Cookie Best Practice

April 20, 2012

From 26 May 2012 websites operated in the EU will be required to inform their users that they are being tracked with cookies, and to ask users for their consent. There’s much that brands can do to support site architecture changes by reviewing how they relate to their B2B and B2C customers in two areas:

1. Transparency

Businesses using cookies must be completely transparent in how they collect, store and use data.

Make sure your privacy policy is up to date and that you’ve provided information on how to reject or delete cookies. By making it clear you’re using them, what they are being used for and how users can control them, you’ll educate people about how they are essential for personalisation.

2. Responsibility

Data must be used responsibly. There has been very little misuse of cookies by B2C and B2B companies and this must continue.

Businesses must be aware of all cookies utilised within their website – the legislation includes both your own cookies as well as cookies set by a third party. So remember, you are responsible for all cookies on the site and ensuring they comply with the legislation.

Ultimately, when used responsibly and effectively, cookies are an invaluable way of enhancing the user experience and customer satisfaction, as well as providing marketers with a vital tool to improve conversion rates. Transparent and responsible use of such data will safeguard these benefits for both parties.

What the Facebook changes mean for brands

September 23, 2011

F8 has now happened. It was an event that was heralded as one that would ‘change the world of social media’ – and that has proved to be true. The Facebook that we know and love has been transformed – with big changes gradually being rolled out. Here we explore how these changes will affect brands:

Facebook becomes an entertainment hub

Facebook’s motto for the F8 conference was ‘Read. Watch. Listen’ – and that neatly sums up the changes that have been made. They have unveiled extensive changes to the social network  – including key tie-ups with companies such as Spotify, Netflix, Zynga (who made Farmville) and The Guardian to create a new breed of apps, including video, music, films, and TV apps.

Facebook has now become an entertainment hub allowing users to watch films, listen to music and read newspaper articles via an app without ever leaving the social platform.

Maximising engagement through social apps

It is clear that what all these new features are attempting to do is make it as easy as possible for users to spend long periods of time on Facebook. They are doing this by lowering the barriers to connecting with friends and family and delivering more tailored and rich media content.

To this end, Facebook have introduced a ‘Ticker feed’ which shows all updates in real time at the top right hand corner of your newsfeed page.  They also announced a completely redesigned profile page, tagged ‘The Timeline’.

The Timeline

Zuckerberg introduced the new ‘Timeline’ feature which will enable users to give a ‘more complete story’ of who they are. This Timeline is an online scrapbook which he said will “help you tell the story of your life”.

The Timeline presents a stream of information about you.  You are, in effect, creating a profile of ‘who you are’ through the photos you’ve posted, all your status updates and the apps you’ve used. Split into multiple columns, the timeline shows all of your updates in one place on an endlessly scrolling page.

Timeline is currently in beta (you probably don’t want to access it straight away unless you’re a developer as it is currently experiencing bugging issues) and will be opt-in to start. However, it will soon become the new default profile page for all users.

How this is good news for brands – a new class of apps

Zuckerberg also explained that Facebook was focusing on making a ‘new class of Open Graph applications’. These apps mean that users can access content such as music and newspaper articles directly within Facebook and let users share what they listen to, watch and read with friends.

This is great news for brands. Based on the ‘Like’ social plug-in developers can now customise ways of sharing their content with new created ‘Listened’, ‘Watched’, and ‘Read’ buttons which will see content posted in users’ timelines or the newly developed live ‘ticker’ stream. So a user’s friends will see the latest music their friends are listening to on Spotify for example, or the film they’ve just watched on Netflix.

The result is that brands have gained an important new way to target Facebook users through advertising. So, by utilising these new buttons – which tells advertisers what musicians, films or publications not only a user likes but also what their friends like – advertisers are being given even more insights into the make-up of their audience. So advertisers on Facebook’s Ads API or those who work with Facebook’s Sales team will be able to reach relevant consumers who might not have directly Liked a Page.

To give an example, rather than just targeting a user who has Liked Lady Gaga’s Facebook Page, brands will be able to target anyone who shared one of her songs through Spotify or any of their friends who clicked ‘Listened’ on a story about her.

These changes will also have an impact on Facebook’s Sponsored Stories ad format. Marketers will now be able to target Sponsored Stories to people based on the content they have shared from apps, such as Netflix or Spotify.

The potential for this type of granular targeting is huge for brands. Though at launch, it is only music, video and readable content that will feature these new feedback buttons, David Fischer, Facebook’s VP of global marketing solutions, told All Facebook  that the site is considering releasing more, including a ‘Want’ button for products. This will provide unique opportunities to more and more industries, such as ecommerce, with shopping brands gaining ‘Wants’ on new products they can promote on Facebook.

Brands need to be more engaging than ever

Facebook also introduced a new ‘lightweight’ sharing feature, in order to give its users the ability to share more things without cluttering their friends’ newsfeeds.  This means that all ‘lightweight’ information will be shown on the Ticker feed only. So status updates, photos and posted links to articles will be shown on the newsfeed, while Likes or your score on the latest game will be shown on the Ticker feed in real time.

This is to ensure that your newsfeed contains only the most valuable and relevant content. For brands this means that they must have a robust and effective strategy in place to deliver compelling content that will engage fans and optimises how much they interact with you.

The changes announced at F8 provide a challenge to brands – but also opportunities. They must create truly compelling content that fans want to engage with. This is all about increasing your Facebook EdgeRank – in the face of these new updates it will be vital to alter and optimise engagement strategies and ensure your brand is one that fans want to see in their newsfeeds.

Twitter growth – enhances search, adds ‘Follow’ button and photo sharing service

June 3, 2011

There has been a flurry of activity at Twitter recently. Last month it spent $40 million on desktop app TweetDeck which represents 13% of its user base. This week things have been moving on at an even greater pace. The micro blogging service has launched its ‘Follow’ button, a new version of Twitter search and has also revealed details about its own photo sharing app which will be rolled out within the next couple of weeks. This is all a part of Twitter’s movement towards a stronger social graph with more connections and greater usability.

Here’s a more detailed look into each element of these developments:

Twitter Search

With Twitter search serving an average of 1.6 billion queries per day it was vital that they enhanced their search functionality. Twitter says its new version of search will deliver more relevant Tweets when you search for something or click on a trending topic. Not only this, it will also show you related photos and videos on the results page.

This new version is a ground-up rewrite of their whole search infrastructure with the aim of making the results as personally relevant as possible. “Our ranking function accesses the social graph and uses knowledge about the relationship between the searcher and the author of a Tweet during ranking,” the company explained. This means that Twitter’s search index will now incorporate dynamic information such as information about the searcher and how users’ interact with tweets.

In addition to this if you access Twitter using the newest version of Firefox, you can type a #hashtag or @username into the address bar to take you directly to a search results page – for example you could type #bing or someone’s profile page like @bbcapprentice.

Twitter Follow button

Twitter’s ‘Follow’ button, their equivalent of the Facebook ‘Like’ button, allows users to follow Twitter accounts directly from an external website with a single click. With a prominent tweet button already in place the launch of the ‘Follow’ button helps Twitter further grow its social reach and makes Twitter’s reach even more accessible, which can only help grow its users.

More than 50 sites including AOL, The Wall Street Journal and MTV have already added the ‘Follow’ button. The use of the button by these brands means that Twitter is gaining more reach on the social graph. You can also see the profile and latest Tweets of the account you want to follow by clicking the username next to the button.

Twitter photo and video sharing service

Having left photos and videos to third-party services like Twitpic and Yfrog, Twitter has now partnered with Photobucket to launch its own photo and video sharing service. This week Twitter CEO Dick Costolo told the D9 Conference that “A native photo sharing experience will be rolled out to 100% of users over the next couple of weeks.” This will allow Tweeters to upload a photo and attach it to their tweet directly from Twitter.

The service means that photos and videos will be directly connected to tweets. They will be viewable on Twitter without having to leave the site (unlike, say, Twitpic). Costolo also said Twitter will “surface the most popular videos and tweets” in a new section of the homepage. You’ll also soon be able to easily do all this from its official mobile apps.

Twitter’s advertising model

Add to this Costolo’s words on advertiser’s performance on Twitter and there is much to be excited about for the micro-blogging service. Costolo presented the example of an ad run by Volkswagen for the new VW Beetle. He said the promoted tweet for the campaign had an engagement rate of 52%. “These are amazing statistics that marketers just can’t believe when they first hear them…So the business is working phenomenally well.”

Twitter had been projecting to have around 100 advertisers by the end of last year. It managed to sign up with 150 and in 2011 they have 600-650 advertisers. It will be interesting to see how this grows as the platform matures although Costolo noted that “We’re in no hurry to go make sure [that we jam Twitter up with ads]. It just doesn’t make sense.”

Social Media and the ASA Cap Code

February 25, 2011

March 1st 2011 will be a significant day in the history of digital and social media marketing and advertising. That’s because from this date the ASA’s (Advertising Standards Authority) remit will extend to cover all brand owned websites, their social media pages as well as video and mobile campaigns.

What does the Cap Code mean for your brand?

The ASA now has the power to regulate all online and mobile marketing communications and ensure compliance with the Code of Advertising, Sales Promotion and Direct Marketing (The CAP Code). This covers all businesses, regardless of size, and extends to other non-paid-for space online under your business’ control (e.g. messages you post on social networking platforms such as Twitter and Facebook).

At agency:2 we feel this is a very important and significant step forward.  As one of the Founders of the DMA, we have constantly adhered to strict ethical guidelines. We are proud of always working ethically and legally for the good of our clients. Our aim as a Social Media Council member has always been to focus on legislation and social media best practice.

Being honest and open is not only ethical and legal but also adds value to brands and, most importantly, the audience. That is why all the social media marketing campaigns that we run are completely transparent. We believe the new remit will ensure that the same high standards which exist in other media published in the UK will now consistently be adhered to in digital marketing communications right across the board.

The rules in the current CAP code will now apply to digital communications and the ASA will be able to use these powers to ensure that misleading and falsified marketing and advertising communications online by any business within the UK are removed.

How will they implement this?

  • Current practice includes unfavourable publicity arising from an ASA adjudication as well as the withdrawal of trading privileges, including media space.

New sanctions:

  • The ASA will provide details of an advertiser and the non-compliant marketing communication on a specifically designed ASA microsite, which draws public attention to the offending piece of communication.
  • The ASA will also work in conjunction with search engines to remove any paid-for search advertisements that link directly to the page hosting the non-compliant marketing communication.
  • They will also place paid-for advertisements on search engines highlighting the continued non-compliance of an advertiser’s marketing communication, linking through to the ASA microsite.

We are extremely hopeful that this will have the desired effect and that all online communications become more transparent and ensure people reading online are receiving honest and truthful messages.

March 1st then – a date to put into your iCal.