Writing by James

Articles and opinions on technology, social media and innovation


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Central Desktop: Everything you need to know about BYOD

logo_central-desktop-social_media-with-byodBYOD. Looks pretty scary with all that blood everywhere doesn’t it? Well, never fear, because BYOD isn’t too scary, you just need to know what you’re getting into. My latest article at Central Desktop tells you all you need to know about ‘Bring Your Own Device’, which is why it is handily entitled ‘Everything you need to know about BYOD‘.

It goes a bit like this:

As progressive as BYOD might seem, it’s anathema to the majority of IT departments, being a world away from the structured familiarity of traditional IT hardware policy. So, for IT departments – maybe your IT department – facing up to these challenges, what can you do? Here are the pros and cons of BYOD, and the policy issues you should think about when implementing a BYOD policy.

Read the full article at Central Desktop.


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Writing by James – The Top 5 Most Popular Posts of 2012

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It’s the end of the year, so alongside the rest of the blogosphere, that means it is time for a retrospective look at my most popular posts of the year. For those of you who have taken the time to read my articles this year, guest posts or otherwise, a heartfelt thanks. I hope you found them useful and informative; I’ll do my best to make 2013 just as productive.

Now, without further ado, the Top 5!

#1 - RE: The Walking Dead – A call to Frank Darabont

When I first wrote this post, it was only intended to vent my own frustrations with the first season of the Walking Dead, but it seems that there are a lot of people who feel the same way. Luckily, my main issue with the series – not enough zombies! – has been answered.

#2 - Scribd – the wrong way to use Facebook personalisation

Unlike my rant at the Walking Dead, this was an article that had some substance beyond the personal. Scribd’s use of Facebook Instant Personalisation hit all the wrong notes and deserved to be pilloried.

#3 - Unfollowing those who don’t follow back? You just don’t get it…

Another rant, this time at the misconception of some Twitter users that you should only follow someone if they follow you back. Poppycock, I say! You should follow people who you think add value, not just for the sake of a followback.

#4 - What is… Groupon

Groupon has had a tough year and is no longer the poster-company for the IPO generation. For those of you who are still unsure of what Groupon is, and what the fuss is about, here’s a starter guide.

#5 - The album that saved my (musical) life

The Pixies truly did save my musical life! They are also a great example of how to use social media channels to reengage an audience, both new and old. Old in my case…

Thanks again, and see you in 2013.

Cheers, James


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What is… Gamification?

There’s been a lot of talk about the subject of Gamification recently; it’s the buzz topic in marketing and its impact will most likely grow over the next couple of years. But what is it? And what does it mean for marketers?

Gamification – it’s not making games

There’s a misconception that Gamification is all about making games. Let’s be clear: it isn’t. This is an oversimplification. We’re not trying to create the next Angry Birds for our clients, for a number of reasons. One, in a technical sense, it’s very difficult to do well. Two, actually creating a game around a brand isn’t simple. A good game would resonate with the brand’s identity and ethos. It’s much easier for a sports brand to create a game than a computer hardware brand. So, if it isn’t gaming, what is it?

Team Fortress 2 from Valve - achievements and rewards drive gamer loyalty

Gamification is the process of using gaming methodologies to create a connection to the user. When playing games, we are constantly rewarded for our participation. This can be through gaining achievements, opening up new areas or levels, or by achieving some sort of status. Here are some examples:

  1. Team Fortress 2 by Valve – in team-based first person shooting game you are awarded achievements for in-game actions. Reaching milestones for the number of opponents killed, or for capturing places on the map, are rewarded with a cheer and in-game fireworks above your character’s head. Your achievement is not just recorded on your record, but is broadcast to all the other players as well.
  2. Angry Birds by Rovio – this also utilises the achievements reward structure, but at its heart it is the episodes and levels that keep us hooked. The game is split into a number of themed episodes, each containing a number of levels. Completing a level opens up a new level, until we complete the episode and unlock the ending movie. We always feel the pull of ‘Just one more level’.
  3. Farmville by Zynga – this popular Facebook game uses statuses to differentiate players’ progress in the game. As the player moves through the game and gains experience points, their title changes. Starting off  as a simple ‘Field Hand’, they can make their way up to ‘Master of Pasture’ or ‘Lord of the Plough’. Your title is a direct indication of your status within the game, and a something that is aspirational.
Gamification works within games, but how does this translate onto non-gaming platforms, especially those for marketing?

Gamification for the masses

There are some great examples of gamification being used on non-gaming platforms. The most well-known exponent of which is:

Foursquare

Foursquare has made strides lately to widen its offering, but initially its appeal was mostly reliant on it game-based mechanics. The aim of Foursquare is to reward consumer loyalty with location-specific deals and discounts, strengthening the bond between the purchase and the brand. They use gamification to enhance that experience and drive user behaviour. Let’s see how it works.
Users on Foursquare check-in  to their current locations using an application on their mobile phone, leaving an optional comment at the same time. A location can be anything from a coffee shop to a workplace, a shop to a sports stadium. This action has a number of effects:
  1. The user builds up check-ins at the location. The user with the most check-ins becomes ‘Mayor’ of the location
  2. The user gains achievements based upon the location they are checking into and the number of check-ins they have made in total. i.e. they receive the ‘Newbie’ badge for their first check-in, the ‘I’m on a boat’ achievement if they check-in whilst over water, and the ‘Local’ achievement for checking-in at the same place three times within a week.
These rewards create a strong connection with the user, as they strive to gain them. The ‘Local’ check in above is particularly powerful for local businesses, as the need to gain the achievement directly ties the user to their business.
Here’s Katie Colbourne, a friend and ex-work colleague of mine, using Foursquare, thanks to Katie for her permission to use these tweets.
In the first tweet, Katie checks-in at her workplace, and by doing so becomes the Mayor of that location (the second tweet). We can see here that the gaming behaviour – the ability to create ‘feel good’ moments through a rewards-based system –  has translated directly into user action. This, along with the added real-world achievements such as ‘free coffee for the Mayor of Coffee & Co.’ , provide can create motivation and loyalty within consumers in a way that group-buying platforms cannot.

As a marketer, can I use this?

Absolutely. Good marketing brings consumers closer to the brand, generating advocates and ultimately sales. Gamification creates the ‘stickiness’ between the two, and can be used within marketing practice. There are two approaches that can be taken:

1. Apply these ideas to your own product or service

This is the more involved approach, but can be extremely rewarding. Marketing Tech Blog provides some good tips on how to create a gamification strategy for your site or application. In essence, this consists of creating a series of goals (CTAs) for your user and then providing a series of actions to attain that goal, awarding points and achievements along the way, and always tracking their progress.

2. Use existing ‘sticky’ products in your campaigns

Foursquare can drive consumers to purchase using gamification techniques

This is the easiest approach. Going back to Foursquare, we can see that brands are leveraging their userbase and rewards system to their advantage. Brands can now create their own pages on Foursquare and create brand badges which users can earn. Macy’s, CNN, and Toys ‘r’ us have all used this in their marketing campaigns.

As well as the introduction of some sponsored badges, their is also the simple process of linking reward to action, as discussed earlier i.e. if you are the Mayor of my shop, I’ll give you a free coffee every day.

Where can I find out more? What are my next steps?

There’s a full explanation of gamification at Wikipedia, along with a selection of supporting articles. For those interested in using gamification techniques within their products, sites or applications, please feel free to contact me.


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What is… Groupon

Now that the dust has settled, and the hyperbole surrounding Groupon’s growth has subsided, we can now take an objective look at the service it provides. Here’s a 5-minute guide – or at least a 5-ish paragraph guide – to Groupon.

What is Groupon?

Groupon LogoGroupon is a collective buying service. Put simply, it offers discounts on products and services which only become valid once a set number of consumers buy into them. The numbers required may change, as will the amount of discount you get, but the principle remains the same: once enough people buy, the discount becomes active and everyone benefits. Consumers get the discount and businesses have the peace of mind that they have generated new customers and have enough take-up to make the offer pay off.

Sounds great in principle

And so it is. However, businesses need to be careful when they construct their offers. In January, a Japanese café was inundated with buyers for the traditional New Year’s meal “osechi”, leaving them unable to meet demand and leading to disappointment. Predictably, complaints were widely posted on the Internet. Usually, Groupon provides advice to businesses to stop this happening, but due to their rapid growth, the Japanese employees had not yet been trained to provide this service.

How did it get so big, so fast?

Groupon was launched in the US in November 2008, and its growth since then has been outstanding. It now covers over 565 cities around the world and has seen its web traffic grow from just 2 million unique visitors per month to over 15 million (source: Crunchbase). Annual revenue is around $2 billion. They are the market leader in the group-buying category by some distance.

In December 2010, they turned down a $6 billion offer from Google, a defiant move that shows the confidence they have in the marketplace and in the group-buying concept. This was after turning down approximately $2 billion from Yahoo in October 2010.

Their growth has been fueled by a mixture of acquisitions (Japan, Russia, Hong Kong, Singapore, Phillipines and Taiwan), aggressive IP protection (MobGob), partnerships (eBay, Ning) and smart deals (Gap). But also, and in some ways more importantly, they’ve come to the fore at the right time, catching the zeitgeist for the hyper-local service.

Zeitgeist… ?

As I’ve written before, following globalisation is localisation. The rise of mobile devices and geo-location technologies has led to a upsurge of interest in creating personalised web experiences. Service providers from search engines to advertisers are using these technologies to get closer to consumers, offering them more targeted information. And while pure online spend may be rising, connecting consumers with local businesses will always generate good return as that’s currently where the majority of our spend takes place.

FourSquare is also based around these principles, but works the other way around to Groupon. Rather than introducing new customers to a business, it rewards consumers for their loyalty, with regular customers earning greater rewards. Using the two services together could provide a strong basis for generating and retaining consumers.

Shoppers queuing at a till

Groupon makes the queues a little more bearable (Credit: George Yi)

Does it have any value for B2B Marketers?

There’s no doubt that Groupon started out as a pure B2C proposition. It’s perfect for lower-value, impulse-led purchases, but it may well hold value for B2B organisations as well, even though the decision-making process is much slower. March saw the first B2B deals being made available, led by IT consulting firm Ajilitee. Their daily deal offered 50% off $25,000 of consulting and proved a great success for them, not in direct sales but as a demand generation tool. Although Groupon would prefer deals to demand, this has led to Groupon putting more resource behind B2B deals through Groupon Stores and redemption-tracking software.

Despite its market-leading position, the future isn’t completely clear for Groupon. It must continue to provide relevant offers and not become a home for drab low-value voucher code discounts, and it also faces competition from Living Social. However, it’s size and stature should keep it ahead of the game in the B2C space.

And B2B? Only time will tell whether B2B collective buying services will be successful, but (excuse the pun) they should certainly not be discounted.

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What is Quora? And what does it mean for B2B marketers?

Quora logoJudging Quora is going to require some distance and objectivity, as we’re in the middle of a huge amount of hype right now which is liable to distort the arguments around it. Given that, here’s my take.

Why has Quora been successful?

Quora’s initial audience was very closely related, coming from a small set of industry verticals centred on tech start-ups and the tech industry in the US. At the same time, the tech journalists who follow start-ups also came on board and were able to get access to a group of very influential Silicon Valley VC investors and start-up CEO’s. So, the questions being asked were getting answered by the key people in a position to answer them.

Great, so it’s the new Twitter then?

Well, no, what remains to be seen is if the site can remain relevant with a much larger and more defocussed audience. If the majority of questions remain unanswered, or if the answers supplied become less authoritative, the site will suffer as a result. This is their biggest challenge.

So, what is it then?

Quora is indicative of a new approach to information search and retrieval on the web. Users are looking for more defined pieces of information that are authoritative, short and to the point, and crucially, that come from people that they trust and are within their social circle. In this respect it is a next generation approach to the old ‘Q&A’ sites, such as Yahoo Answers, hooking into the fact that we weight our opinions based on those around us.

Qwiki takes the same approach to information creating short visual wiki presentations.

And that means what for B2B?

Should it take off and continue its massive two-month growth, then it will become part of the social media landscape for most B2B companies. Monitoring the topics and questions that are being asked online, ready to step in and provide information openly and quickly. It also provides the opportunity for thought-leadership.

Okay. But what if I don’t like it…

No problem; for a more light-hearted view on Quora, you can always go to Cwora (http://www.cwora.com). Enjoy!