All change! With the current focus shift to more helpful (less self aggrandising) posts I've noticed a big uplift in social shares and new visitors. Therefore, I've decided to completely re-brand and restyle he blog itself. I'll still continue to use examples of what we're doing in the team here at the University of Bedfordshire but will share more useful and pertinent opinions on the latest Digital Marketing industry trends.

With this relaunch, I thought a useful first post would be some tips on how to build and maintain a blog for people who are thinking of setting one up for themselves:

1. Choose a platform (and subject!)

The first thing to bear in mind is that blogging is hard work! Not just the initial build but maintaining it on a regular basis. As someone who is serious about working in digital I think it is essential to have a blog in order to spark conversation with peers and get yourself noticed. 

You then need to choose a platform on which to host the blog. Two of the best and most popular are Wordpress and Blogger (this is hosted on the latter). These are both excellent, easy to use, extremely customizable and free! 

Choosing your subject is vital and by doing a bit of research on what others are blogging about it should spark some ideas and excitement about getting started. You then need to choose a name and URL - I've purchased (a more streetwise rendering of 'Deep Fat Fryer!') from my preferred supplier Tsohost and then redirected it to Blogger.

2. Customise a template 

Once you have chosen your platform it's time to choose a theme (or design). Make sure you hunt around as there are some brilliant ones out there and ideally find a responsive one so it degrades nicely on mobile devices. You can also pay to download premium themes which are generally a lot slicker with loads of extra features and technical support.

Historically this blog used a default template which was then coded to resemble our University brand identity. I've found a great free Blogger theme and heavily customised it to suit my content. In order to do this yourself you'll need some basic coding knowledge to change colours and add/remove widgets etc. If you don't have any experience of this then Code Academy is a great way to start learning!

3. Plan your content

This is the most important bit! When writing each post sharing best practice should be at the forefront of your mind. By holding too much back you're not going to be of any use to your readers. Worrying about people stealing your ideas is unnecessary as stealing ideas is one thing but putting them into practice is completely different!

Each post you write should clearly state your opinions to spark debate and you should also vary the focus of each post (e.g. lists, predictions, events, reviews and case studies). it's also a great idea to embed rich media (e.g. videos, tweets, images) into posts to make them more appealing and break up the text.

I find that ideas for posts can occur at any time so it's good to keep an ongoing list. I have my next three lined up already and change my mind about what to write about at the last minute (an impromptu re-skin of this blog has led to me writing this post!)

Finally, it's a good idea to keep a schedule and as time can sometimes be in short supply write up a few posts when you can and then post them at a regular pattern so your readers will know when to come back for new content.

4. Monitor and learn

Blogs are not just a broadcast tool and with any type of online content it's essential to give your audience the content they want and to monitor the traffic and engagement. This will help you grow it from strength to strength. I've now added Google Analytics for more in depth analysis as the free Blogger stats are great but not as in depth as they could be.

5. Get promoting

With many career bloggers gaining considerable income or free products to review, getting out there to promote your ramblings via social media (e.g Twitter and LinkedIn) can pay dividends. I enjoy the extra exposure this blog affords me it's proven a great tool to showcase my skills and knowledge both internally and externally. I have now done some work on SEO to ensure the descriptions on each post are fully searchable and always think about what people may be searching for when tagging up and writing.

This is the start of a new chapter for Deep Phat Digital - any feedback you have on my new design would be much appreciated!
So, it's the first day back at work for many of us and 2015 has now properly begun as we settle back into our familiar routines. The decorations are down, the mince pies are digested and there's only three quarters of the Christmas cake still left to eat! Therefore, I thought I'd start the year by sharing some of my predictions for the world of digital marketing that will help shape my team's objectives for the coming year:

1. Digital will no longer be separate to marketing:

As digital is merely another tool, I believe that 2015 will see bigger steps made towards it being where all good campaigns begin and end. We'll even see less marketers with 'digital' in their job title. Without this to distinguish it, the world of digital will evolve from being an added extra to the focus of any decent marketing campaign. This will mean that the old methods of designing for print first will be forgotten, marketers with limited digital skills and understanding will be left behind and agile campaigns will be what are important. After all, digital now accounts for the majority of all media spend in the UK!

2. Test and learn will be standard procedure: 

Currently, all campaign workflows are siloed and this is something we all need to move away from. Analytics comes up front, then there's a big creative piece (usually with an outside agency), the campaign is launched and more analytics at the back end. We are working towards making all those pieces join together into a more iterative workflow that combines the creative and the analytical in a collaborative and agile process. Our department (and particularly my team) are owners of considerable resources and we need to be able to operate in real-time, with real-time analytics about what is working and what is not to be true drivers of productivity and conversions.

3. 2015 will be the year of video marketing:

Video is perfect for showing the audience rather than telling them. The level of storytelling that it brings (alongside the emotion it can elicit) means that we'll see even more high-end video produced than ever before. This can either be in the form of short branded videos on YouTube/Vimeo or short reactionary videos on Vine/Instagram. Therefore, the play button will become the most compelling call to action on the web (there's little I can do to stop my young children pressing it wherever they see it appear!) The statistics are already there to prove it, with YouTube being the second biggest search engine (after Google) and video analytics showing that video converts better than other content type.

4. Mobile will continue to matter: 

With Wi-Fi connections and phones only getting faster mobile will be the first point of engagement with most brands. Therefore, to not have a mobile first web strategy means you will be left behind. Also, many marketers will continue to obsess over location-based marketing, leading to a reality where consumers are targeted at every street corner. Consumers will tune out of this irrelevant interruption leading marketers to realise location alone shouldn’t trigger an experience and will start anticipating a person’s intent by tapping into third party data streams such as news and events, traffic and weather to drive true relevance.

5. Websites will be less important:

Currently we are at the top of a graph with regards to new website visits and this is now likely to show a steady decrease. This is because users are set to spend even more of their time using applications, such as playing games and browsing social media. Content will be shared more on platforms such as Facebook or Twitter and these will become the go to news and information source. This is because people are now more savvy to brand messaging and instead like to listen to the voice of fellow customers either on review sites like Trip Advisor or the product reviews on websites such as Amazon.

6. Everything will be personalised:

Whilst I don't really like the phrase 'Big Data' I believe brands will finally figure out which data is most meaningful for them and how it can be used to their advantage. Anything and everything that can be personalised will be as this is a great way to gather yet more data on the ideal customer. A friend of mine even received some personalised Nutella for Christmas! This will become more prevalent as every brand tries to serve relevant individual content at whatever touchpoint the customer has with the brand. The dangers here though could be damage to brand consistency and the increased creepiness factor for those who don't appreciate this level of intrusion. 

7. Customers will expect to be treated as individuals:

All of the marketing theory that I have studied talks about the importance of segmenting the audience but I think that this is to be slowly retired. Now that we understand more the individual thanks to the explosion in data we can begin to stop pigeon-holing them. This means fully personalised experiences and showing people what their friends are doing online. I've always been a little uncomfortable with certain market research techniques which group people into social and economic classes and finally this year will see a shift away from this. It's almost as bad as horoscopes and believing that everyone born in the same month has the same character traits!

So there are my predictions for 2015. Whichever ones come true there's no doubt it's going be a busy one!
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