Rome and New York’s Times Square.

This might sound obvious but please remember where you are and avoid viewing your VR World near stairs or objects that you might collide with.  It can be quite disorientating especially when you start. Here’s an example https://instagram.com/p/3lxfFotEZA/ My wonderful daughter Ellie aka Betty, experiencing her first VR moment.

In addition to the headset experience you can view 360 videos now on your smartphones and tablets – here you can turn and twist your device or swipe with your finger to take a complete 360 degree view of the film makers location.

Mike Tompkins uses this to great effect in this video http://youtu.be/Xe6YI-Ax3d0

We are living in an amazing era of technological advancement – the trick now is to find creative ways to use these innovations to connect with customers.  Be prepared for a future of 360 and VR advertising and Christmas frenzy over gaming platforms with VR capability.

Some critics of Google Cardboard say it lacks quality an isn’t as good as it should be.  My view is that it is quite an amazing experience and it can only improve. I’m more a fan than a critic and can already see how this development can be adapted for commercial advantage.

I hope you found this interesting and you take the leap into the VR World.  If you do let me know what you think of the virtual becoming a reality.

Byadmin

Putting Theory Into Practice – Can Social Media Generate Business?

Consultants, coaches, business advisers and circuit speakers can frequently fall into a trap when handing out advice as they touch on subjects that they’ve lost touch with.  In the current cauldron of technological innovation and digital dependence that’s not all too surprising because they rarely have time to stop and revisit their thinking or more importantly put their theory into practice.

Ballet Icon on Computer KeyboardJust because advice sounds plausible, logical and possible doesn’t make it a cast iron sure bet to work.   My view is that we must accept we can’t possibly stay at the sharp end, understanding latest trends, tips, wrinkles and methodologies, without being self-aware and putting those golden nuggets of advice to the test to establish their true value.  Instead of sticking with ideas that are possibly past their “sell by date” or untested put yourself in the position of a client.  Rather than act as an adviser seek to prove those ideas, strategies and actions by applying them to a real situation.

 

How to generate new business is one of the most regular questions posed by clients and for obvious reasons.  Winning new customers is essential to growth and sustainability and over time owners, directors and managers can become complacent, lose focus and need a guiding hand to put the company back onto a positive footing.

 

Luckily for me I’ve recently had an ideal opportunity, which was literally very close to home, to test the theory of business generation in a very contemporary field of marketing, social media.

 

My wife decided last year that it was time, following years of looking after the family, to take up the challenge of running her own ballet school.   Being the true professional that she is, my wife ensured that she was fully up to date with syllabi and best practice according to the Royal Academy of Dance.  Whilst I had every confidence in my wife’s capability as a teacher I could see as a potential hurdle with her previous steadfast view that she did not “do social media”.  No personal Facebook page, no twitter and certainly nothing as exotic as Instagram or Pinterest.

 

Here was an excellent opportunity for me to not only help my wife achieve her ambition of running a successful school but to also put those many theories to win business through digital channels to the test.

 

It’s often said that it can be a dangerous, potentially painful process working with your other half but in our experience it proved pretty much straightforward.  I know nothing at all about dance let alone ballet and she knew very little of social media and marketing matters.

 

My first concern was to have a website and to ensure that it was given the right treatment to appear in search terms, to also provide the essential link to sites such as Netmums and Yell.com but also as its essential when creating social media accounts.  The website also needed to be fully responsive, smartphone and tablet friendly.

 

The key target audience for the ballet school is mothers of children aged from two and a half to teenage so my first piece of advice was to establish a solid Facebook page.  Starting from scratch it was also going to be important to get matters moving quickly and create a steady flow of enquiries.  As with many businesses the primary customer activity when looking for this service/ activity was to go online.  A google search for “ballet school” on google would automatically bring up schools that were registered and verified with the search site.  To do this the school needed to have a Google account and for the best chance of high profile recognition an active Google+ account.

 

It was essential that the school became verified and that the map engine within Google had Mrs L’s business linked to the address.  That way the school would show up listed with other verified schools and the closer to the target location the higher the ranking.  Simple but so many businesses miss his very important step.

 

After Google+ and Facebook we created twitter, Instagram and Pinterest sites to add breadth and visual impact to the school’s brand.

 

I suggested that my wife needed to create a regular dialogue with our local community and that was through a localised, gender and age specific “like” campaign for Facebook and a daily news feed of curated stories relating to the art form on twitter simply called “Ballet News”.  The latter news update has been a huge success.  Why such a success?  Mrs L’s attention to detail and regular posts have created an expectation of consistency, entertainment and information which her community greatly appreciate.   In response to my prompt on the importance of engagement on Facebook Mrs L launched a regular ballet related picture post and specifically once a week “Tutu Tuesday” featuring a new outfit each week.  I take only a very small piece of credit, the genius of the creative idea and execution was entirely down to the proprietor…not me.  That signified a watershed moment, the owner of the business owned their media and understood it enough to capitalise on its power.

 

And what of the results of this test of social media guidance and marital relationship?

 

Well no divorce…quite the contrary.  A thriving business that since launch in April has grown to over 40 regular students and 3 to 4 new enquiries each week 90% either via the website, fed by twitter and Instagram accounts or directly from the Facebook page.

 

Of course it helps that my wife is a talented teacher and has great rapport with students and parents alike but for me it proved the power of social media.  Mrs L has commented that she doesn’t know how she could possibly have managed without Facebook or her website.  Interestingly we experimented with more traditional marketing – the results were mixed.  The local paper proved the most expensive investment and produced nothing whilst a magazine targeting primary schools more than covers its costs.  By far and away the most successful medium for promoting the school is Facebook and the website, searched for on Google.

 

All of the above and the ongoing success of the school proves that there are advantages in having a strong, well-articulated digital presence aligned to a good product.

 

Key Social Media Steps for a Start Up

  • Research your market and grasp the key actions taken when purchasing/ researching your product/ service.
  • In line with the above data create a website and keep the content fresh and optimised for search engines.
  • Create social media accounts that are relevant to your target market
  • Build a network for each account reflecting that audience, eg other associated interests
  • Build content that is fresh, interesting and relevant to your network
  • Don’t bombard your audience with sales messages and endless promotions, share useful posts and engage
  • Respond – download the social media apps and e-mail accounts to your smartphone and be prepared to react as and when enquiries arrive
  • Don’t panic – it won’t happen overnight, it’s definitely a marathon and not a sprint
  • If you’re stuck seek advice but be sure to not to simply outsource your activity – that will not work for you in the long term
  • Don’t be afraid to repeat yourself but watch out for cross platform links and potential duplication, best to keep things simple to start with.
  • Try new platforms but test the results, if it’s not working ask why – keep up with developments
  • If operating multiple social media accounts consider using tools such as Hootsuite to manage your time and posts and measure results.

 

I’m not ready to don the tights and show you my arabesque but I’m very happy to help you grow your organisation be it in education, retail, manufacturing or the service sector if fact any business that thrives on generating new customers.

Drop me a line via the contact form below.

David Laud @davidlaud

 

Byadmin

Pirates, Penguins and Pandas – Search Lite Update

The world of online “Search” is a complicated one. Spend a little time with a search engine optimisation (SEO) specialist and it won’t be long before you’re wondering if a new language has been invented and you missed the news alert announcing its launch.

Google's Penguin 3.0 one of 3 recent algorithm updates

Google’s Penguin 3.0 one of 3 recent algorithm updates

I don’t profess to be an SEO specialist so my language will hopefully be plain with just the odd tech word thrown in, mainly because there are no alternatives. The aim here is to simply share a little information on where we are currently. My motivation to do this was actually due to reading another article which was so far removed from reality, offering up entirely the wrong advice that it should’ve carried a Google health warning.

I researched the current position and also have participated directly in search activities for a number of years so whilst I’m not an expert I do retain a level of practical experience.

As you may well be aware Google recently produced 3 algorithm updates, Panda 4.1, Penguin 3.0 and Pirate 2.0. Without getting into the technical minutiae of how this impacts search results I can confirm that the vast majority (95%) of businesses won’t be negatively affected. Those who have suffered will have been affiliate marketers, and those running websites that had continued to use deceptive and aggressive tactics to put their ranking at the top of page one.

  • Panda affects the ranking of a whole site or section of a site rather than individual pages. Its primary aim is to remove low quality sites that offer poor or duplicated content. This is the one that has caught a number of affiliate marketing sites.
  • Penguin the latest update was actually reported as a simple “refresh” of the algorithm but the key objective remains; to demote sites that are still using bad links to sites that are either spammy, malicious or are simply bad links.
  • Pirate updates are looking at the infringements of sites that use illegal copies of software or digital media.
  • The challenge to get your business to the top of the rankings is still a stiff one for most of us working in competitive sectors. Current “best practice” is to adopt a broad range of tactics that deliver a consistent and entirely appropriate content message to your audience. Well authored copy, original articles and news comment on your sector, profiles of key individuals and where possible more detailed pieces demonstrating the knowledge and capabilities of your team, company, products, services. Any links should be entirely appropriate for your business, not spammy and certainly “alive” with genuine quality content. The other increasingly important factor is to ensure your website is fully responsive…that is completely compatible with smartphone and tablet devices. Why is this important? If you have a mobile website rather than a responsive site you will very likely have duplicate content shared on the two platforms. Duplicate content is a negative marker for SEO and your site can be penalised whereas with one site that can be seen on multiple devices that problem is eliminated.

    In other news…..

    Google have recently undertaken further research into browser behaviour, specifically the movement of eyes over search engine results pages (SERPs). Download the report here http://pages.mediative.com/SERP-Research
    Without looking at the “hot spot” graphs you would of course expect eyes to be trained on the top of the page, this is still mostly the case but with Google moving the top natural search results further down the page we appear to have modified our behaviour to compensate. In 2005 the eye tracking results produced a “golden triangle” hot spot showing eye movement concentrated over the top left side of pages. One of the reasons for a vertical shift in eye movement is our use of mobile devices and scrolling for data.

    I would recommend reading this report, it does use a surprisingly small sample for their survey but the findings immediately resonated with me and my own experience of browser behaviour. The advantage of this report is that they’ve applied specific “eye tracking” software and techniques to map and present the movement of the eye….fascinating stuff.

    I’ll be blogging on the topic of search again shortly but in the meantime if you have any questions feel free to fire them my way.

    David Laud

    Byadmin

    #Offtober Update – It’s a dream start

    For those of you who may not be aware I’m challenging myself to stay off mobile technology, smartphones, ipads etc. for a set period each day during the entire month of October.  Hence the #Offtober tag.

    #Offtober Challenge  Turn it off - 8pm-8am

    #Offtober Challenge
    Turn it off – 8pm-8am

    The challenge is to turn off the devices at 8pm and not turn them on again until 8am the next day.

    It’s not a complete removal of the tech as that would have had a seriously negative impact on my working life.  I am I guess no different to most of us, reliant on my phone for so much more than an odd call and text.

    I have multiple e-mail accounts, calendars, news feeds and social media apps that can’t be left idle for too long….or so I believe.  Whatever the reality I feel quite dependent on the tech and this is a small step to take back control.

    There are great benefits to smartphones and tablets but equally there are the downsides.  We can develop an addiction to these small devices and allow them to rule our lives at work, in meetings, while commuting and at home.  They are invasive items but we are supposed to be the controllers, I fear that instead we are becoming the controlled.  A re-tweet, a facebook like to our status update, new e-mail, text you name it these digital affirmations of our importance take up a disproportionate amount of our time and get in the way of true effective and important communication…in person.

    Used late at night they can also impact on the quality of your sleep and therein health.

    In my first week, in fact by the start of day 2 I had a result.  I had in fact slept more soundly and recalled dreams.  That might sound like a minor piece of news but for me it was a clear sign that switching off the devices earlier in the evening was something I will look to take beyond October.

    Sleep is so very important to us.  It’s our battery re-charge moment and without sufficient quality sleep we can become irritable, depressed, unproductive and unfocussed.

    Despite a very busy and yes stressful week I’ve kept my nerve and to the #Offtober rule.

    Faced with a weekend of family fun, daugthers both briefly back from University, I’m going to be further tested by their snapchatting and Instagraming but I fully intend to keep to my strict rule.

    If you haven’t joined me yet I’d strongly urge you to try it. You will feel better and gain a sense of control over the ever so useful yet annoyingly compulsive tech.

    Let me know if you decide to join me and tweet me your stories using the hashtag #Offtober

    Follow me on twitter @davidlaud

    David

    Byadmin

    Ice Bucket List – Why the ALS Charity Challenge Works

    Unless you’ve been tucked away on a desert island without internet, TV, phone or radio you can’t help to have been exposed to a never ending parade of people posting short videos of self-emersion in cold water. The #icebucketchallenge (don’t forget the hashtag) has become a phenomenal success for the charity that took ownership of the act – the ALS Association representing those diagnosed with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis.  The disease is also known by the name of US Baseball legend Lou Gehrig who died at the age of 37 in 1941. 2 years prior to his death July 4th 1939 he gave an emotional farewell speech to a packed Yankee Stadium stating that despite his diagnosis he considered himself “the luckiest man on the face of the earth”.

    Lou Gehrig (USAToday)

    Lou Gehrig (USAToday)

    The disease is reported to affect some 450,000 across the globe.  A diagnosis is devastating as tragically the body shuts down and life expectancy from that point is a shattering 2 years. In the UK we use the collective term Motor Neurone Disease.  It covers a range of conditions such as ALS that cause the death of nerve cells controlling muscles and thereby gives rise to degeneration. It’s fortunately rare but nonetheless a terrible condition that often strikes the sufferers down in the prime of their life. ALS is the specific condition behind this most recent viral sensation.  A very worthy cause and one that deserves to receive recognition.

    The current campaign has been one of the most successful viral events of all time.  The results are quite staggering. The ALS Association has raised some $62m in just 4 weeks that’s over 30 times the $2m they raised in the same period in 2013. They have an amazing 750,000 new donors and the numbers just keep on growing.

    MND the Motor Neurone Disease charity has also benefited by an additional £250k donated as a result of this campaign. So how did this happen? As most will testify, cause related campaigns on social media sites are nothing new. Facebook in particular is frequently used as a launch pad by fundraisers to reach as many potential supporters in a short time at little cost.  It can be very effective, I know having raised a few £’s over the years with my running but that is but a tiny imperceptible spec compared to the massive wave of ice bucket drenched donors. The previous success of the #nakedselfie #nomakeupselfie was impressive. £8m raised for Cancer Research in just 6 days.

    The ALS campaign appears to have been given a far bigger boost and the momentum just keeps taking it forward.

    The challenge sets out very simple rules.  Once nominated take the ice bucket challenge and donate $10 to ALS, if you don’t take the challenge pay $100.  When taking the challenge record the act on video and upload as proof, post on facebook or another social media site of choice having nominated 3 more individuals to take part who in turn have 24 hours to complete the deed.  Simple and very effective.

    The factors for success: Humble beginnings & credibility – The ALS challenge was started by the friends and family of a former Boston College baseball captain, Pete Frates who was diagnosed with ALS at 27.  The initial post of a video was of others taking the challenge as he was too weak to participate.  Those family and friends challenged local Bostonian athletes to follow suit. Nominations spread through the Boston area and soon enough athlete’s across the US including many major stars were taking part for Pete and others with ALS.

    Pete Frates Fight Against ALS – The Start of the Icebucket Challenge

    Celebrity power – Soon Hollywood and the business community got the call through nominations and celebrities were engaged.  Mark Zuckerberg, Richard Branson, George Bush, Lady Gaga, Victoria Beckham….the list is extensive and adds hugely to the attraction for others to participate having seen their favourite singer, actor, entrepreneur take the challenge.

    Narcissism – Ok this is a little negative but social media does offer us an opportunity to “perform” to a wider audience, be centre stage and demonstrate our caring and charitable efforts. Most of us want to be loved, at the very least liked by others and this just works very nicely.  But who cares it’s raising money for a great cause.

    Competition – As seen with many celebrity posts there’s been a fair share of “anything you can do…” iced water dropped from helicopters, thousands of dollar bills not water falling from the bucket (Charlie Sheen) and self-made apparatus (nice one Bill Gates). This effort has been replicated by many non-celebrities with terrific imaginations finding new and whacky ways to go that bit further when taking the challenge.

    Simple – You don’t have to train for this.  It’s not a marathon or even a fun run you just have to stand or sit and take a cold shower. So it opens the challenge up to young and old alike, fit and those not so fit which makes the potential participant demographic very wide.

    Connectivity – the opportunity to involve members of your own network through nomination feeds wonderfully into our desire to connect to family and friends through social media.

    Technology – the proliferation of smartphones with video record capability enables millions to participate.  This added to an encouragement to users by many platforms to make video related posts and as a result easy to use upload apps means the task of sharing such events has never been easier.

    The above ingredients all combine to produce a campaign that has every chance of becoming one of the biggest viral events ever seen.  Predictably this success has caused side effects such as the bandwagon jumping of others to benefit from the trend.

    One notable example is Macmillan Cancer Support who leapt onto the challenge and attempted to claim the #icebucket as their own.  As a result they’ve received considerable criticism not helped by the Head of Digital for the charity quoting their missed opportunity with the #nakedselfie as justification for jumping on the ALS campaign.  Just Google “ice bucket challenge” and you’ll see that Macmillan have gone to the trouble of taking a paid keyword advert placing them in top spot on the search engine.  Many have complained that they donated via a short text code advertised by Macmillan thinking it was for ALS.

    My advice to Macmillan is to spend time and effort working to create original ideas that will bring credit to this great charity and not ride on the back of other charities innovative drives.  Yes, the ice challenge has been used to raise awareness and funds for their chosen charity in the past and no doubt the future too but leave it to the individuals to make that choice.  It was Pete Frates friends and family who drove this phenomenon and that’s what makes it a true viral success.

    Have I taken the challenge?  Oh yes I was nominated and had some fun doing it too.  I did use the opportunity to raise awareness of 2 other charities I work with but didn’t overlook the fact that it’s the ALS campaign first and foremost so they too benefited from a donation. David Laud icebucketed No one should feel forced to take part and be bullied or otherwise pressurised into taking a dowsing for ALS.  It’s voluntary and an individual choice that others should respect. Unfortunately there have been examples of peer pressure and negativity thrown towards those who’ve not followed their nominators’ request.  That’s not how charity works and is one of the uglier side effects of such successful viral campaigns. Overall the positive far outweighs the negative.  I say congratulations Pete Frates and your inspirational friends and family.

    The ESPN video is certainly worth a watch and helps put this campaign into perspective. It proves the power of the human spirit and the ability to turn such a negative situation into something so immensely positive. If you have any comments on this or any of my articles please feel free to add them here.  I’d love to hear your experience of this and other charitable campaigns. David Laud

    Byadmin

    Knowing the Price of Everything and Value of Nothing

    Oscar Wilde’s famous quote from his only published novel, The Picture of Dorian Gray, is one that intrigues me.  It can have a number of subtle meanings but within the novel it is specifically relating to the bartering of an item in Wardour Street . In the late 19th century this part of London was known for antique and furniture shops and Lord Henry’s bidding for a piece of old brocade may have hinted at the difficult economic circumstances of the period.  Lord Henry’s frustration at the time taken to secure his purchase leads to his statement, “Nowadays people know the price of everything and the value of nothing.”

    Cost-value graph on blackboard

    Fast forward to the 21st century and things are not so different.  One effect of the recent recession has been our re-focus on reducing our outgoings both personally and commercially as the pinch on our profit and lifestyle hit home.

    Let me be very clear (sound like a pompous politician there) I don’t have an issue with careful cost control.  Quite the contrary, I actively encourage a regular domestic and business review of expenditure.  The issue as it relates to Oscar’s brilliantly written line is that we can become “hard wired” to focussing exclusively on the currency of a product or service and not the benefit or return that item will bring.

    As a marketer and business owner this is very important territory.  I’m equally a supplier and customer and in both relationships I try my best to be consistent.  The difficulty is in identifying what that often quoted but rarely defined “value” is.

    What is “value”?

    As a noun it’s “the regard that something is held to deserve; the importance, worth, or usefulness of something”

    As a verb “to estimate the monetary worth”

    All too often we see the term reduced to a base level with items branded as “value meals” and the like.  That’s not really value, it’s just cheap but of course that’s a word that won’t shift a chicken tikka masala from your local supermarket shelf.

    Knowing the value of something can be harder to realise than you might think.  Often we only truly gauge something’s worth when it’s no longer available.  From your favourite TV series to particular brand of perfume, that great boss who selfishly retired or reliable local mechanic who always fixed your car with a smile.  When they’re gone we appreciate them more.

    This test equally works on goods and services that we might already attribute more value to than they deserve.   What about that expensive watch, particular club membership, car, holiday destination or brand of coffee?  These are often aspirational items and by owning or experiencing them we believe as a consequence our lives to be “better” and thereby valuable.  That’s a state of mind that many brand owners want their target customers to buy into but if we were forced to use an alternate would our lives be so much worse?

    Businesses that sell services can often struggle to differentiate themselves from the competition.  There will always be those who use price as a promotional blunt instrument.  Successful companies take the time to understand not only the mechanics of their offering but the emotional response to experiencing the best and worst of the market offerings.

    You might technically be measured as the very best at what you provide but if you employ robots or a team of over confident practitioners to deliver, they’re unlikely to capitalise on that technical advantage.

    Good business is all about the human experience.

    So what are the factors that make the difference?

    • Accessibility
    • Action
    • Attitude
    • Communication
    • Empathy
    • Experience
    • Flexibility
    • Focus
    • Knowledge
    • Listening
    • Resilience
    • Responsiveness
    • Simplicity
    • Truthfulness

    And of course this can all add up, when we include the fee, to value.

    If you’re up for a challenge take a look at a couple of services and products that you use over the course of the next few weeks.  Ask yourself what you are basing your decisions on and consider if that is the best measure for making those purchases.  Put yourself in a position where you must justify those purchases to a boss and they are going to want clearly articulated and rational responses.  Consider which of those items you would wish to retain and those that fall short and face being replaced.

    What does value look like to you?  Once you’ve thought about it from your own consumer perspective you might want to have a go at applying it to your own business.  Consider, honestly, if you would want to buy from your business, if so great…. can you do even better?  If the answer is no… where are you failing and how can you address the shortcomings?

    If you’re not a typical customer of your company’s product or service, seek out those who are and ask for their honest, non sugar-coated views.

    Knowing the price of something is the easy bit, knowing the value… that’s a skill that we all need to work on.

    David Laud

     

    Byadmin

    The Generations Game

    A short while ago I was asked to present at a Practice Management Conference to owners and senior managers of law firms in the UK.  The brief for this event was to present on the challenge of engaging with younger clients.  A very topical issue not only for lawyers but many businesses facing the prospect of attracting new customers in the digital age.

    Personally I find the topic fascinating and equally intriguing when you consider how little attention is given to thinking about the socio demographic make-up of potential clients.  OK, my apologies to those marketers out there that have this all neatly packaged but note, you’re in the minority.  There’s plenty of talk about addressing customer needs, presenting and delivering goods or services that appeal to a niche market but how many of us need to appeal to a broad spectrum of the population? How do we make that work?

    The Generations

    The Generations

    For my presentation I didn’t want to talk solely about the youngest, newest client segment.  Sure, talking social media and digital advertising would be sexy and necessary but in isolation would not place that particular generational trend in context with other older segments of the population.  So there I had it.  Let’s cover ALL bases and provide an overview of the generations and their likely preferences.

    To kick the presentation off I asked the assembled audience which category they fell into.  The options.

    • Traditionalist
    • Baby Boomer
    • Generation X
    • Generation Y/ Millennials
    • Net Generation/ Digital Natives

    To truly test the audience of law firm senior executives I didn’t offer up the list in timeline order as it is above.  I then provided the specific classification by year to determine exactly which group they would fall into with a little more detail as to the typical traits of each, the dates represent the dates of birth :-

    • Traditionalists 1925-1946

    Formal, private, loyal, trust, respect, face to face, written, value time

    • Baby Boomers 1947-1964

    Competitive, aspirational, hardworking, want detail, like options, challenging

    • Generation X 1965-1979

    Entrepreneurial, independent, work life balance, sound bites, e-mail, feedback

    • Generation Y/ Millennial 1980-2000

    Optimistic, confident, seek positive reinforcement, multi taskers, e-mail, text, skype

    • Net Generation/ Digital Natives 2001+

    Connected, ethnically diverse, entitled,

    When asked to then place themselves in the appropriate category it became quite apparent most had mistakenly considered themselves to be in a category other than the one they belonged to.  This highlighted the fact that as a rule we don’t know which generation we are and probably don’t see it as being very relevant.  That is a mistake.

    Let me provide a couple of examples:

    #1

    Mrs Marple is a recently widowed lady of 77. She is having her late husband’s estate managed by Swish Swash Law.  Swish Swash pride themselves on being at the cutting edge of technology.  “It’s all in the cloud man” “we’re totally paperless” “Have you seen our App?” “The websites purely organic and built for the mobile and tablet market” Yadda yadda – you get the picture. Well Swish Swash employ some very bright young lawyers and they are equally adept at their use of technology as they are at applying their legal knowledge.  They have a 24/7 approach to service and in their best efforts to keep Mrs Marple informed they send an e-mail and follow up text to her to inform her of their progress. It’s sent at 9.15pm.  Next morning a rather angry daughter of Mrs Marple calls the lawyer who sent the text explaining that her mother had been asleep and got very stressed when the message arrived thinking anything sent at such a time could only be bad news!

    As a Traditionalist Mrs Marple would prefer face to face communication, a phone call would be ok as would a letter but only during normal office hours.  This generation values privacy and whilst very hardworking they do not always appreciate the 24/7 immediacy of life preferring a more ordered and sensible approach to working hours.

    #2

    My 2nd example features Jordan, a young entrepreneur who is setting up a business with a couple of friends he met at University.  They have plans to launch a business offering animation and augmented reality software solutions.  They need help with setting up the company and creating a partnership.  Jordan’s father has recommended the family firm Boggit Down & Co. Established in 1888 they have a long tradition of serving the local people of their small market town and cover private and business clients services from their grade II listed high st office.  Reginald Smythe (63) is the head of company commercial and a partner.  He receives a call from Jordan’s father and askes his secretary to arrange a meeting with the 4 young men.

    Jordan receives a call from Edith, Reginald’s long standing secretary and she has difficulty arranging a time when they would all be available, they finally settle on a date 3 weeks hence. Jordan receives a letter 3 days later inviting him to the offices and setting out the terms of an engagement with Boggitt Down & Co.  Jordan and friends are not impressed.  They wanted to get things up and running pronto, they can’t wait 3 weeks and quickly decide to find a lawyer who can see them that week..or even better be prepared to have an initial e-mail exchange to provide advice and help them get started.  They Google for law firms who understand software businesses and find two within 10 miles of Jordan’s home town and a third that offers online support nationally.

    As a Generation Y/ Millennial group the young entrepreneurs are quite confident, assertive and expect rather more instant returns.  The culture clash with the very traditional firm of Boggitt Down & Co. is too much and they can see that the firm is not going to “get” them or their business. Boggitt Down & Co. has not moved with the times nor understood the urgency of their need to set up this business.  The firm simply presents itself as it has done for years and not adapted to the preferences of a new, informed and impatient generation.

    Two simple examples that do genuinely occur on an all too regular basis.  But what can firms do if they need to win and maintain clients from a cross section of the generational divide?

    1. Be aware of the client and their likely preferences, never assume
    2. Create variety in the methods of communication, face to face, phone, traditional letters, e-mail, text and Skype.
    3. Consider training for staff to understand the variances in behaviour and how best to offer client care with an emphasis on generational differences.
    4. Look at your own business and place it in its own generational group.  Where does your firm fit.  This isn’t when the business was established but more likely the generation of the owners or most dominant partners/ directors.  Their influence will be affecting the persona of the business.

    In my firm we have a mixture of baby boomers, generation X’s and recently introduced generation Y partners.  The business is evolving and the factors that impact on the outward facing communication with clients are equally prevalent with internal communications.  Being aware of those subtle differences in attitude and approach to work is becoming increasingly important.  The generation game certainly is one for all the family – just don’t forget your *cuddly toys.

    If you would like to discuss any of the points raised within this blog please feel free to contact me via e-mail david.laud@i2isolutions.co.uk or twitter @davidlaud

    *(That final reference places me firmly in my Generation X category, but equally recognisable by baby Boomers and Traditionalists apologies to any readers who are too young to remember the classic Saturday night BBC show of the 70’s and 80’s)

    If you would like to discuss marketing support for your firm please feel free to contact me to arrange an initial no obligation meeting

     

     

     

    Byadmin

    The Power of Personal Branding

    Later this year our first born turns 20.  Her generation has been the first to grow up in the “social” World we all now inhabit.  Migrating from MSN messenger a brief flirtation with MySpace before Facebook appeared on the scene.  Now she can count twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, Vine and Tumblr to the portfolio of sites that enable her to connect and share with friends.

    The Power of Personal Branding by David Laud

    The Power of Personal Branding by David Laud

    In the early days it wasn’t quite as all-consuming as it is now.  Accessibility was limited to time on Dad’s laptop or PC but as we all know now smartphone and tablet proliferation provides instant easy access.

     

    As a parent we will naturally be protective over the sites visited and posts read and made by our children but it’s not always easy to build and maintain trust whilst coming across as an Orwellian control freak.

     

    Parenting is one thing but what of ourselves?  Are we immune from the attractions of social media and the desire to connect and build our own virtual networks?  For some the thought of sharing aspects of their lives on any potentially public platform is just too scary or ridiculous to consider.  For others it opens a whole new world of opportunity.

     

    Successful social media entrepreneurs have created impressive personal brands that can equal that of a large business.  Commentators and influencers are now being actively sought out by the traditional brands to aid them in their quest to understand and grow their own sphere of influence online.

     

    What about you?  Do you see yourself as falling into the “personal brand” category?  From my perspective anyone who is prepared to put themselves out there with a unique and homespun message that

    shares even a small part of their lives has created a brand.  The difficulty with such a notion is that people see a brand as belonging to something far greater than an individual, its Nike, Coke, Apple, Dyson, Virgin…. But just consider the celebrity brand.  Stephen Fry, Lady Gaga, Justin Bieber, One Direction, Jeremy Clarkson; there are hundreds of examples.  One of the most stunning examples of an individual harnessing the power of social media is that of Barack Obama and yes he had a team behind him but the principle of Obama the brand, his message and reach through social media is a lesson we can all draw upon.

     

    If using social media for personal or business purposes or in my case a schizophrenic combination of both you really should take time to think about how your persona is presented.  I often see accounts on twitter where individuals are obliged by their employers to state that the tweets produced are their own and not associated with the business they’re fronting.  I understand why these statements are made but I do fear they undermine any efforts to positively promote that business, it gives an impression that they are free to talk behind the businesses back rather than be trusted to offer opinion and general comment on the world around them.  If you’re worried about what someone might say in the name of your business or by any loose association, don’t give them the keys to the account!

     

    Back to the personal brand idea – what should you be doing to make the most of your social media presence?

    10 Tips for Personal Branding with Social Media

    1. Think about why you’re investing time in social media sites
    2. Be careful not to imitate others, be original and find your own voice.
    3. Draw up a short list of simple objectives, what do you want from all this time you’re investing?
    4. Consider setting yourself some basic “house rules” for social media use such as:
      • No swearing
      • Respect others
      • Block negative contributions from your network
      • Protect and enhance your reputation
      • Add value to your network
    5. Ask for feedback from others who you trust to give an honest appraisal of your online persona, does it match your own thoughts?
    6. Don’t get hung up on social ranking scores
    7. Focus on the level of genuine interactions
    8. Regularly review where you are against your objectives and don’t be afraid of changing them
    9. Update the profile pic to keep things fresh
    10. Try not to take yourself too seriously

    The last on the list could easily be top.  One of the biggest “turn offs” is the overly earnest, terribly persistent and infuriatingly opinionated narcissist.  It’s really not a good look; but given the personality type they’re often so self-obsessed they don’t see what we can.

    Being aware of your personal brand is not taking yourself too seriously it’s actually taking responsibility for your current and future reputation.  Most employers and clients now “Google” the names of individuals who they might be working with.  It’s clear that those who have strong, well established and consistent content will put themselves in the frame for future work.

    As far as branding goes…it really is getting personal.

    David Laud – i2i Business Solutions LLP

    Follow me on Twitter

    Byadmin

    Is the Marketing Plan a Dead Doc?

    I sense that the traditional marketing planning process has taken something of a back seat in recent years.  I don’t have definitive proof just anecdotal comment from fellow marketers and business owners but I suspect there’s a trend developing.

    Putting a Plan Together

    Putting a Plan Together

    The main reasons for our failure to plan appear to be time, or rather the lack of it.  When I’ve pressed on the subject many get defensive and point to a myriad of additional excuses such as;

    • Lack of resource to help with the process
    • Nothing wrong with the plan we have just need to update it
    • Too many day to day distractions
    • Other areas of the business are a priority

    Plus the rather worrying comment I overheard recently “It won’t make any difference if we plan or not, it’s just a piece of paper and no one ever looks at it”

    You might be surprised to hear that I have enormous sympathy for those making these comments.  I agree that you need the resources, time and a clear focus as to what the planning process is going to deliver for you.

    In addition to the above statements I also get the impression that the increased emphasis on social media activity has created a challenge for many marketers, to “keep up”, innovate and manage the relatively new medium.  This creates a dilemma for the marketing manager/director or business owner.  As soon as you set out what you intend to do in your carefully prepared plan some new development, platform or nuance emerges that overrides the plan and requires either a re-write or more likely just enough reason to ignore the original plan.

    Given the pace of change and pressures the obvious question would be, is the traditional marketing plan redundant, defunct and a “dead doc”?

    My answer is yes and no.  Yes the traditional method of planning out a year’s worth of activity, by product, service or person by location with expected outcomes, in fine detail with budgeted expenditure and suppliers, has a diminished value.  It can still be worth undertaking as a broad guide to budget and activity and shape thinking but not as a firm “set in stone” plan.

    If plans are going to have any real influence and ongoing relevance on the direction and success of the business they need to be dynamic and almost entirely built around a full and detailed understanding of the customer.  That’s nothing new…I can hear you cry and I would agree.  Many marketers already create their own flexible planning processes incorporating new technologies that are adaptive to customer behavioural changes.  The opportunity is in migrating businesses to this approach so that the thought of planning remains key and is not considered a waste of time.

    How do you do this?  Well there are no easy “off the shelf” answers.  I know there are hundreds of marketing plan templates, just “Google” the words and you’re spoilt for choice.  The problem is that they are generic or too specific and invariably don’t relate to YOUR business.

     

    The best advice is to follow a simple process…and for me it involves breaking down the overall plan into manageable projects.  Here’s how……

     

    1. Talk to the business owners about the process and intention to set out a new plan
    2. Avoid making assumptions – obtain current intelligence across the business (examples)
      1. Financial performance
      2. Customer data (including satisfaction surveys)
      3. Website Google analytics
      4. Social media stats
      5. Advertising performance
      6. Competitor analysis
      7. Market research
      8. Factor in any political, economic, legal influences
      9. Skills audit of marketing staff – identify training need

     

    1. Review overall company objectives and assess relevance and need to update
    2. Map out financial targets by product/ service/ office/ individuals
    3. Create marketing project plans for specific segments of the business and include
      1. The objectives
      2. Owners of the project
      3. Team members and roles
      4. Suppliers i.e. web designer, SEO agency, printers
      5. Platforms i.e. press, social media channel, radio station
      6. Timeline of activity including regular review points
      7. Costs
      8. Results and analysis (this should be factored in as an ongoing aspect of the project)
      9. Overarching schedule of the projects providing simple helicopter view of the marketing team’s actions to ensure that it is planned, not overly ambitious and achievable within the timescales suggested.

    Today’s marketing professional needs to be an accomplished project manager, not necessarily an expert in any one particular field but capable of co-ordinating resources with the help of a straightforward plan.

    Creating a method for the business owners to view and engage with the project plans as they develop would also help maintain “buy-in” and might be possible through a form of shared software platform or intranet.  This can also be used by the project team to monitor their progress and avoid “lag” by identifying issues such as a specific element that has failed to deliver.

    As you might have gathered I’m a huge fan of project planning and management.  It’s obviously not a new concept but it lends itself perfectly to a dynamic fast paced environment which most of us find ourselves in.  Not so much re-inventing a wheel but adapting it to move faster, have greater grip and flexibility.

    If this is a topic you have experience of or would like to contribute toward please feel free to comment or tweet me @davidlaud

    David Laud