The Future of Digital Marketing? – How Would You Know!

2009 was the year of Social Media Marketing as marketers battled to truly get to grips with sites such as Twitter and the more veteran social media site Facebook in order to leverage the platform as a valuable marketing channel. Twitter, the darling of 2009 with its usage and growth surging rapidly throughout the year, in particular offered an exciting new opportunity for digital marketers to directly interact, consult and listen to the voices and opinions of their target audiences in a measurable fashion.

With a number of highly successful digital marketing campaigns taking place in the past year on both Twitter and Facebook as well as number of other social media websites, including Reebok’s 20th Anniversary of Reebok Pumps Twitter campaign and Ikea’s ingenious Facebook campaign to name but a few, social media marketing has firmly established itself as a valuable part of the marketing mix.

So why then do the Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM), the worlds largest organisation for marketers, assisting in the training and development of marketers and representing the profession as a whole (yes, this is how they describe themselves on their website), seem to have completely shunned the use of sites such as Twitter (which, given the success of eConsultancy – digital marketing community and training providers, you would think would be a no brainer for leveraging) to market and promote themselves, their events, training, news etc?

Organisations such as this should be leading the way for marketers, displaying exactly how new marketing channels can be used effectively by putting them into practice themselves. Clearly the CIM aren’t strangers to Social Media Marketing or else they wouldn’t advertise a training course on it on their website.

Don’t get me wrong, CIM run good events, with good speakers (such as the upcoming Future of Digital Marketing), so it’s understandably frustrating to see them fail to practice what they preach.

At Web Wise Business, we have spent the past year doing a considerable amount of online and social media marketing, both for ourselves and our clients. While obviously not as large (and therefore not as large a natural pull) as CIM have (being the worlds largest organisation for marketers and all!), both our clients and ourselves have seen some good gains from both and therefore intend to be even more active in these areas in the next 12 months.

See keep a lookout and in the meantime, if you’re a member of the CIM, why not pester them to do more to market their events! They don’t seem to do nearly enough at the moment!

Generating Unique Website Content

Having been responsible for generating much of our own unique website content through web copy-writing for the Web Wise Business website, along with the increasing requirement to write for our clients, I know first hand the challenges surrounding the creation of web content that is both unique, and that people might actually want to read!

With search engine algorithms demanding fresh content as a significant factor in determining website rankings, it can be a daunting task to keep up with the pace at which new content is produced on the world wide web. Especially in the micro-blogging age we find ourselves in with people Tweeting and blogging from the train, traffic jams or even the pub!

However, while certainly challenging, producing regular, unique and valuable content is not so difficult as to be considered impossible, especially if you approach the task correctly. The following is a few of my thoughts on both creating the actual content, and the overarching strategy behind creation of unique website content.

Unique Web Copywriting

Unique Web Copy-writing

Creating Content

  1. News Isn’t Necessarily “New” - 
    News is one of the most typical, and more easily produced types of content for your website, yet, as the title states, news doesn’t always have to be “new”. While writing articles on your own company news is easy, you might not always have interesting news to cover. Where possible, you should endeavour to make your content fresh and unique, yet it is entirely possible to create new and unique content for your website by re-covering a news story from another source.This can range from covering a story or issue from the industry/area  you are involved in, providing your own take and opinion on the story, to taking a seemingly unrelated news story and examining how it relates to your industry and/or business. Remember, newspapers and magazines do this all the time!
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  3. Putting the “U” in Value – What would make you want to keep reading content on a website? Keep you visiting the site again and again? Make you want to link back to it and tell your friends about it? These are questions you should ask yourself regularly when writing your unique website content. Providing a news, or informative article that offers some value to your reader, or improves the user experience on your website will significantly improve your chances of fostering visitor loyalty and generating links to your website.

 

Web Content Strategy

As with all things, having a good plan or strategy is key to generating successful fresh website content. Knowing why you are producing your content and what you wish to achieve by doing so is worth outlining before you begin actually creating the content whether you are writing news about your company and the industry it is involved in, in order to encourage visitors to view your website as a hub for valuable information, or if you are providing informative articles and guides in order to assist readers in achieving a task, or in making a decision (such as a guide for selecting a dishwasher), this can work especially well if you provide the service or product that you are informing the reader about.

Once you have worked out the aims and goals of your content, it is worth considering how you will go about creating said content. There are a few ways of doing this beyond the obvious “writing it yourself or having a colleague write it”:

  1. The Obvious “Writing it Yourself” -
    As stated, this is the obvious way of creating unique and interesting content for your website. This can be done either by yourself, a colleague/employee or external agency. The downside of writing your own copy is that it can be a time consuming job, particularly if you wish to do so on a regular basis. Paying someone else to do it for you can be a good way of ensuring that you don’t fall behind with doing so.
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  3. Isn’t There A Quicker Way Of Doing This? -
    Not able to find the time to write your own fresh content and/or can’t afford to pay someone else? It is possible to get around this problem by enabling your website to add “fresh” content itself through RSS feeds etc. While the content itself won’t necessarily be “fresh”, it will be fresh on your site. Pulling RSS feeds also enables your website to keep up to date information or articles on current topics, which will assist in relevancy to searches and potentially assist your search engine rankings for related terms. Have a word with your web developer about this if you don’t already have this ability. 
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  5. Can’t Someone Else Do It? -
    The answer to this is “yes, someone else can”. User generated content can be one of the best means of easily generating large volumes of fresh, unique content on your website with a minimum of effort on your part. Fostering a community website is no easy challenge, however, getting it right can enable you to reap serious rewards. The key to creating successful community websites, beyond publicising it well to the community(!), is creating an environment which makes it as easy as possible for users to add their content, be it pictures (Flickr), videos (YouTube), product reviews (Amazon) or topical discussion (NFL.com). Don’t be fooled into thinking that you won’t still have to provide content, but you won’t necessarily have to provide as much content in order to achieve loyal site users. Even the occassional (once or twice weekly) piece of content, on a topic that is both interesting and relevant to your target audience, and which provokes comment or discussion, can encourage significant amounts of user generated content.

So what are you waiting for? Sit down and start planning your strategy for creating new, interesting and valuable content and start compelling your target audience to visit your website and stick around/link back to it.

Facebook 360

Facebook yesterday announced the first integration between social networking and computer gaming at the E3 Expo, the premier computer gaming industry event held in Los Angeles.

The integration with Xbox Live, Microsofts online service for the Xbox 360, means that Facebook users will now be able to update their status, post photo’s and play games with friends directly through Xbox Live.

Facebook integration with Tiger Woods PGA Tour 10 on Xbox Live

Facebook integration with Tiger Woods PGA Tour 10 on Xbox Live

Electronic Arts, makers of the Tiger Woods PGA Tour series of games, also announced they would be providing integration with Facebook Connect for the upcoming Tiger Woods PGA Tour 10 this autumn. The game will allow users to link their Xbox Live gamer tag with their Facebook profile, challenge Facebook friends to a game and post screenshots, video highlights and even gaming challenges to their friends, all through Facebook connect.

The move furthers the application of Facebook as a content distribution channel and will likely lead to more viral growth for games. The social networking giant is now believed to be in talks with other platforms and developers about similar future integrations.

[Pictures courtesy of Gizmodo]

Homecoming 2009 – How Are Scottish Businesses Benefiting?

Incase you weren’t already aware, 2009 is the year of the Scottish Homecoming. An events programme celebrating Scotland’s many and great contributions to the world and an SNP initiative designed to boost tourism and retail in Scotland.

Late last year and at the beginning of 2009, much was made of the celebration and the increased tourism and retail revenues for the Scottish tourism industry that would result. According to Philip Riddle, chief executive of VisitScotland, the Homecoming is set to bring £40 million in additional tourism revenue and an additional 100,000 tourists to Scotland this year.

Scotland's Homecoming 2009, but where is everybody?

Scotland's Homecoming 2009, but where is everybody?

However, according to a number of Scotland’s largest and most popular hotels, there has yet to be any sign of the expected increases. While it is possible that the current economic climate and recent outbreak of global swine flu could have seriously impacted upon the number of tourists and therefore revenues, with news that The Gathering, the worlds biggest clan gathering and one of the highlight events of the year, is on target to bring in an additional £8 million to the Scottish economy, you would expect some of that to filter through to boost hotel revenues wouldn’t you?

Despite hoteliers claims that they have been proactively advertising for Homecoming accommodation, I have yet to see any real sign of this. Only a handful of popular Scottish hotels (Malmaison, Hotel du Vin and Edinburgh Capital among the few) even appear to have a page or any information about the Homecoming and any offers they are tying in with it. Shockingly, there aren’t any Scottish hotels running Pay Per Click on the term “homecoming” which had 2.25 million searches in March alone according to Google. What’s more shocking is that the only Scottish “business” competing for this term on PPC is a Dunblane artist. This reeks of missed opportunity for the Scottish tourism and retail industries and goes some way to explain perhaps why the tourism industry has yet to see significant benefit from the year long celebrations.

Obviously the current economic climate means that many businesses will be tightening the purse strings, however, with a one-off opportunity like the Homecoming 2009, where half the battle of marketing has and is already being done by the Scottish Parliament, how can Scottish businesses not afford to try and take advantage of the situation?

Given that the Homecoming is celebrating Scotland’s contributions to the world, it’s ingenuity and creative genius of the likes of the bard Robert Burns, the box John Logie Baird, the bacteriologist Alexander Fleming and the tax dodging ba$t… uhm… Sean Connery, it’s a little ironic that Scottish businesses aren’t taking inspiration from this (well not Sir Sean) for their own benefit by using the celebrations as a means to further promote their business on an international stage.

The Search For William Wallace

Stirling Council recently announced a search to find people named William Wallace to help open the new bridge across the railway in Stirling, linking the city centre to the new Forthside development. We at Web Wise Business decided to give the council a hand by hunting down 21st Centruy Braveheart’s called William Wallace to support the cause!

With camera in hand we managed to round up a number of potential guardians of Scotland from the local area to appear in our William Wallace video, however, which of these truly embodies the spirit of one of Scotland’s most famous national heroes? Leave your comments to vote for your favourite!

UK Politics and Blogging – There is No Class in UK Politics

Following the latest political “scandal“, this time over emails about tarnishing reputations flying about Downing Street, I decided to have a look at a few of the “notablepolitical blog sites mentioned in the BBC’s coverage of the issue.

First impressions, I have to admit, aren’t great.

Guido Fawkes blog, a quite clearly Conservative tinted view of things actually provides some genuinely interesting news and articles, however, it is let down tremendously by the attitudes and contributions of it’s readers. Comments such as “F**k off you Grauniad reading, Gordon Brown c**k-sucking sh*t for brains”, directed at someone clearly in disagreement with the Conservative themes, don’t exactly go a long way towards encouraging the belief that this is a source of intelligent political information and discussion. Instead it seems to follow a familiar trend on the internet of mindless name calling and dogmatically voiced opinion.

That said, the Labour site, also linked to by the BBC, and run by former Government spin doctor, Derek Draper, also leaves a lot to be desired. LabourList, while better presented visually and seeming to be a bit more creditable in terms of content (i.e. not directly rumour mongering or inflammatory and actually trying to describe positive impacting initiatives), still falls down when it comes to the comments sections. While not as heavy with profanity as Guido Fawkes, it still follows the well trodden line in politics, both online and offline, “your with us or your not”.

What I mean by this is, instead of focusing on the positive differences their party (or party of choice) could make to the country when in power, political discussion these days seems to boil down simply to name calling and slandering, or defence in the face of slander, of achievements and initiatives. Such actions would seem to be completely at odds with the recent major political success of Barak Obama in the American presidential campaign, a success which all political parties now clearly aspire to emulate.

The reason the Obama campaign for presidency was so successful in my eyes was because the focus was on positive change rather than predominantly negatively promoting the failings of the previous Government. Obviously promotion of positive change implies the failings of the previous presidency anyway, but it does so in a manner that is more credible, and with more class which therefore makes it more engaging.

A lot of talk surrounded the Obama campaign’s use of digital and social media in promoting a fashionable message of inclusivity, and this is something that political parties in this country are clearly making concerted efforts to become more involved with. However, if the sites mentioned above are some of the best efforts in this area that UK politics has to offer, well then it seems the message hasn’t fully gotten through.

For a start, I imagine the proportion of the UK population familiar with any political use of social media for political purposes is a fraction of that of the population of the USA that became familiar with Obama’s “roots level” online marketing, for want of a better term.  

With regards to the actual e-mail scandal itself, well it seems that the class with which Obama conducts himself, and which all involved in politics wish to emulate, is lacking in the actions of both parties involved. Obviously there is no class in trying to create falsified smear campaigns to discredit opponents. However, at the same time, would a leader with class really “demand” an apology from his opponent despite the fact the opponent was not directly involved the way David Cameron has? Surely the classy thing to do would be to play the whole thing down rather than obviously fan the flames in a blatant attempt to gain public opinion? Class, to me anyway, is defined by attitude and manner, and to an extent, action – but not these types of actions.

At the moment, class is clearly lacking both online and offline in UK politics.

Moldovan’s Revolutionise the Use of Social Media

Following recent political and public un-rest in the country, Moldovan activists and demonstrators protesting alleged vote rigging by the countries Communist party have been making full use of current Social Media to both co-ordinate and publicise the nature of their demonstrations and the feelings towards the issues and events taking place.

Twitter, Live Journal and Facebook are among the range of social networking websites being used to communicate and co-ordinate demonstrator activities. Regular Tweets being posted to #pman, a hashtag filter abbreviation for Piaţa Marii Adunări Naţionale – the Romanian name for the capital city’s biggest square. Protesters are Tweeting everything from general messages of support and political outbursts, to images of the recently seized president’s office, which was later retaken by riot police.

Cloudapp is also being put to use by the technically savvy activists to aggregate Twitter-streams, blog posts, videos and images relating to the events onto one web page.

Police officers in ransacked Parliament hall at Chisinau

Police officers in ransacked Parliament hall at Chisinau - Image by Avdeev Max

However, there are many, such as Evgeny Morozov, who have decried the role of social media technology in the events. Worrying that more will be made of the use of technology than the events themselves, Morozov asks “Will we remember the events that are now unfolding in Chisinau not by the color of the flags but by the social-networking technology used?”.

With little coverage actually being attributed to the internal political events that are taking place, it is not entirely impossible to believe this will be the case. The riots and protests taking place in Moldova, a poor, largely ethnic Romanian country situated between Romania and the Ukraine, are the result of allegations of vote rigging in recent elections by the Communist party and of economic stagnation which has led to increased impact of the global recession.

With local authorities requesting some Moldovan ISP’s restrict internet connection with the outside world in an attempt to restrict the flow of damning reports such as “a grenade thrown by the police has torn apart one of the protester’s leg” getting out, it is certain that, at the very least, these events will end up yet another example, in a growing list, of the uses of modern social media in generating “live news”, created by the public.


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