Instagram web profiles

Instragram have finally woken up and created online web profiles for all their avid Instrammers.  Hallelujah.  This is great news to Instagrammers like myself as it will open up the closed mobile community to potentially a much wider audience. I run a photography business in my spare time so this is a great way of increasing exposure of my work, although at present I tend to just use Instagram to host my mobile photography.  You’re welcome to view or follow my web profile here.

I imagine this will be a big incentive for brands to jump on board or invest further in this platform, not just because the Instagram community will inevitably grow as a consequence, but also because I’m hoping the branded content and web profiles may now get crawled by search engines.

Could this be the kiss of death for Flickr I wonder?

Lynx celebrates 1 million fans with Rube Goldberg machine

Hats off to the Lynx team at TMW who have just published this great video to commemorate reaching the important milestone of 1 million fans.  The Rube Goldberg machine is a nod to all the Lynx products or campaigns over the years to the present day.  It was shot in one take but took over 58 attempts to get it right.  What I particularly like about this video is that you have to watch it carefully – and many times – to have any chance of guessing all the references. How many TV ads can do that?

If you’re impatient like me and can’t wait to figure out all the references, he’s the answers revealed in reverse order using You Tube’s video annotation.

Facebook Timeline – a practical guide

I recently wrote a post called ‘Going back in Timeline‘, which reviews some of the more interesting ways in which brands are exploiting the new Facebook Timeline.  But if you want a more practical look at the main changes you need to make to Facebook Pages, this slideshare presentation sums it up pretty well. But hurry – the deadline is the end of this month 🙂

This is pure gold dust

If you’re responsible for fan engagement on Facebook, read this report by Buddy Media now!  It’s a statistical study based on all the rich data Buddy Media have at their disposal, so if you need evidence or insights to help improve engagement strategies on your wall, this is a great place to start.  These are some of the questions it aims to answer with some revealing results:

  • What is the optimal length of a post?
  • What is the impact of URL shorteners?
  • When is the best time of day to post?
  • What is the best day to post content (by industry sector)?
  • How should open-ended questions be constructed to solicit the best response?
  • What keyword phraseology gets the best results for promotions or action-orientated posts?

You may have the answers to these types of questions already having conducted your own analysis but if not, read on!

via Techsavyagent

Facebook: Going back in timeline

Facebook Timelines is opening up a range of new and exciting opportunities for brands to express themselves and engage with their fans. One aspect I particularly like is the timeline itself where brands can retrospectively publish posts to mark important milestones in their history. It’s a great way to showcase a brand’s heritage as well as reflect on its remarkable journey to the present day.  But it also acts as a virtual time capsule from a bygone era and can be strangely engaging in its own right, particularly for those who are passionate about your brand and its distant past.

But perhaps most important of all is that it creates the perfect environment for storytelling and rekindling some of those brand mythologies which make up its DNA. So here are some of the best examples I’ve seen to date but feel free to add to the list in the comments below.

Louis Vuitton

Louis Vuitton has been around since 1856 so they have a rich history of interesting stories to draw from to add context to their brand, from the time they opened their first workshop in Paris to some of their first innovative designs which have helped to define the luxury luggage category.

New York Time

The New York Times will have a huge back catalogue of worthy newstories to choose from so I imagine it was quite a job to distill the best ones.  They appear to have documented the history of the paper mixed in with events of the time so you can read about when Marilyn Monroe paid a visit to their newsroom to when the very first crossword puzzle was published.  What I like about this timeline is that they’ve actually tried to humanise the brand rather than simply provide an archive of all their achievements.


Once again, Ford pave the way in social media to show how automotive brands can use Facebook Timeline. They’ve made the most of their long history and backfilled their timeline with important milestones and achievement in automotive history, dating back to their inception at the start of the last century.


Coca-cola was founded way back in 1886 so they’ve charted their history by showing how the soft drink seemlessly fitted into the daily lives of American society at any given point of time, whether that’s couples who met over a glass of Coke during World War II or drinking Coke whilst watching the first man go to the moon.


Like Louis Vuitton, Burberry has been around since  1856 and have a rich history of stories to recount from opening their first store in Basingstoke to intrepid pilots from 1919 wearing Burberry Aviator suits for their first transatlantic flight.

Manchester United

I’m not really a football fan and if I was I doubt I’d support Man U! But supposing I was fanatical about this team I’m sure I’d enjoy dipping into their Facebook timeline to see my childhood heroes lifting the FA Cup. 


And finally, for all those Coldplay groupies out there you can look back at their meteoric rise from rather more humble beginnings!

6 steps to building an engaged community

I’d argue the fundamental principles for building  a community are largely the same whether you’re building your fanbase on Facebook or Google+, your subscribers on YouTube or followers on Twitter. It’s clearly not enough to establish your presence on these platforms and expect the community to grow of its own accord.  It needs investment, careful nurturing and a coherent content strategy to drive sustained growth and engagement. For simplicity, I break it down to the following 6 steps.


Whilst there will be some organic growth, a community will rarely gain critical mass without promotional investment.  So it’s important to deploy a range of techniques to drive traffic to your platforms:

  • Owned media – It’s essential you leverage your existing customer touchpoints as much as possible so that your audience can easily follow you via their preferred social channels.  So make sure you create a social media hub on your branded website, include signposting on CRM templates and also promote between platforms (eg link your Facebook and Twitter platforms to your custom YouTube channel).
  • Paid media – To genuinely accelerate growth, it’s worth investing in paid media to promote your social properties such as print, TV, radio ads, OOH, paid search, pre-roll YouTube ads, facebook advertising etc
  • Earned media – If you succeed in creating an engaged community and galvanise your evangelists you will illuminate your properties through word of mouth, sharing, likes, embeds and so on.


Choosing where to host your community is the easy bit.   The challenge is coming up with a compelling reason to join. So think about the social proposition for the community and the value exchange which underpins this. For example, you may be offering one or all of the following:

  • Breaking news and exclusive content
  • Invitations to VIP events
  • Exclusive special offers
  • Customer service response
  • Connection with a passionate community of fans and customers to share stories and experiences
  • Consultation on future developments of brand

Your ‘Illuminate’ phase should really encapsulate this desire and provide a tangible reason to join, either by articulating your umbrella social proposition or perhaps some compelling content which can only be accessed by becoming a fan (eg a new Facebook app or livestreaming event). “Fan gating” techniques can also be employed on selected tabs to make it more ‘desirable’ to become a fan of this page.

The reason for visiting a custom YouTube Channel is to find all your best branded video content under one roof.  So create playlists so that visitors can immerse themselves within a particular product range, service offering, technology, campaign or storyline.  The ultimate aim is to convince all your Youtube visitors to subscribe to this channel in order to remain up to date with the latest videos as they become available.  As for Twitter, your profile description is the only opportunity where you can really exaplain why anyone should bother following you.


First impressions are key so make sure you give your fans or followers a warm welcome from the outset.  Since you don’t always have complete editorial control on your Wall, all traffic to your Facebook page should always be directed to the Welcome Page.  This allows you to creatively explain what’s so good about your Facebook page and why they should like you  (as defined in the ‘Desire’ phase above). I’ve also found a ‘What’s new’ carousel quite a useful device to signpost the latest and most compelling content/tabs.

With Twitter you have the advantage of being able to welcome your followers with an automated or personalised DM message.


We all know by now that it’s no good recruiting a large fan base if you don’t cultivate their interest and keep them engaged over the longer term.  Engagement rates as a proportion of total fans will be a key metric of success. As will ‘fan attrition rates’. So employ a range of engagement strategies and tactics which will cultivate your communities in such a way which builds positive brand opinion. A coherent content strategy should keep the community engaged and try to stimulate dialogue, participation and debate. At the end of the day, you want an active and lively community not a passive one.


But it’s not just about driving engagement. It’s about galvinising your fans to become believers and evangelists.  So set yourself KPIs which encourage advocacy and deploy engagement tactics which deliver against this. So it’s about seeding content which is worth sharing, making sure any content can easily be shared such as embedded videos, Add This plug ins, facebook opengraph etc.,   This will prove critical in ensuring the community enjoys periods of sustained organic growth without the need of having to resort to paid media all the time.


Many communities leave it at that but I think it’s also important to find ways to migrate social handraisers or fans onto your marketing databases or at least nurture them through the purchase funnel in some way.  This will involve either implicit or explicit lead generation techniques from encouraging web referrals and invitations to subscribe to your CRM programme, to even integrating e-commerce funcationality.  Some of you may dislike this approach and feel that’s inappriopriate for social channels but I think there are ways to deliver this in a tactful and sensitive way.  After all it’s only the leads or sales you generate from your social platforms which will ultimately deliver an ROI so if we don’t make a concerted effort to coax fans through the purchase funnel it’s a missed opportunity in my view.

11 virtual stores you should know about

Virtual stores are nothing new.  When you think about it any branded website which replicates the shop environment through interactive visuals or e-commerce functionality  could be classified as a virtual store. But what I find interesting is the emerging trend of extending this concept into other digital, mobile and social spaces.   In a lot of ways it makes perfect sense to take your shop to where your customers are rather than wait for them to find you.

But simply replicating e-commerce in different platforms doesn’t necessarily cut it.  In fact, the WSJ reviewed a report by Forrester recently which warns brands not to rush out and add ecommerce functionality onto their social platforms as the ROI is still questionable.  Their study suggests that  early adopters of shopping carts on Facebook had seen only modest results, and in most cases not until after they’d established a loyal-fan following. But there does seem to be an emerging opportunity here for brands to explore, whether that’s incorporating e-commerce or replicating the store experience in some other way.  So here’s my pick of the bunch which I feel work brilliantly.

#1 – Asos Facebook page

Asos claimed to be the first in Europe to open a virtual store on Facebook where fans could buy their merchandise without even leaving the site.  Whether that’s true or not I don’t know but it’s clearly paying dividends for Asos who now boast almost 1 million fans already.   The e-commerce app they developed has the same functionality as that used on their main website including add-to-basket, edit cart contents, check out and order-tracking features.  But now they can tap into all the benefits of building a fanbase on Asos at the same time.

#2 – Amazon mobile app

I have the Amazon app on my iPhone and have to say I absolutely love it. It’s so simple to use and brings all the benefits and convenience you’ve come to expect from Amazon directly into the palm of your hand – so you can effectively browse the whole Amazon store without even getting off the sofa (or the loo for that matter).  But for me the best function is the barcode scanner.  I used this the other day when I was buying a flat screen TV.  I popped into various stores on the high street to review the latest products.   I checked them all for picture and sound quality and prices.  I even spoke to the friendly salesmen for advice.  Once I’d decided on the one I liked the most, I simply scanned the barcode using the Amazon app and found the exact same model on Amazon.  Not only was it £100 cheaper but I could also check all the consumer reviews to give me the social validation to go ahead with the sale.  I completed the transaction with a couple of clicks on my mobile (whilst in the other store) and had the TV delivered the very next day.

I must admit I did feel slightly guilty about abusing the high street retail system but since they didn’t have the one I wanted in stock that was their look out.  Also at least I paid something for my TV, which is more can be said for the London looters!

#3 – O2 Guru TV

If you haven’t seen it yet, you really should check out O2 Guru TV – they’ve delivered a fabulously engaging virtual store experience by creating a custom channel on YouTube.  It’s not a virtual shop which uses ecommerce as such but rather a portal for handling customer service queries. So customers can go there to find videos on a range of topics from the latest handset reviews to how to reduce your mobile tariff when travelling abroad. It’s a a video rich resource which is not only social and interactive but also excellent for driving awareness through video search optimisation. I’ve heard it’s had a positive impact on reducing call centre volumes too.

#4 – BMW on eBay

It’s easy to think of virtual stores within the retail sector but what about other industries like automotive.  Well, if you’re a BMW owner, the prospect of driving to your BMW dealer to pick up a spare part or accessory could be a thing of the past.  Nowadays you can simply visit their virtual store on eBay – BMW Direct.

#5 – Ocado on the Go

The Ocado on the Go app is available on the iphone and android. As you’d expect you can browse and buy all your groceries, as well as book a delivery slot directly from your phone. Very impressive functionality.  I probably wouldn’t do a complete weekly shop on it as it’s quite a protracted process – not sure my iphone battery would last that long – but I do occasionally amend existing orders or do a mid-week top up shop when I’ve forgotten something. According to econsultancy, they have 10,000 users registering every month and 4,000 checkouts a day. In fact, mobile transactions now account for 12% of Ocado purchases.

#6 – First Direct iphone app

I guess First Direct’s whole raison d’etre is around the virtual store proposition – after all if it wasn’t for telephony or online banking they wouldn’t exist.  But their latest app is a natural extension of the virtual store. It only has limited functionality at this stage – so all you can do is check your balances and make payments/transfers directly from the app. But for checking things on the fly, it’s perfect.

#7 – M & S mobile site

M & S recognised the importance of virtual shopping or ‘mobile retailing’ a while ago and launched their mobile ecommerce site in May last year. Since then, their site has received nothing but praise due to its simple usability experience and seemless ecommerce integration.  In fact, according to eDigital Research which publishes the mCommerce Benchmarking Study 2011, the M & S mobile site came out on top.

#8 YouTique by French Connection

French Connection have created a well designed custom channel on YouTube called YouTique. It hosts a range of video including anything from fashion tips to more leftfield content to keep things interesting. They have incorporated video annotation too to  guide visitors through the channel.

#9 – Google shopping

If you can’t run to the cost of producing your own virtual store, there’s always Google Shopping.  A search on Google Shopping will collate all the products within your vicinity so you can see at a glance what’s the cheapest. You can then go on to buy online with just a few clicks.

#10 – Tesco Homeplus & John Lewis

Tesco in Korea came up with an innovative idea recently where they decided to bring the store to the people. By creating a virtual store on the underground platform, commuters could shop by scanning the QR code with their smartphone which would then add the item to their shopping basket. Neat.

Funnily enough, John Lewis have recently come up with a similar execution in Brighton where they’ve converted a window display from one of their Waitrose stores into an interactive shopping experience using QR codes.

#11 – Virtual Facebook

Perhaps saving the best till last. Here’s an exciting idea by Shaker who have created a virtual world within your social network. The video is a bit corny but if you jump towards the end of the clip you’ll get the idea. Who knows it might catch on.

This isn’t an exhaustive list so if you know any other virtual stores, whether that’s ecommerce based or simply replicating the store experience on other digital or social platforms, please share them below.