Disrupting the textile industry

I have a unique insight into the textile industry, by marriage.

There’s lots that can be said about the state of the industry, and certainly from a British perspective. But a long story short suggests it’s broken.

My wife and I have built SwatchFactory.com as a humble attempt to visit ways in which the industry could be changed. It’s a long road to full on disruption but as far as we’re both concerned, it can’t come soon enough.

SwatchFactory is built for people who are embarking on a redecoration project and are struggling for inspiration. Perhaps they want to know what colours compliment each other best, what wallpaper would look best with their carpets or even what fabric to buy for their soft furnishings. Many people are put off by the challenge that faces them when they look at their home and choose instead to not do anything at all! We hope SwatchFactory will bring realisation closer through inspiration.

Take the SwatchFactory Style Quiz to find out what fabric and wallpaper swatches we recommend for your home project

What could Facebook Home mean for brands?

Earlier in the year I made a mistake – I tried to write about Facebook Home when it was brand new. So far, it hasn’t really worked out as planned for the Android launcher from Big Blue.

Nonetheless here’s the article, which originally appeared in the spring edition of Greenlight Digital’s magazine…

The Impact of Facebook Home

Despite describing his company as a “mobile first social network”, up until now Facebook’s mobile offering has been largely fragmented and unreliable; a main Facebook application, with separate apps to improve features such as messaging, managing brand pages, photographing and even Poking. Although Zuckerberg has regularly assured consumers that “it’s not the right strategy for us…to build a phone”, anticipation had built prior to their most recent summoning of press to their Cupertino base around what their latest mobile release would involve. They announced Facebook Home.

Home is not a standalone application, rather it’s a Launcher for Android which adds a complete integration layer on top of the Android OS. Users will witness a complete overhaul of their phone’s UI and Facebook are promising three standout features: Cover Feed, Chat Heads and App Launcher to place people, rather than applications, at the centre of your mobile experience.

Although their intention is to place people at the forefront of mobile devices rather than applications, it appears that with Home, Facebook are placing additional emphasis on quality; of relationships and of content (not too dissimilar to the way Google rolled out Panda and Penguin updates to add additional weight to the quality of a link back to your site when organising SERPs). Their mechanism for doing so is fronted by a dynamic home and lock screen (Cover Feed), populated by imagery and content from your friends and pages that you’ve liked. Without the quality of this content being to a high standard, users of the Android launcher may very quickly be turned off; unless your network is populated exclusively of professional photographers, it’s highly likely your home screen will become inundated with pixelated images of your friend’s babies and food.

Equally, users of Home may find themselves scrutinising the quality of relationships they maintain within Facebook (between friends and brands). Once the relationships become the focal point of a device you use as often as your phone, it may soon become apparent that there are many connections that just don’t warrant the exposure Home could give them.

What could Facebook Home mean for brands?

Zuckerberg has already expressed his intention to use Home as an opportunity for brands to purchase premium advertising real estate. The potential for this assumes the success of Home and uptake by Android users. However, were we to make that assumption, what impact does it have for brands?

1) Focus on quality content

Your brand’s latest update could find itself front and centre, in the palm of your customers hands when they glance at your phone. With this in mind, the quality (resolution, visual appeal, lighting etc) needs to be better than it’s ever been if you’re to stand out and grab your customers attention. On the contrary, if the quality is poor, you will not only be losing an opportunity but also may find yourself losing fans and engagement.

2) Focus on building a better relationship with your customers

By investing in the relationship with the people who use your Facebook page, you’ll be building a foundation of trust that will bring your fans to a place where they’re more receptive to your content; a place you’ll need to be in if you don’t want your fans to grow tired of seeing your content on their phone home screen.

3) Promoted Content

How Facebook intend to use Home for promoted content is yet to be announced, although Adam Mosseri, Facebook Product Director, says “We’re designing a lot of really high-quality ad units for Cover Feed.” At this stage I would anticipate it to involve the opportunity for Brands to pay a premium rate, above that for Promoted Posts, to reach their existing fan base through Home. Anything other than this and we could confidently say that Home will become nothing more than opt-in spam.

What other opportunities could Home introduce?

Inadvertently it’s possible that Facebook have heralded in a new a dawn of opportunity for brands. And it doesn’t involve Facebook Home.

Currently the Android ‘launcher’ marketplace is relatively small; instead consumers opting to trust and use the built in UI. With this in mind and, again, assuming the success of Home, it could raise awareness and drive adoption of the launcher marketplace.

With more consumers realising the potential of a Launcher, this could open the door for brands to take a leaf out of Facebook’s book and build their own. I know, for one, that if a brand, company, band or sports team were to build an app that afforded me the opportunity to have a mobile experience centred around them, I’d be keen to take it up, especially West Ham.

Conclusion

Facebook Home is new, and there’s more to it than just the Cover Feed. Chat Heads, for example, allows messaging to take place in an overlay on top of other applications so you never have to stop what you’re doing to chat. Equally, the Cover Feed could always be turned off. However, once you take that away and reduce the Launcher to just Chat Heads and App Launcher (which is just a menu), what’s really left for users to get excited about?

Regardless of whether Facebook Home is popular, brands could do a lot worse than improving quality of content and investing in fan relationship. By getting this right your brand page and content will become a far richer and rewarding experience. And if Home proves popular, you’ll be in a great place to leverage what it potentially has to offer.

Context will be King – A Prediction for 2013

This article originally appeared in Greenlight Digital’s monthly magazine [PDF]. The theme of the magazine was predictions for digital marketing in 2013

Context will be King

Take a look back through one of your old, printed, photo albums. Even with the benefit of the scrawled notes on the back of each, how much about the photos from, say, 20 years ago do you clearly recall? Take away the notes on the back of each photo and you’re left with how I currently believe social media monitoring tools see the social web; small snapshots of the past with no context other than who is in each photo.

When people directly mention a brand or a key term, we can measure it and understand it, but in the context only of itself. A single photo in your family album for example. That however is only part of the problem, what we more specifically can’t do is measure and understand what’s being said about your brand when the brand term is not specifically mentioned. A photo in your album that you may have taken but are not actually in, for example. This is the focus of my prediction for social media in 2013.

Working on a daily basis with social monitoring tools has afforded me the opportunity to explore how they viewed me in an area I would consider myself relatively influential (at the very least, passionate!); football. For my sins, I’m a big West Ham fan and since 2006 I’ve been talking about my team regularly on my blog which was fairly successful, and on Twitter since about 2007. So, from a social marketing perspective, there’s an argument for someone like me being either an influencer or someone who would be ideal to seed related campaigns. However, I’ll never be considered so, the reason why: I don’t regularly mention the exact term, “West Ham” and will therefore be very unlikely to appear in influencer search results.

Of course, I regularly talk about West Ham in the context of “the game on Saturday”, “great performance” or (more commonly!), “we’re going to struggle this year”. Importantly Tweets like this regularly garner engagement and interest and often there’ll be some sort of discussion as a result of those Tweets. I’ve not needed to mention “West Ham” for my 1500 or so followers to know what I’m talking about because they’ve come to understand that, in all likelihood, if West Ham are playing at the time of my Tweet, it will most probably be about West Ham regardless of whether I directly mention them. Analysing only volume of mentions also opens the door for false positives or, more precisely, people who have a passionate disdain for West Ham and therefore mention them a lot in what they publish. To the undiscerning social monitoring tools, this person would actually be ranked as an influencer!

By way of example here are some Kred badges of accounts suggested by a well respected social media monitoring tool to be the accounts with the most mentions of ‘West Ham’. There is one caveat however, one of these badges is for my own account although it was not even close to featuring in the ‘most mentions’ influencer list. To add a little more context, one is a football news aggregator, another the official account for the Premier League and another is the official Sky Sports account (apologies for terrible formatting/alignment!):

kredbadges

 

kredbadge

If you’re not familiar with Kred, the two scores displayed broadly represent the following:

 

- Influence: “is the ability to inspire action. It is scored on a 1,000 point scale.”

- Outreach: “reflects generosity in engaging with others and helping them spread their message.”

Ideally you want a high score in both and I, personally, would consider that to be both greater than 700 and 6 respectively. So that rules out 3 from the above list (including the official Premier League account), but not mine. The aggregator and Sky Sports obviously remain (due to sheer wealth of content and therefore term mentions – which actually makes them unrealistic outreach opportunities). All in all from those seven, only two plus my own account (745/7) would be worthy individuals to actively pursue for a digital marketing campaign related to West Ham, yet my own account didn’t appear in the original ‘influencer’ list. It is my belief that contextual analysis of social media accounts will lead to far more accurate, reliable and relevant returns on influencer discovery.

My understanding of contextual analysis would be to study factors such as what events are happening at the time of the Tweet, are there any consistently referenced terms, what key terms are mentioned in Tweets as user replies to or retweets, what content do an individual’s followers  publish and an understanding of what content appears within links that a user shares.

Through Twitter’s Interest Graph and Facebook’s Timeline (why else would they surface entire timelines if it wasn’t to improve insight for marketers?!) it’s evident that not only is this data there in some capacity, but that Twitter are actually already using it. Take this Promoted Tweet for example:


directlineeg

It was delivered to me when viewing the stream for my West Ham account. On the surface it’s terribly targeted; I clearly don’t live in Southampton! However, it just so happened that West Ham had played Southampton just two days before this ad was delivered to me. It’s clearly an example of a bad use of Twitter’s Interest Graph as it doesn’t relate to me in the slightest, but the principle remains.

I’m confident that until social marketers have the tools to accurately translate and work with this data, we’ll always fall short in terms of reaching outreach potential. For 2013 I think we’ll see a rise of interpretations in the contextual analysis space, improvements in accurately targeted advertising and tools that bring this ability into the mainstream.

 

Droppedbox

To be clear, I love Dropbox. The service is incredible, and it solves a real problem in my life. So much so that I upgraded to the $9.99/mo plan. If you don’t currently use it, I highly recommend signing up here. But yesterday, I downgraded back to the Free plan.

For $9.99 you get 50GB of space to store your files. “With all that space”, I thought, “it won’t be a problem auto-uploading my phone photos”. I bungled all my Wedding & Honeymoon photos on there too. It gradually became a place, because of all the extra space, that I just dumped files I ‘might’ need at some point.

In the meantime, I’ve been reading books like Lean Startup by Eric Reis, and chatting to a mate, Tim who has exceptional experience in the startup and fundraising scene. Both urged me to find £10 quid a month to spend on market research (PPC, with an optimised landing page), to test ideas and find if there’s any traction.

Now I’m at a bit of a time in my life where 10 quid a month is a bit of a stretch, unfortunately. So I looked for places I could find it. I looked at my use of Dropbox and realised that I’m spending the best part of a tenner a month (120 quid a year) to dump files in the cloud (at least that’s how my use of it has descended!). So I swiftly transferred quite a few gigs of data onto my passport harddrive, because frankly I already use that as a dumping ground so why should I also be paying $10 a month for that privilege?

Now, I’ve got that money to spend on doing the market groundwork on some of my working ideas. 

The point I’m trying to make is if you think an idea is strong enough, you need to do whatever you can to prove there’s a need. I personally am getting far more value out of spending $10 on Facebook ads than I am Dropbox. So I dropped it.

I’ll stick some results of this experiment up after a couple of months.

#coffeeshopchallenge

Myself and colleague Andy Edmonds walk a lot. Every lunch break, we grab a fiver and walk to get a coffee. Most days we head to Taylor St Baristas off Bishopsgate, Liverpool Street  but others we try and sniff out different places to drink coffee and chat about anything from business ideas, to client and creative strategy.

Recently we decided that we should turn this into a game, so the #coffeeshopchallenge was born. Our goal is to visit every independant coffee shop within half and hour walk of our office in Liverpool St (half an hour there, half an hour back = lunch hour done)

Every. Single. One. Maybe.

We’ll both be updating a blogs with the places we visit – and maybe the odd little idea chucked in for good measure.

Public Opinion of London Underground ahead of Olympics

Public opinion of London Underground

I was interested to look into the negative public perception of the London Underground associated specifically with the 2012 Olympics.

So, I wrote the following boolean query and restricted it to Tweets written just in 2012:

((olympics OR paralympics) AND (london OR 2012) AND (underground OR LU OR tfl OR LUL OR “public transport”)) AND (cope OR struggle OR disaster OR horrible OR horrendous OR painful OR crammed OR overcrowded OR overcrowding OR busy OR rammed OR fail OR failure OR “signal failure” OR congestion OR crushed)

The results:

(I’ve removed a lot of Tweets at this point because they’re largely just RTs of @ajhmurray- and a lot of them!)

I’ve stopped it there (less than half way through my full search yield) but you get the idea.

It is worth adding that the search was deliberately written to find people who are unhappy about the tube to highlight their concerns. The next time I have a positive experience on the tube, I’ll compose a similar post.

 

 

Lessons Learned: #1 Promises

The beginning of my indefinite ‘Lessons Learned‘ series, a space I’ll use to simply write some startup and strategy lessons I’ve learned in the past. The main reason I’m publishing them is so I’ve no excuse for ever forgetting them – if you learn something from them too, then great!

———

#1 Promises
Don’t ever promise things you cannot deliver. This applies to making promises on what your product can deliver, making promises on what you can deliver (either to yourself or to a client). If you can’t do it, it’s better to say.

N.B This is not the first lesson I’ve ever learned

Social Gifting and Wrapp – the buzz is frustrating.

Maybe because it’s got some high profile backers? (not intended as a dig at those individuals, Reid Hoffman is someone I admire greatly)

In the instance of Wrapp, maybe (and more likely) it’s because you can give people free money. I was just generous enough to gift my cousin a £3 voucher for Oasis which cost me nothing.

I like Wrapp, it’s a fun way of giving a gift, but I find the excitement and buzz all hugely frustrating. Here’s why:

We need to start thinking beyond these iterations of social marketing and commerce. Yes it’s a fun app, but the whole premise does not feel progressive. Rather it feels that this should have happened 3 or 5 years ago. This is all too easy. (It’s partly true that my argument is laced with jealously and bitterness at such a simple idea being so successful!)

I suppose progression does come in small steps and I’m pleased to see that people like Wrapp are making this move. But I’ll really get excited when the integration between my activity in a brick and mortar store can be determined by suggestions, advice and recommendations provided to me by the store based on my digital profile. And if I have to, I’ll ask my friends.

I’d be interested to know what other people feel about this apparent craze, is it the future or  will it just wither out and die?

 

 

Recipe Books and QR Codes

image

My current method

I’m going to make an effort to document occasional ideas, mostly in an effort to perfect communicating my thoughts in a concise manner (the best ideas are the easiest to communicate)

So here’s a quick one for today, as I sit here with my wife reading a recipe book:

“Recipe books should have a a QR Code [read any scannable code] alongside each recipe. Scan the code and ingredients will be added to a shopping lost on a corresponding mobile app”

The biggest bug bear for me is having to wrote down ingredients from a book for when you’re at the shops. It’s a pain, especially with complicated dishes.

If the process is as simple as taking a photo of the page, it is guaranteed to be more effective.

There are immediate problems, obviously. Firstly, who buys recipe books these days? I have some, but the codes can’t be retrospectively printed on their pages. I don’t however rush out to buy new books anymore, I’ll just look online or on the Jamie Oliver app.

Perhaps the people who do still buy recipe books, are in fact not the people who’d scan a code with a mobile app.

Or maybe, just maybe, people who would use a mobile app as their first choice, would in fact buy a recipe book if they knew they could scan a code to have the ingredients added to an app.

Those questions are for someone else to figure out!