Marketing, music and other musings

EU cookie ruling and the implications for Analytics

May 25th is the date by which websites in the UK are expected, by the ICO, to be compliant with the EU cookie directive. If like me you work with analytics data on a day to day basis, you are probably working through how to implement this if you haven’t already and will be extremely worried about the implications for your analytics data.

While I agree that the ruling has good intentions, I believe the ICO’s refusal to reconsider their guidance on the use of analytics cookies presents a severe threat to the ongoing development of the internet in the UK.

How do they envisage organisations are going to be able identify usability issues and improve their websites for the user, in a cost efficient manner, without the ability to track visits anonymously?

This completely benign tracking is absolutely essential to the improvement of all websites, and is the evidence base by which the burgeoning digital industry can judge and monitor its own performance. By forcing the sector down a costly and time-consuming route to compliance the ICO will only hamper effectiveness and limit future opportunities, and all for the sake of protecting completely anonymous data being captured that ultimately benefits the user. We all know that analytics data dropped by 90% after they introduced the opt-in themselves on the ICO site, so they can’t expect any site owner to realistically believe that we will be able to assess our websites in any meaningful way after May.

I will give you two examples from my own organisation, Great Ormond Street Hospital. The first is the information we provide to terminally ill teenagers. We use analytics to assess the relevance and merit of the content, as well as to ensure that a recently diagnosed child is able to navigate our site to find the information they need as quickly as possible.

How does the ICO believe their guidance is benefiting that user when they are making it extremely difficult for us to judge the site’s success or otherwise in providing this information, if the general trend is for users to opt out?

Secondly, we are encouraged within the third sector to use social media to harness the support of our community, and so for the first time this year GOSH is investing in a social media marketing campaign to promote participation in a fundraising event. As of May we will be unable to assess whether this campaign has been a success – based on the ICO’s data we expect 90% of users to opt out of analytics cookies.

How does the ICO’s ruling assist non-profit and public organisations to grasp digital opportunities such as those presented by social media, when they are essentially stripping us of our means to understand where and how best to invest resources by taking away our capacity to comprehensively track campaign results?

Analytics data is benign, anonymous, aggregated and is in no way obtrusive to someone’s privacy. While I understand the efforts to limit retargeting, which users do find intrusive, limiting opportunities to monitor site visits through the use of analytics cookies is ultimately bad for organisations across all sectors, bad for end users and bad for the internet.


What’s the point of Google+?

Google plus icon

I’ve had a couple of conversations with people who can’t see the point in Google+ recently (one of them on Google+, funnily enough).  Even social media experts aren’t convinced yet (Gemma Went tweeted this morning that she wasn’t spending much time there).

I’ve started playing around with it more over the past few days and have been enjoying it. In looking for a USP I do feel it offers something that neither Facebook nor Twitter do – the capability to include everyone in your life on one social network.

A lot of the conversations I have in my job revolve around the boundaries of work and Facebook. Should staff add external contacts as friends on their personal Facebook accounts? Many don’t, and personally I agree with this, choosing to keep Facebook very much for personal friends who I am happy to share all with.

Twitter, on the other hand, I use more for work connections, and the people who follow me tend to be more from the digital marketing side of my life, which is fine. But I then risk being irrelevant to that audience if I tweet too regularly about the latest DJ mix I’ve downloaded or albums that I’m listening to. So I tend to keep the content I share more digital-related.

But what if I want to share a link with both groups of people? Or just one person that I’m only friends on Facebook with but I want to share that content with them in private?

This is where I see Google+ coming in, and the circles feature is perfect for this. Share with as many, or as few, people as you like, sending content about particular topics to particular circles, but being able to keep all of those contacts in one place. It’s actually more flexible in the way it lets you communicate than either Facebook or Twitter, which I think is its USP.

It’s obviously early days yet, brands aren’t on there and there’s no advertising yet – Google haven’t gone as far as they can with this product. I would expect to use it more frequently over the next six months, and look forward to seeing what is in store for brands.

But then what would I know? I quite liked Google Wave!

Views from a road trip

I recently went on a four week trip across the US with my other half. We flew into New York and from there to Nashville, then to New Orleans, picked up a car and drove to San Francisco stopping at various places along the way and racking up 3,300 miles on the clock. The US really is, apart from anything else, the most beautiful country. Here are a few of my favourite photos from the trip.

Street parade in New Orleans, LA

The open road, I-10 heading west, TX

Kartchner Caverns, AZ

Saguaro national park, Tucson AZ

Sunset over Arizona (if you can't tell, we quite liked Arizona!)

Sedona, AZ

Grand Canyon, AZ

Grand Canyon, AZ

Sunset - Route 66, CA

Paradise Cove, CA

Big Sur, CA

San Francisco, CA

Today I watched…

Together poster

We discovered the wonderful DVD rental shop on Broadway Market today – any place that has a Robert Altman shelf is in my good books from the word go. We hired three including the fantastic Tillsammans (Together).

A Swedish film about a socialist commune in the 70s and the events that occur when head of the household (and all round lovely guy) Goran’s conventional sister Elisabeth arrives with her two kids after leaving her husband, the film deals with happiness and unhappiness, idealism, sexuality and growing up, and generally leaves you feeling nice and warm inside.

5 ways to get your organisation thinking digital

In the past year organisations such as Coca Cola and Starbucks have aligned digital as a central part of their organisation. Dave Chaffey has recently predicted that 2011 will see digital become less of a discrete, seperate area of marketing. And while this may be the way that many bigger organisations are heading, for those who work in small to medium sized businesses and organisations the day to day reality is that online marketing is still often the domain of one ‘bright spark’ or specialist, probably with a sponsor at senior management level, whose job it is not only to put in place a strategy but also to educate and inform those colleagues around them, and generally be a digital ‘champion’.

Sound familiar? If so, you’ll know all about the challenges of dealing with a range of colleagues from those who get it, to those who haven’t got a clue. Here are some practical tips to help get the point across:

1. Learn to train & delegate

OK so you’re the only person in the organisation who knows how to Tweet, or why your organisation is even using Twitter. You’ve may also have to maintain the website, oversee your SEO strategy, do your post-campaign analysis, and create HTML newsletters. You’re going to need to delegate! Remember that for every hour that you spend training somebody to do something now, it’s probably 2-3 hours work per month that you then don’t have to do, leaving you with more time to get on with the strategy and tactical decisions that will ultimately move your organisation forward quicker.

That means training other staff to use digital tools, so make sure you’re always available to offer one-to-one sessions when they’re needed. Create simple training documents that are easy to follow for common processes that lots of staff are going to need to know how to do (‘Creating HTML Emails’ was an often-used one for me). Refine and improve these documents over time, based on feedback from your colleagues.

2. Patience is a virtue

Patience really is key in bringing your colleagues up to speed. As the digital evangelist you are there to offer training, support and encouragement; take being asked for help as a positive thing, a sign that your training is working and your co-workers are beginning to incorporate digital tools into their roles. Politely explaining the difference between an advanced segment and a custom report for the third time that week may not be the most taxing exercise for you, but your associates will really appreciate it.

Remember many people may not have used a computer much outside of the office, certainly won’t have heard of analytics before, and definitely don’t have a Facebook profile. It’s hard for them to grasp something that to you seems so natural. That’s fine – after all almost 50% of people still don’t participate in social media at all – but it doesn’t mean they don’t know it’s important, so be patient and most will be keen to learn.

3. Keep it simple, stupid!

The most annoying thing for anybody outside of the digital world is the wall of jargon that those of us in the industry understand but means nothing to anyone outside of it. When you talk to colleagues, keep it jargon free – I often find PPC is better understood if you call it Google Advertising or Facebook ads, as most people intuitively know what a sponsored link is without understanding how it gets there. Try to leave the jargon to the conversations between you and your developers. Explicity explain what direct traffic is every time you mention it; never mention the Open Graph, always say ‘the Like button’. Keeping the language simple helps everyone to understand.

4. Find your champions

You’ll always have some people in the organisation who ‘get it’. Identify these people and nurture them. In exactly the same way that you would find influencers as part of your external social media strategy, you’ll need to find those people inside the organisation who will spread the word for you and become advocates.

One idea might be to form a working group that meets once a month to identify ways that you can incorporate digital into people’s schedules without taking over their weeks. Again, invite feedback from these people about ways of doing things – they might not have your level expertise, but they will still have ideas.

5. Keep people informed

There’s no point beavering away at the coal face week after week if the boss doesn’t know what you’re achieving. Write a monthly update, highlighting successes and the progress the organisation is making – how digital is contributing to different objectives, how much your search engine rankings have improved or a great piece of engagement from your Facebook page that day.

Distribute it to as many people as is realistic, not just your champions but across the organisation, so that other people can begin to understand what you’re trying to achieve. Include a ‘highlight of the week’ showcasing great campaigns from your sector and beyond, to help everyone in the organisation get their creative juices going and start to ‘think digital’ for themselves.

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