Billy Ray Harris: Lord of the Ring

A Homeless Hero: The Power of Online Storytelling

This week I stumbled across a story online, not only worth sharing for it’s interesting content but also for it’s ability to highlight the true power of the digital world to share something positive, engage with people’s emotions and then encourage positive action.

Billy Ray Harris of Kansas City recently returned a diamond engagement ring, which fell into his collection cup, to it’s rightful owner. He found the ring among loose change after its owner, Sarah Darling, accidentally dropped it when she was giving him some change. When Sarah went back the next morning, she found that Harris had been waiting for her to return that ring.

What a humbling and amazing gesture for a man with nothing. A man who could have used the ring’s value to improve his current situation and get himself some things to help him survive. This story certainly helped add some more positive weight to my global humanity perception scale.

As if that wasn’t amazing enough, to show their appreciation, Sarah and her husband set up a Giveforward fundraiser with a goal of raising $1,000 for Billy Ray. The total now sits at the time of writing, €138,000 after only 10 days. With 81 days left Billy Ray could become a very wealthy man indeed. He certainly won’t be out on the streets begging for loose change.

Sarah’s husband posted a blog post updating donors with Harris’s response to the news and his plans for the future. He wrote:

“We talked about a lot of things related to my family’s ring and the many donations. We talked about one day in the future the ring may … be passed down to my daughter. We talked about how insanely positive all this has been. We talked about what he’s planning to do with the donations. The details would be better left for later but know that he has a very solid plan and a very solid way of making it happen.”

For me this example really highlights the ability for the virality of the web to raise awareness, capture the hearts and imagination of those that care, of those who become aware of such kind acts of humanity and who may not have given Billy Ray or any other homeless person their loose change. How this money and new found fame affects Billy we’ll soon see. I’m sure his selfless attitude will ensure he spreads his fortune. I’m sure amongst the escape from poverty will come a struggle with adapting to the real world and rebuilding his life under the public eye, but for now I am delighted to see the virality of the internet once again proving it’s positive worth for sharing stories, connecting individuals, raising hope and rewarding those who deserve it with positive actions.

Whilst writing this article it made me think of a previous blog post that I wrote after my Ad Age Digital Conference attendance last year. In this article I mentioned how the true value in content engagement is creating content that is emotional. People will take action, engage with and share content online that emotionally connects with them and their friends, peers and connections.

With Billy Ray Harris and this campaign, those who donated are not just donating money online to any homeless guy they heard about. If that was the case, every homeless person would set up a donation page right now and get rich. With Billy Ray, your emotions are supercharged by the story behind the campaign; the humbling actions of a man in need, who made the right choice over the selfish one and who has created the unlikeliest of friendships that we can all now read about. Now that’s emotional content. That’s what makes a difference to people’s level of engagement and that’s what has made Billy Ray Harris an overnight sensation and changed his life forever.

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finish app

Need a new ‘To Do List’ app for 2013? Maybe Start with Finish…

I’m a fan of to -do list apps, I have 3 or 4 installed and I’ve experimented with them all over the last couple of years, but I am now a monogamous user of my preferred app (so far), the fantastic iOS app ‘Clear’. It is the simplest of to do list apps, with a delightful gesture based UI and sounds; it doesn’t have a calendar or a reminder system and that’s maybe why I like it. It doesn’t bug me. Although that has the added risk of me forgetting about my to do lists sometimes. That kind of defeats the purpose right? So anyway, this week, I decided to try Finish from reading largely positive things about it online.

It’s premise; Finish what’s most important first.

The main point to Finish is that the things you must do fall into three broad categories: Urgent, less urgent, and not urgent. It is based on you preferring to organise items by “when” rather than “what”, which would be my preferred set up historically in terms of home, work, fitness etc…

Importantly, Finish lets you decide how soon those time frames should fall too, which could be very useful if you don’t mind mixing up to do’s based on priority.

After that, it’s really straight forward. Every new item you add is allocated to one of these three time-based categories automatically, based on the due date you give it. This is good, because you don’t have to remember what your Term Lengths are.

As time passes, items you’ve failed to mark as “done” will turn red, and items that started out as medium / long term will move up the list, until they become short-term. Then they too will turn red if you’ve not checked them off. I can start to see the benefits over clear already.

But – It’s not without flaws…

The main one is very annoying thanks to its presentation of tasks, you have to keep task titles very short in order for them to show up. When I added “Write blog article for website” as a task it told me “That’s a pretty long name!” What? No it isn’t!

For 69p it’s good value. It does have the time based and calendar functionality, which substantiates and warrants it’s ‘non – free’ status and I’m going to give it a go for a while. I’m not sure if it will pull me away from clear as it’s so lovely to use, and I know for other’s it’s niche time category format will be not for everyone. I think it’s suited to people with short to do lists, and generally short titles of things to do like “shopping” “gym” “pay phone bill”. But for those who wish to create detailed to do lists with very specific deadlines, or who love the simplicity of clear like me, it might not be for you.

heart engine optimisation

SEO it with Love. Heart Engine Optimisation.

This week, millions of us around the globe will be giving or receiving gifts and romantic gestures for Valentines Day to the ones we love. When we love each other we go the extra mile for those we care about, share our belongings, have an open forum for communication and stay loyal and faithful.

I believe success in Digital Marketing benefits from the same principles. Love for what you do, love for what you offer, for the people you are providing products, services or content to. In this article I wish to focus on how the principles of love can be applied to ensuring that you, your business, your product or your organisation’s content is up there on the “most desirable” list, i.e. the first page of Google. You could look at it like an online dating site. Finding the right (long term) match it what it’s all about.

SEO as a Science

Often SEO is referred to as a science and there can be no doubt to some extent that is so true. Mike Baxter of e-consultancy certainly believes in SEO as a science and in many ways, rightly so. There are important aspects to SEO that are driven by coding and  technical principles.

christopher-lloyd-doc

SEO is a Science

Much like with scientific discoveries there are probable outcomes based on actions and then tried and repeated experiments to achieve success. SEO experiments are no different. These actions take into account specific keyword references, the quality of a website’s mark up (HTML / CSS), highly targeted link building activities, highly relevant internal anchor links, finely tuned meta descriptions and fresh content added with military precision for targeted keywords published to an exact frequency for key pages

There is no doubt that by investing in the best practice technical, analytics driven and scientific principles of SEO, success can be achieved. Some customers may find your product or service, may indeed buy, may become a customer for life and may tell others. Job done. If this though, is where your activities start and end and you lose sight of why you are investing time delivering an online service or product and the needs of your customer you will inevitably fail in the long term. If a scientific principle was applied and relied upon in life to match individuals romantically I believe it would be largely unsuccessful. Falling in love is emotive, subtle and about how you feel, not based on set experiments or probability.

Love your Job. Love your Customer.

Content Marketing is the hot topic of 2013 and a discussion on it is for another post but I find it strange that it is being portrayed as so new or forward thinking or innovative. Surely it’s just about doing what those delivering a brand or product experience online should  always be doing or have done. Delivering fresh, engaging, contextual, relevant and timely content about your products, services and your industry. My point for referencing, is that it is clear to me that for SEO, a content strategy driven by love and passion is where long term success is conceived. Love and passion for your content, products and services and for your customers; their needs, their expectations and their loyalty, should be the heartbeat of your SEO.

cast of cheers

Love your job

If you look at some of the world’s biggest brands such as Apple, Starbucks, Amazon, Virgin and Nike they do have huge resource to invest time and money in content and online service of of value, and their rankings on search for what they offer are high, but you can tell they have a love and passion for their own products, their own values, their customers and the desire to do and be better. Of course they are in business to make money but their sustained growth and brand loyalty is driven by love and passion, listening to their customers and delivering products to make them happy. The late Steve Jobs is the embodiment of success through an approach driven by love and passion of what he wanted to achieve, what he wanted to offer and how he wanted us to love his Apple’s products. Citing one of dozens of inspirational quotes Jobs’ infectious passion is put eloquently in a quote from a speech at the Stanford University’s Commencement address on June 12, 2005: “Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle.”

Science, analytics and best practice should not be ignored. Invest time to get your digital channels set up using best practice for SEO and use analytics to gain insights into which key phrases are delivering and which are not, but don’t let this get in the way of what should come naturally. If you are in, or are thinking of starting an online venture I want you to ask yourself these questions; Do I love what I do? Do I love what I offer online to my customers? Do I have a passion for excellent customer service? Do I care about what others think of me or my products? Do I want to make it easy for customers to access, engage, and share what I have to offer? Do I have an opinion in my sector worth sharing or can I provide value to my peers to improve standards in what we do collectively?

Tying the SEO Knot

If the answers are all or mostly yes and you have the motivation to succeed, then rewarding natural and effective SEO will happen, metaphorically tying the knot to a marriage between you, your products and your customers. It will happen because out of all of these factors comes a motivation to say and do the right things online, deliver fresh and relevant content about what you offer in the language you and your customers speak and you will listen to your customers and update your online content accordingly. If you love your product and your customers, you will produce content that is highly accessible, engaging and in the right format for their device, you will use social channels to aid customer service and differentiate your product and tailor it to the right audiences. If you love the industry you operate in you will engage in online communities to learn, advise and share and improve how you do things online and offline.

It will be no accident that by investing time in these activities, driven by love of what you do and your customers, you will succeed in SEO. You’ll also succeed in terms of sales, brand awareness, loyalty and advocacy as a result. Of course it’s an investment. An investment in your time and no doubt some others who need to share your passion and love for what you are trying to do. But if you know you can be successful and want to invest in relationships with your customers, this investment will come naturally from a passion within. It will not be a chore, it will not be driven by a scientific schedule of activities  it will not be highly analytical in it’s approach. It will be natural, rewarding, enriching and just feel right; just like a happy marriage, or falling in love.

Happy Valentines. x

A Fascinating Insight into the Prototyping of Google Glass

I really enjoyed this insight into prototyping of Google Glass. Chopstix, coat hangers, hairbands and fishing lines all used in prototyping the most sophisticated digital innovation is refreshing and interesting. “Doing is the best kind of thinking!” as Tom Chi puts it.

Tom also touches on learning patterns for us all no matter what we do in our work or leisure. He rightly points out that expansive thinking is innate in all of us and that “non book learning” is where innovation, new ideas and inspiration thrives.