Whilst on holiday I've been following some of the London 2017 World Athletics Championships. These have mainly been notable for the final races of both Mo Farah and Usain Bolt. The latter in particular has been at the top of his game as 'the fastest man in the world' for many years. His legacy as a top athlete and sporting personality is indisputable, however his swansong proved not to be the party many had hoped for.

Both of these athletes proved that their best days were behind them as they took home silver and bronze respectively. Of course, age catches up with us all eventually and remaining at the top of the game is hard enough at the best of times. There's always someone younger, hungrier and more confident ready to take your place.

Within digital marketing the struggle is still there. Whilst there is by no means the same pressure or expectation, staying motivated to always do your best can sometimes be tough. Where this differs as a job is that things are always changing and you have to be constantly running to keep up.

There's that project that feels as though it will never come to an end. Sometimes you can’t even begin to see the light at the end of the tunnel. You try your best and still don't see any results but your boss demands more. A little bit of your soul can lose motivation.

The truth is that this happens to everyone at some point. Even to the most talented individuals who make awesome feats look effortless. The trick is to stay positive and not lose hope. You can rebuild and retain your motivation to return you back to the awesome digital marketer you know you are.

One great way I've found to deal with this is to get out on the road to meet some DM friends. Friends who don’t know me too well think I fix computers. Those that know me better think I do something with Google. That’s fine but when I need to talk or vent about Google’s unfairness my frustrations fall on a mixture of deaf ears. I especially get bemused facial expressions when I start talking iterative or responsive design!

Marketing events, conferences and training sessions all open up great networks of similar professionals all solving the same problems. These people can sympathise with your HTTPS rankings drop, or nod knowingly when you try to explain about the hardships of getting buy-in from senior management. And it’s all done in an atmosphere far less stuffy than your regular corporate networking breakfast sessions.

I'm actually booked to present at a few of these events in the near future. The first of these is the Digital Engagement Conference in Manchester on the 19th September. I had a really good time there last year and even the just the process of writing the presentation can be therapeutic. It's like compiling your own winners speech where you can thank everyone who made the campaign delivery possible and celebrate completion. I was even awarded 'Top Rated Speaker 2016' meaning I get to deliver the keynote this time instead of being given the graveyard shift as per last year!

The other event I'm due to present at is the Chartered Institute of Marketing 'Social media Engagement within construction' on 23rd October. This time I'll be discussing B2B blogging. It's going to be great to meet other marketers in exactly the same industry to share challenges and best practice.

Of course, we all reach a point where we're past our sell by date but by ensuring we're among other hungry individuals who are really innovating you can learn so much. Even sports such as athletics have massive teams behind the individual. No-one can truly succeed without support and a shoulder to cry on. The success of the British relay team at the World Championships proves that other people can be your best asset when times get tough!
Sorry Dad!
I've just got home after a week's holiday in the British sunshine. During this time my wife and I have celebrated our ninth wedding anniversary which has gone pretty fast. On returning home, and seeing it with fresh eyes, it was even clearer to me that after all this years our house is in need of redecorating! It doesn't seem that long ago that I took on this mammoth task myself but the wear and tear of four children has taken its toll... The more I look the more I see evidence of missing wallpaper, chipped radiators and dented skirting boards.

So what's the best way to tackle the revamp? Rip down everything and start afresh or work on patching up what we have? Like any big project the temptation is to opt for the latter. The danger is that once it's all done the money is spent, other more pressing concerns get in the way and things start to fall into disrepair. Everything starts looking out of date and before long it's embarrassing to invite any visitors round!

The above is also true when undertaking any big design project like launching a new website. An old rotting website can cause visitors ending up with a bad impression and rarely returning causing damage to the brand. The cycle then repeats itself again at considerable effort and cost. The chief danger here is that for most of the website's life it is operating below peak efficiency.

Goodbye and good riddance
No website is 100% awful yet the most attractive option for a redesign is to bin everything and start again. That means a lot of useful (positive and negative) intelligence is wasted at a considerable cost. It's only once a site goes live that proper intelligence can be gathered on people's reactions (even with a decent amount of user research and testing). But the way in which these projects are planned means that this is the exact stage the money runs out.

The single worst thing that can be done is to migrate any content across. The equivalent of this is me using old bits of skirting board to make new ones. See it as the perfect opportunity to reduce the size of the site and write only what is needed. By listing the questions the user may have and prioritising them it ensures that no page is wasted.

During the build it's easy to try and glory in what has been learnt from the previous site. But by making so many changes all at once, and completely replacing it, how is it possible to be sure?

It's not quite this bad!
So it turns out I only have myself to blame for my house needed so much cosmetic work all at once! I should have been making incremental improvements all along and not just fixing things when they needed it.

By taking this approach to website management the site is always being optimised. It also helps spread the cost rather than having to find a massive lump sum for a complete revamp every five (or ten!) years. There's also no throwing out of good working elements just to recreate them. And of course at risk of sounding like a broken record it allows for "evidence based decisions" (I'm quoting my past self there!) and not wasting time and money building unnecessary features. This approach also helps get new features up and running before the competition and keeps users coming back to what's new on offer.

To get this model working there needs to be a decent set of in-house skills. A scaleable CMS means not relying on an agency to access the more advanced features. If the design isn't too wedded to the technology it's even better to allow adaption to any new developments.  This team needs to have skills which involve stakeholder management and content creation alongside the usual technical expertise.

Let's do this!
If the site is built in such a way that it has an excellent pattern library, reusing various components keeps it consistent and easy to update. This way, and just like in the case of redecorating, it ensures that this will be the last big expenditure. After one final big redecoration effort it's time to keep making those improvements and to make sure there is the team to do so.

I guess I'm literally the 'in-house' team when it comes to our home improvements. At least one of the many perks of working at Kier is I get a Trade Point card. How long does Google Maps say it is to the nearest B&Q?
May the force of four AA batteries be with you!
A couple of weeks ago my news feed 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 with flaming torches and pitchforks 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.
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