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By Graham Jones on 20th March 2015

How to produce 486 blog ideas in 15 minutes

One of the biggest problems that anyone producing content has is coming up with ideas as to what to write about. However, it is much easier to produce ideas than you might think.

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At the Search Bootcamp being held in London today, Pete Campbell from Kaizen showed exactly how you can produce a vast list of ideas very quickly. He asked the 54 people in the room to write down three ideas for a “boring” business – a sign manufacturer. Having written three ideas down,  the people then passed on their ideas to someone else who either built on those ideas, or used them to trigger other thoughts. A few minutes later, the growing list was shared again and each individual wrote down another three ideas.

As a result, each person had written down nine ideas in 15 minutes; with 54 people in the room that is 486 ideas.

Forget brainstorming
This was a graphic demonstration of the uselessness of brainstorming. Several psychological studies in the past have shown that brainstorming produces fewer ideas than thinking about things on your own. Businesses and content planners frequently fail to produce enough ideas because they rely on brainstorming sessions. These end up focusing on a small selection of ideas produced by a dominant personality in the room. Also, in brainstorming sessions, people tend to try to produce ideas that they think other people will like, or ideas that will please the “leader” in the room.

Producing ideas on your own is better – but you cannot produce many. If you were asked to come up with nine ideas for content for a boring client on your own you would be hard pressed to produce enough. Often in tests of doing such things, people produce a few ideas and then simply repeat earlier ideas with a different set of words.

With the technique shown by Pete Campbell today, delegates were shown how to produce several individual ideas. The passing around of ideas written down provides psychological triggers for individuals to generate new ideas.

How to generate content ideas
To generate ideas in your business you can use this technique. Get your staff together in a room and give them a sheet of paper each. Establish the topic you want ideas on and then ask each person, silently, to write down three ideas. Then they pass their paper to another person who has five minutes to write down three more ideas. You keep doing this until the sheets of paper have gone round the room.

If you only have five people in your team you will have produced 75 new ideas in 25 minutes.

So, don’t go telling me that you are short of content ideas..!

Blogging

By Graham Jones on 19th March 2015

You are wasting your time with smartphone shoppers

Smartphones and tablets are the way ahead, we are constantly told. If you are not targeting the mobile shopper, you are missing out, the so-called experts tell us.

Poppycock.

True, mobile use is increasing significantly. True, people use their mobiles a lot when out shopping. True, people look at things to buy when they are using their smartphones are tablets.

Wrong, they buy stuff.

Almost everyone who uses mobile devices to look at things for sale fails to buy anything.

According to new research from Monetate, less than 1% of people shopping on their smartphone actually go ahead and buy anything. Indeed, the study showed that the number of people buying from a smartphone is almost four times less than the rate of purchase on a desktop computer.

Chart showing smartphone conversion rate

Far from us all rushing to our mobiles to buy things online, we are still wedded to our desktops to make a purchase. The results are all-the-more striking because they are based on the analysis of 7bn online shopping sessions. This is not some minor study.

So, if vast numbers of people are using smartphones to visit ecommerce websites, why are they not buying something?

The answer is probably trust.

People are used to smartphones losing connection, so they are scared their financial data will be interrupted mid-purchase and a second attempt could lead to a double charge on their credit card. They are also worried that confidential data could be stolen whilst using wi-fi in public places.

Back in the safety of their own home, people can shop online more securely.

So, what can you do about this? After all, as an online retailer you have no control over mobile phone connections or public wi-fi security.

The answer is to assume people will NOT buy when they are using a mobile device, but that they will buy later on when they get back to their desktop machine. This means instead of providing “buy now” buttons on mobile sites or pages delivered to mobile devices, you could instead have a “save for later” button which syncs the bookmark of the sales page back to their desktop machine. Or you could have an “email myself” button which creates an email so that people can pick it up later on when they are using a desktop machine.

You can come up with a host of ways in which you can make it easy for mobile shoppers to buy later when they are back at home. If you do this, you’ll increase your conversion rate, thereby making more profits. However, if you stick with trying to improve your mobile site to sell more, all you will do is make it even easier for people to decide not to buy.

Online Business

By Graham Jones on 18th March 2015

Does your website need colour pictures?

Unless you are a designer or photographer, decisions about photographs and images on your website rarely enter the realm of whether they should be black and white. In the past, when we printed documents, we had to make such choices due to the costs of printing. But with the web, print costs are eliminated and images are all in colour.  Most of us do not even consider whether the image would be better in black and white or greyscale unless we want to be “arty”.

Red pencil among black and white

However, new research suggests we really ought to think about the use of images in a more strategic way. The study from Ohio State University shows that we react to colour or black and white images in differing ways.

When we see a colour image we are drawn to detail and pick out differences much more easily. But when we are faced with a black and white image we focus more on the “bigger picture”.

This has important implications for anyone with a website. It may well be, for instance, that you have products on sale where distinguishing between the various features on offer is important. In that instance a colour image makes sense. But what if you don’t want people to check out the differences between products? What if you merely want them to get the “big picture”? In such instances, a colour image would work against you; that’s when you would need a black and white or greyscale image.

For service businesses where imagery is often difficult, it may well be the case that black and white pictures are more appropriate. If you have colour images attention becomes focused on checking out the details in the pictures rather than using the images to help guide people into the overall view of what the service is about. For instance, imagine you are a lawyer offering a will writing service. If you have a colour image, people will focus on the details of the image – potentially distracting them from what you want them to consider. But with a black and white image they will focus on the bigger picture of the kind of service you are offering.

Last Will and Testament papers and quill pen   Last will and testament

Using pictures on your website – particularly when you want to try and sell something – is not just a matter of choosing something appropriate. You also need to consider whether you want the image in colour or whether you want to focus the mind of your visitor on the “bigger picture”.

Web Design

By Graham Jones on 9th March 2015

Is the media being strangled by content?

Businesses are getting conflicting advice about online marketing. Soon that advice is going to collide and there is going to be one massive fall out.

Take a look at the latest data about the influence of “YouTube Stars“. It turns out that people aged under 24 are heavily influenced by them – more than by TV or film personalities.

YouTube Influence Chart

For years, of course, we have heard that every new media channel will kill off another. We were told that videos would see the end of cinema – it didn’t happen. We were told that radio would spell the end of newspapers – they are still with us. And we were told that email would stop real mail – yet the post offices are still busy sorting letters. Every time a new medium is invented it merely adds to the variety, providing people with more choice.

But online content is different. It has the power to produce one of the most significant changes in media history.

In the past if you were a big brand you could get your message out to the world by buying space in newspapers and magazines and having a media relations team that ensured your name got into the headlines whenever possible. Public relations is a key component of most major brands.

But PR is also an essential component of local businesses and small specialist services. They get coverage in local newspapers and specialist trade periodicals.

However, there is now a problem which did not previously exist. Online content.

In the “good old days” where brands held lunches with journalists, took them on fancy trips or invited them to swish press events, there was something in it for both sides. The brands got coverage and the journalists got material to fill their column inches or broadcast schedules. It was a deal that worked for everyone.

Nowadays, though, brands have their own outlets which compete with the media. Only yesterday I was talking with the Communications Director of a major sporting brand who has more than 30m people looking at their Facebook page each week. That channel is much more important to the company than the ten million who might be watching the TV news tonight.

Imagine now that you are that Communications Director and you have information you want your audience to get. What are you going to do? Are you going to – as you did in the past – hold a press conference and give it to the media? Or are you going to keep it to yourself and distribute it through your own channel?

The traditional media have gone from being partners for businesses communications, to being competitors – all because of the ability for brands to produce their own online content.

The result of this is that the traditional media are slowly being starved of the raw materials they need for their publications and broadcasts. Inevitably, this will lead to reduced value to the audiences who will go direct to their favourite online content instead.

However, eventually people will realise that what they are consuming is biased. When brands provided information to the media through PR, it at least went through an editorial process that helped provide a degree of balance. Now, online audiences only get biased material and eventually they won’t like it.

But by then, much of the traditional media will be polarised into aggregating material you can already find free of charge elsewhere or celebrity tittle tattle.

Yet there is another way for both businesses and the media. Analysis.

Newspapers, magazines and broadcasters are going to have to give up the notion of reporting business news. Thanks to online content we can all get the news we want direct from the companies we want to engage with. Instead, the traditional media needs to change to being more analytical – taking the content that the brands produce themselves and comparing and contrasting it and analysing it. That would provide a service to their audience and it would not compete with the businesses who have their own online channels of content.

And what does this mean if you run a business? It means that audiences are going to look direct to you for news content – so you had better start producing it. It also means that journalists are going to look to you for data and insights, not news. So you had better start doing that as well.

The YouTube Stars have realised this already. Have you?

Blogging

By Graham Jones on 2nd March 2015

Emails after work make for an unhappy workforce

Man checking email in bedOne of the benefits of email is that it is 24/7. You can send out a message to your team knowing that many of them will get it immediately and that everyone else will see it within hours. Gone are the days of having to print something and send it via some mail system meaning that it takes days for anything to happen. Email has speeded up communications providing businesses with considerable productivity benefits.

That, of course, is what we think. But what we think is not always true.

The 24/7 nature of email means that the people we work with, our customers and our potential clients are always available. There is almost never any “downtime” when they can be separated from us. Millions of people check their emails before going to bed each night – just to see if there are any last messages from the boss or from their customers. We are never disconnected from them.

That situation could have psychological consequences. Recent research from Texas shows that the 24/7 nature of work-related emails is not good at all. In a study of 341 employees the researchers found that the constant checking of “out-of-hours” emails led to increases in conflict and anger amongst workers.

The study found that there was a particular kind of person – the “segmentor” – which was particularly badly affected by out-of-hours emails. The segmentors are the people who want to see a clear divide between home and work, yet the constant battering of emails reduces this desired division. As a result these people have an increase in anger and conflict.

It may seem a good idea to have the instant ability to send out a message at any time of the day or night, but are we aware enough of the impact we are having? It seems that we are potentially affecting the personal lives of the people we communicate with, as well as increasing problems at work.

If people have increased conflict and anger in their life, their work performance suffers. So, far from email improving communication and productivity it could be the root of difficulties in the office, leading to several unforeseen impacts.

What is the answer? Easy. Treat email as a 9-to-5 system. Simply ban out-of-hours emails. Your productivity will increase and you will have a happier workforce, leading to other beneficial impacts in the office.

Believing that the 24/7 nature of email is the saviour of your business productivity could be the foundation for a wide array of office problems.

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