Fascists feel the wrath of Web 2.0

The leaking of the “secret” BNP list onto the Web has caught not only Nick Griffin unawares, but also the liberal world and it would seem that the tag cloud of social media is fundamentally not into fascism.

A wave of sites has cropped up (http://bnplist.co.uk which is a “wind-up” site and http://bnpmembers.co.uk to name but two) that allow you to identify members of the infamous list. The fact that the data is being shared virally across sites, blogs, through Twitter and on Facebook is damning. Talking to a couple of coders last night and they were looking for a way to build a Facebook app that would work out if any of your Facebook friends were on the list. Alarm bells may be ringing for Privacy issues, but the sheer speed that the data is coursing around the network at sends interesting messages to the marketers about the power of the medium. CEOs with million dollar budgets couldn’t dream of the kind of attention and exposure that this is getting.

To emphasize the viral nature of the subject, someone’s done a beautiful redux of Downfall here

Expect it to explode in the way we dream about!

Long Time No Digi

Has it suddenly become unimportant or is something else afoot?

I’ve wondered about why there hasn’t been anything inspirational to write about the world of digital and social marketing recently. Sure – new this and that  – but nothing truly ground-breaking. iPhone 3Gs still work, a series of copycat devices have turned up, Google is still the most popular search engine, Facebook’s potential is yet to be seen, people are still turning more and more to digital approaches.

A colleague from a firm in town remarked last week that they had never been busier. Despite a looming recession (which by all accounts seems to be affecting only certain kinds of business), the world of digital marketing seems to be moving in a completely different direction. Many “digital creative” firms are struggling to recruit new staff because they are being hoovered up as soon as they become available.

In Manchester, there is some estimation of the size of the problem. I will try and find the actual data, but some analysts put a figure of there being between 10,000 and 17,000 potential job vacancies in the digital sector over the next 5 years (this excludes the traditional IT sector). This figure comes from the idea that the BBC’s move to Media City will also create a bow wave that means supporting firms will also move up/develop/expand to be able to deal with the inevitable work/hubbub that the BBC will create.

That’s a lot of jobs to fill. I’m sure that the figure will be revised downwards in line with recessional effects, but some significant work in the area has to take place to be able to meet demand for employees with the right skills.

Manchester Bloggers MEN Visit

Slightly off topic, but Manchester Bloggers had a visit to the home of the Manchester Evening News last night (organised by Sarah Hartley from The Mancunian Way blog on MEN), the local paper of note which is one of the oldest and most recognised regional paper brands in the UK. We bloggers got a look around and chat with journalists, sub-editors and other members of the hack trade, along with a debate with the Night Editor about the future and how GMG (the group that own the title) are going to deal with the present and the future. We suitably adjourned to The Old Grapes for a pint where I caught up with some more of the old time bloggers, particularly Michael Taylor who writes The Marple Leaf.

The Moors Murders Archive at MEN

The Moors Murders Archive at MEN

I was particularly intrigued by the paper library – the size of the archive dedicated to The Moors Murders was immense and sat uncomfortably with the slightly smaller paper archives of Harold Shipman and The Yorkshire Ripper. It’s almost symptomatic of the City to find this large trove of information relating to the cases, even though more than 40 years has past. Perhaps the library almost represents the soul of the city and the dark secrets it sometimes has to conceal.

A New Hope

A new term is about to start here at The University of Fun, and I notice that recruitment onto the BA in Digital Marketing Communications programme currently sits at 4 students. On top of that, I also notice that a number of students are opting to transfer in the second year of their degree programme from the Digital Marketing degree to a more traditional marketing and advertising programme that I also teach on.

Why might this be? Why aren’t people flocking to do the Digital programme (unlike the Masters programme of the same name which is pretty much “full”)? It’s difficult to understand why, when there are clear signs of a continued business leaning towards digital away from traditional. In these enlightened and recessional times, we keep seeing a path away from unmeasurable offline mechanisms towards more quantifiable digital communication levers.

Standing on my soapbox – I blame the teachers and careers officers in schools who have to kept up with the state of the industry. I blame the candidates for not researching the industry themselves and thinking that it’ll just be one long carry on into media. I blame the industry for not marketing itself to potential new recruits.

And I blame myself for not getting to enough careers fairs, schools and open days. But there are only 24 hours in a day.

You folks out there are going to have to help me out here and start pushing this industry not just to your potential customers but to your future workforce, because at the moment they don’t seem like they’re convinced.

Google starts to eat the world

2 things catch my eye.

First is the arrival of Chrome, Google’s take on a web browser. Do we need another when Google already fund Mozilla and its development fo Firefox. Well they seem to think so, and the Google Comic (mistakenly sent out several days to soon) provides the technical reasoning behind it.

It seems to be about bringing the notion of browser and operating system together. The browser being just a cool place to do things not a special application in its own right.

The impact for marketers could be immense. Google will no doubt be considering its marketplace amongst its advertisers when developing this environment, and such a tool could take behavioural analysis of users a more interesting proposition. But it’s a giant leap of faith and will require some people to really rethink how they’ve developed their web presence.

The other news is how Google has won some battles against people who use the word “Google” in domain names, and a ruling by the prestigious WIPO shows that using a domain such as “googlegoogler.com” is just not playing fair. Domain/typosquatters/black-hatters should now start to take note.

FAIL! Zavvi Become the Latest Social Media Victim

Zavvi (the record store we used to called Virgin Megastore) are the latest firm to get bombed by social media applications.

I don’t want to go into the story too much (you can read about it here), but let’s say that their business acumen must be called into question by ordering and then banning the “War on Terror” board game.

The makers are regular digital citizens and their online ‘hood came to the rescue. As a result, the games that were recalled have been given away for free in front of the Zavvi store on Oxford Street in London. Cue much blogging, inclusion on B3ta, blogged by Graham Linehan (the writer of Father Ted and The IT Crowd), tonnes of hits on their own blog page and a YouTube video showing the whole event. Great publicity, all of it free, most of it digital, ultimately funded by Zavvi.

If I was a Zavvi Exec right now – I’d be shooting my PR team, and firing myself. FAIL!

The Death of Marketing (Digital or Otherwise)

As an academic working in the field of digital marketing practice, it is my duty to inform you OF THE DEATH OF MARKETING.

Working for the man is now officially OVER.

So when did marketing die? Well it’s important to look at the causes to understand the actual moment of death. If you’re cynical (is cynical different to skeptical?), you’ll be convinced that the marketing of goods and services is purely for peddling of wares in pursuit of consumerism and conspicuous consumption. Goods are produced not because they are needed by people, but because goods need to be produced to make companies (and individuals within them) rich and fat. Marketing fulfills a role here by convincing people that they do need goods, often goods which they don’t need. In many cases, solutions are offered for problems which people do not even know they have. In some cases, people are provided with a solution to their lifestyle aspirations, and they can only know about this lifestyle if they are exposed to it through marketing.

I won’t bore you with the textbook explanations of marketing, or any of those that you might find in an inspirational book about marketing on the shelves of a bookshop in an airport – perhaps one that mentions a colour in its title or has been conceived by a “marketing guru” from the USA. You’ll aready be aware of these and may have taken many of the ideas on board in your practice.

Anyway – the death of marketing has come about because of fear. People are worried about their money. People who wash their cars and live on housing estates in the suburbs. People whose cars are quite new and being paid for. People who have very large mortgages. People with expensive plasma screen TVs. People who have to take the kids to pony club on Tuesday nights.

You can see these people in places where you might not have seen them before: Lidl, Aldi even Netto sometimes. You also see these people buying things they haven’t bought for a long time, stuff that hasn’t been marketed to them for ages. I’m thinking of food that might not be organic. Or ingredients for dinners that haven’t yet been woven into complete meals. It’s amazing how much time you can suddenly find on your hands when you’re feeling the pinch. Price sensitivity suddenly has a amazing effect. People are afraid that they are going to run out of money.

So marketing (digital or otherwise) is suddenly fighting for its life. People are no longer “browser-explorers” (“What’s out there? Tempt me?”), as this is the behaviour of people with disposable cash to spend. Search engine behaviour is going to demonstrate that people are much more like “researcher-hunters” (“I’m defining my requirements and assessing your ability to supply me as a marketplace”) and “finisher-trackers” (“I’m selecting a supplier with a view to purchase”). People are likely to reduce their level of opportunistic purchasing and focus on finding “what they need.”

So that fat days of marketing are over. The view that we should take now is that it’s time to look at how firms meet people’s needs. It falls to digital marketing to do this comprehensively. In the field of SEO, key-phrase identification will clearly have to move away from any notion of black-hattism – that will be a waste of time. More than ever will key-phrases have to be carefully honed so as to match the key-phrases used by researcher-hunters and finisher-trackers.

Interactive banner ads and Google ads will need to be injected into networks which speak to researcher-hunters and finisher-trackers. We’ll know they work if click-through rates increase. And what about social networks? Well that’ a tricky one. If a social network develops because of a need rather than some kind of whim, then it could become a winner for needs-based advertising.

Of course, this is great, but the whole thing will really go to pot if we get our heads around the whole “make do and mend” mentality. The days of FMCG marketing might really be dead then.

The Importance of Net Neutrality for Marketers

I’m off for a few weeks – but before I go….

You may or may not be up-to-speed on net neutrality, but if you aren’t it’s fairly simple. If you are a marketer and you’re not in cahoots with certain providers of Internet access, you may find your ads and your sites don’t quite make it through in the same way to your (potential) customers as those of your competitors who do actually pay the access providers. A neutral net doesn’t discriminate.

Is it a problem? Well – yes, because it will inevitably cost money and that cost will inevaitably be passed onto end-users as the cost of digital marketing increases. Your (potential) customers already pay a tax to providers of Internet access (this is called the monthly fee), so this is a second tax: Internet access is being paid for twice here, and if the second tax is not paid by the marketer (and subsequently passed onto the end user), then the end user will not be able to access the content provided by that marketer. And so a form of discrimination can take place.

There is a way to see if this is happening on your ISP. If you’re a bit geeky/techie, you can download this tool provided by the Electronic Frontier Foundation which will let you know if your own ISP is running this approach to deciding what content is allowed down your pipe. I suspect that in time, we’ll see this happening. As a marketer, you might think that Phorm is a good idea, but when you mix it up with a non-neutral net, it could be problem for you and your (potential) customers.

Network Natives: “If you don’t play nicely, we will ignore you.”

It seems a number of companies think that the fact that they’ve landed on Planet Social Media automatically entitles them to broadcast messages to the current inhabitants. And as a result, they’ve been surprised by the simple lack of business which seems to be coming their way. And why’s that? Because network natives in social media environments do not appreciate being broadcast to. And it all points the way to the fact that many (if not most) organisations still do not get social media.

The key is that organisations believe it is “another channel to market,” however it’s not. Social media environments are places where people communicate with each other in an online environment. Social media environments are places which we can regard as channels to each other. A bit like the pub, coffee shop, canteen and so on. The only people who have any entitlement to engage with us are those we care to sit with. Like any social situation, if someone starts to dominate a social space, you’ll find that people will respond in an appropriate fashion: either by moving away themselves or by censuring that person.

Some organisations seem to have forgotten this in their gold-rush behaviour toward social media environments. CTR on things like Facebook is alleged to be as low as on any other regular web site (and then we’re not even thinking about conversion to sales). Some of this can be attributed to poor targeting software associated with the environments, but also because it’s still a broadcast method.

Having got engaged recently (and changed my status on Facebook to reflect this), I have been swamped by wedding related advertising (having previously swamped with ads for the black dating network). Little attention is paid as to whether I want these services. The ads are relentless. And it turns me off the firms involved. Yet – I know I may want these services, but the imperative needs to be mine. Digital has always been about power in the hands of customers. Firms that forget this, do so at their peril.

The perfect firm is the one that recognises the importance of the conversation. It’s possible to communicate directly with me, to see if I want to have a dialogue, to assess my desires (not work out my needs). And one of those desires is: do I want you to communicate with me? Do I want to converse?

My membership of groups and Fan pages should be a much better indication of this. Think it through.

When the stats don’t add up to the story

I’ve often used 247electrical to get an idea of prices when looking for an electrical item. I found the cheapest supplier of iPod Touches (is that the right plural?) when I bought mine (it was Dixons “The Link” Online in the end) through there.

According to NetImperative, traffic to price comparison sites is down as people go straight to the branded sites – 30% down to 247electrical in particular.

Dominic Yacoubian, 247electrical’s owner, suggests that shoppers are retreating to the branded sites in order to be sure of their money.

I’m not so sure. It’s difficult to get any view of the traffic to branded sites as a whole, as we’ll rely on named retailers and manufacturers giving is the info. But I wonder if a 30% drop in traffic is more symptomatic of a drop in people spending money whilst they remained concerned about a recession. I wonder if people just don’t want to buy anything right now – bargain or not.