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.

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.

Social Media. Is it the end of Gender Based Marketing?

If you hadn’t noticed, our media climate generally provides a much distorted mirror of our lives and of our gender, and I think that’s going to change massively as social media and advertising continues to evolve quickly. Most media formats, television, radio, publishing, games, you name it – they use very rigid segmentation methods in order to understand their audiences. It’s old-school demographics and we at Mammoth also have to play by the rules when designing and producing media plan driven campaigns for the above channels. It’s a massive part of the marketing driven world we live in. I always though found it slightly presumptuous that companies believe that if you fall within a certain demographic, then you are predictable in certain ways – you have certain taste, that you like certain things. And so the bizarre but very real result of this is that for the last 80 years or more, most of our popular culture is actually based on these presumptions about our demographics.

All the people who participate in social media networks belong to the same old demographic categories that media companies and advertisers have used in order to understand them. But those categories mean even less now than they did before; it’s much easier for us to escape some of our demographic boxes. We’re able to connect with people quite freely and to redefine ourselves online. And we can lie about our age online, too, pretty easily. We can also connect with people based on our very specific interests. We don’t need a ‘media company’ to help do this for us.

I always though found it slightly presumptuous that companies believe that if you fall within a certain demographic, then you are predictable in certain ways – you have certain taste, that you like certain things.

We know, along with all other media agencies worldwide that this is the mass audience of the future. But everyone is having a hard time doing it because they’re still trying to use demographics in order to understand them, because that’s how ad rates are still determined. When they are managing your clickstream – ‘and you know they are’ – they have a really hard time figuring out your age, your gender and your income. They can make some educated guesses. But they get a lot more information about what you do online, what you like, what interests you. That’s easier for them to find out than who you are. And even though that’s still sort of creepy, there is an upside to having your taste monitored. Suddenly our taste is being respected in a way that it hasn’t been before. It had been ‘presumed’ before by traditional media.

I’ve been thinking about this for a while as I am a big advocate of behaviour based marketing, not demographic based and that’s where social media helps break the norm. So when you look online at the way people aggregate, they don’t aggregate around age, gender and income. They aggregate around the things they love, the things that they like, and if you think about it, shared interests and values are a far more powerful aggregator of human behaviour than demographic categories. As an advertiser I’d much rather know whether you like Chinese food, horror movies and ski holidays in France rather than how old you are. That would tell me something more substantial about you.

It’s a Woman’s World

If you look at the statistics in every single age category, women actually outnumber men in their use of social networking technologies. And then if you look at the amount of time that they spend on these sites, they truly dominate the social media space, which is a space that’s having a huge impact on old media. The question is: what sort of impact is this going to have on our culture, and what’s it going to mean for women? If the case is that social media is dominating old media and women are dominating social media, then does that mean that women are going to take over global media? Are we suddenly going to see a lot more female characters in cartoons and in games and on TV shows? Will the next big-budget blockbuster movies actually be chick flicks?

Well, that’s going to be the case. I think women are actually going to be – ironically enough – responsible for driving a stake through the heart of cheesy genre categories like the “chick flick” and all these other genre categories that presume that certain demographic groups like certain things.

I firmly believe that if you want to understand the global village, it’s probably a good idea that you figure out what they’re passionate about, what amuses them, what they choose to do in their free time. This is a very important thing to know about people. The vast and growing volume and influence in social media and user generated content is enabling this to become a reality.

So imagine a digital world that isn’t dominated by stereotypes about gender and other demographic characteristics. I can’t wait to find out what it looks like and the signs show that it’s already starting.

social media olympics

Why I’m Tired of the “Social Media Olympics”

So, right now the world is caught up in Olympics fever and most of us will, or will have at various times settled down onto our sofa’s and assumed our roles as cut-throat judges and highly qualified experts in a variety of athletic specialties, including me. Nothing has changed over the years. Before and after the Olympics were televised or on radio, those lucky enough to see or hear the action live or recorded thought and said exactly the same things, though largely to the people they were with at the time.

But what’s the most extraordinary difference between this year’s Olympic Games and those from years past? Well, we no longer have to limit sharing our brilliant scoring or athletic critiques to those stuck with us in our living rooms. THIS year we are using a plethora of social platforms so we can connect with other fans and share our opinions about who deserves what. In fact, this year we can even follow our favourite athletes as they post in real time, too. Awesome.

It’s not Awesome…

Personally, as a fan of social media and also of the anywhere, anytime content strategy that inparticular the BBC has magnificently executed – I feel that misuse, overuse, or perhaps a better term “erratic” use of social media by athletes and observers is more of hindrance to my enjoyment of games than a help. Here’s why.

Gaudy Caps

I’m not a fan of the overshares by the athletes on Twitter and I have now un – followed the majority that I only recently followed less than a week ago. The height of Michael Phelps’ commentary for example during my ‘3 day’ twitter following period, was that the Olympic Swim caps are ‘gaudy’. My perception of Phelps has now changed. He to me before ‘attempting’ to engage with him on Twitter was the image of a top athlete, record breaker, an inspiration to millions, the greatest Olympian ever. He is still all these things of course, but to me and a I imagine a good few others, he is now also a bit boring. It’s a shame because he probably isn’t, but his Twitter content doesn’t do him justice.

There’s boring and then there is just inappropriate. Athletes are doing themselves no favours it seems and for me it takes away the status and super – human mystery behind top athletes when not only are they so open, but they damage their own and sometimes other’s reputation.

For you too reading this, no matter who you are in business, what you are selling, sharing or commentating on via social media, just be aware that the world and more importantly your customers are watching, you must stay true to your brand and the image you wish to maintain.

From the ill toned/derogatory tweets to Tom Daly, to the inappropriateness of US Olympics Hurdler Lolo Jones tweeting about America’s prowess in gun shooting in the wake of the Colorado massacre. These superstars need to realise that they are brands and as brands, they must protect themselves and maintain their positioning as global icons and role models.

Brand You

For you too reading this, no matter who you are in business, what you are selling, sharing or commentating on via social media, just be aware that the world and more importantly your customers are watching, you must stay true to your brand and the image you wish to maintain.

In Conclusion

To the formerly iconic, mysterious and idolised athletes who via Twitter are now showing themselves as boring, inappropriate or over-exposed, please stop tweeting, and focus on simply competing. I liked you before Twitter; when you were iconic, mysterious, superhuman and no – one, including you could convince me otherwise. You were untouchable.

To the sofa “experts” who only ever commentate and share their unqualified opinions on sport via the web for 3 weeks every four years, stop tweeting about sport. I liked it before when you tweeted about how cute your dog is, or how tasty your lunch was.

I may have made a false start but right now, I’m making a point of trying to not take part in the Social Media Olympics. I might not win any medals for my real time knowledge of who’s won what during the working day, or what Usain Bolt ordered in McDonalds before his 100m heat, but I don’t care. I’m setting time aside each evening to start really watching and enjoying the greatest spectacle on earth.