May the force of four AA batteries be with you!
A couple of weeks ago the news cycle was full of articles defining a new term - 'Xennials'. This is used to describe tiny micro-generation of people between Generation X and Millennials and was coined by associate professor of sociology Dan Woodman from the University of Melbourne. Essentially, those born between 1977 and 1983 (the time of the original Star Wars trilogy) were identified to have very similar character traits. This is that they had a unique experience of pre-internet childhoods that led into a tech-centered early adulthood.

I was particularly fascinated by this as I fit within this category (only just!) My formative years were during a time when I didn't have to worry about phones or social media posts. If I wanted to meet up with friends I had to ring their houses and ask their parents if I could speak to them! As the definition of Xennials is quite flattering I was also guilty of feeling proud to identify as one. We are considered less pessimistic than Gen X, defined as being born from the mid 1960s to early 1980s, but not as entitled as Gen Y, born from the early 1980s to late 1990s. While not young enough to be 'digital natives', Xennials grew up with technological advances, and tend to be more comfortable with them than Gen X. To me this explained how I can be old but still possess a grasp of the importance and practical applications of digital! It played to my ego as someone who likes to see themselves as understanding the benefits of technology but not ruled by their devotion to it.

'Could you tell me how to setup a MySpace page sir?'
Of course, treating a cohort of people like one person with one set of values is problematic. Essentially it's no more sophisticated than horoscopes and can be dangerous if taken too seriously. This concept of generations can however be fun for reminding us of a social context and the experiences that shaped our lives. Sharing jokes about the sound of dial up internet ('nobody use the phone I'm going online!) or 'Asking Jeeves' is about as far as the usefulness of this concept goes.

For me, digital marketing was a career which I naturally fell into. I'm thankful that a path opened up to me where I could progress my skills and stay relevant. I put a lot of this down to always having the ethos of being able to see an idea through from start to finish without always having to go through different lines and levels of management. Having a skillset which allows for this is essential. For example, when video editing I edited, produced and directed – that’s three or four jobs being done by one person. Being able to do this means you can present fully realised ideas to management and get the buy-in you need to progress a project. Without this you're very reliant on resources from other parts of the business.

I'm definitely too old for this hipster office wear!
Succeeding in marketing today is having the foresight to not see this method of working as a threat. Many middle managers might be concerned over their job future which is why they stop new, more efficient ways of working getting through.

It's also about being open minded enough to realise that different age groups work differently. Being able to listen and learn from both is important. I can honestly say that I've learnt as many skills (both strategic and technical) from those younger than me as from those older than me. To only learn from your superiors means you may become a great corporate thinker but will increasingly lack the latest skills required to actually do the job.

To finish I'd like to apologise for writing another age related post. Clearly turning 40 later this year is clearly playing on my mind. I for one can't be so stubborn as to not accept advice from someone younger than me as they are increasingly making up the majority of my colleagues...!
One in the same!
Keeping up with the amount of new features on the main social media channels can be pretty intense. Recently, it seems companies are releasing weekly updates in their attempts to stay relevant. The drawback of this is that they are in danger of all blending into one. As a digital professional trying to retain which channel can now do what requires a lot of brain space. I'm in danger of pushing out vital pin numbers!

With our new campaign on the horizon I've been researching how we can ensure the best possible exposure on social media. Therefore, this post aims to summarise a few of the most impactful updates released over the last few months for marketers:

Facebook:

As the most established (and arguably most well resourced) social media channel Facebook are particularly busy at the moment. They have released lots of new features over the last few months so here's my pick of the most interesting ones:

Video banners:
For some time now, Facebook has collaborated with selected brands to test using video-format cover images. Once the new feature is rolled out globally, the cover video needs to be a minimum of 20 and a maximum of 90 seconds long. The recommended video crop size is 820 pixels by 462 pixels and cover videos should auto-play and auto-loop.

Live features:
Facebook live has seen an increased amount of usage of late. With the addition of their new 'Live With' feature you can now stream conversations as they happen. For advertisers, this new feature could present a set of opportunities for broadcasting interviews, courses or webinars right in the Facebook news feed. Live video can also now be broadcast from desktop and laptop computers (it was previously exclusive to the mobile app).

Location-based camera filters:
In a homage to Snapchat users can now make custom camera "frames" that others can overlay over photos and add to their profile pictures. Frames can be seen by everyone near an area if they are tied to a certain Facebook page with a location. Like a free version of Snapchat's geofilters!

Twitter

Nowadays, Twitter advertising is continuously overshadowed by new trendy marketing channels such as Snapchat and Instagram. They also invited a torrent of complaints a few weeks ago following a major redesign. The biggest issue being that, unlike it's rivals, it didn't introduce an edit button. One interesting feature of this update was that users can now watch the engagement numbers with tweets increase in real time within the app.

Moments
Whether you want to feature your own tweetstorm, content from other people, or both, anyone can now make a shareable Moment to tell a story. You can go into the Explore tab (or the Moments tab on Twitter's desktop site), and create a new Moment there. Or, you can find a tweet you want to feature and create a Moment while you're scrolling or on your own profile. Moments present another opportunity for users to get discovered and shared on Twitter.

Snapchat

This is another channel which recently faced a media backlash after introducing a new maps feature. 'Snap Maps' allows users to see each other’s locations. If two users follow each other, they can share their locations and see where the other person is and what they are doing. The idea is that users can stay up to date with their friend’s lives and meet up easily. This feature needs to be used with caution as seeing the location of others could potentially compromise their safety. It is automatically turned on for users so the message is to be very careful when adding people as friends. Cynics see this as another way to encourage more people to use Snapchat so they could then use their data to sell to advertisers.

Instagram

Instagram now have a whole suite of supporting apps (Boomerang, Hyperlapse and layout) with Boomerang starting the trend for short looping videos that you now see EVERYWHERE!

Location Stories:
In the past few weeks, Instagram has released a feature where users can add location stickers to their stories. This means that they can now tag your business in the stories they’re sharing with their friends. This can help build brand awareness and recognition, and it’s a powerful form of User Generated Content. When users tap on the location sticker, they’ll see the option to 'see location'. When they click, they’ll be taken to the page of the tagged location, where they’ll see the business name, a pinpoint on a map, and all the top posts about that location.

Instagram live:
Instagram Live broadcasts can now be saved onto your camera roll. After the broadcast is over, save it to your phone, and then upload it as a regular video post. If the video is too long for Instagram, you can take it straight to Facebook instead. Either way, you can now save your valuable live broadcasts, allowing you to build momentum from them and drastically increase their visibility and engagement.

Hashtag stickers:
Whereas previously you could only add hashtags to stories manually with text now, when customers watch your story, they can click on the “See Hashtag” prompt. Because the quirky nature of the Stories feature is perfect for the hashtag sticker, it’s a great opportunity to promote a campaign or inspire user generated content (or both).

So there's my run down of some notable new social updates. I hope you find them useful. I know I will as writing them down means I won't have to rely on remembering them!

When I rebranded this blog over two years ago I wanted a tagline to sum up its contents. I wanted something that would highlight how it wasn't going to be another blog merely listing out the latest tech developments. 'Digital Marketing with Morals' sums up my approach in the workplace and also how this blog may differ to some others. But sometimes it can be a challenge to stick to this ethos. After all, people don't trust marketers.

For years, marketers have created highly-crafted campaigns that have one aim: to sell. As consumers, we know that this is their main aim, which is why we tend to be skeptical of everything they say. Of course they’re going to say their product is the best in the market.

This lack of trust has been built up over the years, ever since advertisers and marketing departments began coming up with fictional stories about their products and creating characters to give their products the edge. But now consumers are wising up to that.

For the most part, it’s safe to say marketers don’t lie on purpose. They have goals to hit and a target to reach. For as long as advertising has been around, the aim of the marketer has been to highlight the benefits of their product and show consumers how it will improve their lives.

Like food ads that promise you’ll be healthier and happier. Or car ads that promise you’ll be cooler. Creating narratives around products to encourage people to buy is not a new thing.

However, the emergence of the internet has allowed consumers to have more choice over what media they do and don’t engage with. These days, marketers won’t get away with weaving fake stories and highly photoshopped outcomes, because their audiences are on to them. No longer passive receptacles to the media, consumers are now in charge of the marketing landscape – which means teams all over the globe have had to make a huge shift in how they promote and sell their products. Authenticity has become the latest buzzword in the marketing world, but it’s here for the long term. Here are four key ways we can embrace this ethos (and sleep easier at night as a result!)

1. Stop talking about you 

I've lost track of the amount of people to whom I've spoken who want to set up a social media account as a broadcast medium. As we all know, someone who only talks about themselves becomes pretty boring pretty quickly! Instead, consumers want to know how you're going to help them. Rather than touting your product as the best show how it can inspire them to live happier lives.

2. Use your experts 

Most companies have people working for them who are experts in their field. Where possible use these people to highlight industry issues either through blogs or media interviews. This builds your authority, to become the go-to brand in your niche, and shows your audience why they should trust you.

3. Share real stories 

By opening the door and publishing either your employees. The important part here is not to focus on telling the facts too much. It's a well known fact that people don't remember what was said but what they felt. One authentic 'pride and passion' story capturing a moment in time will always beat something just showcasing the facts.

 4. Go easy on the branding 

Many brands are now going light touch on the branding in their campaigns. The aim of this is to highlight how they are trying to improve the industry landscape as a whole. It becomes more about public service rather than a quick sell. Of course, this is a brave strategy but the idea is that it creates some brand interest and loyalty. McDonalds and Bose tried this in their latest campaigns to great success.

So as marketers how can we make attempts to keep some of our morals intact? For me it's trying to give back to the local community where possible which is why I've helped out the local Pre-school and have built them a new website. It's not much (and it took me nearly a year to get round to) but it means this particular marketer won't be chased out of the village just yet!
I've purposefully deviated from my usual posting schedule to focus on some great news! A few weeks ago Kier Group was awarded the ultimate LinkedIn accolade - that we are now one of the top 25 companies to work for in the UK (number 21 to be precise). This firmly puts us as the top construction company where the UK wants to work in 2017. This is no mean feat given the other big hitters named on the list (Amazon, John Lewis, Virgin and Facebook). Especially given the resources at their disposal compared to ours!

This means so much to us as ever since I started in this role LinkedIn has been essential to our digital strategy. We have always been careful to post sparingly to a defined audience. We have differentiated between our other social media accounts with the type of content we share. This combined with our ongoing relationship with LinkedIn themselves has ensured that we don't get left behind on an increasingly complex and sophisticated channel. LinkedIn's London office is one of my favourite working locations and I'm there as much as possible to network and hear about the latest developments in their themed rooms!

This list of top 25 companies has been on our radar for a while and I've worked closely with our Head of Resourcing to make our inclusion a reality. The final ranking has been compiled by looking at the billions of actions taken by LinkedIn's 500 million+users and also some very specific metrics:
  • Job applications - We have a much greater than average number of people viewing and applying jobs through LinkedIn. We also have focused on championing different pathways into the industry through our Apprenticeships week campaign. This shows our strategy to target the right people is working. We are also putting a lot of effort into growing the recognition of the brand which is paying off.
  • Engagement - As part of our work and training to ensure all colleagues 'rock their profile' LinkedIn measured profile views and connections from across the company. This contributes to our impressive reach for our/their posts and an increase to nearly 80,000 followers.
  • Retention - With a large number of our employees connected to the company page LinkedIn measured how long they remain with us. We are a fun place to work and the amount of money raised for the Kier Foundation through various exciting and different initiatives proves this.

Being an in-demand company is a great accolade to have as career builders today work at more companies than any previous generation. In a competitive marketplace we've proven we can attract top talent and keep them. We now have more to do to ensure we leverage this award as much as possible and have begun planning how to communicate it both internally and externally. But first it's time to celebrate!

Intruder alert!
So last Tuesday our Head of Resourcing, PR Officer, HR Director and I headed to London to collect our award in style. LinkedIn's drinks reception was being held on the Deck of the National Theatre with representatives from all 25 companies in attendance. It felt strange attending an awards event where we knew in advance we'd won! The drink was plentiful (I abstained as it was a Tuesday night) and and the networking was varied as we were invited up one by one to pick up awards. I still don't know who the two identically suited interlopers were flanking us in the photo?!

And finally it's worth mentioning that we recently topped another list. We were named as the second most successful construction company on Social Media in the Civil Engineering Surveyor (page 39). In general I'd agree with all the methodologies used to compile this list but the author is quite disparaging on Blogger as a platform! I get that it's one for the veterans and is not the coolest (I use it for this blog) but in my opinion the CMS is only really relevant to the developer. I've seen good sites built in a bad CMS and vice-versa. Maybe the time has come to stop showing my age and move over to 'Medium' or, if I want to look really cool, 'Ghost'!
There is no doubt that we are living in a unique time in human history. The advances in technology have meant that we interact with each other in ways never seen before. For many, this is increasingly becoming the age of individualism.

Social trends have moved on in such a way that religion is in decline, marriage is postponed, ideologies are rejected and patriotism is abandoned. All of these represent a collectivism that is dying out among the younger generation.

In the past many have found that this collectivism has given them a sense of belonging. But now, freedom has become more about serving the needs of the individual.

The 'Collect for Peace' in the 1662 Book of Common Prayer reads 'in whose service is perfect freedom'. To the vast majority, the falling away of these collective ideologies has made this an alien concept. Achieving freedom through serving another is considered, by most, an unfashionable world view. To do this is to not be authentically true to yourself. We live in an age where to give yourself up to someone else's story is considered rather suspicious.

Democracy is now about individuals all talking to each other. The internet represents this almost literally as a system of correspondence without leaders. It allows the user to go anywhere and to make their own story. I'm sure we've all found ourselves down an internet rabbit hole of our own making at some point!

You only have to look at the current trends in pop culture to see this happening. The rise of talent shows in which one person attempts to 'better themselves' by becoming rich and famous. Or the dream of individuals setting up their own companies instead of aspiring to work for a corporation. The individual is everything and everyone wants to experience stuff their own way. The more immersive the experience the better - as in the case of the rise of virtual/augmented reality.

Social media in particular allows for an infinite amount of possibilities to indulge the individual and their views. Dating has taken on a more precise edge with online sites allowing people to search for partners by matching personality traits. In particular, personalisation is now an essential part of marketing. In the pursuit of sales every online retailer is attempting to make the experience as individual as possible based on previous buying and behavioural patterns.

The way in which we communicate has also become more about the individual. The popularity of emojis serving the purpose of being able to convey your emotion as well as your message. Many marketers are also utilising avatar builders to further aid individual expression. By presenting the user with an alternative representation of themselves they fulfill their need to be individual and provide more content for their social networks.

In no way am I this much of a hipster!
I am as susceptible as any to this trend by continuing to author this blog. More content is being written in the first person than ever before and the popularity of YouTube stars/vloggers also bears this out.

So, as marketers we are as influenced by the current culture and trends as any. Sometimes, we help define them and other times we do what we can to appeal to the majority. The rising generation need to see what the proposition we are offering gives them personally. In an uploaded world where everyone is transparent to everyone else we have all gradually reassessed our strategies. This has meant 24/7 social media monitoring. This has been necessary by people mastering the art of becoming a serial Twitter complainer - with the end goal being to score that person free stuff!

Much of the work I now do necessarily plays to this individualistic culture. Without doing so would mean we would be old fashioned and un-engaging to the majority audience. Yet, I also think it's important to champion the collective where possible to highlight what is being missed. After all, carrying out your job focusing on what you do in relation to others rather than for yourself makes for a much more rewarding career in the long run.
The ultimate home accessory
Technology is continuing to encroach into our home lives. For years people have welcomed the VCR and home computer into their houses and with them an increase in electricity bill. Google and Amazon are currently pushing their 'Home' and 'Echo' products and the likes of Hive and Sonos all come with a certain degree of bragging rights. Of course, having a connected home is on the rise because it is an excuse to buy the latest new gadget. It's then pretty straightforward to plug in and start interacting with your new toy on a daily basis. I remember how liberated I felt when we bought a wireless printer!

Where this becomes a bigger challenge is outside the confines of our houses. On a crowded tube journey recently I was struck by the thought that almost everyone had a mobile phone in their pockets. That's a lot of batteries to charge! This proliferation is encouraging brands to engage wherever possible with 'Digital-Out-Of-Home' (DOOH) - yet another new technology based acronym!

Advertising to the public on digital screens is nothing new but doing it well is the real challenge. I remember our digital screens, at a previous workplace, being flanked by an army of pull up banner stands. Shouldn't the screen be able to do their job all in one?

'Oven can't!' Mistakes like this could be a thing of the past
The current growth in DOOH is being fueled by new technologies and innovative creative that plays to the medium’s strengths. Bigger more sophisticated digital screens are popping up in city centres all over the world. The old method of gluing posters to billboards is becoming increasingly redundant. Westfield London’s future expansion is said to include a full-motion screen that’s expected to be the biggest in London. You'd better make sure you've got high-production values for a screen that big

The real power of digital out of home though is by bringing it together with the aforementioned mobile. I've written before about the benefits of beacons and the limitations of QR codes. For me, the use of easy augmented reality apps such as Blippar are much more appealing. There is still a real appetite to make scannable codes work and last week's launch of Spotify codes proves this. I'm a big fan Snapcodes to encourage this interaction with physical outdoor markers. This is because it's much more likely that younger demographics will have Snapchat on their device than a QR code reader!

Importantly, DOOH and mobile are not to be looked at as separate channels. The two are intimately linked, and must be approached with a view to how they complement each other. For example, this is how you can get the most out of beacons.

A regular conversation topic at work recently is that of Smart Cities. By surfacing useful information for passers-by brands will see much more interaction with their content. Some good examples of this are apps such as Street Museum or the talking statues initiative recently launch in nearby Bedford. The real benefit though, is to ultimately help in improving the mobility and infrastructure of cities. Like any digital innovation the intelligent use of data is essential in making this work.

There's also no excuse to neglect the importance of targeting. Whilst is may be a bit more challenging when advertising on giant digital screens creative can be targeted according to weather conditions, time, location, or based on live data feeds.

The lesson for me is that digital marketing campaigns are so much more than targeted adverts fed to individuals smart phones. For a fully immersive campaign to be a success it needs to make the most of all technologies available.

Weaving these together to form a cohesive narrative is the real challenge and means planning and monitoring are more important than ever. A fully tiered and real-time approach can make going live with a new campaign more intricate and exciting than ever. It definitely makes it a lot more complicated when communicating the nuances to senior management!
Last year, the entire marketing, PR and and Internal Communications teams were encouraged to undertake an SDI assessment. This form of 'strength deployment inventory' is one of the many popular methods of understanding both yourself and your team. There are many different iterations (including Myers-Briggs) of these types of psychological tests. The common opinion of these is that a team with a good mix of personalities is much stronger and more resilient. With the SDI the idea being that once we have determined what motivates and interests someone the easier it is to communicate with them. The reason for each individual's motivation are split into 3 types:

  • Red: Concern for performance
  • Blue: Concern for people
  • Green: Concern for process
By answering a series of questions we were then plotted on a graph depicting which of these makes up our motivation. Of course, it is possible to be a combination of all three (a Hub) meaning that we were equally motivated by them all. Our results also showed how we would act in conflict (i.e. become more concerned about the people).

For everyone there are no right or wrong answers. Just different ways of acting. As a digital marketer I was fascinated by what would be seen to motivate me. Everyone in the team expected me to be predominantly green (i.e. analytical) as I am always the one in meetings to bring the conversation back to meaningful measurement. So how did I do?

Well, my persona was graded as red/blue. This put me in the 'Assertive-Nurturing category'. Mentoring and encouraging others to do their best but focused on results. In conflict I was noted to become a 'hub'. This means that I can take on any type of behaviour depending on the situation - unpredictable!

It was a surprise to many that I was not motivated by the analytical nature of my role. To me though, my constant insistence on measurement and proof is motivated by that (red) part of me which needs to see solid results. It's not a behaviour I enjoy but I can do it in order to satisfy another part of my personality. This is the best way to ensure you are not cherry picking only the tasks you enjoy. If you find something more challenging then look at how it can contribute to your overall work satisfaction.

This leads on to another part of my work methodologies for which I'm often teased - saving money! It is definitely true that I am reluctant to spend company money compared to the abandon shown by some others. But this is why I think I have found my niche in digital marketing. For a long time now marketers say they’ve reduced their traditional advertising budget to fund digital marketing activities. The measurement and ability to test and learn makes it second to none. We no longer have to guess as to why a certain activity is not working.

Coupled with this is my regular insistence with agencies in making our resources scaleable. By this I mean building them in such a way so that we can continue to maintain them in house.

This process has been especially enlightening when looking at what motivates others. For example, if someone is a pure 'red' it's worth remembering to keep your emails short and get to the point in meetings! If they're 'blue' then you'll need to spend some time discussing their feelings and if they're green why they they been assigned a task.

Of course, it's never totally this clear cut and aspects like the ability to stay up to date with the latest technologies, be creative and pass on knowledge via presenting and mentoring are great forms of job satisfaction.

Some of the happiest, most successful people in the world were those who completed some kind of personality profile in their youth. Once you can understand your perceived weaknesses, not only can you make sure you point yourself in the right direction but you can also work on those weaknesses.

What's your digital marketing motivator?
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