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Share localhost in seconds with Finch

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As we hyper-speed our way through the digital age we designers and developers find ourselves increasingly surrounded by new tools, new technologies and new methodologies, causing us to forever rearrange our design and development process.

One of the things that made a huge curve-ball in my development process this year was the ability to rapidly generate custom URLs accessible worldwide. These URLs allow my team or my client to view my local website development project in progress — updated instantly and automatically. Thanks, Finch.

Somewhere recently on the world-wide web I read that “Gear is the biggest form of procrastination”. This is something that’s stuck with me, as I commonly find myself spending hours week after week testing new things that I expect would somehow speed up my workflow.

In most cases it’s time not very well spent, so I find myself wishing I hadn’t wasted my time and enthusiasm on yet another somewhat useless tool — for me at least.

“Gear is the biggest form of procrastination”…

Like anybody I use my applications dock on my Mac for my favourite and most commonly used tools. As a designer and front-end developer, my dock currently consists of…

Chrome, Firefox, Sketch, Sublime Text, MAMP, CodeKit, Finch, Transmit, Terminal, Slack, Spotify… and a few folder shortcuts.

Although this changes every few weeks or so — depending on how much procrastinating I do — you may notice there’s an order here. My tools identify the primary tools I personally use in a typical project in it’s entirety, from wire-framing, UX and prototyping, design, development through to publishing a site with all the other crucial bits in-between, like Terminal for Git, MAMP for creating PHP environments, Slack for team communication etc. And of course Spotify 🎧.

One of those nifty little tools sat on my dock that you’ve not heard of until now, is Finch (Go to meetfinch.com). Finch is a sleek app that I was fortunate enough to be introduced to by the founder himself. In brief Finch allows you to share multiple websites that you’re working on locally with the rest of the world, your team, your clients or your boss. These snazzy app generates live URLs that update automatically every time you hit save… ⌘+S!

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Finch allows you to easily share your local development website on a secure public URL accessible anywhere in the world.

At first I shrugged it off. I didn’t see how Finch was going to benefit me as I was perfectly happy uploading all my files to a server, using Aerobatic (add-on for Bitbucket) or having my Git repo sync with a server depending on the size and scalability of a project. I would show my clients on a URL either way, but damn. Every time I wanted to change a tiny detail I’d either have to manually upload all my files, wait for my FTP, or do another git push command in Terminal. This was a counter-intuitive way of doing things.

So while I was working on one of the biggest projects I’ve done in a long time — I thought I’d try out Finch. And hell, was I impressed!

A bit about my development environment

The project I was working on at the time was a small but complex site sat on-top of WordPress which required some hefty PHP, Sass/CSS and Javascript a long with a huge database for all the content, images and custom data. All of this was running through my localhost environment, thanks to MAMP Pro. This also included a local database running in phpMyAdmin.

Once I create this environment for every project, I then plug CodeKit in for Sass processing, CSS and Javascript minifying and live browser refreshing. CodeKit is a great alternative to Gulp or Grunt with a nice GUI). This leaves me with a pretty solid development environment for the type of sites I commonly work on. These generally require a CMS, like WordPress, Perch, Shopify or similar ones like Craft, Pulse, Siteleaf (the list goes on) etc…

I would not recommend having an environment like mine for anything larger such as Magento or Drupal powered sites, but I’m sure if you’re already tackling these then you have your own set-up. Finch is adaptable, so don’t fret.

Where does Finch come in?

Once I’m ready to show my client (or whoever else) my progress, I would upload all my files and the database to a server through old-fashioned or long-winded methods like FTP or set-up Git to automate an upload every time I git push (which I need a back-end developer to help set-up in the first place). While using Git is great for managing what my client sees, I want something more automated that doesn’t require any terminal commands or any effort on my behalf so I can focus on getting more done. Welcome, Finch.

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Above is a screenshot of the tiny application once you’ve created an account and logged in. On this you’ll see all the project I’m working on — here are two demos for purposes of this article.

Using the circular icons on the left side of each site I can quickly enable access to a Finch URL, or otherwise disable access. Green is active, grey is inactive and yellow is an error (or red? I never have errors so I don’t really know…). These unique SSL encrypted URLs are generated by Finch using either randomly generated words or allow customisation with a Pro plan, giving you the ability to use a custom URL like custom-url.usefinch.eu or your very own domain — if you’re more organised.

With one click (on an existing site in the list or by clicking “New site”), you get additional options like replace local site links, restrict path access (useful if your project folder is sat inside a parent folder) or with a Pro account you can set authentication for restricting access to a URL with a password.

Don’t let me scare you off when I say “Pro Plan” as there is a free tier.

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While it’s appearance seems very limited in functionality, Finch boasts some other useful features like geo-located server clusters meaning wherever you are in the world you’ll get the fastest service — with clusters in the US, Europe and Singapore. It provides in-depth live statistics about who’s viewing the URL, has WebSocket support, and with seamless automation it integrates harmoniously with your build platform so it shares your latest saved copy instantaneously.

Everything is as it should be

Sharing a local site with the world so easily sounds ridiculous and that’s why I praise Finch for doing such a good job. Viewing a site through Finch is just like viewing it on a live server, in-fact your client won’t be able to tell the difference. Everything including the database, is there. Easy.

Great for device testing

Since using Finch I’ve found sharing my local development with clients much easier on desktops, tablets and mobile devices. One awesome feature that CodeKit offers is the ability to share the local development through LAN so anybody on any device on the same network can view my development quickly, but it does have a few bugs. So if I don’t want to use CodeKit, Finch offers the perfect solution for mobile testing — and it doesn’t restrict me to local WiFi.

Built in support for WordPress or static content

For me Finch has worked perfectly with any CMS I’ve thrown at it, but it really works it’s magic on WordPress sites with built in support right out of the box. No having to go into WordPress settings and change the site URL because Finch does it for you!

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Thanks for reading!

Things to consider before getting your new website designed

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Are you about to choose a company to take on a big design project for your business? Maybe it’s a redesign, or even a brand new website?

Before you do, here are some useful points to consider to help you save time (and money), so you go into the project knowing more of what you want from your new website.

1. First, let’s start with the most important factor – your customers

Knowing your target audience properly is important since different trends and designs effect different audiences, so pinning down your target customer is vital from the outset. To help, ask yourself a few questions:

– What age bracket is my target customer?
– Will my customers be purchasing for themselves or will they be buying for someone else? (Example: your products are gifts for women likely bought by men – husbands, partners etc).
– What interests do my target customers have?

 

2. Know what your unique selling point is

What is it about your product or service that makes you stand out from the others? It’s important that you can explain what this is so it can be interpreted through your website. To identify your USP spend some time comparing your competitors features and benefits with your own – then make a list of all the ones unique to your company.

 

3. Look at past achievements and failures

To avoid making any of the same mistakes again, make sure you take time to look through your company’s past projects to determine what turned out to be a success and what didn’t work, so you can use the former in developing your website.

 

4. Know your company tone

Having a consistent writing style builds trusts by letting customers get to know a brand. It’s a way of expressing the values and personality of people behind the company, plus, a unique tone of voice can also set you apart from the competition.

Your company tone will hugely effect your website design. If you’re a humorous brand then your design and website structor could be made quite fun, but if your business is quite serious then you’ll want a more classic, sleek feel from your website.

To help you find your company’s tone of voice, ask yourself the following questions:

-Why did you start your company?
-What are your company’s core values?
-How is your company different?
-Are there any other companies who’s tone of voice you admire? (Make a list of these for inspiration)
-What sort of language best represents your company?(I.e formal vs informal)

 

5. Know what you don’t want

Make a list of everything you don’t want from the website. Sounds negative, but this will equally help you decide what you do want from your site. For example, maybe you definitely don’t want any red on your website because this has negative associations with your industry, but this might make you think of colours you would be happy with, such as a nice sky blue. Letting the designers know exactly what you don’t want from the start will help to avoid any wasted time.

 

So, remember the key takeaways:

Know your customer
Know your unique selling point
Look at past achievements & failures
Know your company tone
Know what you definitely don’t want

The point is, the more your know your business, the better you can relay this to the company you employ and the better job they can do of designing your website. Being prepared will save you a lot of time, energy and money.

We hope you found this useful. If you’d like to get in touch with us about a new design project then just use our contact form below – we’d love to hear from you.

How to hold a successful social media competition.

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So you’ve been given the budget to go ahead with a social media competition. Great! Everyone loves free stuff right? This will definitely get some brand awareness, you’ll probably get too many people entering… it will probably make the news!

Fast forward to a week into your campaign and you have about 10 entries, 8 from compers… sound familiar?

It turns out creating a successful social media competition isn’t quite as easy as it sounds, but don’t worry, we have a few tips to share with you today to help you avoid hitting problems with your next competition.

Our top tips for holding a successful social media competition

Don’t make it too complicated!

People are lazy busy. So the more effort someone has to put in to enter your competition the less likely they are of entering it (and therefore the less exposure for your brand!). A good example is a cooking competition I recently saw, encouraging people to share their favourite home made meals. I wanted to enter it myself because the prize was quite impressive, but as the work week took effect and I saw a couple of entries from those who were clearly advanced bakers/cooks, my interest wore off and it was soon forgotten about.

Moral of the story? Make it as easy as possible for people to enter, and you’ll get more entries and better results on the campaign overall.

Don’t run your competition for too long   

One day to a week is usually your safest bet. If you run your competition any longer than this, people may be interested but it will get put on the “to-do later” list rather than the right now one. Would you rush to enter a comp that has a good few weeks left on it to enter? Probably not. More often than not these things get pushed to the back of our minds and forgotten about, so creating a sense of urgency around entering is a must.

With most social media competitions you get the majority of your entries within the first 24 hours, with entries generally decreasing after this. A good example is with Twitter Retweet competitions – people tend to be more likely to retweet the competition post from the same day, rather than if the post was a few days old. It’s possible that this is due to people wanting to seem current and in the know, or maybe they believe they’re less likely to win if there have already been a lot of entries. Whatever the reason, people are definitely more likely to enter a competition if they’ve found it early on, so take this into account when deciding the length of your campaign.

Avoid the usual prizes

iPod mini anyone? There are so many competitions out there offering the same prizes such as the iPad or iPod mini, it almost causes a kind of “competition blindness” amongst people, leading them to ignore these competitions. Don’t let this happen to you – think of a unique or different prize that will catch people’s attention.

Choose one platform to run your competition on

Whilst it may be tempting to run your competition across more than one social platform, it is advisable just to pick one. Hosting your competition across various different social channels can not only be difficult to manage, but it can also make it seem to potential entries that the chance of winning is low. Imagine if you just had Facebook or just had a Twitter account, but the competition was run on both platforms. There’s a possibility the winner would be picked on the platform you’re not on, making it seem less likely for you to be a winner and consequently putting you off going to the effort of entering at all.

Don’t forget though, you can still cross promote your competition across all your social media channels, but just host it from one.

Use hashtags (wisely!)

Using a specific hashtag to promote your competition is a good way of collecting entries. A good example would be to use something like #YourBrandNameComp. If you’re running this competition on Twitter you can make it even easier to judge the winner by setting a rule on IFTTT to collect any Tweets containing your specific hashtag into a Google spreadsheet.

Just make sure to do your research around any hashtag you wish to use in your competition to make sure it’s not being used for something else already – you don’t want a bunch of accidental entries,  it will just make picking a winner more time consuming.

Also, when you’ve finally chosen your hashtag, just make sure you read over it a few times to check for any unintentional words that may accidentally be in there. You don’t want to end up with a PR disaster like at the Susan Boyle album party launch…..

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Make sure you know the social platforms rules and T&C’s

Saved the fun part until last!

Unfortunately, each social platform has it’s own rules and regulations when it comes to hosting competitions, so it’s important that you familiarise yourself with these before you begin. We’ll look at the rules of the top two popular social platforms – Twitter and Facebook:

Facebook

What’s not allowed:

  • Asking people to share the competition post on their personal timelines. This is because it basically interferes with Facebook’s algorithms on how it determines what content to show you. If you start posting specific content to your timeline i.e around a vacuum cleaner you want to win, then you’ll start seeing more of this content which is obviously not what you want.
  • Asking people to tag themselves in order to enter. You can’t ask people to tag themselves or a friend in your competition posts to enter.

What is allowed:

  • Competitions where members have to like/comment on your page post or comment on the page itself to enter.
  • Competitions run through third party apps.
  • Competitions where members can send a Facebook message to enter.

You also must state in your competition terms and conditions that Facebook is not associated with your competition in any way and state clearly the competition eligibility requirements necessary to enter.

Twitter

What’s not allowed:

  • Encouraging people to create multiple Twitter accounts to enter. You may want to state in your competition T&C’s that anyone found entering on multiple accounts will be ineligible.
  • Posting duplicate or near duplicate updates or links. Avoid posts such as “whoever retweets this the most wins!” as this jeopardises Twitter’s search quality, and may cause users to be automatically filtered out of Twitter’s search results. Combat this by saying only one entry is accepted per person.
  • Irrelevant Hashtags – Make sure any hashtags used in your competition are relevant, otherwise you might be violating Twitter’s rules on using irrelevant hashtags.  

Other than those points, Twitter is a little more relaxed for running competitions on compared with Facebook.

But it’s not over yet!

On top of all the platform specific rules, you also need to adhere to the Advertising Standards Agency (ASA)’s CAP code for competitions which means you must:

  • Always include a closing date (which can’t be changed)
  • Always state clearly what the prize actually is (again can’t be changed)
  • State clearly any restrictions i.e age.
  • Ensure that your winner is picked by chance i.e by using a computer process that produces verifiably random results or via an independent person (or under the supervision of an independent person).

 

Phew, and that’s just about everything you need to know for running a successful social media competition. We wish you the best of luck with running yours, but if you fancy a hand don’t hesitate to get in contact with us at [email protected] We promise not to host any rude parties in your name! 

Thanks for reading.

 

Free, Simple & Effective Social Media Tips From A Social Media Professional

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As someone who spends at least 3 hours of each day on various social media channels whether it’s for work, my own blog or freelance projects, then I think it’s fair to say I know a thing or two about how social media can be used to it’s potential. I’d never call myself an “expert” because social media changes every day from new features within the platforms to changing trends. However, you don’t need to be an expert to get good results from social media, you just need to start implementing a few tried and tested tactics and you’ll soon start to notice an improvement.

Whether you’re a business, a blogger or just someone looking to improve their own personal social media accounts, start following these tips and you’ll see a big increase in both engagement with your posts and your follower/like count. And you don’t even have to spend any money!

1 .  Never ignore your fans! Always respond.

I can’t stress enough the importance of getting back to someone who makes an effort to comment on your social media posts, or even mention you in a post.  Even if they’ve not asked a question or have just said something simple like “this is great!”, it’s still really important you get back to them – and within a timely manner too. People like to feel appreciated, and even online there is a social etiquette.

And it’s not just those who comment to look out for – notice those who are retweeting or sharing your posts a lot and thank them for it. Even if it’s just by engaging with one of their posts as a thank you, making that effort to notice them makes them feel appreciated and will encourage them to engage with your social media more (and likely follow you if they weren’t already).

You could even go the extra mile and make an effort to engage with everyone who comments, likes, shares or retweets your posts. Depending on how big your social accounts are this could be quite time consuming though, but you’d definitely see better results.

2. Target your competitor’s followers.

To find new followers that are relevant to you or your brand it makes sense to look where they may already be residing: in your competitor’s followers list.

Make a list of your main competitors then find their social media accounts, then look through their followers posts and see if there’s anything you can engage with. Don’t be a creep though and like random posts such as “Lovely day out with Grandma”, only engage if it’s relevant – either by liking, sharing or commenting if it seems appropriate.

3. Be careful not to over promote yourself.

I recently had to unfollow a girl on Twitter who was constantly retweeting any conversation she had where someone paid her a compliment. It’s fine to retweet or repost positive comments sometimes, it might even encourage others to want to read your posts or visit your page too which is great! But there are boundaries, and filling up someone’s news feed daily with comments about yourself will make you come across conceited and have them hitting the unfollow button faster than you can say LOVE ME.


4.Never play the follow then unfollow game.

So you might think a quick way of getting your followers up is to just follow as many people as possible hoping they’ll follow you, then unfollowing those who don’t follow back. Well, don’t. People will notice you jumping up and down from following 15000 to 900 people, and judge you for your seedy social tactics.

When you find someone online who has 45k followers but follow 40K back, it instantly loses them all credibility, whilst making you question how they have so much free time on their hands. Why not spend the time you would take following masses of people creating great content instead?

5.Search through related hashtags to find people relevant to you.

Another way of finding followers relevant to you or your brand is to search through posts containing related hashtags. For example, if i’m looking for other fashion bloggers to follow I’ll search for posts containing the hash tag #fbloggers. For the accounts I find that I want to connect with, I’ll then favourite or comment on some of their posts and then only after this I’ll follow them. This creates a more authentic connection rather than just following them straight up, and often leads to a follow back.

6. Always be posting your own interesting and original content.

This probably seems like an obvious one, but you can do all of the tips above until your thumbs are sore and still end up not gaining anything if your social pages don’t contain anything of any real use or interest.  Keep updating your social pages with fresh original content to get people sharing and commenting on your posts, and you’ll soon see your follower count increase.

 

Thanks for reading, what are your best tips for getting more out of social media?

Christmas Marketing Ideas That Aren’t Crap

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It may still only be early November, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be thinking about your seasonal marketing already. Don’t do what many do and leave it until the last minute, then panic when December creeps up and you’re left without a plan.

Christmas is known as the “happiest time of the year” – use this goodwill season as an opportunity to reward your customers and increase customer loyalty, whilst pushing your christmas sales through the chimney. 

 

To help, we’ve put together some of the best marketing ideas you could use for your business this year, and you don’t even have to get us a mince pie (but the Sherry is obligatory).

Christmas Marketing Ideas

 

1. An Online Advent Calendar For Your Business

Whether you’re in retail or the restaurant industry, having your own online advent calendar on your website can be a great way to increase your Christmas sales whilst rewarding your customers.

As long as you’re giving visitors a useful gift to take away with them when they open one of your digital doors, they’ll likely keep coming back (and tell their friends and family!).

Just remember by useful, I mean something like a “free starter” or “20% off” a particular range on your store. Not something cheesy and annoying like the Mcdonald’s 2013 festive countdown advent calendar, which featured really life like “Mcdonald’s moments” inside each door.

Who doesn’t get their traditional big mac on Christmas Eve?

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2. A Christmas Wishlist Competition

Create a competition which encourages customers to make their own “Christmas wishlist” of your products, sharing their creations on social media to enter for the chance to win the entire list.

The wishlist’s could be made on Pinterest boards – similar to how Topshop did their #DearTopshop campaign – or on popular collage board creating sites such as Polyvore.

To make judging simple, ask people to use a specific hashtag which allows you to find the entries easily on social media sites, then announce the winner on Christmas eve for added festiveness.

Such a competition is bound to get people interested and talking about your brand.

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3 . A Daily “Find The Mince Pie” Promotion On Your Website

People love a challenge – especially when there’s the promise of a prize at the end. Hide a small Christmas themed image on a single page of your website – maybe a mince pie, a santa hat, or a lump of coal if you’re feeling a bit scroogey.

Then create extra excitement by giving out clues on social media, asking that people retweet or repost these clues (whilst in-boxing you the whereabouts of the image) for a chance to enter.

Not only will you have people looking through your website with a fine toothed comb (leading to possible extra sales) but you’ll also create a great buzz online through social media, raising your brand awareness.

4. Team Up With Another Company To Give A Free Gift With Every Order

Asos recently put a free sample of Jacob’s sweet chilli crackers within my order. My first thoughts were “Cool I’m hungry” and second thoughts after trying were “wow these are bloody good” and I’ve purchased more since.

It’s nice getting little surprises, and since Christmas is heavily centred around gifts and treats you could recreate this surprise by teaming up with another brand to give your customers a free extra treat with every order.

It works out well for the brand supplying the treat too – I wouldn’t have purchased any of those crackers without that sample in my clothes order!

We Can Help 

If you’d like us to make any of these Christmas marketing ideas work for your business, then please do get in touch by contacting us with any of your santa or snowflake requirements at [email protected] or on 0113 3204880.

 Thanks for reading.

The benefits of dropping your phone down the toilet (and why we should all take time to turn off).

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I recently went through every social media obsessed person’s worst nightmare when I managed to (what felt like) cut myself off from the world. I’d just got back from a few drinks in town when somehow I managed to catapult my fairly new iPhone 6 down into the toilet. Despite it only going under for a second or so before I grabbed it out the screen had instantly gone fuzzy, so I switched it off and started frantically drying it with a hairdryer. Never do that by the way, apparently you can melt some of the inside components…

Anyway, after a panic Tweet I had some people suggest I put it in rice for a day or so, so I covered the thing in some Uncle Ben’s and said goodbye.

Day 1 Of The Phoneless Life

I can’t remember a time when I’ve been without a phone since I was probably about 11, and I have to say life without one didn’t start so well. The next day I woke up late as my usual work alarm of course didn’t set off, and I instinctively went to reach for the phone to find out what I’d missed overnight but soon remembered last night’s dilemma. On my short walk to work which would usually include listening to spotify whilst scrolling through twitter (and trying to avoid walking into a lamppost/person..) I was instead pushed out of my comfortable bubble and was forced to be present in the world. I found myself saying morning to someone I’ve never spoken to before in the foyer of the flats I live in and just generally noticing what was going on around me more.

That day at work I noticed a definite improvement in my concentration and focus. I wasn’t getting the usual pings from social media notifications or beeps from emails that would usually have me break away from what I was doing every so often, and I just felt like my head was 100% in what I was working on.

In the evening I went out with the BF and again, I had nothing to distract me with. I was just there, completely in the moment and enjoying what I was doing.

Day 2: The epiphany

On Saturday I woke up and instead of the usual routine of lounging around in bed all morning whilst checking all possible social media apps (and feeling like I’d wasted half the day!), I  felt like I had a tonne of extra energy and pretty much jumped out of bed straight away! Suddenly I had extra time that I wasn’t used to, and it was great. We ended up preparing an amazing instagram worthy breakfast, but with no phone to snap a photo on I just enjoyed it without the worry of having to get the perfect shot to share. The BF also didn’t get his hand slapped for tucking in straight away, so he was happy too.

That day I suddenly realised how much being constantly connected to the world was having an effect on my life. It was kinda scary. I quickly made a pact with myself that this was going to be the start of a peaceful new way of living, and that I was no longer going to be slave to the phone! I’d limit my time on it and take any opportunity to be without it. I could do it!

Back down the hole..

On Sunday I managed to get a replacement phone and despite my previous endeavours, within an hour of getting it I was back liking things on Instagram, favouriting on Twitter and wasting my weekend hours glued to the screen. The pull of social media had sucked me in once again, and like a drug addict getting their hit I went back into the same old routine. It was as if my epiphany had never happened. Sigh

Don’t worry though! I didn’t take absolutely nothing from my experience and actually after thinking carefully about it all I managed to come up with a few ways to reduce my social obsession, which I think could help you to break the routine too.

5 ways we can all fight the social demon

So as I said, I did at first fall back into the same routine once my phone was returned, however I’ve been sticking to some simple rules since which have definitely helped and as crazy as it sounds..made me feel happier.

    1. Make your social media harder to access! Ok so first things first – reduce the temptation of tapping onto one of your social apps by moving them all to the furthest away place on your phone. For me this is 3 scrolls to the right and then into a folder. Sounds silly but before when I had them on my home screen I would just tap onto them mindlessly because they were there. Moving them puts them out of sight out of mind, as they say.
    2. Turn off all social notifications! This may seem a bit extreme but honestly this has seriously reduced the number of times I pick up my phone through the day. And come on, the world’s not going to end just because you didn’t respond to someone’s tweet instantly. Also just think, when you do get some time to go on your social you’ll have lots of notifications to go through at once and it’ll feel like Christmas.
    3. Set time limits on your social browsing. Another good tip is to set yourself a time limit for when you can browse social channels. For me it’s a max of 30 mins before work and 30 mins afterwards. This actually stops you from mindless scrolling through the same pictures/tweets you’ve probably already seen and means you instead use your time online more productively i.e responding to people, engaging with accounts that really interest you. A good way of assisting with this is to use a Pomedoro Timer or just setting a timer so that when it goes, you get off.
    4. Set yourself goals. You might even benefit from setting yourself some goals with each social media session such as “engage with 10 accounts of your choice” or “upload 1 new picture” which again, will stop the mindless scrolling and make your time on social more useful.
    5. Don’t post your pictures straight away. Ok so there’s no reason why you shouldn’t share a great snap from a day out or even a really good breakfast (I know I can’t deny my snap happy hands from doing so!) but once you’ve taken the picture give yourself some time to live in the moment by leaving it until later to share it with the social world. Savour your moment with the people you’re with or even yourself, and don’t take time away from the moment to stress about which filter to put on it.

So there you go, that’s where I’ve got to after my glimpse into the world without a phone. I hope for those of you who struggle with the social pull, that this gives you some help too and you feel better from it, I really do!

Growth Hacking: What is it and how can you use it to turbocharge your business?

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You might have seen the term ‘growth hacking’ pop up on Twitter or on Facebook, or perhaps you’ve heard it mentioned at a conference or networking event.

What you’ve probably been wondering is, “what the hell is growth hacking, do I need to pay attention or is it just another distraction I can safely ignore?”

Which sums up my questions when I first heard the term the term. That is until I read this case study about Airbnb.

To summarise, when Airbnb realised that the people they wanted to use their website were already using Craiglist. Rather than using expensive advertising to win over the user base they got clever.

When someone posted a listing on Airbnb they had the option to automatically post it to Craiglist as well, with a link back to Airbnb added.

Lots of people used the auto post option, building lots of links on Craiglist, promoting Airbnb and helping their SEO effort as well.

It worked wonders, just look at how their listings grew:

Airbnb listing growth

And that is Growth Hacking. Having a good think about how you can reach your audience by being cleverer, rather than by spending more.

How can Growth Hacking help your business?

When you dig under the surface what most people mean when they talk about growth hacking is:

AB testing websites to optimise the conversion rate

  • Analysing social media activity to find out what drives awareness and conversions
  • Using analytics data to understand how the most valuable customers use a website
  • Finding where a target audience go online and putting your message in front of them
  • Using tech, social or offline hacks to reach an audience

It’s all stuff we’ve been doing for years, but have you?

If you have, you know how powerful these tactics can be for growing your customer base. If you haven’t, there’s a huge opportunity for growth.
If done right, growth hacking will help you to:

  • Find new customers
  • Build engagement with your brand
  • Generate more leads or sales
  • Cut your marketing spend

Finding out exactly which tactics will work for your business means looking at things from a different perspective, perhaps working with outside consultants or involving staff from other areas of the business. Anything that disrupts your normal way of thinking will help you find the inspiration you’re looking for.

Start with your audience: Who are they? What are their interests? Where do they go?
Do they read blogs or engage in forums? Do they browse the web on a mobile? Are they looking for your product or service at home or at work?

You can use online customer research to understand them in a little more detail (exit surveys can be really helpful here) and gain a real insight into their behaviour and interests.

From there, you’ll find all sorts of ideas about how you could reach more customers, improve the way you do things, increase customer engagement… in short, ways to grow your business.

But we all know that most projects that need you to focus on your own business rarely make it off the bottom of the to-do list. Which is where we can help. We’ve worked with companies like Wren Living, Pure Collection and Distinction Doors to help them find ways to grow their business and we can do the same for you, so get in touch if you’d like to know more about how we can help you grow your business.

A Blogger’s Guide To Blogger Outreach

Posted by | Blogging, Marketing | No Comments

Blogger outreach can be a highly useful tool for brands, whether it’s for exposure, link building purposes to improve SEO or to gain relatable content which can be used for marketing purposes on social media channels or the brand website. Having worked both on the side of contacting bloggers for product reviews and being contacted myself for collaborations on my own blog, I know what works well so that both parties are happy. Here are a few tips on what to do before, during and after conducting blogger outreach for a company.

Before Contacting Bloggers:

  • Make sure you’ve researched the blogger and that your products actually fit in with the bloggers style, otherwise it’s unlikely they will do the post or even if they do, they probably won’t do the best job of it. For example if you’re a sports nutrition brand it’s unlikely that sending one of your products to a blogger who specialises solely in fashion is going to bring you the best quality content that you can use or more importantly – sales from their readers.
  • Find out the bloggers name (either from their side profile on their blog, about me section, or even by looking at the end of their posts i.e for their signature) to begin the email with rather than using “Dear Blogger” or “Hi there” etc. As a blogger myself this isn’t because I personally mind that the person contacting me is using the same email to contact many other bloggers (it’s expected) but it’s more that it’s easy to miss an email or dismiss it as spam and not look into it further if you don’t see your name at the top (just think about when you’re quickly skimming through your phone inbox – it’s easily done!).

How To Approach Bloggers:

  • Start off by sending a friendly email explaining exactly who your brand is, and what type of collaboration you’d like to put forward. Emails saying “we’d like to collaborate with you if you’re interested please get in touch” are very vague and both parties can end up wasting their time if it turns out not to be an appropriate collaboration. Also, if the blogger isn’t receiving anything to actually review (for example maybe you want them to do a wishlist type post featuring an image of your product) then make it clear in the first email whether there is or isn’t a budget for the project. Some bloggers are happy to build relationships with brands without receiving payment via money or products, but some are not – so to avoid wasting anyones time be honest and upfront straight away. I’ve personally found that bloggers are much more likely to work with brands for free if you are upfront about the budget (or lack of) from the start, rather than going back and forth between emails until they find out and end up feeling disappointed (and thus decide not to bother!).
  • Be clear and upfront on exactly what you need/expect from the blogger – giving timescales after sending the item is not a good idea. If you have a deadline of say 2 weeks to get the post out then this should be mentioned before the product is sent for a review. Bloggers plan their content in advance and work around schedules (not to mention have full time jobs and other hobbies on the side too) so if you need the content by a certain date it needs to be agreed beforehand not after. Whilst most bloggers will try and get product reviews done within a few weeks (and usually not longer than a month) it might happen that they have a lot of events coming up/other products in the queue to review – so you could be waiting longer for the post than what you promised your client.

After The Blogger Has Done The Post:

  • Consider keeping the blogger updated with insider knowledge of the brand such as new product launches and upcoming events, in order to continue building the relationship. Don’t become spammy though – one email a month will do.
  • Make sure you feature images and links from the bloggers post on the brands social media channels. If a blogger goes to the effort of creating a piece of content around a brand’s product and gets exposure for that brand they expect to be fairly given exposure back  – even if  just with a simple retweet. Not providing exposure back not only means the brand misses out on a valuable piece of content that their customers would most likely enjoy/get inspiration from, but it also creates a bad relationship with the blogger who is unlikely to want to work with the brand in future.

Photomonials – Converting Customer Selfies Into Sales

Posted by | Marketing, Social Media | No Comments

What Are Photomonials?
With over 2 billion photos uploaded to social media every day, it’s no surprise that many of these photos feature people’s favourite purchases or services they’ve received.

In particular in the fashion retail side of things, people even use specific hashtags to showcase their favourite or new buys such as the #OOTD (outfit of the day – a shot of that person’s outfit), the #Shoefie (shoe selfie – yes it’s a thing!), or even just hash-tagging the brands name on images where they’re wearing their products i.e #MissSelfridge #Primark etc.

How Brands Can Use Photomonials
It makes sense therefore that brands should take advantage of these customer produced photos to use them as an effective and free visual endorsement of their products. Brands can achieve this by using referral marketing applications such as ShopSocially or Olapic which grab the images from specific hashtags and upload them to a gallery on the site, with links to the featured products next to the images. A good example of a brand already implementing this is the popular fashion retailer Topshop.

If you use the the hashtag #TopshopStyle on an image featuring one of their products, someone from the Topshop social team leaves you a comment asking you to reply with #YesTopshop for a chance to feature in their gallery (once you’ve read their terms and conditions). If you reply this then gives Topshop the rights to use your image royalty free on any of their social media channels or websites, for marketing or advertising purposes.

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If your image is chosen it will then appear on the #TopshopStyle gallery section of the website, located at the bottom of the homepage.

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If site users then click on your image there will be a link to the products you’ve featured. This gives Topshop customers the chance to see how other’s have styled Topshop products (including ones they may not have seen) and possibly inspire them to want to buy the looks or items themselves. It also ultimately turns those sharing the images into brand ambassadors (without Topshop having to actually pay or employ them – win!).

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And it’s not just fashion retailers using this platform, popular American chain restaurant The Cheesecake Factory uses photomonials by taking social media images with the hashtag #TheCheeseCakeFactory and showcasing them in a sidebar on their homepage as (mouth watering) customer images.

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What Makes Photomonials So Effective?
Of course user generated content isn’t a new thing – brands have been using their fans images for marketing purposes for a while, whether it’s through one of the many “get a selfie with our product to win” or the “tell us your story” campaigns, customer content is everywhere. However, using photomonials in this new, referral marketing way not only makes it easier for brands to acquire content, but it also actually provides them with more useful content for their customers. Just think – an image of how to style a bag from your favourite brand compared to a picture of a random person you don’t know doing their best duck face selfie with the bag – which is going to be more useful for you?

 

 

Is Periscope the future of marketing? Here’s what happened when we tested it out.

Posted by | Apps, Marketing | No Comments

If you haven’t heard of Periscope already, it’s the new Twitter owned app that allows users to instantly live stream from their iPhone, letting you “explore the world through someone else’s eyes” as Periscope puts it. They say their aim for the app was to build something that was as close to teleportation as they could get. Similar to Snapchat, the app offers one time viewing of the streamed videos, before disappearing forever. Also like snapchat, you do have the option to save your video for users to view 24 hours after it’s first posted (but then it’s not live which defeats the object really!).

Currently at number 110 in the app store (quite an achievement for a new app which only launched 2 weeks ago), periscope has been causing excitement among technology lovers all over the globe. We decided to test it out for ourselves, so here’s 10 of the best places an hour on periscope took us too:

1. A boat trip in Norway 

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@AEdiassen

This certainly beat looking out of the office window at the scaffolding! A beautiful Norway view at the tap of a finger – wow.

2. A TV Studio In Memphis

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@Toddon3_WREG

On set with Memphis WREG TV – an interesting insight into what the news is like from another part of the world.

3. Downtown in Lisbon

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@Gasbong

Exploring downtown Lisbon on a scooter – talk about multitasking!

4. The rooftops of Catania & Mount Etna

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@fatmesa

Another stunning view, this time from the rooftops of Catania. I’d be a little concerned living near an active volcano though (last erupted in June 2014!). Maybe periscope users will catch her next eruption?

5A walk in the park on east river NYC

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Nick took us on a walk in the east river park, pointing out famous landmarks such as the Empire State Building and where the Twin Towers used to be. Periscope = your virtual tour guide.

6Paris Latin Quarter Walk

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@euromaestro

We walked the Latin Quarter of Paris, listened to street performers and were shown the best place to get a crepe!

7. Sunny beach in Palermo

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@JimmaGR

Exploring a beautiful beach in Palermo. We weren’t jealous at all!

8. The Pantheon In Rome

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@aranciatina

A sunny day at the busy Pantheon in Rome. We even got to stop to chat with a few tourists (who not surprisingly were a little confused as to why they were being filmed!)

9. Ed Miliband answering questions live in London

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@SkyNewsEditor

Periscope might even help you decide who to (or not to) vote for! Here’s Ed Miliband answering questions in London.

10. Sunset in Koh Kood Thailand

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@Real_Black_Cat

And last on our list is this beautiful sunset in Koh Kood, Thailand (Population of just 2000!).

The app allows you to post comments on the live streams, which is visible to anyone else watching the same stream, and the person streaming it. It was pretty cool to have a complete stranger walking the streets of Paris to say “Hi Leeds how are you!”. You can also tap the video to give it a heart – these hearts act similar to Twitter likes, and determine how popular a video and therefore a Periscope user is.

Why are people asking about a fridge?

If you spend a bit of time on Periscope it won’t be long before you come across a comment from another user asking to see a fridge. For some reason it seems to be one of the most popular comments for users of the new app – with some going as far as labelling videos  #Showusyourfridge or #fridgeview to cater for the masses of fridge obsessed Periscope dwellers out there. So if you’re live streaming and someone asks to see your fridge, don’t worry, it’s probably not something more sinister they’re after, they genuinely want to see what butter brand you use.

What would make it better?

Here’s a couple of ways we think the app could be altered for an improved experience.

Introduce a search function:
There’s currently no search function available via the app, to find new streams you just swipe down to refresh the feed, but have no control over what will appear on this list. We think a search function would be really useful. For example lets say you were heading to Munich for a weekend away and wanted to find out where the best place for beer was – if you could search for streams in Munich and connect with a local, you could get some brilliant advice from someone who you know’s had first hand experience. Like an interactive version of TripAdvisor.

You can however use Twitter to search for live streams, however not everyone posts their streams to their Twitter feed, and it’s a little convoluted to have to go out of the app and into Twitter in order to search for what you want. It would definitely make it more user friendly if the search functionality was within the Periscope app itself.

Introduce an Ignore function:
Like with all social media sharing platforms, there’s always going to be someone who shares something you really don’t want to see. You might think you’re clicking to view “beautiful sunrise in SoCal” but you could actually end up viewing something unexpected rising across your screen instead. Thankfully though, Periscope is linked up to your Twitter account, which reduces the amount of pervert posts, since you’re not posting so anonymously as with other live stream apps such as Chatroulette.

It’s not all about wanting to block out the perverts though, there are equally as annoying streams you have to wade through in order to find the ones worth watching, such as those posting “Give me 100 hearts and I’ll show you everything!” or “Me and Jack playing Call of Duty” (because who wants to watch someone watching a screen?!).

To combat this and make the feed a little more personal, we would suggest an ignore function where you could block streams with certain words in them, depending on what you like (or don’t!). Similar to how Google has it’s negative keywords for PPC ads. For example my list would look something like “Naked, Hearts, COD, AMA” (short for ask me anything – you’ll see a lot of streams with this in the title. Mainly from people who you wouldn’t want to ask anything!).

The future of marketing?

With 232 million twitter users, many brands will be eager to take advantage of this new social sharing platform. There are many opportunities for real time live video marketing and we think one of the best ways brands could take advantage of the app would be to give customers a behind the scenes look at things. Maybe it’s a footballer in the dressing room before a big game, or backstage with a brand at London Fashion Week. They could also use the app to take part in tending events, similar to how many brands do so on Twitter already.

Another option for marketers is of course paid ads that would appear on the live feed, should Periscope decide to introduce them. Hopefully if they do they won’t be quite as pricey as Snapchat ads though, with sources quoting a massive $750,000 a day for an ad, meaning only the bigger brands have been able to utilise them.

Our final verdict

Overall we think Periscope is a fun and interesting app, allowing us to connect instantly with the rest of the world easily from our phone, in way we haven’t been able to before. And whilst it is a little buggy (expect lots of screen freezes!) and could be improved in certain ways, there’s no doubt it has the potential to be an app which could rival the likes of social platforms such as Instagram.

What do you think? Is it the future of social media or have we reached peak overshare?


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