Sarah Two Names shares her Two Cents

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

Things what I have done learned (1)

This post was written last week, hence the apparent date discrepancies

Given that the end of the first Squared module is coming up, and that I am blogging about doing said course, I feel somewhat obliged to write a post about what I have learnt so far. But as I am a total newbie to digital marketing do not expect fancy things like this:

“In 2009, author and management consultant Paul Greenberg provided a definition for the new customer-centric approach, which he termed Social Customer Relationship Management:

‘. . . a philosophy and a business strategy, supported by a technology platform, business rules, workflow, processes and social characteristics, designed to engage the customer in a collaborative conversation in order to provide mutually beneficial value in a trusted and transparent business environment. It’s the company’s response to the customer’s ownership of the conversation.’” (Courtesy of the Hootsuite blog)

However, I will try to be all insightful and whatnot. I haven’t really posted anything hugely reflective on the actual digital marketing game because of my neonate status. Being reflective requires something to be there first (e.g. a mirror); I am more of a sponge at this stage. With squared trousers…Anyway, on with the musings.

The above quote reflects one of the key points I have absorbed; the age of social media as also birthed the era of true corporate accountability. All it takes is one negative tweet and the jig is up. So that’s a win for the consumer (and the ethical Christian in me). On the corporate side this development may seem irksome in the short term. On the other hand, long term, a brand’s need to foster trust may result in more sales as trust in a brand tends to create brand advocates. AKA marketing gold dust.

The very fact that businesses have lost control of the conversation pleases the anarchic Brit in me deeply.

A scarier thing for the consumer (although 75% of us don’t care) is the massive data wakes we leave as we surf the interweb, and what Google et al do with it. Whilst our fiendface data may result in more personalised services on the Web, it can also result in the filter bubble. The idea that an algorithm is effectively trying to get into my head and predict what I want to see when I google “walruses snorting rainbows” (if it actually needs to think about that one, it is clearly a crap algorithm) is terrifying. Never mind the implications for attempts to broaden my horizons with things I may not “like”. I already blocked ads, but I had no idea my search results could be messed with. After learning that particular fact I promptly started deleting cookies left, right and centre (2016 of them), and I amped up my tracking blocks. Fun fact: my average online browsing session produces 300+ cookies. This creepy internet stalking has further vindicated all my feelings about social media.

Out of interest I compared the search results for me and my Dad (who doesn’t really know/care about cookies etc) for “digital camera”. Excluding slight rank variation, identical. Either a) my dad is mysteriously blocking tracking etc b), my Dad has no soul or c) My tracking blocks have failed, so I AM my Dad. Out of b) or c), I’m not sure which is worse.

The most important thing I have learnt is that digital is rather magical at being agile (h/t to Neil Perkin), and this has some rather wonderful consequences. It means that creativity is the rule in digital, which is great for me as I want to be a creative person. It also means that this industry is a land of opportunity, whoever you are.

It means that maybe I can do this.

p.s. I have also started to wonder if everyone has one viral idea, rather like in the 20th century when we said everyone had one novel in them. Or do we have one ebook in us? Or do we have one viral idea AND one ebook…

The Academy won’t be calling anytime soon

As part of our first assignment for the Squared course, we Squares (go branding!) were tasked with creating a short video introducing ourselves. Given that I quite like the YouTubers Jenna Marbles and Laci Green, and that l’m a visual person, this was something I’d always wanted to have a bash at. I am now cured.

The other two parts were to make a single PowerPoint slide about our daily digital interaction and to start a blog. The slide was not an issue as uni has left me well-prepared. It also didn’t involve getting up close and personal with Le Front Nationals (France’s largest far-right party) website. Have a look if you want to have nightmares. The blog was not a problem either as a) I blog as part of my unpaid work, and b), I am still in uni-mode which stipulates that unless you have written it down somewhere (ideally in a well-respected journal), your opinion counts for nought.

So, onto the video experience. Thankfully, the lovely Squared team had given us a couple of “how-to” videos, so I wasn’t completely at sea. I took the executive decision not to look at previous alumni’s efforts as I wanted to avoid hijacking ideas; I am always intrigued to find out what my brain produces when left to its own devices. I also probably would have cried upon seeing the alumni’s vastly superior skillz.

What the videos didn’t tell me was that Windows Live Movie maker is a moody and capricious creature. I decided to have a look at this mardy digital beastie before I even attempted to make my video. A good thing too. What ensued can only be termed “shenanigans”. The software isn’t the most intuitive thing in the world (“Wait, what?! Where did that menu go?…That button is CLEARLY mislabelled”), but once you learn its behaviours and understand its habitat, it is possible to tame the beast. But don’t even try to understand the “Add music” function. The only piece of advice I can give is just add the music in order and don’t question why. I’m sure wise men have gone mad trying to fathom that mystery.

Figuring out Windows Live Movie maker also flagged that my beloved digital camera’s mic wasn’t up to snuff. Cue Dad’s magnanimous loan of his super shiny camera with all the bells and whistles. And very good lenses. So good that my vanity kicked in and decreed that it didn’t want to broadcast its blackhead count to the masses. On with the slap. And avoidance of close-ups.

When planning my video, I took of advantage of the fact that I would be filming in chunks (I am not a one take wonder) so I shoved in a couple of costume changes and gratuitous showing off of my photography. The bit-y nature of my filming also lead to a lot of jump-cuts being created in the editing process. I shall choose to call them an homage to La Nouvelle Vague film directors, not a testament to my own filmic ineptitude. The fancy animated transitions (thank you Movie Maker) did cover them up. A bit. Where Movie Maker really excelled was in my final section. That captioning tool is ace.

The only real thorn in my side in the video process was the subject matter: me. I enjoyed the planning and editing (the filming involved too many stop-starts for my taste), I don’t mind talking about myself, but I discovered that I HATE seeing and hearing myself. I LOOK TWELVE. I SOUND LIKE A TOOL. A TOOL WITH A REALLY POSH BACKGROUND. (I do live in Surrey and I did go to a private school, but I live very near Croydon and neither of my parents went to uni.)

For all the cringing I did whilst making this video, it has been very informative. I have new found respect for YouTubers. I especially appreciate all the effort they put into producing seamless videos and the fact they are willing to put themselves out there, laying themselves wide-open for the trolls. At the time of writing, I am yet to post my video up. I am anticipating some nasty comments about my speaking voice.

It has also made me marvel at the effort that must go into making YouTube videos for big brands. Particularly at the attention they have to pay to communicating a message in an engaging way. If my video is a flop and the message falls flat, there is nothing on the line; I have no need to go viral. If a company’s video fails, that’s a lot of money, time, and potential exposure down the toilet. And if the video was taking advantage of a particular meme, the moment has probably been lost if they try to reshoot. The results are even worse for the company if the video is so bad that the masses rise-up and create a lot of contagious bad press, turning attention away from the product/service and dashing any hopes of creating brand advocates.

My new found knowledge has made me appreciate this all the more:

p.s. I should probably let you have a look at the final result. No flaming.

The Continual Student

On the day of graduation, surrounded by the lovely horticulture of the British Ambassador to France’s residence (check me out), I had an eerie premonition. I was going back into education. Thankfully, it wasn’t the side-effect of reading too much Sandman. I could have found myself trying to summon the Lord of the Dreaming, which would have ended badly. For me and the livestock.

On a practical aside, going back into education now makes perfect sense. I still remember how to study, how I learn, and my beloved set of highlighters is still with me. I was one of those people at uni who had rainbow-vomit notes.

When I told people that I was going to do an online course, I frequently got the reaction of “Avoiding the job hunt are we?” and it’s various incarnations. Actually I’m doing the reverse; I am making myslef irresistible to the job market by becoming actually employable.

When I flew the Franco-British academic nest I soon found out that the big bad world of work in England has little scope for a language graduate if you don’t want to be a teacher or translator/interpreter. French is basically viewed by the job market as a skill, not an area of study. Hence the proliferation of tech/customer support and recruitment roles for multi-national companies on job hunting sites and LinkedIn.

What a lot of the LinkedIn crew don’t realise is that a language degree has made me a creative thinker. You can’t just bang an English text into Google Translate and expect a Baudelairian masterpiece to be spat out. You have to think, rephrase, take weird circuitous routes and remember your target culture. For 3000+ words. Which leads me onto another pet peeve; it’s like essays aren’t creative either. Never mind that I can take 9 large books, 4 JSTOR* articles and my own class notes, condense them, analyse them and produce a discursive essay (in French) which gets a First thank you very much, do I have any experience in customer support? It’s seems I’m allowed to be a creative thinker at uni, and as soon as I exit the building I need to become a French speaking automaton who asks “Avez-vous essayé d’éteindre l’appareil et l’enclencher à nouveau?” ** five times a day.

So I didn’t get a real job. And no, I didn’t let my feelings show in covering letters, although it was tempting to write “If I can write a 3000 word essay on role of art in Huysmans’ À Rebours, I can do this.” I know that all my creative leanings would be satisfied in teaching, but it would be a disaster. “Actually kids this stuff is completely useless, and what you really need is to be able to tell the scary French policeman that the white powder isn’t yours.” And that is how alternative me got banned from teaching in three counties.

Thankfully, my unpaid social media work allowed me to be creative, and introduced me to marketing, which is driven by creative thinking. So the Squared course is actually an Investment in my Future (cue heavenly choirs). When I hit the job market again with a vengeance, I will (hopefully) be snapped up as a) more skillz and b) I will have a piece of paper that LinkedIn recognises as proof of creativity.

And the beauty of an online course means that no-one knows that I do creative with unwashed hair and a large amount of food down me.

*An online archive of digitised academic journals. Saviour of many a student’s essay the world over.

** “Have you tired turning it off and on again?” – Roy, the IT Crowd.

And so it begins

A beginning is the time for taking the most delicate care” – from Manual of Muad’Dib by the Princess Irulan

If you have a look at my about page you’ll see I didn’t actually expect to be here. But on that fateful day this summer when I got introduced to social media, I was initiated into a world that I found truly fascinating.

Yes, I, a “millennial”, just used the phrase “introduced to social media”. At the grand old age of 22.  And why I have I been so late the social media party? For me, as much as I see its value as a tool for keeping in touch with friends, I consider Facebook as what the wonderful IT Crowd called “fiendface” – a platform which opens up the slippery slope of unhealthy narcissism and voyeurism. And I have nominal interest in what celebrities have to say via a small blue bird. Although since getting to the party I have found that Twitter makes it a breeze to share and find interesting content and it’s a great medium for talking to total strangers (read September Squares). I’m still not sold on Facebook. If I want to know about your life I will either a) ask you face to face or b) e-mail/text you. #oldschool. Same goes for Instagram et al.

Given my general dislike of social media for personal use, why do I find its commercial application, and by extension digital marketing, so darned interesting? I think it’s going from the micro to the macro. Instead of the small communities formed by school friends, offices etc, digital marketing deals with many communities which, by one way or another, are linked to one another i.e. the digital ecosystem. Getting thrown into the jungle has turned me into some kind of David Attenborough, intrigued by the digital flora and fauna, how they think, react and thrive.

So the Squared Online course is a chance for this digital naturalist to go from bumbling amateur armed only with a slightly knackered pair of binoculars she found in the loft into a full-blown Jane Goodall. Complete with my own chimpanzee society. It’s also a chance for me to get into the ethics of marketing. As a Christian, I have a serious problem with how some marketing campaigns rely upon low self-esteem and perpetuating body shame (see Special K’s “What will you gain when you lose?” campaign).

My own personal moral code is part of why I never expected to be considering the marketing game as a career. But since starting my social media journey and delving into some of Squared’s course materials, I am beginning to see a way forward for this pilgrim.

p.s. Don’t worry, I have no plans for doing this.