Tuesday, 25 February 2014

My Digital Life | Adam Prettyjohns

The first module of Googles' Squared Online concludes with a one-page submission, outlining "My Digital Life". It is intended to demonstrate our daily browsing habits, how digital has come into our lives and is used in every part of our day, from being at work, to your mobile, even the digital that now streams into your television. Here is an insight into 'My Digital Life'.

Click Image To Enlarge
Consider, Facebook was born only 10 years ago, only in 2006 was it then made available to the world, not only residents of the USA. Digital and the surrounding technology has evolved and adapted unrecognisably in a very short period of time - whether you realise it or not, digital is here to stay.

What digital services do you use on a daily basis? What service could you not live without? Why do you love digital? Leave you comments and thoughts below!

Wednesday, 19 February 2014

5 Tips to Curate Creative Content: Identify, Inform, Inspire!

User-Generated Content within Social Media and the technological world is a topic currently being raved about alongside 'Visual Content'. User-generated content was a topic covered and discussed recently on my Squared Online course, so I thought I would expand on this subject and offer 5 of my own tips for successful content.

What is User Generated Content (UGC)?
All digital media technologies are included, such as question-answer databases, digital video, blogging, podcasting, forums, review-sites, social networking, social media, mobile phone photography and wikis. UGC can constitute only a portion of a website. For example, there are sites where the majority of content is prepared by administrators, but numerous user reviews of the products being sold are submitted by regular users of the site. (Source: Wikipedia)
User-generated content has been the latest to gain attention from the masses and for a very good reason. Here are some interesting statistics: 

In 60 seconds...
  • 2 million searches are made on Google
  • 204 million e-mails are sent
  • 278,000 tweets are made
  • 2.4 billion Facebook updates are made
  • 72 hours of YouTube video is uploaded.
    (Source: Qmee.com)
All of the above activity happens every single minute. User-generated content is becoming king of all internet content. With the vast amount of data and new content created every day, how do you 'put your 2 cents in?' and make sure you get noticed. Unfortunately, there is no easy answer to this and their is no proven formulae for guaranteed traffic, but there are a number of steps you can do to make sure your content ranks up there alongside piers.

5 Tips to Curate Creative Content

1. Identify Your Audience
As mentioned in my previous blog post: Keeping Current: Blogging | Sign Me Up, Scotty!, it is important to determine your audience and cater your content accordingly. If you are reaching out to an 18-21 year old audience, tailor your use of language accordingly. If your audience is a creative team of like-minded Marketeers (like my fellow Squared classmates!) then posts that provide useful and interesting information is always well received.

2. Be Informative
People are forever on the quest to read more, see more and learn more. If you can offer to your audience something they haven't already seen, something they don't already know and something that in itself informs them on a mutually interesting topic, they will be back for more or be inclined to share your information with others. People like to make informed decisions. If you can inform in the right way, they will appreciate and be grateful for the curation of your content.

3. Inspire!
A post that makes people question the way they do something currently, that makes them ask the question, 'can I do this differently?' will help inspire people to do great things. Inspiration is an amazing tool. Next time you get stuck or feel like their is no solution, just think to yourself... 
"Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do, so throw off the bowlines, sail away from safe harbor, catch the trade winds in your sails.  Explore, Dream, Discover." –Mark Twain
4. Be Knowledgeable
Create content around something you have a passion and something you are knowledgeable in. If you own a fishing shop, then write about the best places to fish, the best season to go, the best equipment to use. Your audience will question your authenticity if you go on to discuss the best stocks and shares to purchase on the london stock exchange, the latest colours in this years clothes fashion, the best way to cook a wild boar. This is unrelated to your speciality and the readers may question exactly how much of this information came from you, how much of it they should trust or going back to point 1, it may be completely unrelated and have no interest to your target audience.

5. Be Unique
Does your content come straight from the heart, or it something you have created to demonstrate your 'copy-and-paste' skills? Newspapers are well known for repeating information already readily available, readers will end up seeing similar or the same information again and again and this really doesn't help them! Their attention span is reduced, they may become uninterested and search elsewhere for original content. Make it your own, put your own touch on it and press on. Keep it unique!

6 Interesting Statistics on User Generated Content
  • Online consumer reviews are the second most trusted form of advertising with 70% of global consumers surveyed online indicating they trust this platform. (Source: Nielsen)
  • 83% of all holiday shoppers are influenced by customer reviews. (Source: ChannelAdvisor
  • When asked what sources “influence your decision to use or not use a particular company, brand or product” 71% claim reviews from family members or friends exert a “great deal” or “fair amount” of influence. (Source: Harris Interactive)
  • 59% of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations. (Source: Balihoo)
  • 83% of consumers say it would be important to read user-generated content before making a decision about banking or other financial services. (Source: Bazaar Voice)
  • Consumers between 25 and 54 years old were the biggest content drivers, contributing 70% of all UGC. (Source: Bazaar Voice)
Further Reading

A fantastic article I read, published by one of my fellow Squared Online classmates was by +Eleanna Smpokou, who wrote an article entitled "Making your content (into a) king: The 4 dimensions". Spend five minutes absorbing the fantastic points Eleanna makes. Take a read HERE.

What tips do you have to attract reader attention? Do you have a view on user-generated content? It would be great to hear your thoughts, post in the comment box below. Thanks!

SkyDrive changes to OneDrive | 20GB FREE for Enthusiasts

Microsoft SkyDrive has started its transition to Microsoft OneDrive (www.onedrive.com). Today, in a post published by Chris Jones on the Microsoft Blog, the announcement was made for the "global availability of OneDrive"

For existing SkyDrive customers, OneDrive will automatically be available when you login to your existing service, via OneDrive.com or SkyDrive.com. For SkyDrive/OneDrive enthusiasts that signed up to be one of the first to be notified of the service launch, their is an additional 20GB of free storage space up for grabs - check your e-mail inbox now an exclusive code from Microsoft, to redeem this additional space.

Starting with a free base of 7 GB, Microsoft will also give 3 GB to users who connect their camera rolls, 500 MB for users who refer their friends, 200 GB for two years for Surface buyers and 100 GB for Office 365 users. 

Microsoft continue to explain how their service works across multiple platforms:
"We’ve built OneDrive into the latest versions of Windows, Windows Phone, Office, and Xbox. You can even make OneDrive your default storage option, so you never have to worry about whether you are saving files to the cloud: They are just there. If you happen to carry an iPhone or Android phone, or use an iPad, Android tablet, Windows device, or a Mac—OneDrive is available there, too." - Chris Jones, Microsoft.
The service is running and available right now, so take a trip over to OneDrive to try it out. Microsoft said it planned to share details about OneDrive for Business at its SharePoint conference on March 3.

Wednesday, 12 February 2014

How Has Digital Impacted Brands of Today?

When the word "digital" is mentioned, bounded around and waved about the place, what does the term actually mean to you? An endless stream of 1's and 0's? Green and red flashing lights? A digital clock? The Matrix? The term digital now widely encapsulates a number of areas online, including (but not limited to!) social media, data analytics, mobile browsing and mobile experience, e-mail marketing or generic online advertising, plus a wide range of other online activities.

Digital has already impacted on how businesses operate on a daily basis, particularly with the explosion of well-known social media sites that have developed over the last 10+ years. I've listed below some great examples of companies using digital methods to their advantage, marketing, serving and conversing with their customers and prospects in a very different way or to provide a level of service over and above that offered by their competitors:

First Direct - Internet Banking, a division of HSBC Bank

First Direct originally joined the 'social media bandwagon' as they very quickly realised that customer recommendations provided a very powerful tool for referrals and new business for the company. First Direct has always strived to provide the best customer service possible from a bank and this has been proven by the numerous awards the company has received since opening. Some of the more recent awards the financial institution have received; "Recommended Provider - Current Account 2013" - Which Best Buy Awards, "Moneywise Customer Service Awards 2013" & "Moneyfacts Awards 2013" - something that FirstDirect are proud to mention on their ever-growing awards page.

Typical FirstDirect Digital Advert (Source)
By incorporating social media into the brand, alongside informal brand advertising, it encourages their visitors to interact with the brand itself, not just the bank itself for transactional relationships. First Direct want to be more than just a bank. They want to to be your one-stop finance solution, a company you can trust and turn to. It also provided additional routes to market the business and stay closely in touch with its customers and fan base outside of the normal methods of telephone and internet banking. 

They openly accept and seek feedback, both positive and negative via Twitter and Facebook and are very quick at replying to these comments to try and leave the customer feeling positive and satisfied. Convenience also plays a massive part - allowing customers to get in touch with them through methods more familiar and convenient to the consumer. So confident are FirstDirect at their level of service that they even offer cash sums for leaving them - something that they hope is unlikely to happen, based on communicating more effectively with their customers and responding quickly to their needs.

Wonga - Short Term Cash Loans aka "The Digital Finance Company"

Wonga, designed to provide a short term loan of cash on a day-by-day basis have broken out of the 'loan-shark' category by becoming a household name, with the clever use of TV, web and digital advertising. A self-proclaimed "Digital Finance Company", Wonga was founded in 2006 and were amongst the first company of its type to use fully automated risk processing technology, allowing decisions to be made on new loans instantly, with customers receiving cleared funds in as little as 5 minutes. 

Backed up by strong marketing campaigns, Wonga operates entirely digitally, with the ability to provide an instant quote on the web or directly via a mobile app. Clever branding and key icons such as the three distinct elderly characters used across their marketing strategies ensure continuity whilst putting a 'smiley face' on what would otherwise be a just another money lending business. Wonga has built a very strong personal relationship with its fan base with the use of "The Wongies" - smiley-faced digitally-created personas to front the Wonga brand, pictured below.

The "Wongies" Social Club (Source)
Wonga has provided over 7,000,000 short-term loans and operates in the UK, South Africa, Canada and Poland since 2007, they were also the first business to enable quick-quotes via a mobile application. Clever use of social media has led them to create the "Social Club", a Facebook app that records how much a user visits and interacts with the brand, earning points enabling users to redeem these as rewards or money-off vouchers. By measuring tweets, shares and competition entries, Wonga has the ability to collect user information on-mass and can distribute marketing messages very quickly. Additional the "#WongaFriday" hashtag used (you guessed it - on Fridays) as a competition method, has proved popular with its audience, by encouraging their audience to share a specific post on Twitter or Facebook publicly in return for the chance to win £100 weekly, therefore increasing brand awareness and widening their potential future clientele for only a minimal outlay every week.

It is clear the digital world has had a tremendous impact on every industry, from Finance to Healthcare. The youth of today are growing up in an ever-evolving technological world and businesses need to embrace this fact as oppose to ignoring it. Digital affects everyone - prospects, existing customers and general brand-engagement. What companies do you know of, that are using digital in a particularly noteworthy  or innovative way? Post your comments below!

Monday, 10 February 2014

Creating A Video | The Incomplete Guide

Let me firstly lay down a precedence for this post - I am not a professional videographer, in fact far from it, but I recently had to delve into the world of video creation myself to create my Squared Online introductory video, introducing myself to my fellow classmates. I thought I would share with you the ups and downs of the process and the research I undertook to do the best I could with the tools available to me! 

Please remember - I am not a professional videographer and this article is called "The Incomplete Guide", but I do hope that those finding it difficult making a start, feel a little more inspired!

Some questions I first asked myself:
  1. Who was my audience?
    My audience would mainly be my Squared classmates and tutors. In the first instance, this is who I wanted to create the movie as the audience in mind. However, I could also publish this to my blog to show others that may be following my journey, outside of the course.
  2. What look did I want to go for? Modern, Nostalgic, Mystery etc.
    My course was digital. I love digital. So a modern, fresh theme was what I wanted to achieve, something catchy that helped to present my view of digital and the explain to others a little more about me, in a simple, direct way.
  3. What resolution did I want to produce? 360p / 720p HD/ 1080p HD?
    In fitting with my aim at a fresh and clean-cut look, I decided the only way I could achieve this was to use HD (high-definition) footage, shot in 1080p. I would then create my movie with HD in mind, remembering to output my final video in 1080p HD. This would allow those with the a higher broadband speed to watch it with the clearest sound quality and better definition to the pictures themselves. Further to this, bearing in mind the YouTube flexibilities, I also knew that those with a slower Internet connection could also stream the video in a slightly reduced quality, to allow the video to be shown.
  4. Did I want my video 'branded' by a third-party company?
    I wanted to try and steer clear of free services that would add their logo to the corner or through the video, with the aim of the user paying an upgrade fee to remove the branding. For it to remain clear, concise and modern, I felt I needed to use a tool/service that did not brand my final video.
  5. How much time did I have to play with?
    I had a few days to play with, so I knew I had a bit of time to play with my creation to get it right. Had I been restricted to a few hours, this may have affected the decision of programs to use.
  6. What tools did I already have for the job? What else would I need?
    I knew pre-installed on Windows 7 & 8 is Windows Movie Maker. I had this already, it was free and included on my PC already. Having used this only once, I decided this may not be enough. I researched numerous other programs, including AnimotoStupeflix and WeVideo. All of these services, I'm sure are great and fit a need, but all charge a fee to output at higher resolutions (anything above 360p) and some were restricted in length. So Windows Movie Maker it was! (no branding, free, 1080p output).
  7. Where was I going to upload the footage to?
    I knew I was going to upload to YouTube, so I researched the type of videos that work best on the site: > YouTube Help.
  8. What footage did I own, what footage did I need?
    I already knew I had a selection of videos that I had taken and wanted to include, but I also wanted to add other, more abstract videos. A great article that helped me find free, HD stock footage was published by Ashutosh KS on Hongkiat.com here.
After collating my personal videos, my stock videos, a storyboard of what messages I wanted to get across and a catchy background track I already had in mind, I took to Windows Movie Maker to start compiling the videos. I trimmed many videos down to 3 seconds, or increased the footage speed of longer shots to coincide with the music itself, interrupting the shots momentarily for key words or phrases to be shown. You will find the finished video posted just below. See what you think!

"This is Adam" - Adam Prettyjohns

Can you recommend any video editing software? Have you written a guide of your own video? Post your answers in the comment box below. Thanks!

Sunday, 9 February 2014

Squared Online: My Video Introduction

Just a short post for today - I have finally completed my Squared Online video to submit for my first assessment! It has been designed to introduce myself to fellow Squared Online classmates. See what you think! Comments and feedback welcome :) Adam.

Thursday, 6 February 2014

Keeping Current: Blogging | Sign Me Up, Scotty!

With the plethora of information widely available on the internet and new content being created and published by the minute, it can be difficult to keep track of your favourite reads.  Second by second, gigabytes of information make it onto the world wide web, published, shared, edited, re-published. The problem occurs when there is so much information to comprehend - how do you keep track of it all?

Image Source: Link

RSS To The Rescue!
RSS feeds are a great solution to this issue. RSS (Rich Site Summary or Really Simple Syndication) is a selection of web standards to form a feed, a stream of information that is regularly updated and can be delivered to a number of different locations. Generally, the site will display the RSS logo as an icon (pictured below) if RSS is supported. Most popular blog formats support this type of technology - Blogger, Wordpress, Tumblr are all popular examples that support RSS. But what do you do with it?

Look for the RSS logo!
RSS Readers
An RSS reader is a piece of software, a website, an app or in some cases a stand alone product that allows you to record the RSS feed URL (the address that contains the regularly updated information) and displays any posts from these feeds, generally in chronological order (although many readers allow additional sort options). The idea - you add all of your favourite news feeds, blogs, audio and video streams into your RSS reader thus allowing you to oversee all new articles, posts and uploads published from your favourite sources. As soon as a new article is posted online, it is available within your reader to view in one, centralised location.

What Services Are Available?
The now closed-down service "Google Reader" was a very well known, well used product in the Digital landscape that allowed you to follow all of your favourite feeds in one place. Google unfortunately shut this service down in July 2013, claiming low usage by users (which was argued by a large number of hardcore Reader users). However, when one service fails, an opportunity arises in the marketplace for a replacement. Here are some alternative services to stay up to date with your favourite feeds.
  • Feedly (www.feedly.com) - Recommended to me by +Donal Phipps, this has proven to be my favourite RSS reader at the moment. Simply sign-in with your Google credentials and start inputting your favourite websites or blogs. Feedly searches the website for any available RSS/Atom feeds and displays the results. Click "Follow" and all new posts will be tracked. Additional options such as sharing articles to Buffer, Evernote or your favourite Social Media sites are also available. Your feeds are also syncronised in the cloud and Feedly offer a free mobile/tablet app to keep up to date on the go. Feedly has a clean, simplistic design, allowing you to focus on what is important - the content! 
  • BlogLovin (www.bloglovin.com) - Designed specifically for you blog lovers, this site is aimed at helping you keep track of your favourite blogs. I feel it is targeted at those who don't already have favourite websites in mind, as during sign-up you are encouraged to follow some top-performing blogs before you are able to add in your own. However, still a fairly straightforward, free service, allowing you to stay on top of the content that matters to you.
  • FeedReader (www.feedreader.com) - Similar to the likes of Feedly, this free service allows your track your favourite RSS feeds on desktop, web and mobile. The service has recently undergone an overhaul, refreshing its look and has become more in-fitting with the likes of Feedly.
Atom vs RSS?
You may find yourself asking the question on the quest to keep current, "What is the difference between Atom and RSS?

The Atom standard was developed more recently and intended to replace RSS, to consolidate the programming languages used and to 'iron-out' some of the bugs or difficulties experienced with some RSS feeds. There are different versions of RSS in use. RSS 2.0 is the most common. It is used for news/blog feeds as well as for Podcasting. Atom, is a more standardised way of providing XML content updates. However, it has not received wide acceptance yet outside of the blog communities. (Again, almost all blog tools can generate an Atom feed on the fly.)

The answer - either format is perfectly acceptable to use, it is really down to personal preference as you should not really see any major noticeable differences between the outcome of two technologies.

Credits & Squared Online
Credit must be given to +Donal Phipps, who inspired me to write this article. As part of our course requirements for Googles' Squared Online course, each 'Squared' member has to write a blog, outlining their thoughts and experiences of the #SquaredOnline Course. This is a fantastic task, the explosion of blogs popping up from classmates as a result has been astonishing - never has my Google+ feed been so active! Every story is different, Digital means something different to every person (see my blog post: "Digital + Becoming T-shaped" here.) I love reading them, I like to get an insight into the inner workings of each and every person on the course and through the blog posts produced, you can learn a lot about everyone. Syncronised into my Feedly account, I can now sleep happy knowing I shouldn't miss any future blog articles!

Do you have a favourite RSS reader? I would love to hear your views and comments!

Tuesday, 4 February 2014

Digital + Becoming T-Shaped!

The Squared Online course by Google has definitely been an early hit with my fellow Squared classmates. Yesterday, we has our second class. We were introduced by Aiden, followed by a class with Mike Berry. Mike was fantastic at presenting the course and has worked as a Digital Lecturer, Trainer & Consultant for the likes of Imperial College Business School, Hult International Business School and the NHS.

There was a lot of discussion in the course as a result of the questions raised in the lesson. Interestingly, one of the questions asked, "What would you like to get from Squared Online?" ties in nicely with one of my previous blog posts, "What does Squared Online mean to you?"

Another interesting debate arose when discussing the word "Digital". What exactly does "Digital" cover? What does it mean? I have summarised some of the responses from the discussion below:
"Digital is a whole new way of doing things" - Chris Farrance
"Digital has become a way of life" - Narayan Sahota
"Connected intelligence" - Carman Telehoi
"The future of marketing"+Camilla Shuckburgh 
"Multi-screening, sharing, communications"+Amy Vears 
"Digital is Connectivity...anywhere...anytime"+Qurat Qaiser 
"Interconnected, real time communications"+Samuel Carbonero 
As you can see from the examples above, the term "Digital" has a different meaning to each and every one of us. A fantastic idea and explanation of what a Squared student aims to be is T-shaped. Now, I know what you're thinking, how can someone be T-shaped? 

The T-Shaped Theory
The illustration above aims to outline the "T-shape" theory. Along the top, lay your general skills, a 'jack of all trades' as such. These skills could be Social Media, Google Adwords, Data Analysis, Mobile Traffic. The aim is to have the broad knowledge of the Digital Marketing world, and to specialise in one key area. Maybe it starts in the reverse - you are a specialist in a dedicated area, ultimately looking to broaden your knowledge across the board.

Integration is a key aspect of the "T" based theory. Regularly, different departments are responsible for different aspects of a campaign or strategy. The key to understanding this is to understand how each of the departments are interlinked, how an action from one area of the business has an effect on another area of the business. Having a true understanding of this then allows data to be used and processed in new ways, extracting new information from data already in existence. 

Planning future campaigns and strategies using this knowledge of how each department links and joins to another allows an individual the consideration of various requirements for all areas of the business, resulting in a campaign maximising returns for a business.

Some great thoughts and phrases I would like to close this post with, courtesy of +Mike Berry;

"Keep an open mind, challenge your assumptions and fail small - win big!"

What does the term "Digital" mean to you? It would be great to hear your thoughts!

Monday, 3 February 2014

The Evolution of the #Hashtag [INFOGRAPHIC]

The modern day #hashtag has a very different usage and meaning in todays modern world, as oppose to how it has traditionally been used in the past. In 1970, the hash symbol was used to denote immediate address mode in the assembly language of the PDP-11. The hashtag also began to appear on IRC chats and groups, to label conversations and group types. 

From July 2009, Twitter began to hyperlink all hashtags in tweets to Twitter search results for the hashtagged word.
Definition: "The # symbol, called a hashtag, is used to mark keywords or topics in a Tweet. It was created organically by Twitter users as a way to categorize messages." - Twitter
Hashtags are part of our daily way - you see them on billboards, TV adverts, packaging, flyers and even clothing, and can be seen in use by the biggest brand names across all industries, from manufacturing to fashion, from gadget to medical groups. You will find some examples listed below. In todays social media, the hashtag is one of the most powerful tools around. This fantastic infographic demonstrates "The Power of the #Hashtag":

Source: Infographic by +The Huffington Post via +Visually 

The biggest annual advertising opportunity could be seen as the American Super Bowl of 2014 (#SuperBowl). The Super Bowl was expected to air to a never seen before number of viewers, breaking the mark of 111.3 million viewers that watched Super Bowl set in 2012. Some fantastic examples from this year's event:
  • Hyundai #nicehashtag
  • T-mobile #nocontract
  • Bud Light #UpForWhatever
  • Sonos #Sonos
  • GoDaddy #LiveYourDream
  • Jaguar #GoodToBeBad
  • Microsoft #empowered
Social Network Usage
The hashtag is not restricted solely to Twitter. Facebook, Google+ and Instagram also allow you to tag your social update with a hashtag to allow a similar function to Twitter. Only publicly viewable status updates (dependant upon the users privacy setting) will be included in any search results. LinkedIn also took a brief interest in hashtags, but later backtracked on the idea, after including the ability to add a hashtag to an update. This function was later removed by LinkedIn, but remains strong in the likes of Twitter, Google+ and Facebook. 

Image Source: Link
Twitter has a phenomenal amount of 140 character updates every second of the day, so a method of organisation was essential to the its daily operations and visitor usability. Some of the most popular hashtags used to date include:
  • #Love
  • #Friends
  • #Selfie
  • #Smile
  • #Life
  • #Party
  • #FF (FollowFriday)
  • #Life
  • #WIN
  • #FAIL
You can see this for yourself, by visiting Twitter's search page here and search for one of the above. You will also notice Trends, which is a run-down by Twitter of the most currently active hashtags in use. 

What is your favourite hashtag? Try it for yourself and join the conversation. Enjoy!

Sunday, 2 February 2014

#Competition! Win a Desktop USB Cup Warmer with Built in 4 Port USB!

Everyone loves a giveaway, so for your chance to win a Desktop USB Cup Warmer with Built in 4 Port USB Hub, simply follow the simple steps below to enter! 

Competition ends on 9th February at 12:00am GMT. Competition open to UK residents only. Good luck!

Good luck and thanks for entering!

Terms & Conditions:
This promotion is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with, Twitter. We hereby release Twitter of any liability. Winner(s) will be contacted by Twitter 48 hours after the giveaway ends. If you have any additional questions - feel free to send an email! Competition ends on 9th February at 12:00am GMT. Competition open to UK residents only. Thank you. #competition.