Monday 20 December 2010

Snow, snow everywhere!

Crikey it's chilly outside! As we're all freezing in the winter weather I thought i'd do a very quick posting on how brilliant social networks are during extreme times! I've been amazed at how well some things work when you're mobile and how integrated they have become to my life. I have a variety of social tools at my finger tips from my mobile phone, Foursquare, Latitude, Facebook, Sat Nav, Weather reports! So, a typical journey into work today:

• Check the weather report before heading out, it's not looking too bad.

• Dig the car out, take a photo of the dash saying it's -11.5 outside and post it to Facebook.

• Manage to get to the petrol station to fill up in case the journey home takes 4 hours like last year! Check in via Foursquare, i'm only 1 day away from being Mayor apparently... the same as yesterday!

• Start up Google Navigation (Beta!) and check out the traffic reports for the journey to work, it's as bad as expected!

• Finally get in and not have to worry about telling anyone as they're all following me on Latitude!

The wonders of modern technology!

Monday 6 December 2010

What a collection of throwbacks!

If, like me you grew up in the 80's and 90's then you'll be equally mesmerised by the video below, a great example of a simple idea, executed well! This is a promo for the Norwegian TV series Gylne Tider... enjoy!

Monday 29 November 2010

The Christmas run up has begun!

University Christmas Card 2010
So, 26 days to Christmas and we're officially feeling festive! We have the usual internal ideas knocking around, we should the Christmas party be this year, who do we need to send cards to and how do we 'festivise' the staff website, do we go with a sprig of holly or a christmas pudding?

This year we will be sending out a card designed by one of our staff members and in aid of Victim Support. However, the big development for us this year is going to be our 'going green' move of offering a digital Christmas card for our staff to send out. We've had them previously and they did go down rather well but there was always a question from our ISD department about the security of an online system. So this year we've tackled the problems head on and decided on an internally hosted software solution with LDAP authentication! This solves the problem of how to keep the system secure and also means that we will be able to use the system for other cards during the year.

A win win solution that keeps us and ISD happy, the only question now is when do we release it to staff, after all , it is almost December!

Monday 15 November 2010

We've won a Gold CIPR PRide award!

Kris Collins & Pete Simpson,
CIPR PRide awards 2010
So, the CIPR PRide awards have come and gone for another year and we did rather well! The external website ( picked up a Gold award for Best Website, a real sign that the improvements, tweaks and new developments we've been putting in over the last 12 months have really paid off! The site was highlighted to have met the expectations of its audience as a well navigated and precise source of information.

Our internal staff publication 'Life' picked up a Silver award for best publication and our staff website ( was shortlisted for Best Internal Communications.

All in all a very successful night for the MARC team and it's always great to receive recognition for all the hard work! Congratulations to everyone that won an award on the night and we'll probably see you all next year!

Wednesday 10 November 2010

Android lands at the University of Bedfordshire...

So, whilst we've been working on an iPhone app for the University it turns out that we have also had an internally facing Android application built... in just one week using the new Google App Inventor. It's in beta at the moment and is invitation only but a colleague in the LRC, Paul Fryer, has managed to get his name on the list and built his first application!

The app is free to download and covers a host of useful areas with contact details for library staff, GPS 'Find a campus' options and searches of the library catalogue. It's compatible with all Android phones running version 1.6 and above.

This has really shown us that the tools out there to develop for the Android platform have matured and can now assist all novice programmers with producing an engaging application. With the Android marketplace still running behind on the number of applications available when compared with Apple's App Store this could be just the boost it needs.

It's now been released into the wild and is available for download from the LRWeb site. It's aimed primarily at our current students but if you fancy a look then why not download a copy?

Visit LRWeb for the Android application

Friday 5 November 2010

The evolution of the Geek...

A nice infographic from Flowtown, the question is though, which one are you?

I'm going to go with Tech Geek as me!

The evolution of the Geek - via

Wednesday 3 November 2010

Click Heat is finally installed

Well, it's been a long time coming, months of negotiations with our IT department and we have finally had an instance of Click Heat installed to run on our external website. The idea of heat mapping came up in a post I made way back in January when we were originally looking at a paid for service to provide us with details. However, a very handy reply from Mike Nolan pointed us to the open source ClickHeat option instead and we now finally have it installed!

It's only a few weeks in but it's already highlighting some interesting trends on our page usage and has shown that we are still the first point of contact for our current students as well as prospective. The hottest spot on our homepage is to our VLE 'BREO'... This feedback will obviously help us when we look at re-shuffling the content on our pages and also highlights how we need to further promote our internal services to our current students.

I've dropped a screenshot of the Click Heat output below to show how visual the stats are, also a big bonus when trying to show why changes to page layouts are needed!

Click Heat output for the initial two weeks of running

Monday 25 October 2010

Flashback to 1997...

I was given some paperwork by a colleague in ISD last week which included the original designer spec for the website from 1997. How things have changed! A few highlights include:
  • Strict HTML 3.2 (!) 
  • All pages should be capable of being printed
  • MAD-T... ?!
  • Designed for a 640 by 480 screen
The full document is embedded below, no laughing please, this was cutting edge at the time!

Tuesday 19 October 2010

Google Blue Box Vs Funnel Back search

Search... it's a big subject when it comes to internal discussions on how visitors navigate our website. At the moment we have a Google Blue Box which provides us with a competent search and results display but does come with a two year lifetime at which point it gives out a little fizz and we need to purchase new hardware. It does seem strange that they only have a two year lifecycle!

So, as our box is due to self destruct within a year we started to look at alternative options and had a rather impressive demo from Funnel Back, part of Squiz. With only two hours of back end set-up and no tagging of our content the results displayed were impressive enough to stop us all talking!

Google has a real competitor for the small appliance search engine market and at present Google doesn't even compare (and i'm Google friendly!). The Funnel Back search results picked out course descriptions, suggested search terms and grouping with virtually no manual input. If we took the time to tweak it & tagged our content in a logial way (!) then we could see some outstanding results all of which would feed into a very nice course finder for our homepage.

I've posted a screen shot of both search results using the search term 'media' to show the difference.

Funnel Back search results for 'Media'

Google Blue Box search results for 'Media'

Tuesday 12 October 2010

The new Campus Centre is open for business!

So, the Campus Centre at Luton campus is now open for business! Pete and Hannah (of Spotify fame) grabbed a camera and took a quick walk around to see how it all looks. The rough cut is viewable below!

Tuesday 5 October 2010

Anyone surprised that IE is on the decline?

So, IE now has less than 50% of the worldwide browser market share... anyone that surprised?

With Firefox, Chrome, Safari and Opera as the main opposition players on the market it was only a matter of time until IE fell to less than half the market usage. The big surprise of the report from StatCounter is that it's Chrome that's eating into their share and not Firefox! With Google as a serious player in pretty much everything now (watch out for Google TV!) it really shouldn't be a massive surprise that they are keen to take the majority share of the browser usage. After all, it is pretty quick!

The drop in usage has been partly attributed to the European Commissions ruling on Microsoft offering an easy way to select your preferred browser. But, can IE9 save the day or could this really be the beginning of the end for IE dominance?

Having looked at the Browser usage stats for we have seen a decrease in IE usage of 13.5% in the last 12 months with a 10% increase in the usage of Chrome and a 3% increase in the usage of Safari! So we're reflecting the stats within our own sites as well.

I've pulled off some stats from StatCounter showing the browser usage for Worldwide, Europe and the UK separately:

Worldwide IE usage
European IE usage
UK IE usage

Tuesday 28 September 2010

#newtwitter video on YouTube

Interesting overview of the new Twitter layout, if you haven't been moved across yet then this gives you an insight into what's to come. What will happen to TwitPic now?!

Yourls, our in-house URL Shortener

So, we are already using Bitly.Pro for a custom domain name and to monitor the stats from our tweets and some radio adverting and it works fantastically well! But, we had a proposition from our ISD department about the use of an in-house solution as well.

Now, we always like to do things in-house if we can and this seemed like an ideal solution, the same functionality as Bitly.Pro with the added extras of being able to update the destination of the URL's, update the short link ending and far better filtering of results and lists.

So, we're going to use them for publication in printed materials, much friendlier than using the long URL and we can use a custom address to ensure that it stays looking corporate. The best part will be that we can get some feedback on how closely people using the printed prospectus interact with the website. Throw in a few trackable phone numbers and we'll be looking at pulling in the most stats we've ever had on a printed publication!

Wednesday 22 September 2010

Social Media Revolution

Interesting video on Social Media not being a fad! Plus some rather interesting stats on the growth rate of social media compared to traditional!

Tuesday 21 September 2010

It's awards time again!

So, the time of year is here again and the first round of awards and nominations are out. So, the first award...

The University of Bedfordshire has been awarded the Web Marketing Association's 'Standard of Excellence' award for The Web Marketing Association was founded in 1997 to help set a high standard for Internet marketing and development of the best websites on the World Wide Web. The University received a score of 56 out of 70 (80%) putting us at a level higher than the industry standard.

...and that's not all! The University has picked up three shortlist nominations for the CIPR PRide awards 2010. The two digital awards are for and our staff site with the third nomination being for our internal publication 'Life'.

The CIPR award ceremony is at the end of November so i'll post up the results should we win!

Friday 17 September 2010

Bye Bye Wututu

Oh well, our experiment with digital signage tracking is now over. Sadly, Wututu appear to have gone into administration... scuppered by the recession!

We have early data so we'll be analyzing the data and looking at how to move forward with another company if the need for this data is deemed important enough!

Goodbye to a great start up company!

Tuesday 7 September 2010

Clearing, Spotify and sponsored tweets

So, we are just coming out of the Clearing period at the University and it's time to start looking back at how everything went, what went well and what didn't! So, two new lines of advertising that we have been trialling this year are Spotify advertising and Sponsored Tweets.

Spotify was a last minute booking for the University and has performed extremely well. You can run a very targeted campaign with us focusing on Herts, Beds and Bucks listeners aged between 18 and 24. Due to the way Spotify works you can buy 'listens' on a CPM basis and at a very competitive rate as well, this can also include banner advertising to run alongside the advert. We recorded a 30 second advert in-house and booked in for a week. The response has been great, we had hundreds of click throughs on the banner advert and a handful of mentions on Twitter from people who had heard it. A success all round and we now have anither advert running for our Part Time campaign!

The other new line of advertising was Sponsored Tweets. Again, a great success with hundreds of click throughs on the link we provided to them and with a number of re-tweets as well. These start from $0.20 US per posting all the way up to thousands of dollars for a single tweet from the likes of Kim Kardashian! I purchased 50 tweets for the Clearing campaign and an additional 20 for the Part Time campaign and the whole lot came in for under $100 US. Very cost effective and good for raising Buzz about campaigns.

So, two new avenues for advertising campaigns in the future with both of them being very quick to turn around so ideal for late advertising!

Wednesday 25 August 2010

UCAS Clearing 2010

Clearing 2010 is well underway at the University and we're seeing some great figures so far. I have put in place more tracking than ever before and the biggest issue we will have once Clearing shuts is how best to present it all! We have Clearing campaign tracking on all our online ads that filter into Google Analytics, including our trial run with Spotify advertising, telephone tracking, site tracking, unique phone numbers on print adverts and short URL tracking for radio. All in all it's going to be far easier for us to work out which mediums offer us the best ROI!

Hopefully everyone else is having as successful a time as we are and once Clearing has closed i'll look at publishing some of the reports on the blog, could make interesting reading!

Tuesday 17 August 2010

Facebook Location launching next week?

A rumour seems to be going round that Facebook is about to launch their long awaited location service. Initially slated for earlier in the year and delayed due to the on-going saga of privacy settings it now looks as though we may be ready to try out this new service.

Details are pretty shady at the moment about what exactly Facebook's new location service will be like, but it's likely the main way you'd share your location would be through your mobile device. This would obviously put it in direct (if not commercially competitive) competition with Google Latitude, Foursquare and Gowalla.

The real question people will be asking is how the service will be used to display advertising? Will the location service allow us to deliver adverts in a more targeted way by geo-location? Could be rather interesting if it can...

Friday 6 August 2010

Google Wave has hit the rocks...

So, Google Wave is being withdrawn... not a huge surprise to people who have used it!

Announced in May 2009 Google Wave was expected to revolutionise the way we communication online, allowing for sharing of content and collaboration on projects it was described as  "how e-mail would look if it were invented today" the closure has been blamed on poor take up.

I had an early invitation to Google Wave and quickly worked out that the new tool was not for me and apparently others have felt the same way... one to mark down for experience at Google!

Thursday 5 August 2010

Digital signage monitoring

We currently have 24 live digital signage screens across our five campuses at the University and they are a very valuable resources for us to push information out to all students very quickly. However, with another 12 coming online within the next few months what we don't know is, does anyone actually ever look at them?

So, we have now invested in some digital signage monitoring software that will allow us to measure if people are looking at the screens and for how long. A quick glance or a longer stare! The software works by using facial recognition to judge when a person is looking directly at the screen and tracks how long they look for. It also includes metrics on the gender of the person which is worked out with some clever judgement on face shape, hair style, height, etc and proves to be around 90% acurate.

In order to have the software running it needs to be installed on a small stand alone PC such as an EeePC and requires a webcam to be attached to the top of the screen you want to monitor. This then sends the information it gathers back to a hosted server that then displays the results via a dashboard display.

We looked at a couple of different solutions, Quividi, Wututu and CognoVision appeared to be the three leading companies and we eventually chose Wututu as our preferred supplier. As they all do very similar things it did become a costing exercise and Wututu was significantly cheaper!

It'll be an easy installation for us and when we start to receive some stats i'll make sure I post up the initial findings!

A video of how the software tracking looks can be seen below.

Monday 19 July 2010

AlertRank is no more...

The rather nice bolt-on for Google Alerts is sadly no more, I had a short email message in my inbox this morning stating:

"Our investors have decided that Alertrank has not generated enough of a following to justify maintaining it as a free site. As a result, we will be terminating the site on July 15th."

We've been using the service as an addition to the paid for monitoring that we use on a daily basis as it can sometimes pick things that get overlooked.

It'll be a sadly missed service...

Tuesday 13 July 2010

It's award time again...

Just a quick posting to say that the awards season is in full swing and that i'll be spending countless hours writing submissions and hopefully having my suit dry cleaned! Great visitor stats, increases in sign-ups and internal recognition is brilliant however, a nod from your peers at an awards ceremony can really help boost moral!

Good luck to anyone else entering, we might see you at the awards!

Thursday 8 July 2010

A surprise win for Twitter!

So, a quick update to the washing machine story... @gebu, who looks to be part of the french marketing arm of Hotpoint/Indesit, posted the instructions and manual on how to reset the machine within 3 hours, via Twitter! Brilliant!

The UK email service got back to me the following day... with the wrong information.

Monday 5 July 2010

Customer service, I don't think so...

Time for me to have a mini moan about poor customer service, an annoyance for many people!

I had to move my Hotpoint washing machine this weekend and when I plugged it back in again the display language had changed to French! Although my knowledge of French washing terms will go through the roof i'd still like my language set back to English.

So, being keen I started to look online for the manual which I found pretty quickly, a 16 page PDF with no useful information in it at all.

So I checked online in the forums, plenty of people with the same issue but not a single response on how to fix the problem. Nothing from other users and more importantly, nothing from Hotpoint themselves...

Next, I thought i'd phone them (this is at 6pm on Saturday night) so I find the number for the information line but it's only open Mon - Fri 8.30am - 5.00pm!

My last resort... i'll email them. So, I sent off an email asking for help and I get the following reply: 

"We will respond to your enquiry as soon as possible. However please allow a maximum of 5 working days before pursuing a reply if you have not heard from us." 

Please don't chase us up for an answer until we've ignored you for at least five days?!

Now, I would class this as a pretty poor customer experience for me and i'm reasonably patient. What about the damage done to the Hotpoint brand by the unanswered questions on the forums, the lack of available documentation & FAQ's and the slow response to email enquiries? Poor online customer service is not really excusable in the times of automated monitoring systems and virtual advisors, especially from a company as large as Hotpoint.

Time to do things better Hotpoint... and will I get a reply to this posting?

Saturday 26 June 2010

Unified Communications?!

So, what exactly is Unified Communications (UC) and why are we interested in it at the University? Well, in seriously stripped down terms, it's a new phone system that runs over your network rather than a standard phone line. If you want the long explanation then Wikipedia is a good starting point:

This sounds like a great idea, you can have your number redirected to any device, PC softphone, Mobile, Desktop handset even a hotel phone if you're away for the night. The idea is that you have one number, assigned to you, no matter where you are in the world. It's a big concept to get your head around, you no longer need to be tied to a desk, you don't need to pay hotel charges to call out as the hotel phone essential becomes your phone. All charges are made back to your company and the whole system is seamless.

So, the big question is, how do you tell people about this?! For people who spend all day at their desks they won't notice the difference other than a shiny new handset. But, for people who are more mobile there are real advantages, the issue being though that there are more things to remember! If you're away from your desk or in a meeting what should your phone do? It can point to your mobile, it could go to your voicemail or it could go to someone else. But you need to tell it to do that and that needs to happen via a long push button system on the phone or via a web browser. So now we have a web browser controlling your phone and how do you explain that to someone not familiar with the concept?

As you can see, there are a lot of questions to be answered and explained in the easiest way possible... time to put our thinking caps on and pull in all of our resources, this could be a biggy!

Tuesday 22 June 2010 here we come...

I finally received an email from (beta) this morning about our account being created, all very exciting stuff!

So, all social media links can now be shortened to, for example a link to our facebook page can be:

Genius stuff, nicely on brand but not too heavy handed and means we can get some feedback on link traffic from a central account. I just need to nominate a member of the team to handle the short url requests!

Ideally we would like an in-house URL shortening service but due to the timeframe for this to be implemented we have looked at an external alternative for the time being. We can always move over to the in-house option once it's up and running with an alternative domain name and then phase out the links. A bit of a pain but at least we can use the services now!

Yet another external product to enhance our offerings in Marketing, anyone else have 'timeframe' issues with development work?

Monday 14 June 2010

Mobile devices... should we be worried?

I read an interesting posting by Mike Nolan at Edge Hill University about the use of mobile devices to view their website. So, in the interests of sharing information I thought i'd not a similar exercise for us! I've matched the dates used to run the report, 14th April – 13th June 2010 and included the resulting pie chart stats of unique visits below.

What you might notice is that we are also seeing a large number of visits from iPhone and iPod users to the website. In fact, the only really difference seems to be that we have more SymbianOS users, probably due to our selection of company mobile phone more than anything else.

So, should we be worried about the increase in mobile usage? Probably not just yet, our site is optimised to work rather well on Apple devices and by the time mobile browsing really takes off, things will have changed again! Just to put the sizes in context the total amount of visits for that period is 454,186...

One last thought though... poor LG...

Wednesday 2 June 2010

We've joined the crowd... we're on Twitter

So, i've finally created a Twitter account for us to keep track of snippets of info we find interesting! The feed is streamed onto the blog (below right) but you can also follow us to kepp up-to-date!

uobmarketing twitter feed

Tuesday 1 June 2010

RSA Animate - The Secret Powers of Time

A quick posting about a video being played on the Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce (RSA) website as part of a series of animations. Professor Zimbardo conveys how our individual perspectives of time affect our work, health and well-being. Interesting subject in itself (153,000 views and counting!) but it's the video representation of the talk that really held my interest, well worth a watch and if you like this one then the rest of the series is available online at the RSA Blog.

Thursday 27 May 2010

The Future of the Prospectus

I had a day out in London on Tuesday to attend the Future of the Prospectus conference at the Magic Circle HQ. Really interesting event covering digital, print and mobile ideas about where the prospectus is headed.

The programme was:
  • Luke Mckend from Google
  • The Heist prospectus winner discussion
  • The Printer's Forum
  • TVU - the first iPhone prospectus
  • Sean Montgomery - Fonemedia
  • University of Surrey - in-house personalised prospectus
  • Tracy Playle - Picklejar communications
Bit of a mixed bag, all the speakers were interesting but it was the digital side that was of more interesting to me. (I have a long history of printers in the family so I can relate but am really glad I didn't go down that route!)

So first up was Google, nothing new here as i've seen them at most conferences, only thing that peaked my interest was a mention of YouTube EDU, something to keep any eye on, similar to iTunes U.

Heist Prospectus winners all chatted about their award winning publications.

The printers wanted to stress that they are there to help look at how to save us all money and that we should look at them as an extension of our teams.

TVU showed off their iPhone App, bit of a trend to the day that the iPhone is the way forward. Interesting that Android didn't get too much of a mention despite being on a seriously fast growth curve.

Sean from Fonemedia demonstrated Bluetooth and SMS functionality (both of which we have already). Also, he showed off the idea of using QRCodes on printed materials.

University of Surrey were very interesting, a fully personalised prospectus, printed, finished and sent in-house! Genius idea if you can do it and they looked to be managing a massive process very well!

And finally, Tracy from Picklejar Communications who had some interesting observations on social and digital media. Augmented Reality was mentioned, if you haven't seen it check out the Lego video on YouTube. This could be a strong development area but again comes down to needing a smartphone or a desktop machine.

All in all, some interesting ideas around the development of digital publications, social media integration and printing options. And the conclusion draw at the end of the day?

Even with the best digital offerings we all still like a bit of printed material!

Wednesday 19 May 2010

Lucky me, I've been chosen!

You were recently chosen as a potential candidate to represent your professional community in the 2010/2011 Edition of The Global Directory of Who's Who Online.

We are please to inform you that your candidacy was formally approved March 30th, 2010. Congratulations. 

So, how many of us have had one of these email? I receive at least one a day now, I must be the most popular/recognised person in the UK! The part that was a little upsetting was the fact that I was selected on the 30th March and this was only sent to me on the 4th May 2010! Over a month of missed opportunity!

It's such a shame to think that this kind of mass mailing junk can and probably does generate money for the people sending them.

Sadly the future of junk mail continues!

Monday 10 May 2010

Digital delivery vans...

Another quick post about the Digital Signage Expo and a chance to put up the only photo I took on the day! An interesting idea for expanding on revenue generation with a van that has a large digital screen embedded into the side of it (see photo).

Potentially a money spinner as you could sell off advertising space to clients who would be advertised as your van carried out it's deliveries. A simple idea but in hard economic times it could bring in a few extra pounds.

The only downside, apart from installation costs, is that we didn't get to see how much of the inside of the van the screen took up, if you're only left with enough room for a single small cardboard box it might not be such a good idea!

Friday 7 May 2010

Digital Signage Strategies Forum 2010

So I was lucky enough to be invited as a key note speaker at the Digital Signage Strategies Forum 2010 at Earls Court on Wednesday. I'm not entirely sure how they tracked me down but it was a brilliant day with some really good insights into how other people are running their systems. I'm biased obviously but it looks like we're doing most things well and we even had our supplier OneLan there running one of our layouts!

The talk went well, not too nervous (!) and we had a good round of questions at the end. We even had a couple of people taking photos of our slides! I asked a collegue, John Wells, from our Information Services Department to join me to talk about the Infrastructure Intergration.

The bonus of being there was also that we could visit the Screen Media Expo also being held at Earls Court. There were some really interesting developments in digital signage including dwell and recognition monitoring, flexible screens, laser displays and lots of other things that looked rather expensive! We'll be looking to implement a few of the things we've seen over the rest of the year so keep your eyes peeled for some interesting developments!

You can view the presentation below and why not head over to John's blog to read his posting here.

Tuesday 27 April 2010

Internet World 2010 update

So, i'm back from a pretty hectic day at Internet World 2010 and the emphasis has been on Content Management Systems. In total we had demo's of four systems, Alterian, Sitecore, Squiz and Vyre and they all offered relatively similar functionality but the two that stood out most for me were Squiz and Alterian.

Squiz is an Open Source product with a solid backing (the Australian government uses it) and a good support level.

Alterian is a CMS from a company we have currently shortlisted for Social Media Monitoring.

Both offer the sort of functionality we are now seriously interested in implementing such as personalisation of the website for visitors either with login details or via a cookie drop, multivariate testing of content, heuristic tailoring of content based on visitor profiling and closer integration of social media and web 2/3.0 functionality.

It's always a huge decision in deciding which CMS to go with and our current one has worked very well for us but visiting exhibitions and conferences does highlight just how quickly technology has moved on and we're starting to look a little dated. It's the ever elusive quest for perfection and it'll take us a while to get there but it looks as though a replacement CMS may need to be on the cards... 

Internet World 2010 is running again tomorrow so if you have a chance to visit it's certainly worth a look around!

Monday 26 April 2010

Internet world 2010

I'll be visiting internet world 2010 tomorrow and be adding anything that might be of interest! Also, I'll be adding posts to the new Twitter feed from my mobile device for the first time so apologies for any typo's!

You can check out the Twitter feed in the menu on the left or follow me @uobmarketing

Sunday 18 April 2010

Google Analytics Intelligence

If, like me, you've been struggling to understand how best to utilise the new Intelligence reports within Google Analytics then you might find the following article useful. Written by Dave Chaffey on the Smart Insights website it gives a rough overview of what is/isn't useful and then a step by step guide to creating a custom alert.

Having read through the article it's inspired me to set up a few to trial run this under-used feature!

Smart Insights

Friday 16 April 2010

You really can market anything...

Just spotted a Penn & Teller video on YouTube and it reminded me about the disasterous marketing campaign for Dasani, a perfect case of how things can go really wrong! Originally a £7m marketing push to highlight the new "pure" bottled water from Coca-Cola it ended up in the revelation that Dasani was in fact tap water run through a pretty low end purification process and then marked up from 0.03p to 95p per half litre.

Not a huge surprise then that Dasani is no longer available... but as the video shows below, if you do get the marketing side right and you sound believable, you can pretty much sell anything!

Wednesday 14 April 2010

Opera Mini for the iPhone

In a move that no-one was expecting Apple has allowed the Opera Mini browser onto the iPhone. As someone that uses Opera Mini on my current mobile I can vouch for how well the browser displays content. If you're lucky enough to be an iphone owner head over and download a copy.

Opera Mini 5 for iPhone

Tuesday 13 April 2010

Twitter advertising is here!

As mentioned back in July 2009 Twitter has finally conceded to having advertising on the Twitter platform. Now, this isn't a huge surprise, Twitter is still the buzz word of the moment and they will no doubt be able to pull in a vast amount f money through the sale of "Promoted Tweets".

But will they damage their model by allowing paid for tweets to appear within listings? Co-founder Biz Stone said they would not be traditional adverts but must be Tweets that "resonate with users" and be a part of the conversation. This sounds like a soft approach to rolling out some revenue generating idea but how long will it be before the idea of more traditional advertising kicks in?

Facebook managed to roll out PPC adverts with limited impact on the user experience so it's not out of the question for Twitter as well.

Read the full story on the BBC website.

Friday 9 April 2010

The sites down! No, it's not...

So, what can be classed as an acceptable up-time for your website?

And more importantly, how can you monitor that you're receiving the service level you expect?

Most external providers will guarantee a 99.99% uptime due to their vast server network and the ability to mirror sites to allow for any unexpected or planned downtime. But what can you expect from an in-house solution?

Personally, 99.99% up-time should be an achievable figure for both external and internal hosting solutions but how do you monitor the level of service you are receiving? Manual monitoring is an option but can be rather intensive on the resources! So, an automated checking service such as IPPatrol or Site Confidence is probably the way forward. It is possible to have an internal system to check your servers but using an external host gives a true representation of your visitors experiences.

It would be interesting to hear what people expect of their service providers, is it unreasonable to expect a service level as high as an external provider from your internal offerings?

Tuesday 30 March 2010

Alert Rank... Harness the power of Google Alerts!

We currently use Google Alerts to highlight any news stories that reference the University and as a way to tackle any negative news or postings in a timely manner. This service is not only brilliant but also free and works as a nice addition to our paid for services. The only slight issue is the fact that it's a bit of a blunt tool and you receive a long list of mentions without any real ranking on how important they are.

So, to cut down on the manual processing is a new tool we've found called AlertRank. It gives you a good idea of how important the alerts are with an easy ranking tool and best of all... it's also free! We've been trialling it for a couple of days and so far the service is working rather well and there are publication tools which look as though they might be useful. Might be worth a look!

A sample snippet of the email you receive is listed below and shows the ranking in green on how important the article is deemed to be:

Alert Rank

Monday 22 March 2010

The future of 360 is here! If you can afford it...

So, we have a number of 360 panoramic images on our website which I originally took with 12 static images stitched together in Apple's Quicktime VR (!). At the time these were great but generally meant that you could only have minimal people in the images and you needed to freeze frame everyone so they didn't blur between photos.

So, I then decided to purchase a 360 lens and asked the team to start updating the photos with people in them! Revolutionary stuff!

But now we're looking at 360 video and the ability to manually pan the video view to look around the person filming. This really could be a viable alternative to static images for things such as open day events, lectures, graduations, etc!

The hardware doesn't come cheap and there's still some issues with if a plugin is needed for certain functionality but this could be a very nice addition to any site.

Sony have recently released their 360 lens attachment for their Bloggie camera, it's very entry level but might provide a few ideas on how to use the footage! I've embedded a professional level video below, let's see who gets prompted for a plugin download!

Thursday 18 March 2010

We've been shortlisted!

So the shortlist for the HEIST Awards 2010 have been released and we're up for 3 in total!
  • Best Integrated Campaign - for our 2009 Clearing Campaign
  • Best Higher Education Prospectus
  • Best Postgraduate Prospectus
It's always nice to receive recognition from your peers for the work you do and the Clearing 2009 campaign was especially successful for us. The full listing (the longest shortlists i've ever seen!) can be found on the Heist Awards website and if you've also been shortlisted then we'll see you in Manchester on the 27th of May!

    Wednesday 10 March 2010

    Start with the basics stupid!

    We have a lot of content on our site and to complicate matters, we also have a lot of editors on our site. As you can probably guess this means the potential for errors is pretty big and the tools we have available to spot these are pretty small. So, when I stumbled across a service that would scan through our site and highlight any spelling mistakes, broken links, CSS issues and provide us with a full site inventory I was understandably interested.

    So, I had a demo over the phone with a very nice sales person who ran a scan of our site and kindly pointed out all of our problems (5,000 pages and 94 spelling mistakes...). Well, it's fair to say that I promptly slapped myself for not having thought of a service like this previously and then signed up all of our site for the next 12 months! This is a simple to use tool that will have a huge effect on our site quality and although it's not cheap it's certainly worth the money!

    Check out the site and see if it can help improve the quality of your sites.

    Site Improve

    Saturday 6 March 2010

    The future is captioned!

    Exciting news from YouTube, they've now introduced their automated captioning service globally! This means that all YouTube videos will have Closed Captioning available!

    Brilliant idea, it's just a shame that the speech recognition software only appears to be around 75% accurate which means if you do have video content embedded on your site you'll need to ensure that the transcripts are correct manually. Having pushed one through the system it looks as though we'll be having a fair few hours making corrections!

    If you're interested in having a look at some more details check out the YouTube blog posting.

    Friday 5 March 2010

    Asynchronous Tracking with Google Analytics

    So, I was creating a new blog today for our Equality & Diversity team and was adding in the tracking code for them from Google Analytics when I spotted this in the settings - 'New! Try the asynchronous tracking code'. Obviously I clicked on the link and experienced a mixture of excitement and disappointment!

    With a description such as asynchronous tracking code I was expecting something pretty exciting but the link simply led to a help page within Google. However, after popping on my technical hat and doing some reading this actually sounds like a small improvement. Nothing amazing but enough to possibly help improve the load time of our sites which is always a bonus.

    The way Google Analytics runs at the moment is that it's almost the last thing to load on the page. However, with the new version of the code you move it up the page to just after the tag so it loads earlier and you have more chance of it loading before a visitor leaves your page. Certainly something to bear in mind if you've started to notice that the analytics code is taking it's time to load, which on occasions we have!

    To quote from Google:
    The new tracking snippet offers the following benefits:
    • Faster tracking code load times for your web pages due to improved browser execution
    • Enhanced data collection and accuracy
    • Elimination of tracking errors from dependencies when the JavaScript hasn't fully loaded
    As we run our analytics code in a global footer the update only has to happen in one place to run site wide and we should see improvements almost straight away. This should mean more accurate stats but might mean your bounce rate goes up!

    If you wanted to read the article with directions on how to implement on your own site then head over to the Google Help pages.

    Thursday 25 February 2010

    Can Google Docs be a serious contender?

    I'm a huge fan of Google Docs, it keeps all my files in one place, I can work on a document from anywhere in the world without the need for a USB stick or issues of version control and it has brilliant sharing abilities! But i'm a simple user, I don't look to do complex formulas with spreadsheets or presentations with a lot of moving elements. So, how realistic is it that Google Docs could become a serious contender to take over as an office package and would we want it to?

    We have recently rolled out Google Mail accounts to all of our 18,000 students and as part of the package they also have access to Google Docs. What will be interesting for us to see is what the take up is like and if students would rather use Google Docs than Microsoft Office? Also, if they do, how do we start to support them! At the moment Google Docs is an add-on rather than a piece of core University software and as such the only support is online or at the discresion of staff. Would we want to actively promote Google Docs to students? It certainly has more pros than cons...

    At the moment it would appear that the US Universities are happy to promote the use of Google Docs to their students but the UK take up appears to be a little slower. Personally I view it as a tiny step toward the holy grail of 'cloud computing' and anything that points us in that direction has to be a good thing. But, will it take off? Only time will tell...

    Have any Univesities out there started to promote Google Docs to students or are you adopting a more organic growth strategy?!

    I've been IDM'd...

    I wouldn't normally post a posting about myself but I just wanted to mention that my IDM results have finally come in and i'm now the proud holder of the IDM Diploma in Digital Marketing... yay to me!

    Tuesday 16 February 2010

    Meltwater Buzz Vs Alterian SM2

    So, I had a call from Meltwater Buzz about some new Social Media monitoring software they're selling and how we can use it to fine tune our Social Media Strategy... I took the demo tour as we have been thinking about expanding on our monitoring from the normal Google Alerts we use to something a little more sophisticated. It all looked really good, the reporting was well done and offered some valuable insight into the demo site (Lego!) and how they were performing.

    So, I asked for a costing and started my usual round of relentless research before purchasing anything new. The price from Meltwater Buzz landed in my inbox and it's not that bad but would still knock out a chunk of my budget... the research continues! Then I find myself looking at a demo video of Alterian SM2 with the option of a Freemium account, so I sign up for one and guess what I find! It's the exact same system as Meltwater Buzz... even down to the format of reports, colour scheme, layout, everything is the same apart from the logo at the top.

    So, it seems that Meltwater Buzz is actually just Alterian SM2 with the Meltwater logo on and a mark up of 50% on the price!

    So, if you're happy with trying out this functionality on a Freemium account (5 search terms but limited to 1,000 results) head over to Alterian SM2 for an account, if you like it you can always upgrade for a Premium account. If you would rather have a Meltwater Buzz account (5 search terms, unlimited results) head over to the Meltwater Buzz site.

    I've included the slides for SM2 below to show some of the functionality and they have additional resources and a free account on their website.

    Anyone else looking at Social Media monitoring software and is there anything available that might be of use to a marketing audience?

    Wednesday 10 February 2010

    Augmented Reality

    I was shown Lego's attempt at Augmented Reality last week by my eight year old nephew and it not only made me smile but also made me a little concerned! Here he was, with a print out of paper with a black symbol in the middle, waving it at his webcam to see a 3D model of the latest Lego creation appear in front of him. It's a truly brilliant piece of functionality and although i've been aware of it for a little while i hadn't been totally prepared for how quickly it appears to be accepted! Lego are running it on their website but also are rolling it on in-store with print outs on their boxes, US only at the moment but there's a video below to show you how it works.

    To him, it was perfectly normal to have a 3D model in front of him, seemingly attached to a piece of paper... so, I showed it to some colleagues in the office for their reactions as well and the difference was pretty significant! They thought it was amazing, understandably! But there wasn't the acceptance that it was perfectly normal functionality and if the future of our audience are growing up expecting that to be available then we really need to start looking at it!

    So, I dug around to see who else is using it and whilst the list is small the application of it seems pretty impressive, from car demos to business cards! If you're interested in how it works though check out this site and see if your technical team can do anything with it!

    Friday 5 February 2010

    2.16 billion minutes spent updating statuses...

    Crickey, that's a lot of time spent on your mobile phone... According to GSMA the UK mobile market ran up 6.7 billion page views on their mobile phone with 2.16 billion minutes spent updating statuses on Facebook! I'm not sure if I should be impressed or slightly concerned for the mobile browsing habits of the UK population!

    It does however throw up some interesting questions in relation to users access our sites on a mobile device. We have certainly seen an increase in this trend in the last year or so and for January 2010 we had 1.33% of all of our site visits on a mobile device. So, do we need to rush out and create a new mobile version of our website... probably not just yet. Once we start looking into it we find that the majority of these visits are iphone/ipod users and luckily our site displays rather nicely already.

    We all know that the web is heading towards mobile access at break neck speed but as a site manager it's good to know that the display of our current sites, with the application of good mobile browsers, don't display too poorly. The big step will be looking at the future of mobile browsing. Could augmented reality be the next big thing, with a link to an overlayed map of the campus from the website for mobile users? It's not too hard to imagine...

    Finally, it only accessed our site twice in January but isn't 'Danger Hiptop' (aka the T-Mobile Sidekick) a brilliant name for a mobile device!

    Wednesday 27 January 2010

    Heatmapping... i'm warming up to the idea (sorry, had to be done!)

    So, I finally found the time to follow up on the notes I took from the Precedent seminar a couple of weeks back... it' been a busy few weeks! Anyway, one of the links was to a company that provides heatmapping, essentially a cheaper way of eye tracking where users linger on your site by tracking their mouse movement.

    This is potentially going to throw up some interesting discussions with out IT department about how useful the information would be. Admittedly it does appear that most people simply click on the links on the page however, the idea is that people track the areas on the page they are reading with their mouse. So, if the content is good and they have read it they should have also had their mouse hovering over that area... i'm still undecided on how accurate that assumption is though.

    It will certainly throw up some heated discussion about the usefulness of the data but then with the cheapest package costing $9 a month for 10,000 tracked visits it's probably worth a trial for a couple of months to check out the results!

    Friday 22 January 2010

    Google Alerts can find some interesting things!

    I have a Google Alert set up to scan for anything that references 'University of Bedfordshire' and it can sometimes flag up some interesting things we wouldn't normally know about. A Google Alert will scan the web, news, blogs listed in the search results of Google for your pre-defined keywords an then email you the links to anything that matches. The one that dropped into my mailbox this morning included a link to a Flickr account with an aerial photograph of our Bedford campus.

    It's a free service, you can schedule in how often you are emailed and it can act as an early warning on any negative news. This gives you the perfect opportunity to reply quickly and ensure situations don't get out of control. If you don't already have one set up head to the Google Alerts page for more information and remember that you can set up alerts on competitor keywords as well!

    Wednesday 20 January 2010

    Awards, awards, awards!

    It's the time of year for the awards submissions to be written and submitted and I always forget how long it all takes! So far this month i've written six and it's not even the end of January yet! We have:
    • HEIST Awards 2010
    • Communicators in Business Awards 2010 (2 entries)
    • CIPR Excellence awards 2010 (2 entries)
    • Good Communication Awards 2010
    So, is it really worth the effort?

    Of course it is! Not only do they give you a much deserved nod from your peers but you also usually pick up a nice trophy to display in the office. Fingers crossed for UoB!

    Friday 15 January 2010

    The Democratic Web...

    I was down in London yesterday with David Sparkes (our Webmaster) at a breakfast seminar run by Precedent, a company we have used previously for a review of our external website. The topic was 'The Democratic Web' and was based around the idea that as a company we longer own our brand or content. Now, this is not an idea we haven't heard before but it does raise some interesting questions! Essentially, we're all looking for the holy grail of mixing social media with our corporate offering and allowing our clients/customers/students the ability to contribute to our offerings. However, how do we approach this whilst keeping the core values of the business safe and is that actually possible?

    We've been slowly moving our more visual content out of our CMS and into external hosting options, our videos come from YouTube, our images are being moved into Flickr and we're looking at the use of Twitter as an information tool and Facebook as a tool for prospective students to meet up prior to arriving. These all seem to be relatively successful and our content is being shared with sites other than ours, a good marketing tool! But, should we take it a step further and has anyone else started to do it?

    Wikipedia could be viewed as the ultimate example of a democratic web, anyone can change anything they want at any time. But, has this ultimately lead to a more accurate source of information or has it simply watered down the legitimacy of the source?

    Would wiki pages work on a University website and could allowing our current students edit content for us? Should we allow the population of Luton & Bedford to edit our town information? In theory the idea of opening it up is fantastic, but who will be brave enough to be the first to try it?!

    Thursday 7 January 2010

    Rolling out Google Apps...

    As other Universities have done we have recently moved our student email system over to Google Mail. A fantastic product which takes the hosting strain away from the University and gives our students a mail interface they are used to and a huge amount of storage space so they need never archive again!

    However, what hasn't been fully utilised yet are the additional features of Google Apps, specifically Google Docs. Like many businesses we are running Microsoft Office on our desktop PC's and are now in the process of upgrading to Office 2007. But, is this the way our students really want to work?

    The advantages lie with the fact that the majority of our student PC's are shared machines, so it makes sense to have your documents stored online. This cuts down on the use of memory sticks and possible version issues, you can share the document with your peers for feedback and you can collaborate on issues without having to physically share a file.

    The disadvantages though are when you start to look at the slightly more complex functionality. Formulas you might use in Excel are not going to be available in a Google Spreadsheet and there are no animations for Google Presentations at all!

    But, are there enough disadvantages to stop students using the service? We'll have to wait and see what the take up is like but I don't think we'll be ditching our Office 2007 contract just yet.

    Wednesday 6 January 2010

    Snow, snow everywhere...

    Well, as we're snowed in at the moment I thought i'd post a quick message with an image of the view out of our office window... I thought we'd seen the last of this!