Sarah Two Names shares her Two Cents

A blog reflecting on the mystical world of digital marketing, and possibly much, much more.

The Social Contract of Online Life

Social contract: NOUN “An implicit agreement among the members of a society to cooperate for social benefits, for example by sacrificing some individual freedom for state protection.” Definition from Oxford Dicitonaries.

This one has been bothering me since way before Squared. I think it links to the fact that generally I don’t trust people has a whole. Too many wars, capitalism, the existence of X Factor. I could go on.

So what do I mean by “social contract” when it comes to the digisphere? Social media is probably the most obvious example. Bird-land, Fiendface et al rely on good behaviour and cooperation on the part of all of their users to function. We give tons of details away on these platforms everyday. And I’m not just talking about name, age, location, and profile picture (the Big Four). We freely type away the very minutiae of our lives. So much so, that even if we don’t publicise the Big Four, we are identifiable by our connections and the details we give away without thinking. If someone really wanted to, they could find you. Without blackhatting it.

Now do you see what I mean?

We feel this social contract most keenly when it is violated. Think trolls. One deliberately incendiary comment about someone’s appearance in a YouTube video, and the comments page is permanently paralysed by people rising to the troll, or more trolls flocking to the scene. In one fell comment YouTube’s intended purpose is subverted and any mutual benefit is flushed right down the binary toilet.

It can also be argued that employers viewing prospective employees’ social media profiles and making decisions to hire based on them is a violation. Whilst posting details into the digital public sphere does grant some kind of access to your personal life to strangers, it doesn’t invite anyone to view the profile with employment in mind, unless it is explicitly expected. The unexpected judgement from an employer violates the principle of mutual benefit and cooperation in the idea of the social contract. The employer is using that social media profile to their advantage.

This kind of use of social media also goes against good old fashioned common sense; our work selves are not our private selves.

Social contracts also run into some delightful shades of moral grey when it comes to posting pictures. Between adults it’s fine; if you both have a social media presence, you are already participants in the social contract and consent is not an issue. You will share photos of each other for mutual benefit. Laughing at each others ridiculous poses in the same pair of Elton John-style sunglasses IS a mutual benefit.

When it come to parents posting pictures of their children, consent is a HUGE issue. The children have yet to choose whether they wish to have an online presence, whether they wish to enter into this digital social contract. One can argue that an online presence is an inevitability nowadays, so parents are making the same choice that their children will eventually make. However an online presence is neither expected or mandatory, there is no inevitability about it.

And with morality issues we stray nicely into PRISM. You saw that one coming didn’t you? Look at the end of the definition of social contract again. Whilst the NSA and friends did pee all over data protection laws like a motherhubbard, things start to look a little different when you consider the social contract. It doesn’t change that fact that consent is sexy.

It also doesn’t change the fact that the NSA broke the social contract in another way. Our favourite security service has been systematically building in weak points (or “backdoors”) into encryption software used to protect us, the public, online. To quote Bruce Schneier, an encryption specialist and fellow at Harvard’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society in a Guardian article:

“Cryptography forms the basis for trust online. By deliberately undermining online security in a short-sighted effort to eavesdrop, the NSA is undermining the very fabric of the internet.”

These backdoors make it possible for anyone with the correct know how to get in where they don’t belong.

Does the digital social contract still exist? Is it still safeguarding us?  I think the actions of Edward Snowdon prove that it is alive and well. I, for one, will still continue about tweeting about complete and utter nonsense.

Illegitimi non carborundum.

Post the 10th

I’m wearing my unicorn socks, and that means one thing: something’s about to go down. Rather like this:

I’ve had my metaphorical milk. The ass-kickery that’s a-brewing is the re-launch of this blog. As part of the Squared Online course, we were asked to start a blog, which as it turns out, I rather enjoyed. So the blog gets to live, hurray! Albeit with a slight re-jig.

I will keep on with the digital marketing musings, as I want to work in the industry. Keep the old brain ticking over and whatnot. But it’s more than likely that other topics will creep in too. Variety is the spice of life, and makes one a better writer. I’m resolving to be less fail at twitter, so chuck the bird at me here. Feel free to suggest topics and feed my back!

The other smackdown in the air is the second job hunt, so expect some cries to the heavens posts on that. The first one went like this [link to a previous post]. But I’m coming back with a vengeance (and slightly more career direction). So if you’re looking for a French graduate who loves to blog and bring the humour tempered (hopefully) with intelligence, find me on LinkedIn. Or just visit my profile anyway. I’ve got a rather good picture on there.

So, let’s get to it.

Je me révolte, donc je suis (or Things What I Done Learned 5)

What? You thought that I’d totally forgotten about my French degree in amongst all this marketing malarkey? Not on your nelly! That there frog-speak is a quote from Albert Camus playing on Déscartes’ cogito ergo sum: I revolt, therefore I am.

Cartesian philosophy aside, I assure you it is an appropriate citation as the theme of Squared’s fifth and final module was “The Ongoing Revolution”. The unit covered the diverse topics of ethics, the digital future, and change management within organisations.

Ethics

A man without ethics is a wild beast loosed upon this world.”- Albert Camus

The most useful definition of this in terms of marketing is this: it’s doing the right thing when no-one’s looking. Businesses need to value the integrity of customers, play fair with them, and work out how much they need to know (using the old commercial benefit vs playing fair analysis).

Should marketers have an ethics fail, they will either incur the wrath of the Advertising Standards Authority or the Information Commissioner’s Office. The ASA happens when ads screw-up on any of these fronts: legality, decency, honesty, or truthfulness.  The ICO deals with the topic du jour – data privacy. In a marketing sense data is it is all the info that is held about you, wherever it is held.  Data privacy is key for businesses as their track record in this area has a direct impact on consumer confidence. Just look at what Edward Snowdon has done to our views on the NSA, the CIA, the American government, our own government, Google, Apple, Facebook, Microsoft…

The Digital Future

We were treated to some digital punditry, so according to the tutors at Squared, the next “Big Things” are:

“The un-boxing of the TV” – the continuing rise of video on demand, the growth of smart tv ownership resulting in more interactive and immersive tv (this can also be achieved by exploiting the dual-screening phenomenon), and addressable advertising. In a nutshell, this is where companies start using viewer demographics to target adverts based on what sort of TV programmes you watch. It’s that whole data and ROI thing.

The collaborative economy – an example of this is giffgaff. I failed to follow this concept properly, but pretty pictures make everything better:

The Collaborative Economy

Real-time – In terms of data this will allow brands, companies etc to react quickly to their consumers, enable them to act organically (as opposed to having to follow a set strategy), and engage with micro-trends. On the technology side, real time bidding is increasing.

Content curation – think Pinterest. It is “the act of discovering, gathering, and presenting digital content that surrounds a specific subject matter”. Given that content creation is one of marketing’s buzzwords at the moment, there is a school of thought that soon the consumer’s finite attention span will be banjaxed by the veritable ocean of content. Curation is a way of avoiding this meltdown, whilst still being able to present yourself as an authority, and thus inspire consumer confidence.

The Internet of Things (IoT) – not just a tweeting fridge (or a tweeting bra for that matter). According to Kevin Ashton, this is “where the Internet is connected to the physical world via multitude of sensors”. IoT will allow things like presence-based advertising and turning your home into a light show.

These insights were fascinating, but given digital’s capacity for epic disruption, I can’t help but wonder if something else is going to come careering onto the scene. Rather like Google did.

Change Management

This was about being an agent of change within your business or organisation, and generally becoming your company’s digital Messiah (I don’t think Sunday school covered this). Great if you’re employed, less so if you’re not. But, it has given me great advice for the future. In order to “push a digital agenda” (this turn of phrase implies more Machiavellian tendencies than I actually have) you need to be prepared to counter the incumbent company culture, think outside the binary box, and have a network of people on your side.

For a less cack-handed version of this, I recommend you check Neil Perkin out here and here, and Zella King here.

So there you have it

The final module over, my brain now brimming with knowledge, ready to attack the job market with renewed zeal (and a truck-load more direction).

Fear not dear reader, this is not the end of our affair.

CONVERT OR DIE! Or Things What I Have Done Learned 4

Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted, and the problem is I do not know which half.”* – John Wanamaker, probably.

It is the solution to this conundrum which formed the crux of Squared’s fourth module. You’ve planned the shiny multi-channel campaign, but how do you know if it actually worked? Pre-digital, you were probably looking at two to three months before you knew if a print campaign had been successful or not. Sure, you had the focus groups to test things out, but they tend to fall victim to Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle.

Enter Google Analytics!** Tag the relevant bits of your campaign and watch the numbers flow in. Bounce rates (the user making like Bravest of the Brave Sir Robin), conversion rates (the user doing what you wanted them to do, like signing up to a newsletter), location, devices used…You name it, it can be monitored.

However, man cannot live by numbers alone. He needs insights (to be said in suitably reverent tones). As insight is not just an analysis, it is –

A thought, fact, combination of facts, data and/or analysis of data that induces meaning and furthers understanding of a situation or issue that has the potential of benefiting the business or re-directing the thinking about that situation or issue which then in turn has the potential of benefiting the business.” Vriens and Verhulst

Having insights and analytics means you can achieve one of marketing’s Holy Grails – full optimisation. Realise no-one’s using the “Join Us” page on your website, despite the fact that everyone loves the “About Us” page? Start optimising! Simply put – find out what works by making alterations to the relevant things, and use analytics to see its effect. Continue making small incremental changes, and suddenly a wild Optimised appears!

Optimisation benefits all parties. Customers/users get a vastly superior experience, and businesses get more of the cash monies. They get mo’ money in two ways:

  1. People stop bravely running away, thus start buying your products/services
  2. By knowing what works and what doesn’t, businesses stop wasting money on the fail and start spending on the win. Hello better ROI.

Unfortunately, optimisation has a bit of a sting in its tail at the moment: attribution. This is the process of identifying what happened where in a customer’s journey to conversion i.e. they got to your site via a search. Was it paid or organic? Did they click on a social media ad before hand? Attribution also looks at the causal relationship between all the steps, and aims to assign credit where credit is due. The list and combination of steps are endless.  If your user stays on one device, attribution is relatively easy***. Attribution becomes a massive migraine when your customer starts changing device. And God help you if they started offline and moved online, or vice versa. But you can be a tricksy hobbit here.

The future of attribution could go one of two ways at the moment. Either it gets easier as our tracking gets more advanced. Or the fallout from Edward Snowden’s revelations means that tracking gets infinitely harder.

Given that this is my favourite kind of data –

I am not the one to solve this 21st Century conundrum.

*There is a school of thought that it’s the Facebook half. But that’s another kettle of exabytes altogether.

** Many, many other tools are available.

*** You still have to be using the right model. This is the point in the course where my brain exploded all over my laptop, so I will hand you over to the wonderful Avinash Kaushik  for enlightenment.

Teamwork is Magic (or Things What I have done Learned 3)

With Module 3 all done and dusted, much like my Mother’s Christmas shopping in November, it seems apt to have a review. So gather round my digital open fire and grab yourself a binary chestnut.

This module’s topic was multi-channel planning. For those of you who don’t speak marketingese I shall elaborate. Channel=a means of communicating with one’s target audience. A few examples of channels are email, display advertising, mobile, or social media. Therefore multi-channel planning= using a variety of channels in a strategic manner to capture one’s target audience, and once you have their attention, using said channels to persuade them to do what you want. There really is no way of dressing up that last bit. 

The course content, Brian Solis, Google et al can wang on as much as they like about the importance of communicating and engaging with your community, and making sure you meet your audience at their Zero Moment of Truth, but it’s all a means to an end. We are all Don Draper dropping the truth-bomb “It’s toasted” to an astounded board room. The only difference in the digital age is that our audience can spot the lipstick of a dodgy campaign on our pristine starched collars a mile off and call us out. Publicly and loudly (British Gas anyone?). Betty Draper they are not.

However, I digress.  I learnt many a thing. There are multitudes of display advert formats, including the ultra-cool new kids on the block, rich media ads. Strategy tends to be common sense with buzzwords thrown in for good measure. I should never be allowed near an AdWords campaign. Does. Not. Compute. But the greatest thing I learnt was this: teamwork is magic.

Before Squared Online, teamwork was a thing I dreaded. It inevitably involved me, a chronically organised and committed individual, jollying along several infinitely less bothered people (the jollying tended to morph into dictatorship to make the deadline). So, I approached the first group project (Module 2) with a truck load of trepidation.  The thing is, something remarkable happens when you all want to be there. I believe the marketingese for this is “synergy”.

Ridiculous terminology aside, it really was great working with a group of people (TGT Ltd to be precise) who had your back and make you laugh (in a good way) to boot. I’m writing about this now as my team really hit its stride during this module. The Module 2 project was awesome, but it was overshadowed slightly by us getting to know each other and figuring out the group dynamic. Cue Module 3 project.

Our task was to come up with a digital multi-channel strategy for a fake hair dye. With all the “getting to know you” stuff out of the way we were able to just crack on with it. And because we had the group dynamic down, we pulled off some epic #nosilo action. We did have assigned tasks, but we were all able to help/advise/contribute to each other’s work without stepping on any toes. I didn’t really help with AdWords though, that would have been a disaster. Thank you TGT Ltd for understanding that I did a French degree, and therefore should never be allowed near numbers under any circumstance. Not even in la belle langue.

The end of Module 3 spelled the end of TGT Ltd (in its official capacity). But I still have its magic in my pockets and its laughter in my ears, ready to fling (in a spirit of friendship and collaboration, of course) at my new group.

Whether they like it or not.

p.s. A little festive cheer from this Trekker to you, dear reader:

Nomophobia is the Name of the Game (or Things What I Have Done Learned 2)

nomophobia (ˌnəʊməʊˈfəʊbɪə): a state of stress caused by having no access to or being unable to use one’s mobile phoneThe Collins English Dictionary

I used to think this most 21st century of phobias was total balls. Then I watched a friend of mine pinch another friend’s phone, unlock it (it was not passcode protected), and proceed to leave a note saying “you smell like vagina and poo”. The phone did belong to a midwife after all. After said incident, I immediately restored the PIN on my phone.

Whilst this doesn’t directly tie in to the definition of nomophobia, it does exemplify its underlying cause: mobiles are personal. They are so personal to us that if they are taken from us, or altered without our consent, our stress levels go through the gorilla glass roof.  And the personal element is down to the advent of the smartphone. Your average smartphone will have not just all our contacts, but a fair share of lolsworthy photos, videos, to do lists (including the classic “Oh crud it’s Mum’s birthday soon, what do I get her?”) and enough apps to organise our lives and entertain us through ad breaks, train journeys and bowel movements. In short – we now have a personal universe in our pockets.

So it seems rather apt that the Squared course’s module 2 focus was on mobile.  The facts I learnt were staggering, proving that we are all succumbing to the lure of mobile (which is henceforth defined as both smartphones and tablets) and the inevitable self-diagnosed nomophobia. In 2012 78% of us didn’t leave our smartphones at home, more android devices were activated daily than babies born, and 570 years of Angry Birds were played daily*.

Mobile has also exacerbated our natural impatience – 60% of us expect a mobile site to load in 60s, and 40% of us will visit another result if a site isn’t optimised. The implications of these two little gems of knowledge have huge ramifications for digital marketing. Especially since $159b of US retail sales were influenced by mobile in 2012*. If a brand doesn’t know its ice cream sandwiches from its jellybeans, it is shooting itself in the silicon foot.

As Mashable (can’t find the article anywhere) pointed out the money to be had in mobile is why the iPhone 5S has fingerprint scanning. It’s as much to do with security as it is to do with getting in on PayPal’s territory. If Apple had a payment app that used your fingerprint as log on and confirmation of payment, it would soothe all us consumers who still aren’t sure about paying large amounts via mobile. Although figures are showing that we are getting less nervous.

I feel compelled at this juncture to mention all the glorious shenanigans the public has been getting up to with that scanner. Although I’m not sure of the practicalities of unlocking a smartphone with Zenith and Quasar (my metaphorical moggies). (Yes I’m ignoring the serious fact that the iPhone 5S scanner has already been hacked.)

Beyond the commercial world, mobile does have implications from a human development perspective –

“Latest figures indicate that mobile phone penetration rates stand at almost 45 percent in low-income countries and 76 percent in lower-middle-income countries […] it is also estimated that 80 to 90 percent of people in some poor countries have at least minimal access to a cell phone.

That is in part because mobile technologies offer portable, real-time, communication and information access for people who previously had little to no access to affordable communication channels. Mobiles have relatively low physical infrastructure requirements and can reach remote areas in a more cost-effective fashion than other ICTs such as the Internet or fixed phone lines” Courtesey of http://www.undpegov.org/mgov-primer.html.

I’m not joining in with the Silicon Valley philanthropists and saying technology is the answer to all the worlds ills, but improved dissemination of information has huge implications for “enhancing democratic governance and other development areas such as health, education, agriculture, employment, crisis prevention and the environment.” Again from http://www.undpegov.org/mgov-primer.html.

Additional fun fact: 52% of web usage in India is on a mobile device.

Whilst I did find all of this information fascinating, I did learn it with a slightly distanced perspective. As you might have realised by now, me and the über-modern don’t exactly get on that well. I’ll blame my brother for getting me into PC gaming at an early age. One of the signs of the apocalypse is me renouncing the way of slightly annoying load times and taking my life into my hands as I try to upgrade my machine.

I do own a smartphone, and I use it, but I’m not chained to it. Given the choice between searching on a PC or a mobile device, I will always pick the former as I am a highly visual person. The more I can see, the happier I am.

But I will always own a smartphone. I’m too much of a Trekkie no to.

* Facts courtesy of Google

Digital Damnation? The Church in the Digital Age

John Chapter 1, Teh Cat Macro Becamded Flesh (The Lolcat Bible) –

1In teh beginz is teh meow, and teh meow sez “Oh hai Ceiling Cat” and teh meow iz teh Ceiling Cat.2 Teh meow an teh Ceiling Cat iz teh bests frenz in teh begins.

Only digital would have thought of translating one of the most profound statements in the Bible into lolspeak. And that’s why I love it.

You guessed it folks! I’m looking at what the Bride of Christ did when her Husband lead her into the era of ones and zeros. Given that this post is going to be skirting around some pretty big issues (or what I, as a Christian, consider big), my article comes with two caveats attached:

  1. To quote Alice Cooper “I’m not a philosopher. I consider myself low on the totem pole of knowledgeable Christians.” If you have a problem with anything in this post, it is probably more to do with my own short comings than theology.
  2. The digital world is enormous, so the research done for this wasn’t exhaustive. (Read about an hour and a bit’s worth of Googleage.) Again, #fail of blog = my own #fail .

So on with the catechising.

She followed the ovine herd and updated her Facebook profile

I read the Bible on my phone and Kindle. My church has a website. My Bible study group is on Facebook. My Dad googles the topic in question every time he has to lead a Bible study. We make our own apps. We blog. The Archbishop of Canterbury is on Twitter as is @Pontifex.

We followed the flock and it has been a good thing. With the advent of the Social Web the Christian community continued to do what it has been doing for 2000 years – seek each other out (regardless of geographical location), talk to one another, and debate. Only the global aspect of the Church got a lot easier to deal with. Instead of writing a letter to do the rounds in the Mediterranean, we just fire of a quick email or tweet and watch it travel further than trade routes.

And with the knowledge sharing, free in depth Bible commentaries, and news feeds on the interweb, today’s pilgrim is an informed one. Or should be.

But has she realised she has a new branding problem?

First up, I am aware that the Church is always going to have a branding problem. What we believe tends to have 3 outcomes: 1) People think we’re nuts. 2) People think we’re evil. 3) People think we might be onto something*. To this aspect of the branding issue the Body of Christ just shrugs her shoulders. Rightly so, the Way was not meant to be a walk in the celestial park.

But what I don’t know is if the Beloved has truly considered what tech disruption is doing to her brand or not. If she hasn’t, I can see a triune deity pulling off a truly epic facepalm right about now.

The knowledge sharing between Christians on the information superhighway is happening in public. Which is great, as it means that the Church is no longer an internal affair; secular society has an unprecedented view into what the Bride of Christ really is: unified diversity, functioning as one body**. It now knows its Charismatics from its Methodists, and why the Church of England is a very complicated thing.

However the multi-denominational Church’s arms can get into a fight with its legs. Or the right knee can throw a hissy fit and blame the left ear. And the list goes on. The newly created interactions between those from different bits of the Body of Christ can be a trigger for wonderful, informative, REASONED debate. Or the Beloved can disgrace herself utterly and be no better than a troll. For all the world to see. See also: the Church’s horrific stigmatisation of the queer community and its terrible silence over Russia making a mockery of civil liberties in recent months. Thank God for these guys.

To be fair, like the rest of us, She is still figuring out digital

As you can tell, I am more than happy to acknowledge that the Church has a way to go when it comes to cracking this digital malarkey. We do have to make ourselves heard over things like this and this.

I wonder what “getting it” would look like. I am by no means and expert, but I can hazard a guess. It looks funnier and WAY more innovative. And I mean funnier “ha ha”, not Gnosticism funny. If you head on over to Tearfund’s (one of the UK’s leading Christian charities) YouTube Channel, you will see a lot of informative and mostly sombre (they deal primarily with poverty so it’s not a surprise) videos chock full of very sincere Christians talking direct to camera.

This very emotive video has 1614 views. On the other hand, this Christian comedian has 202 217. (Yes I know it’s only very funny if you’re a Christian). The video that really needs its message heard has fallen flat. But the second video has succeeded. Why? Because it’s funny and unexpected (thank you Church of England for Christianity’s humourless reputation).

I am not saying that poverty is a laughing matter, far from it. But Tearfund would definitely benefit from changing the way it does its videos. There are a few animated clips on the channel, but they still have that very profound, sincere tone. And it’s that tone which means that the charity (and many other Christian organisations) ends up preaching to the converted (pun intended). Given the sheer number of videos on their channel, they clearly know that video is very important in terms of reach and creating a presence. But they may not know what every good digital marketer knows: if you want to get heard, you need to plan for participation i.e. plan to get more people interested in your message.

And participation comes from doing the unexpected, being innovative (and being funny never hurts). I know that a charity which deals with poverty has to be very careful when creating content. However, they, and the wider Christian community, would benefit from a hackathon. What an innovative Christian video would consist of I have no idea, as I said, I am low down on the totem pole.

So what does her binary future hold?

Digital is not going away, and it is not in the nature of the digital ocean to remain static. It does quite the reverse. So the Bride of Christ needs to stop admiring her Facebook profile pic and start paying attention to the ones and zeros all around her. She has to use the Social Web to promote discussion (between believers and non-believers alike), but be prepared to screw-up her manicure when things get ugly. And maybe she should dye her hair bright pink.

* Idea adapted from C. S. Lewis’ Mere Christianity

** Taken from Flyleaf’s Beautiful Bride