Category Archives: Uncategorized

Happy 6th birthday!

With two birthdays a year I feel like the Queen! Credit: Wikipedia
With two birthdays a year I feel like the Queen! Credit: Wikipedia

It’s hard to believe that this blog is now six years old.

I started this blog in 2010 when I realised that customers and colleagues were asking similar questions and I wanted a more efficient way to broadcast thoughts more quickly. Those were the days before ‘thought leadership’ and other such marketing terms were commonplace. Continue reading Happy 6th birthday!

I’m still on holiday

Kili Kilimanjaro logoWhile you are reading this, I’m currently climbing Kilimanjaro, the tallest mountain in Africa with twenty friends.

You could call it a mid-life crisis. And you’d be right.

I’ll be back at work on the 14th January.

Depending on the internet connection available, and my phone battery, I will try and upload photos to my Twitter account – bradbox.

Whilst climbing Kili (to its friends) I am representing a charity which help vulnerable children. I have paid for the entire Kili trip myself. All the money goes straight to the charity (except 5% to JustGiving).

We have set up a JustGiving page. I thank you for your generosity in advance.

Happy 4th Birthday

Photo: SugarDaze
Photo: SugarDaze

Four years ago I started this blog because I found myself telling several people the same piece of news and opinion. Some of them suggested I publish these thoughts on a blog, and I took their advice.

In the last four years, the amount of people viewing this site has steadily (and thankfully, significantly) increased.

Naturally, I’ve had my times where I haven’t had much to say – so I haven’t said anything (one of my favourite quotes is from Margaret Thatcher’s husband Denis, who said “Better keep your mouth shut and be thought a fool than open it and remove all doubt.“)

The last year has seen a step change in traffic, with pretty much double the level of traffic as two years’ ago.

Thank you to all the readers who come here from all over the World for their continued support.

Please let me know if you have any other topics that you’d like me to cover, and as always I’ll try to take the comments on board.

Expensive internet connectivity is Starbucks’ win

£3 a Mb adds up quickly on a smartphone
£3 a Mb adds up quickly on a smartphone

I travel to New York several times a year, and I’ve just returned from another visit. I usually go for 3-4 days but this time I was there for over a week.

I love New York, it’s energy, its people and well, there are a thousand other things too.

I often work from home, and I travel to other places too, so I’m used to working outside a typical office environment. However during this trip I struggled with one particular aspect – Internet connectivity. At Endava, we have a mobile contract with Vodafone, and when abroad, the mobile internet costs are surreal.

It costs around £3 per Mb when roaming on my phone. I had to use it on a couple of occasions, mainly for maps. But having a modern smartphone means that as soon as you enable mobile data, every other app treats internet connectivity like gasping for air, and within seconds I’m receiving updates to Facebook, LinkedIn, Snapchat, Twitter, Google plus, work and personal email accounts. Fast internet access is great, but it meant I hit my monthly roaming allowance cap within a few minutes.

New York doesn’t have nearly as many free wi-fi spots either. I know that London has more because when I take the kids out with their iPod touches, they manage to sniff out free wi-fi hotspots almost anywhere. In New York, only Starbucks seemed to consistently have free wi-fi.

My hotel had free wi-fi in the lobby area. In-room-wi-fi cost a staggering $25 per day. I refuse to pay that kind of price, even if work would cover it (my simple moral rule with expenses is “If I wouldn’t pay for it out of my pocket, I wouldn’t expect work to pay for it either”) and judging by how busy the dark lobby was with iPad screens (the dark hotel entrance hall looked like a swarm of fireflies), the other guests didn’t want to spend that kind of money either.

I’m aware that some networks, I think o2, offer fixed roaming costs for a fixed daily cost, but you have to commit to the daily amount and notify o2 before you travel.

With the amount of cloud services and social networks, our dependency on the internet keeps increasing . We need to stay connected, and mobile operators are taking advantage of this. No wonder Starbuck are so busy.

Top 5 Sponsorship Innovations

Working for IMG for a few years, I got to learn a few things about sport sponsorship. It’s one thing to put a sponsor on a t-shirt, but there are also new ways. Here are my top 5 sponsorship activations:

  1. One of my favourite sports sponsorship deals is
    Team Sky Cycling Team Photo: Mogens Engelund
    Team Sky Cycling Team Photo: Mogens Engelund

    the Sky cycling team. My assumption is that Sky didn’t own the television rights to the Olympics in 2012, plus they could see Bradley Wiggins rising through the ranks of British Cycling. This meant he could potentially win the Tour de France and if the sponsorship was activated correctly, the two brands could become synonymous. By pumping more money into the cycling team than any other team was receiving, training and winning was a little easier. Also, some consider cycling as ‘the new golf‘, with popularity steadily increasing, so Sky have capitalised on this too, with events such as Sky Ride. Even the branding and design of the Sky team wear has been carefully thought about.

  2. Deutsche Telekom sponsor Bayern Munich. The German telco also want to prove their IT capabilities, so they use their own domain (which also really helps SEO) for the Bayern Munich website: www.fcbayern.telekom.de. In digital media terms it’s not only innovative, but subtle and effective.
  3. In 2008, a computer gamer and YouTube user, Levinator25, uploaded a video to YouTube of a glitch in the game Tiger Woods PGA Tour 08. The video showed that if a ball landed in water in a specific place, Tiger Woods would stand on the water and still take the shot. EA responded with a video that is just brilliant, and more importantly, has been watched over 6.5 million times.
  4. Clever marketing from Morrisons for Andy Murray
    Clever marketing from Morrisons for Andy Murray

    When Andy Murray won Wimbledon, most of the UK came to a standstill. Some clever people at Morrisons had thought about this historic event a fortnight earlier when Wimbledon started, and converted the front of their Wimbledon store to read “Murriwins“. Interestingly, I think this was technically ‘ambush marketing‘, because I don’t think Morrisons was a sponsor. And Morrisons isn’t a sponsor of Wimbledon either.

  5. The last example isn’t a sports sponsorship but it’s very clever. And apparently no money changed hands either – quite what type of sponsorship this is categorised as, I have no idea! Nevertheless, for Nestle to sponsor the name of the next Android Operating System as ‘Kit Kat’ is ingenious. The Kit Kat brand can handle this – it’s a bit of fun, and the previous names of Android Operating Systems such as ‘Eclair’ and ‘Ice Cream Sandwich’. For Nestle to agree to this ‘deal’ it demonstrates how mainstream and ‘cool’ the technology has become. Did you know that Android Operating System names are in alphabetical order? This meant Kit Kat nicely slotted into place.

Getting the first 500 Twitter followers is the hardest

Labour Party Twitter Banter
Even political parties can have some banter on Twitter

I’ve dabbled with Twitter for a while. I opened my account over five years ago on the 16 January 2008.

In those five years I’ve described Twitter as pretty much everything from “The Emperor’s New Clothes” to the third best free social media website. The point is, if you are looking for web traffic, Twitter is an excellent tool that borders on the obligatory.

The problem I found is that your engagement with Twitter keeps plateauing. You get a number of followers, you find a number of people to follow, and it remains stagnant for a while.

I’ve been to presentations from Twitter users, such as Bill Boorman, who have large followings, but that didn’t work either. I had 200 followers when I went to the presentation in October 2011 and the advice didn’t seem to work for me.

I read The Tao of Twitter which is a great book and I recommend you read it with a highlighter pen. I read it twice in a few days, and started following the book’s advice. I quickly built up a bigger following. I then discovered other tricks to accelerate this further.

One golden rule before you start – whatever you do, don’t buy Twitter followers.

And here are the tips for getting quality Twitter followers relatively quickly:

  1. Tweet at least 3 times a day. Make sure it’s relevant content – so include some consistent keywords. Personal stuff works occasionally – see #4. Tips 6 & 7 will help you with content suggestions.
  2. Retweet other interesting or funny tweets. Use a blogger outreach platform to source content, such as Triberr. These websites are a win-win for the authors who are trying to promote their content and Twitter users looking for good content.
  3. Friendly banter with friends is good. Don’t make your feed too dry. Banter displays personality. Even if you’re a political party.
  4. Follow back new followers, except obvious spammers.
  5. When reading an article on say, a news website, express your opinion in a tweet. Always include a link to the article too. It’s difficult to condense an opinion into less than 140 characters, but try. In fact, you should try to use only 135 characters so that others can retweet your content prefixed with an “RT: “.
  6. When reading an article on your news or sports sites, if you see a snippet or “sound bite”, tweet it with a link back to the article.
  7. Find relevant industry/ topic tweet chats, and join in. I’ve usually accumulated an extra 25-50 followers (that’s a 5-10% growth) shortly after twitter chats.
  8. Use #ff (it stands for ‘Follow Friday’) on Fridays, especially to new followers from the week. Group similar users together in one #ff and another hash tag to describe their commonality. The chances are, they’ll retweet this to their followers.

Finally, please let me know if this article helps you and I may produce other similar guides.

The new Search Engine with a different method to Google

Blippex usage - now that's a hockey stick chart
Blippex usage – now that’s a hockey stick chart

In the last few months a new search engine has been released, with a different way of providing results to Google.

Google provides results based on inbound links, called PageRank, and what it thinks is relevant content – based on locality, keywords and other page information such as the title of the page, headlines and images.

Blippex takes a different approach. It provides results ordered by the pages where users spend the most time, and assumes that the longer a user spends on a page, the page must contain high quality content. It also takes keywords and other factors into account.

Blippex uses a similar model to the Alexa website to get the page view times – it needs users to install browser plugins. This is a limiting factor at the moment – who installs plugins beyond IT professionals? Where this could become more interesting is if say, Firefox, were to buy Blippex or even licence the technology. This would give holistic user browsing stats to Blippex straight away.

Blippex will naturally bias video content sites, where users spend minutes on pages. Blippex will need to manage websites showing pirate video content – for example movies and sports coverage.

Another interesting point about the technology is that part of the source code is publicly available on Github, and there’s a banner on the search engine promoting developers to further improve the product.

I’m always fascinated by companies which take on established rivals who are deeply entrenched in an industry. It forces the big companies, in this case Google, to keep innovating and pushing their products.

Please try Blippex and let me know what you think.

Creating & timing the perfect post: infographic

Here’s a really good, practical, infographic on the ideal types of social media post including timing.

I’ve seen a number of similar infographics before but this one has been well summarised and kept simple. Try the tips below and let me know if you see any improvements.

 
How to create the perfect social media post is an infographic that was produced by mycleveragency

Why the Internet didn’t cut out the middle man

TripAdvisor stock had almost tripled in the last 12 months
TripAdvisor: Who said travel agents are dead?

There was a time when I thought that the Internet spelt the end for intermediaries, or third-party agents. Surely, I imagined, users would go and transact direct with brands – from flights to banks, from insurance to mobile phones.

Agents have comparison engines to thank for averting disaster. Comparison engines finally showed the added value that agents offer.

Until comparison engines, third parties had been purely introductory agents. Think of a recruitment consultant – they are pairing together, or introducing – a candidate with their potential future employer. Estate agents do a similar role. And the Internet looked like it would disintermediate the middle man by offering a direct service.

Along came comparison engines and aggregators (on the Internet there isn’t much of a difference). Here we could see more choice, price comparisons, and feedback from other users.

Travel agents are still having a tough time economically. In the travel sector, the real winners have been startups and companies which have completely transformed themselves into a digital company.

One of the leading startups has been TripAdvisor. This is a completely new type of intermediary. It doesn’t have any stock in a traditional sense, and doesn’t even enable customers to book directly on its site. Yet TripAdvisor is growing at 25% year on year and has current revenue of $850 million, with a healthy 25% profit margin.

Financial Services: The utilities model?

We’re seeing the same story across many other industries – in retail (think of Amazon!), recruitment, real estate and finance. Finance is particularly interesting because financial services organisations could become “utilities” where customers go to a third party agency for a financial product (e.g. a loan), the cheapest one is shown and the user goes through to complete the transaction.

This is already happening with the insurance market – Compare the Market and other comparison engines have bigger brand recognition and fundamentally, loyalty, than the insurance companies it passes business through to.

Today’s question is whether insurance and financial companies want to be, or mind being, seen as utilities or value-add services. To answer this, it would be interesting to see the transactional statistics of insurance aggregators – to compare (forgive the pun) whether customers compare insurance companies and then click on the companies that they recognise.

If users are selecting the insurance companies which aren’t easily recognisable, it’s a signal that the industry has already turned into a utility model, and agents are here to stay for a while longer.

Google: the future passport across the Internet?

Just Google Authorship improved blog traffic significantly
Google Authorship alone improved blog traffic significantly

I’ve been applying a bit of Search Engine Optimisation to this blog over the last couple of weeks (successfully I should add – visits are already up over 30%) and one of the most recommended techniques is to assign authorship to articles.

What this does, is tells Google that the web site owner has trusted this particular person to add an article to the site. You might think that for this blog, the site owner and author is the same – but Google doesn’t mind this because it just wants to know there’s a human at the end of the keyboard, not another spammy robot knocking out (or copying) content. It’s the age old sign of trust of putting someone’s name at the bottom of a document adds credibility.

The way Google trusts that the person is a real human is by linking the ‘byline’ to their Google+ account. This is clever for so many reasons:

  1. Improves Google+’s own PageRank of more incoming links (theoretically, and probably practically within Google’s control but it is now proven through this method)
  2. Gets more people using Google+ (all those authors, who don’t want readers to land on an empty Google+ profile page)
  3. It has moved Google along the journey of becoming the user authentication on the Internet.

It’s the last point that is the most valuable. The Internet needs a single sign on, centralised user authentication system to prove who we are, so that businesses can trust who the buyer says they are.

A friend of mine sells furniture online. It costs him a small fortune to deliver it to customers, and with the distance selling regulations, he often gets customers who tell him after a week of delivery that they don’t want the item any longer. He reckons he can tell who is ‘trying it on’ to check whether he’ll offer a refund without bothering to collect the item again. He estimates that these “customers” go from site to site trying to take liberties from companies.

Wouldn’t it be a better system all round if a user bought an item from a website, and that site could look in a central place for delivery and payment information, and whether this user was trustworthy or not, before dispatching the item.

Another player in the market who might try to create this central authentication system is Apple. Combining Apple ID with fingerprint recognition and perhaps phone based GPS information could be a secure system.