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Last night a few of us here at Webcredible headed over to Soho for an evening of lively debate, organised by Netimperative, on whether Twitter is a good or bad thing for marketers and brands – Twitter or bitter?Webcredible Twitter page

The panel included representatives from Tangent One, Guava, TMG and 140Characters.co.uk, and there were many advantages and issues with Twitter discussed including one or two mentions of Habitat’s hastagging faux pas. Key benefits of Twitter identified included allowing brands to have a direct conversation with their customers, its usefulness for networking and live search, and its potential for PR and as part of an integrated digital campaign.

Disadvantages discussed included that there is a lot of noise for consumers to get through on the platform, it requires time to get into and most importantly to get right, and that people are struggling to see the ROI for brands.

I raised the question of reputation management last night and thought I’d share my thoughts on this issue and some of the others discussed at the event. Reputation management is an important part of social media marketing, especially Twitter, and we’ve heard plenty of stories about how brands have made mistakes and damaged their reputation online. But what about the flipside – Twitter squatting? Twitter has grown to a point where, like domain names, it’s worth registering your name even if you’re not going to use it to protect from third parties taking your Twitter identity and using it in detriment to your brand.

In reference to the stories of brands spectacularly failing to ‘get’ Twitter and causing damage to their reputation as a result.  I would argue that even though it is a lot easier than other channels to get wrong, as long as you follow some very basic principles that are true of most digital marketing disciplines, you can test the water and begin to engage without falling into this trap. I mean, you wouldn’t send out a marketing email to someone who hadn’t opted-in with ‘Iran elections’ in the subject line to get their attention would you?

As for measurement and ROI? Well there are many offline channels that are a lot more difficult to measure and analytics is a pretty good gauge of how successful your use of Twitter is, by the traffic being referred to your site from Twitter.

In terms of how to use it, well we use it as a channel for sharing all our content, we allow people to find us and when they connect with us we respond to them. So far, that has proved a pretty successful approach.

Anyway, back to the event – I think the pro-Twitter crowd edged the debate and let’s face it that’s the camp we’re in. But, given that this blog is also an interactive medium I’m keen to hear your thoughts on how brands (including Webcredible) should use Twitter.

Facebook has just announced these last few days that after 2 and a half years of connecting people and letting them ‘poke’ each other it has finally made a profit.

Webcredible Facebook page

Facebook generates revenue from advertising and sponsored groups and no doubt the social networking site will be focusing on improving its offering for the big brands and businesses in order to maximise its profitability. But how will this impact the current users?

Having acquired FriendFeed and with its move into ‘real time’ it has been following in the footsteps of Twitter, although I think personally they have very different purposes. I view Facebook as being more of a socialising tool than the other sites out there as it is appeals to a wider range of people. With the fastest increasing user demographic being the over 35’s, this demonstrates that the older generations who may not have necessarily grown up with the Internet have found it easy to use and engaging.

However, one thing that will be interesting to see is whether, as Facebook and its users get older, will the broader appeal decrease?  I know I am already bored of having to de-tag myself from hideous childhood photos that my mum/dad/aunties post… and that’s just the start of it!

But back to my point, if the wider appeal does decrease then so will the interest to advertise to a wider audience.

Unfortunately I’m not Derren Brown and I can’t predict lotto numbers or the future, but it will be interesting to see how Facebook changes and moves forward. Or now that it’s finally making a profit should they sell up and quit while they’re ahead (but let’s face it, it’s unlikely to go the way of Friends Reunited)?

As people continue to strive to find new measures of website success, a method which is currently under scrutiny is electroencephalography or EEG.

Lightning ballSimply put, EEG measures conductance (electrical activity) in the brain, which can be associated with certain emotions, such as surprise or anger. EEG, first developed for testing epilepsy, is most certainly not a quick method and most likely not an effective way to understand emotion in users. Firstly, the practitioner needs to understand the science behind the tool. It can be a very in-depth discipline, so it is crucial that any study is implemented by a professional researcher who is an expert in cognitive neuroscience as well as psychology.

EEG is not a technique that will give the clear black and white results that the industry wants. In the analysis of data, the research must make a lot of deductions when interpreting the results. It is not a test that gives conclusive results on its own, but it can offer useful indicators of emotion, the key being the mapping of the results to particular emotions.

In addition, all of the results can be affected by mood, attention levels and environment, making the interpretation of results even more difficult. Hence, any testing of this sort would require participant numbers of 30 plus. The more participants, the more data there is, and the more time it takes to collect and analyse – pushing the costs up.

EEG may have some interesting potential, but perhaps not in the near future. The key before investing in any research is to thoroughly investigate existing (tried and tested) methodologies, such as usability testing and evaluations of persuasiveness of your site, to ensure that you are using the correct method to achieve your desired results.

Photo credit: Stone Mayson via Flickr/Creative Commons

After A-level exams is an incredibly stressful time for students. Despite the fact the exams are confined to the bin of history and you’ve done all you can, you still can’t help worrying about it. I’ve discovered it’s extremely difficult to actively stop thinking about something. I spent the first quarter of the holiday trying my best to forget about exam results day. I did this mainly by going to parties, meeting up with old friends, watching films and listening to the news (which gave me plenty of other things to worry about!). One thing I certainly didn’t want to do while waiting for my results was filling in endless piles of forms for student finance, disabled students allowance, hall allocation and university.

Some forms have to be filled in by hand which is impossible for me due to my dyspraxia, so I have to dictate to my parents. I would love to see some admin bod try to read my hand writing! To be fair to them you can request an electronic copy, but that means waiting for them to send it and you just want to get through these forms as quickly as possible before you run out of time and patience!

Student finance and university related forms are now available online. You would have thought this would make it much easier for dyslexics and dyspraxics but quite often it means the opposite. I was under the impression technology was meant to make life easier but in the case of these forms, the power of the web has been misused to make the forms ten times longer and more complex. It makes about as much sense as designing a washing machine that dirties your clothes before washing them, thus making process longer than doing it by hand! The layout of the forms is not always very good for people who have difficulty reading. There are often no lines cordoning off sections of the form and so it is sometimes very hard to tell which field corresponds with which question.

To illustrate my point, as a dyslexic myself, some words look incredibly similar. Why do they always put the field for “country” and “county” so close together? Also another thing which I find confusing is remembering what order to write down your address. The forms often leave a number of unlabelled fields under the heading “address”, it would be helpful if they were labelled “street name” and so on.

I am finding it very hard to refer to specific forms during this article because such was the volume of forms they have all blurred into one huge bureaucratic ball of paper in my bemused brain!

Another point I have to make about all the forms is that the exam results are released little more than a month before people start going to university.  All the forms have to be filled in before you know your results. So after all this kerfuffle, there is sadly always the chance that wading through this sea of paperwork may have all been in vain.

Fortunately for me I got the results I needed and at the end of September will be starting at Reading University to study Philosophy. I feel I need a degree simply to fill in all the forms. Now with everything filled in and ticked off for University, I am now trying to find a part time job.  If you thought the Universities made their forms difficult, just wait until you see some job application forms!

IMRG logoJon and I attended the IMRG workshop on interactive marketing yesterday. We really enjoyed the session and like all IMRG events we met some great new people there, as well as old friends.

One particularly interesting topic of discussion was on the use of digital video as part of the online retail experience. There were good points made by a number of delegates about how video can support brand building and marketing efforts as part of an interactive campaign. I’ve previously blogged about video content on YouTube so I won’t make that point here.

Video content production can be an expensive business so if you’re seriously considering putting video into your retail journey you need to be sure it’s going to give you the return you need.

So, under what circumstances is it optimal to support your customers with video?

In my opinion the best way to work out where in the journey your videos should sit is by examining your customers’ decision-making and discovery process across multiple channels. Videos could be used to provide rich insights at the point when people are scouting around looking at competitior products, trying to understand what features and capabilities they’d like in their new purchase. The kind of product videos that add a great deal of value are the ones that really use the medium to full effect.

For example, videos of expensive, technical products could support customers to answer some preliminary questions about the tactile qualities or usability of a product such as a mobile handset or a digital camera. Apple successfully (and some might say controversially) used product videos of their iPhone across multiple channels to educate would be customers about the user experience of their product. So, there’s a good chance that customers will be visiting your bricks and mortar store to get a feel for the product for themselves and seek some expert advice from your staff. But if you’re a pureplay digital e-tailer then this might not be possible.

So, given the cost involved in producing high quality videos how would you decide which products are worth investing in?

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