Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Meet Little Printer...

Busy day, too much to read, no signal on the train home.  That sounds like my life. 

Instapaper & Evernote are handy productivity tools, Flipboard is great if the wifi in the office works and I have time to update before I dash for the door but there's times when despite the array of digital devices at my disposal it would be handy to have some paper. Old school, I know.  I like to sit down have a cup of coffee and read papers from time to time!

So need established but even before I've written to Father Christmas, it seems that the smart team at BergCloud have come up with the solution - meet Little Printer.. an at home / on desk solution to offline content snacking... I'm all signed up for a pre-order alert.

Hello Little Printer, available 2012 from BERG on Vimeo.

I [heart] Twitter

I’ve had a Twitter account in various guises for nearly 4 years now. To begin with I signed up to explore and understand better the new shiny digital toy. The people to follow were few +/or mostly known to me personally at the outset.  

Several years later, Twitter has become an indispensable tool in my professional armoury, but I’m a geek and I live and breathe in the digital world. I’m not sure  it’s necessarily for everyone although I do believe that apps like Flipboard (for iPad) might make it more user-friendly in broader contexts.  

 So taking a step back, why am I still loving Twitter?

  • There are handy interfaces like Tweetdeck or Hootsuite that turn the user experience into something useful and manageable. Without these I would probably have given up pretty quickly.
  • I am in control of who I follow – chosen by me, for me, to help me achieve what I want to (primarily in my case keeping up to date with what’s happening in the digital world). This is key – choosing my trusted sources of information carefully saves me time and means I have a manageable and largely relevant newstream to digest.

  • It’s a useful tool to share interesting things I find with those kind enough to follow me – presumably because they think I provide a useful filtering service. Twitter relationships tend to be assymmetrical  - I might follow someone interesting to me, but unlike Facebook or LinkedIn there’s no expectation or requirement for the symmetrical loop to be closed, so following and followers numbers don’t match. I’m not in it for the ego-boost, or celebrity like some, I’m not motivated by pure follower numbers nor any specific need to drive traffic to my blog, but that’s me. If you were running a corporate blog or other marketing activity it can be a valuable tool in the mix.

  •   I listen much more than I Tweet, and when I do it’s because I’ve found something worth sharing or I want to promote a blog article I’ve written, or very occasionally to vent frustrations at bad consumer experiences – inverse advocacy if you like, but it’s a powerful public voice if used sparingly. Resorting to Twitter has on more than one occasion meant I got problems resolved more quickly than being an invisible item in an emails awaiting response queue.  Businesses are slowly realising that the people’s public voice has large reach and clout and sticking heads in the sand isn’t going to help.

  •   I’m reasonably attentive to who is following me, because it helps me discern what to tweet, and keeps those who are clearly spam tweeters or on some bizarre quest for a large number of followers in their place.

  •    Twitter has become another comms  / messaging space for me too – I know which of my digerati mates are as Twitter addicted as I am, just like you know which of your friends use which IM account and so Twitter DMs (direct messages) are in my repertoire when I think about who I am wanting to say what to.

  • I’m more selective of which industry events I attend in person because in a time constrained world following the headlines via the tweeted soundbites from those in attendance is often a “good enough” experience.   Last week I made the most of the IAB UK’s video conference following the #iabvideo tag, this morning I am keeping an eye on Comscore EMEA’s video ad session - #VAS11. I enjoy participating in conferences I actually attend even more now that I have Twitter to hand – the banter amongst participants of different people’s takes on a presentation, the chance to find new people to follow, the “companion screen” if you like, to the presenters in front of you. You could argue it’s a distraction but I personally believe it adds value to the experience. That said it’s much more helpful if a conference organiser pre-defines the hashtag from the outset / in advance otherwise a large chunk of the audience are busy trying to suggest and find consensus on what to use not listening to the opening comments!! 
 Personal request though... would conference organisers please note that it’s  bordering on rudeness now to host something in a basement room with lousy 3g and not provide free wifi / the access code.

I get asked about Twitter and brands or Twitter and corporations a lot. I don’t believe there’s a one size fits all answer.   How a brand or an individual finds Twitter useful is very much a contextual / personal thing. 

“Thou shalt join Twitter” is a pretty useless corporate mandate unless you are prepared to spend some time training people on how it can add value to their professional +/or personal lives and give them some tips on where to start and what to do  / not to do.Make sure the decision makers understand it properly would be my advice. That way they will be prepared to deal with any issues that come up and need elevating. The last thing you’d want is Twitter being used naively by the un-informed and finding your business advantages shared with the world inadvertently or in contrast find productivity drops because everyone’s glued to Twitter all day.  It’s easy to get distracted. 

Know what your corporate policy is rule one!

Make sure everyone is clear on what’s appropriate or not, especially if you are asking people to sign up wearing a corporate rather than personal hat. Most people have a personal email account these days, and unless you are expecting people to tweet on behalf of the organisation it’s probably better to advise them to approach Twitter from a personal perspective (in my humble opinion). Everyone’s notion of what’s valuable to them will differ and if you are asking people to embrace something new, then it’ll be made a whole lot easier if they are given freedom to customise to their own interests, professional and personal – that way it’s more likely to become embraced and habitual rather than just another thing to check / another password to remember. We all have enough of those as it is.

Used well it can be a powerful marketing, business and insight tool, it’s a means to drive $ value to the business (think Dell Outlet stores), drive loyalty, distribute content to an audience who’ve said they’re interested in your news,  deliver customer service  and enhance (real time) learning . 

Fundamentally whether you manage a brand, a team or your own time, you need to be  clear about the purpose you are using Twitter for so you can leverage it effectively and  attribute time and resources appropriately.   Dive in. Have a go.

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

A short miscellany of interesting stats

Technorati recently published it's latest State of the Blogosphere report. 1st published in 2004, and conducted annually ever since it's provided an interesting way to monitor the changing digital landscape, and chart the rise of the professional and hobby blogger over time.   Well worth a read.

Then onto some stats and observations...

For a troubled economy, Spain is showing surprising enthusiasm and growth in the digital arena.

I recently came across  figures showing how huge the Spanish appetite was for online video and how fast that it is growing, (9% growth in videos viewed in 6 months). Then today I came across this Comscore round up of mobile ownership and activity across Europe and once again Spain's a serious player, kicking the French, Germans and Italians into touch.

I wonder whether high unemployment levels are driving people online for jobhunting, entertainment and distraction in these troubled times?

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Evolving user interfaces & the internet of things

Of the many things in the digital sphere I am fascinated by, the evolving nature of the interfaces by which we interact with technology has to be up there in the top 3.

The internet of things / connected home is becoming less conceptual and more and more of a tangible reality even if it's just beginner baby steps for most people as they start to use energy monitors as fuel cost increases as much as eco-conscience drive mainstream adoption and behavioural change.

Moving beyond the baby steps, the connected home, cloud based data access, and device neutral data interfaces are becoming less of a mental stretch as today's tablet fans start embracing the notion of companion devices and will become increasingly demanding about hardware neutrality.   With the launch of Siri and Iris (Apple & Android personal digital assistants respectively), the spoken interface has joined touch on the critical mass of credibility table, if only for the innovators and early adopters at present.  With the mainstream undoubtedly following close behind bringing true scale now is the time to start thinking about what interface change means for the way that consumers can and/or could interact with your brand in the future.  This could also have a significant impact on your business architecture for staff : organisational relationships as much as business : consumer ones, as this recent Gartner trends piece highlighted.  I wouldn't be so bold as to consider myself an expert in new UIs (user interfaces) yet but I do believe that there needs to be a happy marriage between insight, extrapolation of existing behaviours, imagination and experimentation with new technologies and interface alternatives so that learnings can be developed. Context as much as attitude will no doubt influence our interface preferences, much as they already do today but with greater inter-changeability between them than is currently present. I wouldn't choose to write anything of  significant length using my iPad, because even with my small hands the keyboard is cramped and the angle on my neck to see over the keyboard is awkward and pain inducing, but the touch / swipe / pinch we've all become used to is intuitive for browsing in all manner of scenarios. I've used voice dialling on my phone for years as it's handy in the car, and voice search is handy on occasions, and yet I'm still an enormous fan of the notebook, post-it and pencil for quick scribbles, or doodles to evolve my thinking. At the minute our range of interface options are often device capability limited but this is a barrier that I expect to erode over the medium term future.

With hints of the Corning Glass futures piece I posted previously, the Microsoft Envision Lab have produced this piece. Whether you believe it'll ever happen or not is up to you but I remind you that Minority Report was released in 2002, and much of the technology that seemed far distant and sci-fi then is already a reality.

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Who says advertising doesn't work....

I've been writing an assortment of case studies over the last week or so, one of which is an update on Yeo Valley's 2010 category challenging work in pushing the boundaries of creative in the dairy / yellow fats sector.

As a consequence, not only have I revisited the fun rap from last year (now up to just over 2m views of the original brand upload), but also possibly been slightly over-exposed to this year's approach: the creation of the rather polished looking farmer (?) boy band "The Churned". Once more YeoValley have been brave enough to get someone in to write some clever lyrics which tell the story of their commitment to farming and their dedication to their "happy friesians" (I quote) and then evolve the high reach, high contextual relevancy but low frequency of TV spots in the X Factor tv show with smart use of YeoTube (pun intended) as a platform.

This year you can learn the dance moves with the choreography video or have a play with the karaoke version of the video embedded in the YeoValley Facebook page to create your own mash up if you are feeling that way inclined.

For the less creative or downright lazy you can always download the rather catchy adverti-song from iTunes. I did smile at the comment (we'll forgive their English) below the track listing about people rewinding live tv (see below). Rather brings back memories of the year 2000ish and all the people heralding the demise of TV advertising that TiVo would bring.  Strong creative always makes for good viewing and smart use of video platforms and SEO principles means brands can capture that interest 24/7/365.

My neighbouring digital partner in crime in the office might be a wee bit bored of me humming/ singing / whistling the Yeo Valley chorus on repeat, but frankly I think she should be very grateful that it's not those damn radio ads for webuyanycar or Harvester's rap about a chicken piri piri and a whole rack of ribs, both of which I have seen taking a recent slating amongst my friends on Facebook for being downright annoying and NOT frequency capped. (The latter being my bug bear as much as the tedious creative).  (I refuse to grant the satisfaction of an SEO building link to either of them). Memorable but perhaps not for the right reasons.

"Yeo Valley naturally"... however, that's a whole different carton of yoghurt ;-)   Nicely done. In low involvement categories a little insight can make a massive difference and I firmly believe fortune favours the brave.

Practising what I preach...

Sometimes it's good to take a step back from the day job(s) and apply all those principles one advocates at work to yourself.  Data visualisation is something I'm very interested in and believe we will see more and more of so I spend a lot of time exploring and thinking about how it can be harnessed as a concept. I recently had a play with the profile the beta generated of my career history and decided that for all it's hover over interactivity, there was still room for improvement. The things a geek does for fun.

So I sat down and thought about how I could tell my cv story a different way. Having been around the block a few times now and worked in many different places across lots of different industries and countries I have a broad international marketing & communications skill base that is flexible and can be applied in many different ways. Whilst the non-linearity of the path causes the younger lesser-spotted recruiters to scratch their heads because I'm not much of one for box fitting, there was method in my madness along the way, and it is the capabilities acquired along that journey which captures the attention of those with rather more experience and imagination. 

These days I'm rather sworn to the digital cause, it's endless evolution keeps me on my toes and my curiosity constantly piqued, so taking the tools of my trade to task, what could I draw upon to turn all those words that no-one is ever going to read in a short-attention span world into something more visual? Something that tells a broad story at a glance? Well, here's the jpeg non-hyperlinked and very definitely beta version of what I've come up with so far... Food for thought. 

Sadly, there's no functionality within LinkedIn to share it, (at least with a basic account), beyond hyperlinking this post under the "my portfolio" section - a development opportunity for them perhaps.  As we all get more and more visual / multi-media about how we sell ourselves, then surely their platform needs to evolve and embrace that?