Wednesday, July 27, 2011

US to see continued growth in online commerce

Today's post from eMarketer shows a slow but healthy grown in the both the number of online users (penetration) and the percentage that will purchase goods or services.

So whilst over 7 out of 10 of American internet users are now utilising eCommerce sites to make their purchases, this ratio is continuing to increase over at least the next 4 years.

This means that almost 30 million extra US consumers will transact online. Which can only be good news for the country's precarious economy right now.

Also, with half of American retailers planning to sell overseas in the next one to two years, UK retailers now need to look to protect their market share and also develop their international online sales ability.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Share and enjoy

OK, perhaps I was a bit critical in my recent post about oversharing on Twitter and obviously not everyone who positions himself as an online curator is as bad as I pointed out. In fact, isn't everyone who retweets interesting stuff and posts links carrying out some form of curation?
(In that case, that makes nearly everyone on Twitter an online curator of content in some way).

The altruism of online sharing is a concept I'm looking to further explore as I try to understand more about its impact and viral nature. To me it is still a mystery why are certain things far more "sharable" than others and the idea that there is a magical viral formula that brands can tap into this to try to reach their influencers and customers is not something that rests easily with me.

I sometimes find sharing hard work. It is not all the time that I remember to pass-on what I find... perhaps because I'm too busy trying to absorb what I have learnt.

However, when I do share things and this gets passed around the Internet... there is a certain amount of pleasure I get from knowing that I have also helped someone on their knowledge journey.

Perhaps its this joy we need to preserve and increase (and perhaps its why the top online curators seem to enjoy what they do so much).

Friday, July 22, 2011

SEO - justifying the time & effort

Yesterday an article I contributed to was published. You can read it here:

For this article I was asked for advice on a hypothetical dilemma, where a website is getting no Search Engine Optimisation benefit after five months of an agency working for them. And whilst this was a fictional problem, it does highlight the real issue a lot of companies have with SEO services...... "how do I know they are giving me value for money?".

As I highlighted in the posting, there are some things it is possible for an organisation and its search agency to influence, whilst there are others (e.g. the work done by competitors and their SEO agencies, plus the workings for the search engines themselves) that are beyond their control. And as the popular phrase states: "Only worry about those things you can change and don't worry about those you can't".

But that's easier said than done, especially for a client who may not know which is which and therefore makes unrealistic demands upon their agency. It is really only by having a collaborative approach to SEO, with both the company and SEO agency understanding and working together to optimise things (such as their site and in-bound links) to get the most benefit.

Failing to do this may well mean the client underestimates the time and effort gone into the optimisation efforts and raises questions such as the one raised.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Embracing digital isn’t always easy – but it can be worth it!

Stop thinking of digital as an addition to your organisation and make it part of your day-to-day work, culture and business drivers.

Amazingly I still hear prospects and contacts saying how they are “adopting digital” or “embracing social media” within their company, when in fact what they really mean is…

“We’re going to continue to do what we’ve always done, but mention the occasional online buzzword when it suits us or when we think the boss is looking”

Does this sound familiar?

OK.... yes some do go part of the way and try to bolt-on digital ways of working to their standard practices. For example you see this when a company pilots something like an enterprise collaboration tool as a replacement for their Intranet, when they only have internal network access for their staff (or take on a Social Media marketing person, but then block access to the sites need because of ‘firewall’ policies).

However the truly evolved organisation is one that does actually take digital to the core of what it does and use it in the most relevant and productive way. This is typified when an organisation automatically writes normal press releases that are optimised for the keywords they are targeting as part of their SEO efforts. Or when it considers the mix of products it sells across different channels before it buys or manufacturers them (rather than selling the same stuff on its website as it sells in its stores).

This adoption doesn’t just result in a more connected company that can hopefully take advantage of more opportunities and learn to discard the negative ones quicker… but somewhere that hires & retains the most innovative & forward-thinking staff… plus one that can hopefully react to market pressures quicker.

Can you over-share on Twitter?

Being a content curator on Twitter is a great gig….. You get to Tweet about everything you like and hopefully build a reputation as a content sharer the process.

The less-than-generous may say that these self-indulgent personal brand builders merely pump out regurgitated opinions and provide shortcut links inks to a multitude of sites that their followers mindlessly click on and consume.

Whilst this opinion might be a little harsh on most Twitter users, there are a few points that some online content curators don’t want you to know.

They over-share….

In other words:

  1. They don’t actually read all those links they add into their Twitter posts

  2. They copy tweets (and pass them off as their original finds) rather than retweeting

  3. They work out how often to tweet the same thing to get maximum exposure

Now some of us have been guilty of doing at least some of these either in the early days of twitter or when evolving our usage & knowledge of the social media platform (in fact, I sometimes duplicate the tweets that link to my blog as I have an international readership). But some online curators still do these things (and more) just in an effort to build a bigger following and increase their curated influence.

So do you know an over-sharer and isn’t it about time to call the serial offenders out?

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

The benefit of foresight

As a director of a digital consultancy and web agency, I get asked to pitch for work quite a bit these days. Often these requests are of the “we know what we want, how cheap can we get it?” sort… However these projects invariable end up with the client changing their mind once we have engaged with them and shown them what is now possible with the latest tools & technologies, an improvement on the user interface they thought they needed or more manageable in the longer-term.

However we always prefer to be part of any web project before this stage and to be involved in the pre-project planning (and sometimes ONLY involved in this stage if that is what is needed)/

The pre-project work means that we can:

  1. Understand & document the business proposition and processes (multi-channel delivery, content management work-flow, etc.)

  2. Define the overall scope and help detail the business requirements

  3. Map typical customer profiles (e.g. CRM personas) to user journeys

  4. Understand the non-functional requirements such as volume (how many) and performance (how fast) criteria

  5. Provide best practice on product/vendor and service suppliers

  6. Work with the different internal departments (e.g marketing, eCommerce, distribution, customer services) to prepare them for the

We have found that helping clients at this early stage can not only help them start and deliver a project that is right-first-time, but one that is better suited to their needs going forward. Only then would we look to help them with: project/programme management, user experience, website design, development, testing, launch and subsequent online marketing skills.

It is perhaps a shame that this doesn’t happen as often as we would like.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Social Media Bullshit Bingo – some suggestions

I’ve had a bit of feedback on my earlier post about Social Media Bullshit Bingo and a few people have asked me for suggestions of words they can use to play this game. So here is a list I have put together from my own experiences (plus a few from some Twitter buddies who I asked back a few weeks ago when this whole idea initially took shape).

Social Graph
and finally Amazeballs (thanks to

Note: This is not an exhaustive list, as I am sure you will have your own and terms will evolve as new products and services emerge or grow in prominence (for example, Google + would not have been on the list just 3 weeks ago).

However, if you think there are any blindingly obvious ones that I have missed and that other game players could benefit from them, then please feel free to add them in the comments section below

Monday, July 18, 2011

Social Media Bullshit Bingo

You’re probably already familiar with the office game called ‘bullshit bingo’ where you sit in a presentation given by a consultant, middle manager or other person full of their own self-importance. If you’re not, then I will quickly explain… you each have a set of ‘meaningless’ words that could be uttered and the first person to hear a given number or all of them has to shout “bingo”.

By ’meaningless’ terms, I’m referring to those buzz words that you typically heard in meetings, but in reality: have no real function), are nonsensical or are just plain bullshit. “Synergy”, “proactive” and “ballpark” were used all the time and most people had no idea (or cared about) what they meant. Consequently the bullshit game grew in usage during the heady 1980’s when people thought that being a ‘Yuppie’ was the best thing ever… kinda like Social Media is now.

To be honest I’ve not heard “bingo” shouted at the back of a presentation in quite a while. Now eleven years into the new millennium, you'd think people would have learnt that using this hyperbole is pretty pointless and only succeeds in separating the presenter from the audience . But perhaps not…. Because I think there’s now a new game to be played.

Social Media Bullshit Bingo

So how do you play it?

Well, in a very similar way to the original game actually. Each person has a list of the popular terms used in Social Media circles and brings them along to a presentation given by a consultant (or self-professed social media expert, guru, etc.) Then, as the presentation starts, you listen carefully for your chosen words and terms. A prize of your collective choosing then goes to the person first to shout out “Bingo” at the top of their voice.

Have fun playing the game and let me know how you get on!

Friday, July 15, 2011

Smart phones need smart power

I’ve been off on holiday recently and for most of the time I didn’t use the voice dialling or Internet capabilities of my mobile. The HTC Desire that I exchanged for my 3G iPhone last Summer stayed indoors most of the time, while I mainly spent my days with the family &friends out in the sunshine.

Note: The main reasons for this were that we couldn’t get a signal where we are plus Mrs Sutherland had made it expressly clear that I needed to stop checking the thing all the time (or nasty & painful things would have happened to me). However, there were times when I needed to take my smartphone with me, to use as a compass, GPS, camera, map or (heavens above) for calling someone should an emergency occur… such as when I went mountain biking.

But after only a few hours of light use, my phone would run out of power and I was typically left with a useless oblong weight in my pocket or backpack. Put quite plainly, my smart phone’s battery is the device’s worst feature and probably the key reason why I will change it as soon as I can. Yes, I am aware that I have significantly contributed to its now incredibly short battery life and can either buy a replacement or even another one as backup… but that’s not really the point. The fully-featured and far more powerful laptop I am currently using to type up this blog posting is older than the HTC, it would cost about the same amount to buy (if I had bought the HTC off the shelf and considering it has paid-for Windows Vista installed, compared with the free Google Android OS on the phone, makes the laptop a bargain!), gets daily use and is powered via the mains intermittently and wherever possible. Yet, it is the mobile phone that is now plugged into the only available power socket….

Surely if available battery technology is not sufficient to power the modern smartphone for longer than a typical business day…. then manufacturers really need to look at the ways they can optimise the power usage of the device or be more honest about the longer-term battery life that users can expect.

In short, I really think that these days smart phones now really need smart power ….

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Did Twitter Bring Down a Newspaper?

Oh my… a week is a long time in politics and a day is even longer in media, regardless of whether its online, TV or in print!

Yesterday I asked if a new media outcry could hurt the News of the World? And today in a surprise announcement we learn that this Sunday’s edition will be the last, as News International tries to urgent fix a huge hole in the bottom of its boat by sinking the entire ship and not making the then-editor walk the gang plank.

Social Media has gone into overdrive this afternoon, heralding a moral win for online (and in particular Twitter) in bringing down a 168 year old newspaper.

But hang on… was Twitter really solely responsible for the demise of a newspaper by attacking its advertising source in a torrent of Tweets to brand owners and industry figures?

In a word…. No!

Certainly Twitter played a part in getting the upset across but other things in my opinion had a far greater hand, including: Rupert & James Murdoch, traditional & competing media sources and Hugh Grant (yes…. the actor who was exposed by News of the World employee Paul McMullan, but then subsequently turned investigative journalist himself, bugged McMullan and in April publish his findings in The New Statesman).

But in my mind it wasn’t really any of these that finally brought about the end of a Sunday tabloid that was untimately known far more for its star-snooping ‘exclusives’ than for real journalism….. it was the paper itself with its now-exposed immoral and illegal activities.

Good riddance I say……

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Could a new media outcry hurt the News Of The World?

Unless you’ve been living under a stone the last few day, or only read the front pages of certain News International newspapers, then you will no doubt know that there’s been a complete outcry at the activities of the sleazy UK Sunday newspaper the News Of The World. The moral outrage has taken place between people in true ‘word of mouth’ (e.g. over the breakfast table) style as well as in the traditional media (TV, Radio and non-New International papers).

However, new media has definitely played its part in communicating just how horrified normal people are at the underhand activities of a weekend tabloid (that seems to have more snooping resources than Mossad or MI6).
Today a sustained online campaign brought Twitter to life in a way I haven’t seen since the Royal Wedding back in April . However this action didn’t target the newspaper itself (for it seems to be in some turmoil as a consequence of an outwardly-facing PR melt-down and an internal & parliamentary witch-hunt for the head of the ex-editor and now Chief Exec of News International, Rebekah Brooks ), no this Twitter campaign went for the life-blood of the newspaper… it advertising revenue, by asking the brands that advertise in the paper to reconsider their budgets in the wake of the recent scandal.

Only time will tell if this action has any effect

Monday, July 4, 2011

The decline of Facebook?

“All good things must come to an end” goes the phrase, but is the beginning of the end up for Facebook?

I’ve currently no hard statistics to back up my claim, but I suspect we are now seeing the peak in Facebook’s: domination, user numbers and therefore its hugely-overated potential market valuation.
Why do I say this? Well, for two reasons:

1. Twitter
What started off as an also-run to Facebook as a way of connecting everyone is now turning out to be an increasingly-popular communication tool. For me it has replaced SMS for a lot of my messaging needs and now is the first social media platform I check before I get out of bed in the mornings (and indeed the only one I consume until the car radio goes on as I drive off to client offices).

2. Google Plus
Let’s face it, it took a while for Google to get there and indeed a lot of people (including me) still don’t have access to it… as it is still in ‘limited field trial’. However, if the Demo ( is some indication, then further attention will be quickly drawn away from Facebook to Google Plus.

And where will this leave Facebook… well only time will tell and I wouldn’t start drawing any comparisons with MySpace just yet (at least not until everyone who requested access has tried and complained about Google Plus).

Sunday, July 3, 2011

How Google Plus can gain ubiquity

Following on from my earlier posting on Google’s introduction of Google Plus, I was taking along a further understanding of its potential thanks to the comments by my old friend Boudewijn.

His comment below really struck a chord with me:

If they'd make something that has the wow-factor of wave, would focus on cellphone users, and that would enable commerce without pushing it in the face of the casual user... then we'd have a winner.
And he's right (in my opinion). If Google were to develop their new Google Plus social networking platform to be ubiquitous to the ever-growing mobile internet population and to incorporate payment functionality... such as their Google Shopping Cart product, then they may be able to take on the might of Facebook as the default social platform for posting, sharing and interacting with friends and other contacts.

Without that ubiquity, Google Plus could just be another social media also-ran.