Monday marketing thought

“Global activation local amplification” – four words that make a process sound easy.  Yet it is amazing how many established successful multi-nationals struggle with this process.

I was talking to  friend the other week who talked about a project that they were asked to pitch for. A global multinational asked them to come and workshop the company’s global digital strategy for local teams – so that they could then work out how to localise it.

The implication was that a global strategy had been decided upon that didn’t take into account who it could be scaled for markets with low budgets (small countries) or atypical digital usage.

Global activation, local amplification

I’ve used the words atypical here for good reason. These markets may not have gone through widespread desktop online usages. They may be transitioning between feature phones and SMS to low specification smartphones on lean data plans. However, in the likes of Kenya, their use of mobile payments with services like mPesa are far ahead of the west.

You also can’t assume that usage is one phone, one person. In the likes of rural India the phone may be used by other family members with SIMs being the individual’s own.

How much of their media consumption is side loaded on to mobile devices?

A global activation approach requires extensive discussions with local company stakeholders BEFORE it’s sufficiently baked. I worked on web properties at Unilever and we thought about how could graphical assets be leveraged, a common social publishing platform (Percolate) and common measurement (Adobe Analytics) as a primary focus. We recognised that markets may want to build leaner, smaller websites or roll out changes when they had marketing budget.

Bringing key stakeholders gives them ownership of the strategy, so they are much more likely to give a decent effort in local amplification.

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On Writing

This post was prompted by reading A Time To Write by Wadds, open it in a new tab on your browser and give it a read.
Cover on my old book
Given Wadds’ post I thought I would reflect briefly on my own process.

Why I write?

Wadds describes his writing as a kind of mindfulness.  For me writing serves a number of purposes:

  • It cements things in my memory, a bit like revision at school
  • It helps me work out ideas and my stance on them
  • Its a good platform for experiments. I started off my blogging to work out how it could help clients that I couldn’t get media coverage for. This was back before social media was a thing. At the moment I am using this blog  as part of an experiment on LinkedIn Pulse as a source of traffic. More on that when I have a decent set of data
  • Occasionally decent conversations spark of these posts, some of my good friends are online
  • There is a more talented fighter than I, also called Ged Carroll. I like to have a clear differentiator from him
  • My blog is also a marketing calling card, I have got jobs from it over the years.

Wadds talks about why people don’t write, he describes it as effort and bravery. I suspect its a bit more complex. Yes life does get in the way for many people, but many of my friends have their own creative outlets: painting, photography, the art of social conversation, mastering video games to name but three.  For me writing extends out of curiosity, it is a natural progression – otherwise ideas would vanish into the ether.

In terms of bravery, Wadds talks about the willingness to share private or personal subjects. I generally don’t, the reason is quite simple. Growing up in an Irish household, my time was predominantly spent in the UK during The Troubles, I grew up with the idea of the pervasive, invasive surveillance state. I grew up with a personal perception of what could be called ‘operational security’ (Op-Sec). The future has finally caught up.

Workflow

You can break my workflow down into four sections:

  • Ideation.  Ideas broadly come from reading something or the world around me. If it is something on the world around me, I will make some bullets in the notes application of my iPhone.  If it is a talk I will have likely recorded it using Olympus’ free dictation app for the iPhone. If it is from reading a book, I am likely to put post-it notes on the relevant pages with some notes and then flick back through this as I write a post. I have aversion to writing on the books themselves. I have found that I don’t get much out of reading on a Kindle, so only use that for leisure reading now. If  I am inspired by something I have seen, there will be a picture on Flickr, which also serves as the image hosting platform for this blog. I have about 46 GB of images in my Flickr account – it would take a major tectonic event to persuade me to move to another platform like 500px. I have a Twitter account with a set of lists that provide inspiration and use Newsblur as an RSS reader as well. Newsblur is invaluable. I am currently trying Breaking News, an app recommended by Richard Edelman and occasionally dip into Apple’s own News app. When I have online content that has spurred a writing idea I will notate it in my bookmark service pinboard.in
  • Writing. My writing method varies based on two criteria; the regularity of the post and the length of the post. If you’ve read my blog for a length of time you will see that there are repeating themes. Every two days is a collection of interesting links from around the web. These posts are based on content that I bookmark. There is a post on Friday for interesting creative or useful things, again this pretty much writes itself based on my bookmarks as I ingest the web. At the moment I am publishing slides of data that I have collected on a monthly basis, I usually write a bit of analysis on the some of the data that I have surfaced. This just flows out easily. For short irregular posts they are often a stream of consciousness with minimal editing directly into WordPress. Longer posts are often mind-mapped onto engineering squared paper and then written into Hemingway
  • Editing. Unlike Wadds, I don’t have an editor. I use Hemingway app as a machine-based editor. My fact-checking happens before words are committed to the posts in my reading around
  • Syndication. I syndicate my content using plumbing that I have put int place using IFTTT and WordPress’ own JetPack plug-in. When I syndicate to Medium and LinkedIn this is done manually.

Wadds’ talks about mindfulness in writing. I don’t necessarily think that its the same for me.  That feeling of being in the zone is something I get more from DJ’ing ironically, or focusing on a mundane task. Writing is more about making fleeting ideas permanent. It is also written with at least half an eye on my work.

More information
Olympus Dictation app
Flickr
Newsblur
Twitter lists
pinboard.in
Breaking News app
IFTTT
JetPack
Medium

Everyday tools that are part of my process – part two

I posted part one in this series of posts on my blog. Part one covered Hemingway, Pinboard, Terminal and IFTTT. In this post I will cover tools that I use for content discovery and publication.

Right Relevance

Right Relevance is a web service that recommends content from social channels. It is based on areas of interest. Klout provides a similar function as part of its social measurement service. I could write a whole blog post about what’s wrong with Klout’s measurement approach. But their content recommendation function is alright. I have found from experience that Right Relevance tends to provide better quality recommendations.
Right Relevance
For specific subject areas there are ‘subreddit’ threads at Reddit. Certain subject areas like technology have special purpose sites: for instance techmeme and Slashdot. I have included some more geek orientated options at the bottom of this post

Newsblur

The way I explain RSS to my non-tech forward friends is by an analogy. RSS is the web’s analog of a ticker tape machine. In Western’s that is the machine which put incoming messages on a strip of paper. While outgoing messages went out in Morse code on a telegraph key. In the stock exchange or newsroom; continuous computer paper replaced the thin strip of paper. A teletype machine or computer printer would print messages as they came in.

RSS sends updates from websites in a way that applications can collect the content up. Different services present it in different formats like an email type interface or digital magazine. Most people were familar with RSS from its use with Google Reader. When Google Reader shut down, it didn’t kill RSS. Instead a cottage industry of RSS readers sprang up to replace it.
News blur - intelligent RSS reader
My RSS reader of choice is Newsblur. Newsblur has several benefits. You can train it to filter your feeds based on author or key words over time. The unread posts can be uncovered with one click and read if you still need to.

It provides three different views

  • Feed – the information as its provided in the the RSS feed. Depending on the feed this may contain images
  • Text – text only. Handy for when you need speed as it filters out formating and images
  • Story – what it looks like on the original site. This helps understand the context where other content is on a page alongside the main story

Newsblur has a good in-browser interface. It provides integration with both Pinboard and Buffer. It also supports Reeder, a popular desktop RSS reader for OSX.

Newsblur has a native application for both iOS and Android. A third party wrote a free native application for Windows phone. In the past there was also support on Symbian, Maemo and BlackBerry. You get a lot for your $24/year subscription.

Buffer

Buffer is the social publishing tool that I use. It provides similar benefits to Hootsuite, but is much more user friendly. Buffer also has a transparent pricing model compared to Hootsuite. It integrates in my process via IFTTT. Buffer has a native app for iOS and an in-browser interface. It integrates into sharing functionality within iOS and Newsblur. It is the end point in my automated plumbing for social content publication.
Buffer social channel publishing and analytics
It has good basic analytics built in. I use ‘The Awesome Plan’ which costs $102/year.

Weiyun

Weiyun is a cloud file storage and sychronisation service like Dropbox. The key differences being, it is only available in Chinese and it provides 1TB of storage for free.
Weiyun - cloud storage and synchronisation
Weiyun has Android, iOS, Windows and OSX applications.

Here is a presentation hosted on Slideshare that highlights the tools discussed in today’s post.

More everyday tools in part three.

More information

Right Relevance website
Klout – ignore the measurement, but stay for the content recommendations

Reddit
techmeme – curated by a mix of algorithms and an editorial team
Hacker News – based on a community who find interesting geeky stuff around the web

Newsblur (once you subscribe it provides you links to the different mobile apps)
Reeder – a third party RSS reader for OSX which supports Newsblur

Buffer

Weiyun English interface
How to use Weiyun

Everyday tools that are part of my process – part one

I had a meeting with some junior marketing agency staff last week. The purpose of the meeting was to discuss content strategy across different clients. In the end an good part of the conversation went into process and content creation.

Given that conversation I thought it might be fruitful to flag up some of the technologies that I use.

Hemingway

I use Hemingway ( a web application and a native OSX application) to write. Hemingway has two writing modes:
Hemingway - editing mode
Editing mode looks at your copy as you create it:

  • It looks at readability providing a reading age score. (Grade six is equates to 11-12 years old). The lower the reading age, the clearer the writing is. It has also aids in SEO
  • It examines sentence structure, the harder a sentence is to read, the more ambiguous it may be.
  • Hemingway suggests simpler alternatives to phases
  • It looks at adverbs and use of the passive voice

Hemingway is like having a sub-editor sitting on your shoulder at the point of creation.
Hemingway - writing mode
Writing mode clears the real-time editing functions to the right of the screen. It allows me to get content down as a stream of consciousness. It allows me to get ideas down before I lose the train of thought.

You can then switch to editing mode to go back and clean up your copy once you have it down.

The OSX version allows you to save documents down as a HTML file, from which you can cut and paste into a destination. It just works whether its a presentation, document, WordPress or social platforms.

Pinboard

Pinboard is a social bookmarking service that now costs $11/year. It allows me to store links and notes about websites that I find of interest.
Pinboard - home screen
Pinboard is a web service so my bookmarks go where I can get a web connection.
Pinboard - bookmark screen
I use a bookmarklet that sits in the chrome of my browser. Every time I come across something that might be of interest, I click on the link and complete a simple form.

  • URL – I only change the link if it is a temporary link such as ‘feedproxy.google.com’. I expand the link or change it to any permalink that is on the page
  • Title – I edit this as necessary to reflect the article title and the website name
  • Description – this is a quick explanation of why I thought the page was significant. It might be an article quote or top statistics mentioned
  • Tags – categories or labels that I assign to an article which allows me to find it based on a relevance. Tags are used by other applications as well

I use Pinner for iOS on my iPhone. It integrates into the system level sharing functionality. I can create bookmarks on the move as well as at my desk.

Terminal

The Terminal app in OSX allows direct access to the power of the operating system. It is also unforgiving. Getting a command wrong can have serious consequences.
Terminal app - introduction
There are a few things that I can do faster in terminal than via other methods. From checking  differences in documents, to batch processing file archiving. To get you started here are two examples that you can try: to see if a website is up to getting a weather forecast.
Terminal app - check the weather forecast
Terminal app - ping a website
I have a copy of UNIX in a Nutshell from O’Reilly Media on my bookshelf. I use this as a back-up when I can’t remember the proper  syntax or a command. I can also recommend Learning Unix for OS X: Going Deep With the Terminal and Shell also from O’Reilly Media.

IFTTT

At the beginning of 2007 Yahoo! launched an experimental product called Yahoo! Pipes. It was flakey, it was unreliable but also revolutionary. Pipes was an easy way to stitch together services without programming expertise. After years of flakey service it was shutdown by Yahoo! in June 2015.
IFTTT
Pipes inspired another service IFTTT. IFTTT stands for ‘If then, then that’. It is a simple cause and effect framework that allows for the automation of actions over the web. These cause and effect formulas called recipes. It supports a range of web services and apps. Most of the discussion around this for Intenet of Things automation. I use it to automate my web content content.

More in part two.

I pulled part one together in a companion presentation.

More information

Hemingway OSX application

Hemingway web interface

Pinboard

Pinner app for iOS

IFTTT – (If Then, Then That)

Books

Learning Unix for OS X: Going Deep With the Terminal and Shell by Dave Taylor

UNIX in a Nutshell by Arnold Robbins

An idea for the CIPR to provide even more benefit to the PR profession

First of all the Chartered Institute of Public Relations (CIPR) has improved immeasurably from where it was a few years ago. It acknowledges that social media is now a thing. It has given consideration to social media being part of public relations campaigns. If you dig around there are freely available journals on communications on the website.

Research (developed for agency marketing purposes) like Edelman’s Trust Barometer were also collected there. But the process seems to have stopped a couple of years ago.

However this all pales in comparison to the quality of the research on effectiveness that the IPA (Institute of Practitioners in Advertising) has available for members. I’ve found the data points I have got from IPA sources invaluable over the past few months.

The IPA is like a cross between the CIPR and the PRCA. It has qualifications like the CIPR and focuses on agency memberships like the PRCA. In addition, the CIPR has a large contingent of public sector employed members. I personally believe this would help raise the effectiveness and respect of the profession.

Google for storytellers

I sometimes feel that I am a voice in the wilderness to get my PR colleagues to use Google’s tools. SHIFT Communications does a good overview of Google’s News Lab that educates media and journalists on how to get the most out Google’s tools.

More information
Google News Lab

An experiment on fake Twitter followers

In 2013, I worked with a number of companies and executives that has used services to inflate follower numbers on Sina Weibo (a Chinese micro-blogging service). Often this was seen as a cheap way of getting an ego-boosting metric on their account or showing a positive delta relatively cheaply. Look at the front cover of magazines and the value of a celebrity is often measured in the number of followers that they have.
Untitled
Take this Elle magazine cover and interview with Kim Kardashian. Kardashian’s social media presence is as much a mark of status as a Hermès Birkin bag.
ingrid's birkin
However with Birkin bags going for as much as £55,000 online (holds head in hands and rocks slowly back-and-forth), getting Twitter followers might be a bit easier. If Twitter isn’t your thing, there are a number of suppliers for Instagram followers, YouTube subscribers and Facebook likes too.

I want to reiterate this here, acquiring fake followers is a cross-platform issue, Twitter is just a handy canary in the coal mine.

Looking at the variety of services, it seems to be a thriving business. A quick search on buy twitter followers cheap gave me over 31,100,000 results according to Google, and who am I to argue with their maths? De Micheli and Stroppa estimated that fake accounts used as fake followers accounted for 4 per cent of the Twitter user base, whilst Twitter claimed that the number was 5% in the S-1 document it filed prior to its IPO. The estimates of fake accounts on Sina Weibo are thought to be as high as 30% of the user base – it is hard to tell because Chinese Weibo consumption tends to be largely passive using it as a news stream rather than a ‘social’ channel.

Politicians and celebrities have both been caught out using fake followers to bolster numbers (presumably to add credibility to their social presence).

So what are the benefits and how does it work?

I added 55,000 fake Twitter users so that you don’t have to.

The process itself is really easy. The fake follower services generally accept payment by PayPal and have easy-to-use e-commerce services. The followers are generally delivered over two-to-five working days.

First I tried buying a big batch of followers, 50,000. The supplier delivered 56,000+ followers, but the number declines by about 100 followers over a week or so. This number seems to be pretty consistent. I can’t work out if this is just a common business practice or a part of Twitter’s ongoing conflict with fake accounts.

The purchase didn’t:

  • Move my Klout score
  • Improve the quality or number of organic followers that I received

I made a second purchase with a different vendor for 5,000 fake followers. This was delivered over five days, again an extra 10 per cent of followers were added on the top by the vendor and a similar decay pattern of about 5% of the followers occurred. This small increase had more of an effect on Klout causing a temporary bump in the score.  It has a more pronounced effect on Sysomos authority measure bumping my authority from 7 to 9 out of a possible 10.

It didn’t improve the volume or quality of followers that my account got organically.

With both vendors at least 5 per cent of the accounts that they used seemed to real people’s dormant accounts that had been co-opted into the fake follower game. There obviously seemed to be a market in taking over accounts that had been dormant for over 12 months. None of the fake follower accounts were set to private – this could factor into developing a heuristic for looking at fake follower accounts?

My overall conclusion on the fake follower business is that it almost purely about personal vanity rather than gaming a system.

More information
Pay up and embrace Twitter’s fake followers | Marketing Week
Fake Twitter followers: An easy game, but not worth the risk | The Next Web
How the market in ‘fake’ Twitter followers works | Yahoo! News
Rihanna Loses 1.2 Million Instagram Followers After Spambot Purge | Gigwise
Instagram makes teens and celebrities angry by killing millions of spambots | The Verge
Twitter and the underground market by Carlo De Micheli & Andrea Stroppa at 11th Nexa Lunch Seminar, Turin, Italy (May 22, 2013) – PDF
Inside a Twitter Robot Factory | WSJ
Twitter Admits 5% Of Its ‘Users’ Are Fake | Business Insider
I Bought 10,000 Fake Twitter Followers. Why Didn’t Klout, Kred (or Others) Notice? | Ignite Social Media

My digital tool box

There are new useful sites springing up all the time so this is just a snapshot of the things that I use:

Service/category Description
Analysis / measurement
Domain Tools Paid for service site with some great free features including DNS look-up and the SEO browser, which allows you to see your web page the way a search crawler, would see it. This is really handy to use with clients who currently have a visual site or to just as part of a website audit.
Google Trends Google Trends is a cornucopia of data to inspire campaign ideas and provide insight into a brand truth. The best bit about it is that its free and unlike other Google tools like Adplanner it hasn’t been crippled as the company got mean over the past few years.
Mention A freemium product that augments the reduced service that Google Alerts now provide.
SocialMention A great free service to grab a snapshot of social activity. The most useful aspect of the service is getting an idea of the aggregated volume of conversations and most active accounts.
State State is a self-described social opinion network where you can see what consumers think about brands or products often represented by a handy sentiment curve. Ok so the data will be skewed because the audience is self-selecting and tech forward, but it’s also a handy gut check on a brand.
Sysomos MAP Ok so the agency subscribes to MAP, but it is such a useful part of my life. From new business to PR messaging and everything in between MAP is a major tool in our work. I found it more useful than Radian6 in terms of the quality of the information it provides
Tfengyun.com Get some basic research and analysis done on a Sina Weibo account. It is all in Chinese so be sure to break out Google Translate as well!
TwitterCounter Does what it says in the name looks at the change in followers over a 90 day period of an account, which gives you an idea of performance. Handy for benchmarking against competitors or seeing how effective their activity has been.
Communication
Buffer Buffer allows you to preload updates for Twitter, a Facebook page or even Google+. It is simpler to use than Hootsuite and allows inputs from IFTTT
IFTTT IFTTT allows you to build simple workflows based on a web input for instance a post tagged on Pinboard.in with a tag or an article in an RSS feed with a particular word. I have found it invaluable in my Twitter workflow. It is much more robust, but less sophisticated than Yahoo! Pipes
Jego Jego is a VoIP application brought out by China Mobile. Despite the payment mechanism being very clunky the service is really useful. It is what powers my Hong Kong number and I get a bundle of call minutes with it rather like Skype. The call quality can be very rough, but I suspect that they Chinese will lift their game over time.
Skype So the user experience of Skype isn’t as good as it used to be. The NSA now listens into all of your calls that don’t get dropped or leave you ending up sounding like a dalek. But Skype’s premium account does allow you to do a WebEx-type webinar on the cheap including multiple callers and sharing a presentation.
TallTweets Indonesians have a very distinctive Twitter culture. High profile account holders are often paid to tweet a long form message by brands. This is called a kultwit. TallTweets was one of the tools that they used; it slices long form messages down into a series of 140 characters that are transmitted one after the other to produce a continuous stream.
WeChat I can’t emphasise enough how useful WeChat is. It can be used on both a desktop and a mobile device, you can form groups on there; share content, do video calls. It is much better than the likes of Whatsapp or Viber in terms of functionality and quality of the service.
Inspiration
Flickr Flickr is one of the digital services that I have probably used the longest. At first I used it for image hosting for my blogs and I still do use it for that. But it is also so much more. It is a source of visual inspiration for ideas, brainstorms and even visuals for presentations. Flickr Creative Commons is one of the best examples of good stuff about the web.
Pinterest Apart from the copyright nightmare that Pinterest represents it is really interesting to search a topic and see what comes up as a kind of instant mood board.
News
Hacker News by Y Combinator Not exactly news, but a great set of curated content that taps into the web zeitgeist. It saves time so you don’t have to be trawling Stack Overflow or Reddit.
Newsblur I am a massive advocate of Newsblur. Since Livedoor closed down it’s English language RSS reader I have been using Newsblur instead. The service has a great iOS client (which is better used on an iPad if I am honest), and has native support of numerous sharing / social bookmarking tools including Pinboard. There is also an Android client and a third party Windows Phone client for those of you who are mobile masochists. Newsblur takes RSS in a number of clever new directions, you can train it to show you only the content that you want to see and provides the content in a number of views including the original website design (for when you want to understand the context of the coverage), or just text (which is handy when you are on the go). Newsblur costs a very reasonable $24/year.
Techmeme Techmeme is an aggregator that collates the mainstream news; it replaced Google News for me since it was more the zeitgeist than Google managed.
Twitter lists Twitter is a great tool, but you need to slap a filter on the fire hose. I do this through using lists to give me a pared down view of what I need to know between the links to Buzzfeed articles and yet another cat picture from my friends.
Productivity
Basecamp Basecamp offers a cost effective way to organise / upwardly manage clients and share content. You just set up a different account for each project stream or discrete client relationship and off you go. It is free for 30 days if you are looking at something short term or $20 / month
DownForEveryoneOrJustMe A single page site that does what it says in the title, really useful
Google Drive I am not necessarily a great fan of creating a document within Google; it can sometimes feel unresponsive, particularly over a corporate network or where you are collaborating on a document. It is however great for building surveys, customer service question databases for managing social media accounts or holding a common set of passwords.
Hemingway Hemingway is like having an extra critical set of eyes go over your copy. I have started to use it for blog posts as a way of forcing me to look more critically at my writing and move away from my previous stream of consciousness approach.
iCloud Apple’s web services have been a part of my life since 2001. Apple at the time offered the first advertising-free IMAP email account, syncable address book and calendar based on WebDAV and hCard standards/formats. It has become less useful since Apple did away with iDisk
Mendeley If you’ve ever had to do some serious writing like a book chapter or a bylined article, having an application like Mendeley makes the process a lot easier. It is a mix of an application and cloud service that allows you to store citation materials, share with other writers and automatically build a bibliography within a Word document via a simple plug-in. Pretty much a must for journalists or corporate copywriters. Mendeley has a freemium model and at the top end, for just 11.99GBP/month you can have unlimited storage space
Noisli Noisli is a text editor designed to free you from distraction and is an essential part of my blogging workflow now. It’s white noise generation is also handy for when you want to get to sleep, I often leave my laptop logged in playing their rainfall noise when I am away and trying to get a good night’s sleep.
PDFEscape Online editing of PDF files
Pinboard Back in the day there was a service called del.icio.us that allowed you to store all your bookmarks in the cloud and put labels on them called tags rather than having to put them in folders. This allowed your bookmarks to exist in multiple categories. delicious allowed you to search these categories. Unfortunately del.icio.us became delicious.com and got crippled in a spectacular bout of shareholder value destruction overseen by numerous managers at Yahoo! who understood the price of everything and the value of nothing as Bill Hicks would say. Pinboard was created as a home for del.icio.us refugees like me and works as an augmentation of my memory and as a hopper for me to feed content into IFTTT.
Ribbet Ribbet is a basic online photo editor that does everything that I need a photo editor to do. Usually I use it for altering images for use in presentations.
Skip Skip is the app formerly known as ClipPick, it is basically multi-device / multi-screen cut and paste. Simple, easy, instantaneous. Like it or not the current mobile/tablet systems and PC systems aren’t particularly open, they tend not to work together well unless inside a particular vendor walled garden like Samsung, Sony or Apple.Skip breaks down those walls, it’s kind of like Google was in that once you start using it you couldn’t imagine life without it. Some really nice people in South Korea make it; show them some download love.
WeTransfer The simplest handy way of shipping files around. A lot of people find it hard to grasp the concept of Dropbox so the one-click approach of WeTransfer is really handy.
Planning tools / research
AcronymFinder Clients love TLAs and FLAs as professional shorthand, use AcronymFinder to work out what they are actually saying (TLA: three-letter acronym; FLA: four-letter acronym)
Archive.org Need to understand a former organisation? The Wayback Machine becomes particularly handy in understanding an organisation that has acquired or merged other businesses together.
CIA World Fact Book Surprisingly useful almanac of economic and infrastructure data from the Central Intelligence Agency. Everything from time zones to what the flag looks like.
Dogpile Dogpile is a meta search engine. It trawls a number of search engines rather than just Google to present you with potential answers
Eurostat database The European Commission pulls together a lot of research every year and gives it away to the likes of you and me for free. You can get some real gems that come in handy for campaign planning and ideation.
Federal Election Committee financial reports and data Handy when you are doing a search on likely reputational risks of clients. See whose campaign they donated to and the kind of issues that these people support.
Follower Wonk Probably one of the most useful Twitter tools out there which allows you to look at third party Twitter accounts and see which have common followers or not. Really handy for doing influencer mapping incorporating competitor thinking. It is part of the Moz series of products so costs, but is worth it.
Google search box Baidu talks a lot about the concept of ‘box computing’ where the search box is actually the gateway to other services, but Google has a lot of inbuilt services that people don’t realise. These services came from its competition with the likes of Yahoo! as it grew to be the online oligarchy that it currently is. More information on Google’s hidden features can be found in my Grokking Google series of posts
Infomine A handy augmentation to searching for research papers on Google Scholar
IPL2 An old school search engine a la the Yahoo! Directory of old that is curated by US librarians so is full of high quality links.
Ixquick A surprisingly useful and fast search engine, pull this out of the bag if Google isn’t giving decent results.
Similarsites Really handy for looking at influencers in a given sector once you have one, Similarsites can then be used to suggest others within a ranked system based on how close they are to the seed site you have used
The Economist World in Figures This used to be a free to access website and is now bundled up as a free iPhone and iPad application as an ideal counterpart to the CIA World Fact Book
WordPress.com A surprising recommendation for research, but a quick search of WordPress.com is worthwhile as people will often have an email address on their profile. Either using a domain specific search on Google find someone’s WordPress.com profile or by exploring the tags.
Travel
Foursquare Foursquare’s explorer function allows you to search an area by category for people driven recommendations. I have found it useful because of the map driven interface. Foursquare replaced Dopplr in my travel folder after Nokia shut it down.
Open Rice Detailed restaurant recommendations for Hong Kong. Hong Kong locals are some of the most exacting food critics I know which means that the Open Rice database is uncommonly useful. I recommend downloading the Open Rice mobile apps.
Skyscanner and OnTheFly Booking flights can be a bit of a nightmare Skyscanner and OnTheFly provide background information to help you make the right choice of flight.

What services do you use that you would recommend, pop them in the comments section below

First Google Reader, now Google Alerts

Google’s purge of products continues. Whilst the headlines were grabbed by Google Reader’s demise, another discrete change was going on over at Google Alerts. Google Alerts no longer supports providing alerts via RSS feeds, now the only choice is by email. For hard-pressed account teams pretty close to email bankruptcy its a pain. As an alternative PROs could do worse than give Mention a try. It would be reasonable to expect that Google will likely shut down FeedBurner at some point in the future.

Archived from blog posts I wrote for PR Week

Google Reader: time for contingency planning

The problem with free is that it comes with a best effort service agreement and nothing more. Over the past couple of years monitoring tools have came and went and businesses like Delicious have pivoted out of being useful to PR people. Overnight Google has announced further reductions of its product portfolio, the most significant for PR people was that Google Reader will be shut down on July 1, 2013. Google has offered a migration path through Google Takeout

The best alternative that I have found to Google Reader thus far has been Samuel Clay’s Newsblur which has a freemium model. For the majority of PR activity the free version should suffice, but from personal experience I found the paid for version well worth the money. It also has a great set of mobile applications. If you use the star functionality to save posts, I recommend that you look at Pinboard; a paid for social bookmarking tool; the more people it has users, the more the next person pays so getting on sooner rather than later would be a good idea.

From previous experience moving away from Delicious, I would advise that you plan for this migration sooner rather than later as services become overwhelmed.

More information
A second spring cleaning | Google Blog
Google Takeout
Newsblur
Pinboard.in

Archived from blog posts I wrote for PR Week

Grokking Google II

It was three years since I last took a look at Google’s commands and operators. The services and shortcuts that I highlighted then are still valid, so I thought I would list out some additional ones for your convenience:

  • allintitle: as in allintitle: monkeys “social media” brings up only those items that have a relevant title
  • cache: as in cache:renaissancechambara.jp Google’s current cache of the web page renaissancechambara.jp. I have saved contents from websites that have gone down using this; but you should back up files regularly
  • related: as in related:renaissancechambara.jp shows sites that are similar or in some way connected to the site you are searching with. For instance it is a great way of finding out the social media profiles of bloggers
  • info: as in info:renaissancechambara.jp is a good catch-all command that is likely to bring up links to the cache command, inbound and outbound links, pages that Google has indexed from the site and related command content. Info would be my first point of attack in research because it gives out so much, if you remember only one of these, go for info

More information

Grokking Google

A tip for a cold and dreary Monday

Disclaimer: doing this suggestion may put your computer and your company’s network at risk of attack – follow that advice at your own risk; you have been warned.

Ok so PR agencies have a reputation for making do and mending when it comes to technology and you may find yourself working on older systems than is the norm. With that in mind, newer versions of applications may run slowly, so why not get a version of the application that matches the computer you run on more closely? Oldversion.com keeps older versions of many of the applications that you already use.

So why the disclaimer at the top? Older applications are often patched or upgraded to deal with known security issues such as security vulnerabilities or susceptibility to malware.  Running an older version of the software, whilst being faster on your computer doesn’t benefit from subsequent security improvements.

Archived here from the former blog that I used to write at PR Week.

Expo season: advice I’d wished people had given me

For technology PRs we are in the middle of the expo season which started with CES in Las Vegas, continued through last week with RSA and the Mobile World Congress and then on to CeBIT in Hanover this week. Of all the events; CeBIT has to be the hardest. It’s the biggest event held in the most woefully unprepared city. Given these facts, I thought I would put together some suggestions for future conference attendance (if this was a magazine, I would have said so that you can cut out and keep):
  1. Fail to prepare, prepare to fail – expos like battles are chaos, however prior preparation can pay dividends even if things don’t go to plan
  2. Keep colour photocopies of your passport, in case the worst happens
  3. Have a list of useful telephone numbers researched prior to attending: local consulate, late night chemist, doctor, hotel details, travel agent, client details, team members etc
  4. Bring local currency, don’t assume that credit cards are universally acceptable like London
  5. Bring more medication than you need to cover for flight delays, your bag going missing etc
  6. Essentials:
  • Tie-wraps
  • Duck tape
  • Scissors, a Leatherman WAVE or a Swiss Army knife in your stowed luggage
  • Barocca – get a few tubes. Chances are clients will need it, even if you don’t drink you are likely to need a caffeine makeover due to sleep deprivation. Get the ones with the highest caffeine content. Generally there will be a number of stands that give out free bottles of water
  • Lots of AA batteries, don’t cheap out, buy Duracells
  • Cellphone charger that runs on said batteries
  • TomTom software for your smartphone – helps reduce roaming charges
  • Trail mix and cereal bars – because you won’t know where your next meal is likely to come from and hot dogs with sauerkraut can lose their attraction after a bit
  • Gel insoles: you will be on your feet for a lot longer than you are used to

Any further items that you think you’d need? Feel free to add them in the comments section

Archived from blog posts I wrote for PR Week

The other shoe drops for PRs on Yahoo!-Microsoft search deal

For those PRs that run SEO programmes or even know how to use internet tools for campaign planning and insights Yahoo! Site Explorer was a valuable weapon to have in their arsenal. It output sites that linked into a target site as a CSV file that could be opened in Microsoft Excel. This allowed you to, for instance, see which sites were mentioning competitors but not your site and sites that linked to both.  Yahoo!’s deal last year to hand over its search functionality to Microsoft cast a shadow over Yahoo!’s custom search product BOSS and other tools like Site Explorer. BOSS has had the licensing rates change to become less attractive and now Site Explorer is due to close down next year according to Yahoo!’s Search blog. Yahoo! recommends Bing’s Webmaster Tools, though to be honest with you I think that these are inferior to both Yahoo! and Google’s tools, instead I’d recommend getting a subscription to SEOmoz.

Archived from blog posts I wrote for PR Week