Friday, 24 October 2014

The Value of Earned Media to your Business Content Strategy

70% of consumers trust brand recommendations from friends, but only 10% trust advertising. - Forrester Research Report
Earned media - or 'Free media' - an interesting term that is now being referred to increasingly online and in the digital marketing world is essentially a form of publicity, that is free to a company or brand and is also outside of the control of the company. This is when content receives recognition, but is not bought nor owned. Examples of such media; product/service reviews, publications in traditional media outlets (newspapers, radio), traditional word-of-mouth conversations between consumers, and mentions or publications online e.g blog articles, public forums, social media platforms and online reviews.

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The Value

The value of Earned Media comes into it's own when specifically looking at influence and biased. Paid and Owned Media are entirely influenced directly by a brand or company. Earned Media is out of the direct control of a company and generally has a higher value to other consumers than the likes of other media types. As mentioned earlier, research has shown 70% of consumers trust recommendations from friends, as opposed to only 10% from traditional advertising. This is an substantial findings and certainly should not be ignored.

Other Types of Media?

There are of course other types of media also available, such as Paid and Owned media. Paid media, as suggested by it's name, is activity that is financied by a business for the gain of publicity through financial means. This could be sponsorships, display/banner advertising, search advertising and e-mail advertising. Owned media is literature that is owned within the business e.g. company press releases, product/service literature, company blogs and company websites.

Fans, Followers & Brand Ambassadors

It is often important to recognise and establish who are you key "brand ambassadors" for your business, from a consumer view. There are a number of key factors you could consider to find out if your fan or follower "hits the mark", but some key areas could be used for judgement:

  • How does this person speak publicly about your brand?
  • Does this person speak regularly to other users of your product or service?
  • How long has this person dealt with your brand, both online and offline?

Keep these key contacts on your side, and they shall continue to promote your brand much more effectively than any message communicated by other forms of company produced media.

With the customer journey between devices, channels, and media becoming increasingly complex, and new forms of technology only making it more so, the strategy of considering paid/owned/earned makes marketers impenetrable to the disruption caused by emerging technologies.

I would love to hear others views and experiences of Paid, Owned and Earned media. How does your company incorporate Earned media into it's digital marketing mix and how does it view the importance of Earned media to the business?

Saturday, 5 July 2014

Module 5: My Squared Learnings

Squared means a lot of things. A digital know how. A social management concept. A bringing together of ideas for success. An understanding of all things digital. 

Google Squared means something unique to every student on the course. We've learnt everything from being T-shaped, to the importance of Video creation, to best practices on Content curation. I've learnt and strengthend my understanding of all things digital, ranging from Blogger to Youtube to Google Analytics. I take away an understanding of the digital path a consumer takes, from initial interest in your brand through the research, collaboration and finally to the buying stage of a service or product. Squared has helped develop my understanding of the digital landscape, but has also had additional benefits outside of the subject of digital and marketing. Confidence to try something new, confidence to challenge an existing idea, can it be done faster, more efficiently, can it offer better value for money? 

Having the ability to understand and stay afresh with changes digital brings to consumers and businesses alike will help me engage, nurture and work on opportunities I may have never found myself considering before. Putting this into practice will certainly be a challenge in itself; but one I'm looking forward to. I have been privileged to work with and even meet some fantastic people on my Squared journey, a journey that has brought together people from all business levels, from many different areas within businesses. This 'group-mind' and collaborative effort has resulted in amazing work being produced. Something that I will definitely take away with me for the future.

Our final module focused on the use of Infographics, a terminology used to describe 'beautiful data'. Data that has been presented in a way that captures the mind of the reader, that has a shareable aspect to, something that brings value to the consumer. Our team produced an infographic on 'The Impact of Digital on Education'. Once we've received our grading, stay tuned for the infographic itself, something I'll post publicly shortly after results have been issued. 

If you're considering the Squared Journey, just do it. You'll meet people you never expected to connect with, share ideas with like-minded people and achieve something you never may have thought was possible. Do you have what it takes to be Squared?

Module 4: An Insightful Analytical View of Data

Tools available online allow business and brands to understand the demographic of their visits down to the N'th degree. What % of male/female interactions did we have? Which countries visited our site? How long did they stay on our welcome page, then where did they go? How many visitors converted to buying customers?

Google Analytics has for many years led the path in data analytics and remains at the forefront of such technology. With the insertion of a small piece of HTML code into any given website, suddenly a dashboard comes to life, with more facts, figures and statistics than you can shake a stick at. But data itself is of no use with an analytical approach to its review, to find the trends emerging from the data. You can see that 500 visitors visited on Friday night, this was much more than normal, but where did they come from? Even better, 20% of these visitors lead to a sale, much higher than your day to day conversion rates from organic search results. Only when delving into the statistics do you find a positive review has been written about your brand from a national newspaper, referring readers to your brand! Fantastic. Having the ability to understand where your traffic has come from then allows you do develop relationships with other influential users, snowballing the positive effect seen previously into a rolling digital methodical approach, resulting in better conversions and further referrals.

Data itself is great. But without looking at the insights the data can provide, it can often be overwhelming. Analyse carefully, spot the trends, spot what works and develop on those trends accordingly, to better your position and help you learn from what you have already achieved. If something works - great, copy it, test it, evolve it. Fail to analyse your data and failing to learn from it will leave you tailing behind those that do.

Module 3: The Digital Marketing Mix & The Rise of The Consumer

Before the world of digital, consumers shopped with their feet. Literally. Shopping meant a drive into the nearest town, a browse around retail units dotted down the high street, followed by the treck home to unpack and unload everything. Not anymore. Consumers have become tech-savvy, and the needs of consumers has changed also. They have needs, needs that change based on the what they have the ability to do, or what they want to do. How has digital affected the requirements of the typical user?

They want to shop when they want to shop. No longer do they have to wait until 9am and doors to unlock. They can login online at 3am from a hammock in hawaii and order themselves the latest trending trainers. They want to involved, take part, be seen to be recognised by a brand. Social Media has finally helped bridged the communnication divide between company and consumer, helping both parties to communicate easily in a way that is convinient to the consumer. They want the best price, the ability to search across the internet in seconds for that special purchase and instantly compare who is best suited for their next buy. Pay as you go services have seen a massive rise in line with digital, allowing low cost monthly movie, music or e-book rental services to flourish, allowing consumers to do what they want, when they want. The creative and social side of consumers means they may want to share what they have bought, what they have seen or what they have recently read. The needs of consumers can be seen in every aspect of digital interaction.

To stay abreast with these evolving requirements means companies have to look to reach out in new ways, to stand out in the digital landscape already scattered with numerous online retailers. They have to help the consumer stay up to date, make transacting easy and allow the consumer to do more than they've even been able to before. Communicating with consumers through multiple channels should now be considered, reaching out to them on multiple social network channels, perhaps even tied in to traditional print media. Consumers want value for money, they want service and they want to transact on their terms. If a business wants to continue to trade well, they must evolve to meet these demands and transact on platforms familiar to their users.

Module 2: The Mobile Revolution and Technological Disruption

50 years ago, the thought of being able to check the prices of an item in your hand, in the 5 nearest shops around you would be just a dream. The ability to check the status of your upcoming flight on route to the airport, without calling the airport to check. Strange. Being able to lay outside in the park, drinking a chilled beverage, whilst ordering your monthly groceries and having them delivered straight to your front door. Unreal.

Mobile technology has progressed in such a way, modern society has adapted and evolved and incorporated the convenience of mobile technology in every day life. For the consumer, technology via the everyday mobile smart phone has allowed people to manage business from around the world, check the status of your latest online purchase or even view a live stream of the CCTV at home. Consumers no longer need to rely on manual methods to undertake everyday tasks, they can simply refer to the mobile phone for the answer.

As a result of this convenience factor, the ease of accessing information, mobile technology has affected real life businesses in many ways, both positive and negative. For example, Royal Mail, the UK standard for sending 'snail-mail' has seen a substantial drop in the number of letters delivered. Why? E-newsletters, E-Statements, E-mails have all but taken over and reduced the need for businesses to use paper to communicate with customers, reducing costs and increasing speed of delivering a message. On the flip-side, postal and delivery companies have seen a substantial increase in business in regards to package deliveries. As a result of convenience and being able to purchase almost any item online and have it delivered, the number of packages requiring delivery has increased through the likes of e-commerce, again accessible via the mobile handset and using mobile technology.

Mobile has changed the digital and physical landscape. To remain competitive, companies have to evolve and cater for the every increasing demand for mobile content. The fact is, a business can take it in its stride, develop mobile content, mobile solutions and provide convenience for a user. Alternatively, they can stand still, ignore the digital revolution and very soon, find themselves being ignored by a majority audience as a result. What will you do?

Thursday, 10 April 2014

Google Chromecast Hits UK: Smart TV for the Masses [Review]

Google Chromecast: What is Chromecast? 

This week I am reviewing my Google Chromecast, my latest gadget addition to arrive this week. Finally released to the UK market, the 2.8 inch device is essentially an HDMI dongle that plugs into a free HDMI port on your TV or projector and can be powered by traditional power socket or alternatively via USB (which your TV may also have available).  It can then be used to stream content from different sources such as mobile or PC, directly to your TV whilst being controlled from your smartphone, tablet, PC or Mac.

Google Chromecast: Installation & Setup

Their has been much hype on Google's entry into the 'Smart-TV' market but Google has certainly made an impression with this little gadget. Straight out of the box, weighing a mere 34g, I felt the device is small and light enough to carry around with you, or to simply leave connected to your chosen display device. Chromecast comes without a dedicated remote, as it uses your existing computer, mobile or tablet as a remote. You are directed to an app in the app market of your chosen OS (Android/iOS) which once downloaded, guides you through the initial wifi setup. Once completed, the Chromecast updates itself to the latest release of software and it is ready to go.

Google Chromecast: Services

Google has worked hard with a number of service providers to support some of the most popular services in the industry. Netflix, RealPlayer, iPlayer, YouTube, Plex and Chrome are amongst some of the apps that work straight out of the box, simply load the app on your phone and 'Cast' it to your Chromecast. Within seconds, your video is seamlessly broadcast to your TV. Google Chrome for Desktop has also had some additional features added, allowing you to "Cast" an entire tab over to your TV for browsing on the big screen. 
Google Chromeast: Compatible Devices

Chromecast can be controlled with Android, iOS, Windows & Mac.

Google Chromecast: Quality

Measuring 72mm x 35mm x 12mm, this little device certainly packs features into a very tiny form factor. The Chromecast is a pleasure to pick up, touch and carry with you and the sturdy build quality can be seen in all areas of the design. 

Google Chromecast: UK Price and Where To Buy

Google launched the Chromecast HDMI dongle in the US way back in July 2013. After a long wait it is finally available in the UK for a price of just £30. At such a competitive price point, it is now possible to bring the future of streaming media to all devices around the home.

If you're keen to get your hands on one then the device is available to buy from the Google Play store and other retailers including Currys, PC World and Amazon.

Google Chromecast: My Verdict

Google has come to market with a fantastic bit of kit, providing many features offered by Smart-TV's, but at a very competitive price point. Whilst still in its early stages, it's platform is open to third party developers which will bring plenty of new and upcoming services to the platform. It's small size and portability means you aren't restricted to just using this at home and can easily be taken out and about with you, making it ultra portable. It's simplicity and popularity amongst users has made it one of the fastest selling gadgets of 2014 and at only £30 - it's a steal.

Amazon Prime: Why Prime Is Worth Every Penny

Amazon is a company that has built itself a very successful name throughout the internet, for supplying quality products, competitive prices and fantastic customer service. I challenge you to find somebody that has not heard of the company that continues to grow and continues to widen it's range of products and services all of the time.

I have always been an enthusiastic, yet cautious Amazon shopper for a couple of years... the convenience, wide range of products and product availability, plus the outstanding customer service Amazon prides itself on naturally led me to it's latest shiny offering - Amazon Prime.

Amazon Prime is a pioneering product for the company. In the UK, Amazon originally saw Prime as an offering allowing Amazon customers to "Get unlimited, FREE one-day delivery on millions of products" and this continues to be the case. With the vast amount of shopping I already undertook via Amazon and other sites, normally paying additional delivery charges and regularly waiting 3-5 working days for my shopping to arrive, for me Amazon Prime was an offer I couldn't refuse... or at least try! 
Amazon didn't disappoint me. I originally enrolled on a 30-day free trial, which Amazon are happy to let you use without restriction or any charges to try out the service (you can get your own free trial, here). From the moment I upgraded, I could already see the benefits. Forgot a last minute gift? No problem, Amazon can deliver tomorrow. Need something urgently for a project? No problem, Amazon will deliver tomorrow. Increasingly, I found myself turning to Amazon for more and more of my shopping. More often than not, the item prices were very competitive and in addition I would not have to pay any shipping charges AND I could receive my item tomorrow, with the addition of courier package tracking on most deliveries. 

Recently, Amazon has increased the offerings included within Prime. For an annual fee of £79 per year, you can now receive the following:
  • Enjoy all the benefits of Amazon Prime Instant Video.
  • Borrow books from a choice of over 500,000 titles from the Kindle Owners' Lending Library.
  • Get unlimited, FREE One-Day Delivery on millions of items.
Amazon Prime Instant Video piggybacks off Amazon's existing company Lovefilm. It's a Movie/TV on-demand streaming service, which includes unlimited instant streaming of over 15,000 movies and TV shows, which you can watch anywhere, anytime with unlimited access throughout the UK. Another bonus feature of Prime Instant Video allows a UK user to watch exclusive hit TV shows before they air on British TV. Bonus!


Amazon Prime has two pricing models. £5.99/month for Amazon Prime Instant Video only, or £79 annually which includes the one-day deliveries and 'borrow-a-book' from Kindle, which allows you to borrow a wide range of books from the Kindle store, for free. I'm not a Kindle user myself, so this didn't really have any benefit for me, however I decided to sit down and review my existing expenditure:

Before Prime:
  • I would purchase a minimum of 2 items a month from Amazon, at about £3.95 P&P per item. This equals £7.90/month on carriage charges (3-5 day deliveries).
  • I already have a LoveFilm subscription which I was paying £7.99/month.
  • Total paid per year = Minimum of £190.68 a year!
After Prime:
The total of these two above points alone meant I was spending a minimum of £190.68 a year! Crazy. Thankfully, with Amazon Prime, this has saved me at least £111 a year and I get an upgraded 'VIP' delivery service for the items I was going to buy anyway!

Is Amazon Prime Right For Me?
The usefulness of Amazon Prime is different for each and every person. I now regularly make 5-10 orders a month, now incorporating my free, fast-tracked delivery whilst watching the movies provided by Amazon Instant Video on the big screen! It's entirely down to your personal preference, however if you often find yourself paying over the odds on P&P charges, get frustrated with delivery times or find you struggle for choice, Amazon Prime is a good bet for you.

Amazon provide a free, 30-day trial of Amazon Prime (including Amazon Prime Instant Video). Try it out, give it a spin, see what you think. It would be great to hear your thoughts and I hope this article has been useful and informative to you!

Good Luck!