Why did Twitter remove my background?

Me: OK, a joke’s a joke. Put it back, Twitter.

Twitter: Put what back?

Me: My background!

Twitter: I haven’t got your background.

Me: Yes you have you digital trickster.

Twitter: OK, I have. But don’t worry about it. You don’t pay for the service and we own everything you do.

Me: Fair point. But you could’ve just said that before.

Twitter: Yes, sorry. (Not sorry.)

Picture of a bird saying your background is toast

Adaption of Birdy by formatbrain (CC BY 2.0)

As you may have seen, Twitter has been quietly removing wallpaper from profile pages. “We’re removing background images from the home and notifications timelines on web for all users,” a Twitter spokesperson told the Telegraph. “Now, background images are only available where logged-in users will see them publicly…”

So, the custom Twitter background that you’ve carefully cultivated for your business will only appear when you view a tweet on the tweet’s page, or list and collection pages. Its replacement? An uninspiring, slightly greyish white background. Woo!

Why has Twitter made these changes? No one knows for sure, but the Telegraph suggests it may be part of Twitter transforming itself from a social network into a curated news service, an initiative dubbed Project Lightning.

This service aims to curate and aggregate people’s tweets in one place so users and non-users (no need to log in) can follow live events. The Telegraph (yep, you could have just read their article on it but you’ve stuck with me so far) thinks these new, essentially blank, backgrounds could serve as advertising space – but Twitter hasn’t confirmed this.

You can find out more about customising your Twitter account’s design by visiting their help center. While you’re there you could ask them to return your background… nicely.


Module 5: The Ongoing Revolution

Well, it’s here: my Squared journey has reached an end. But it’s just a pitstop really. No one’s stopping this digital revolution baby. And i’ll continue to learn where digital has been, where it’s at and where the heck this crazy road is going.

(Although perhaps where we’re going we don’t need roads *dons wrap-around silver shades, boards DeLorean*.)

And that’s what this last module has been primarily about: what we have learnt about the past, present and future for digital.

For our final assignment we were challenged with creating an infographic. An infographic centered on the past *looks over shoulder*, present *stares out the window* and future *finds tea leaves* of digital marketing for an assigned vertical industry sector. Ours? FMCGs.

For any infographic research is fundamental. Without finding the right white papers, analysis and stats the infographic would be sans info. You’d be left with a baron page, or perhaps a lonely image of a Coke can with no numbers to give it any meaning. Just a graphic. A lonely graphic.

So you need to find your biggest spade, dig deep into the internet and pull out some rubble bytes. When you clean the rubble, find those bones that reveal a story and bung ’em on display. How do they look? Can people understand what the story is trying to convey?

It’s that word again: story. It crops up a lot in marketing, and digital is no exception. Humans learn and make sense of the world via stories, so it makes sense to apply this in marketing messages. A good infographic should tell a story through data and graphics that enables the end user to absorb more detailed information in one glance than they would if it was presented in pages of dull text.

Here’s our group’s infographic:

Infographic: FMCGs Digital Disruption

Infographic: FMCGs Digital Disruption


If you’re looking to create your own infographic but don’t have access to Photoshop, or the right side of your brain, try these free infographic design software tools:

1. infogr.am

2. piktochart.com

3. create.visual.ly (they also offer instant infographics based on your site’s Google Analytics data, try it out, it’s free and very useful)

4. infoactive.co

5. easel.ly

Now the Squared journey is over I will continue to use this blog to report on findings on all things digital marketing. My mission is to help people enhance their business’s online presence.

Illuminate the needle, remember?





Module 4: Think Optimised

“Let’s get analytical, analytical. I wanna get analytical. Let’s get into analytical,” sang Olivia-Newton John. Of course she didn’t. She wanted to get physical; but Squared students this month may well have been singing this (I know I was), as we were getting to grips with Google Analytics (GA).

The buzzword this month has been data. Data, data, data. Eating data till we’re blue in the face, or at least until we can make sense of it. And that was the key thing we learnt: you have lots of data and your fingertips, but you need to make sense of the data, provide an insight into how it can make marketing communications effective.

So the mission this module was to analyse the Squared website’s traffic data via GA, and produce a report that provided insight into how Squared can improve their digital marketing. Pretty crafty, eh?

To mix things up we were assigned a new group to work in, so i bade farewell to my old team mates and got acquainted with the new crew. Via Google Hangouts, of course. I’m not sure I’ll ever get used to them, Hangouts that is.

To help us fulfill the brief we were provided with instructional videos to show us how to use GA. The videos covered several areas of reporting and were narrated by GA specialist Gilli Goodman. She provided an overview of the software, and showed us several of the reporting features such as: location analytics, traffic sources, mobile reporting, AdWords analytics, and multi-channel analytics.

We had five questions to cover for the report, taking into account the data point (the actual data), insights (what we gleaned from the data) and recommendations (improvements they could make from our insights). The five areas we covered, and actions we recommended, came from mobile report, traffic source, location report, conversion report and AdWords report analysis.

To break up the tasks we decided to split off into pairs to report on a question each. In my pair, we grabbed our bowls, filled them with mobile data from GA, and stuffed our faces till we found insights into how Squared can improve their mobile marketing (which includes mobile phones and tablet devices). The amount of information can be overwhelming, but after digesting it for a while you find trends that show how improvements to the user journey and desired conversions can be made.

Once we conducted our initial research we fed back our findings to the team and gave our thoughts on each other’s work. We then took on board suggestions made and honed the report accordingly. Now the report is with Squared and we play the waiting game. Of course we have the next, and final (!), module to start on before we find that out.

Also this module, we had a glimpse into what’s in store for the final part of the course, and were signposted to some interesting talks. Simon Rogers, formerly of the Guardian and now data editor at Twitter, took us through data journalism; how it works and how it’s changed with digital development, and we had an intriguing talk from Google’s “analytics evangelist”, Avinash Kaushik.

See Avinash in action:


Module three: Think like a brand

That’s it, module three is done and dusted; although no dust would have time to accumulate as it’s just complete, weird expression that. Simply ‘done’, then. But enough about semantics, let me tell you about module three of Squared Online.

This part of the course set out to enable us to think creatively and effectively about integrated campaigns comprising traditional and new media. And it certainly did just that.

To kick off the module we learned about the customer journey, and what Brian Solis discusses in his book, What’s the Future of Business (WTF): Changing the Way Businesses Create Experiences, the MOTs (The Moments of Truth). He neatly sums up MOTs in this blog post, but i’ll summarise the moments here:

  • Stimulus: when someone becomes aware of a product (eg from advertising).
  • The First Moment of Truth (FMOT) is when someone is about to make a purchase.
  • The second moment of truth (SMOT) is the experience someone has when they become a customer.
  • The Ultimate Moment of Truth (UMOT) is that moment when someone shares their experience.
  • UMOT is the next person’s, and what Google terms, Zero Moment of Truth (ZMOT).
The Four Moments of Truth by Brian Solis (CC BY 2.0)

The Four Moments of Truth by Brian Solis (CC BY 2.0)

We also had a look at the digital marketing mix and the role that various channels play.

Since being introduced to this terminology I have been intrigued by the way brands use integrated campaigns, how they complement traditional above the line media (eg telly ads, mag ads) with digital (websites, social). I’ve noticed the brands that get it right, and the ones who get it wrong.

Later in the module we looked at content marketing and how the advertising landscape is changing. Before the digital revolution brands used to essentially shout their messages, now they’ve become their own media, in a way, producing (sometimes) useful content that people want to actively engage in and share.

We also learned about the importance of storytelling in advertising (and for humans in general: it’s how we interpret the world). We were signposted to some interesting resources on the subject. I found the following video from Nathan Guerra very useful in understanding how YouTube can be leveraged in intriguing ways by brands:

Other highlights this month included classes on search and display advertising and AdWords bidding; Eric Shimoda, search solution specialist at Google, showing us some unusual ways brands use search; and Ciara Byrne and Jessica Robinson, display specialists at Google, introducing us to DSP (demand-side platforms).

We had a couple of inspirational speakers, too. Sir John Hegarty gave a talk on why it’s the best time to be in advertising and how we shouldn’t let letting clichéd crap get in the way. Rory Sutherland, UK vice chairman of Ogilvy Group, was another speaker who provided his take on what influences consumer behaviour

In this module we also undertook another group project called ‘Think like a brand”. We were tasked with bringing a fictional hair colour brand into the 21st Century by developing a digital marketing strategy that complimented their above the line activity. Hopefully our group successfully created a presentation that shows our understanding of what was taught in this module.

Roll on module four…


Patak’s ad takeover fail

Yesterday I switched onto Sunday Brunch for a fix of some mediocre mid-morning TV viewing. Sorry that’s a little unfair, I do actually like the show, however, Jake Yapp hits the nail on the head with his 99 second send-up of it.

During an ad slot, Patak’s ran a three minute commercial-cum-faux-TV-section where Simon Rimmer, Sunday Brunch’s co-presenter cook, showcases what you can do with a jar of their madras spice paste.

In this bought media bit, Simon briefly shows us how to make a madras-inspired belly pork recipe. It actually looks good, really good. So far so, er, good, you might think. The problem lies at the end of the ad when after Simon and his new buddy eat his creation and embrace in an exchange of “oohs” and “hmms” Simon tells us:

“There you go, a deliciously different curry in no time at all. Now for that and lots of other recipes to help you create delicious curries go to our Facebook page ‘curry inspiration’  go create that curry with Patak’s paste!”

Wanting to see how well Patak’s curried on (sorry) the customer journey from this stimulus, I visited the advertised Facebook page (facebook/curryinspiration).

On there you’d expect an instructional video of the recipe you just watched on telly, or at least a text version of it. Is there? No. Well, you get a heavily edited 20 second clip of the ad you’ve just seen, essentially the part where Simon tells you to visit the Facebook page for the recipes.

Simon Rimmer

Where’s the belly pork recipe, Simon?

“But i’m already on the Facebook page Si,” I cry. “You’ve got me all inspired and visiting the place you told me to go to, but now i’m there you’re telling me to visit the page i’m already on.” It’s like being trapped in some sort of meta nightmare.

Unsurprisingly, others are in the same predicament. In the recent posts section, someone ponders: “Why have a page dedicated to your recipes? Simon Rimmer us [sic] promoting your belly pork recipe, and no one can find it!” (You can see in the link that someone at Patak’s got back to the query with a recipe, a few hours later.)

After seeing the ad around 12noon, I started to write this blog, and someone eventually uploaded the full-length version of the ad to Patak’s Facebook page at about 2pm (click ‘post’ to see it):

Post by Patak’s Curry Inspiration.

Patak’s also tweeted a link to a text version of the recipe at 5.02pm on the day:

The problem is these social media responses are far from real time (the one and only tweet relating to the recipe was posted five hours after the ad was broadcast). I can’t help but feel a belly pork shaped boat has been missed by not having the recipe in a prominent place on their social media sites as soon as, or before, this ad was shown.

It makes you wonder: why pay for that slot (the whole ad break) with that presenter and a nicely-shot advert, then fail to deliver on what was promised at that time  the curry recipe.

I probed further and found they have a YouTube channel with ad-takeovers featuring Simon, but not the belly pork one (at the time of writing this).

YouTube is the second biggest search engine in the world, people who haven’t seen the ad could potentially find the vid through their love of curry: exactly the people you want to find it. Patak’s could go one step further and go into more detail in a longer how-to style video for their channel and feature this on their Facebook page too (currently there’s no integration, you wouldn’t know they had a channel from visiting their Facebook page alone).

According to The Drum they paid a six figure sum for the ad-break take over and the ‘Curry Inspiration’ campaign  created by Maxus Partnerships and spread across TV, digital, print, social media and mobile  and Patak’s said it plans to make “strong use” of content marketing.

This isn’t strong use.

Patak’s: if you want an integrated offline and online campaign don’t do it half-arsed. Make it work, in real time. After the ad’s shown live, tweet responsive links to YouTube vids showing viewers how to make the recipes, or at least the recipes themselves. Be part of the conversation you created. Don’t send them them on a curry inspired journey just to be met with an empty plate of would-be belly pork.

Squared Online: End of module 2

This week sees the end of module 2 of the Squared Online course, and the pace has stepped up a gear.  The second module, “Think Commercial”, focused on the world of digital business.

We were introduced to the Business Model Canvas, the Value Proposition Canvas, contemporary collaboration techniques, and had guest talks from industry professionals on the growing use of mobile devices, which is influencing modern business activities (more on that at the end of this post). The aim of this module was for us to develop an understanding of how to apply these insights in a commercial environment.

Assignment: We’re Going to Make Millions

Our assignment for this module was to come up with an online business idea that would,  as the title suggests, make millions. Sounds good, doesn’t it? We were assigned groups and given instructions on organising ourselves to arrange online meetings  we couldn’t meet in person as our group of 10 are all based in different areas of the UK, with one living in Dubai.

This is the first time i’ve used Google Hangouts and for the uninitiated it is an odd experience. Following some technical difficulties (for almost the whole first session my specially bought mic didn’t work) we managed to organise ourselves effectively. For those who haven’t used a Hangout before, it’s like Skype but more for multiple attendees. You arrange a date and time to hold a session, send an invite, then on the day turn up – that is, have your laptop and webcam on (and a mic helps too, if it works!).

The thing I find odd about Hangouts is the main screen displays the person who is talking (other members of the Hangout appear in smaller screens along the bottom), but it doesn’t just feature them if they speak, it switches to the person if they cough, sneeze, or even scratch their leg. Because the screen quickly switches to the person making the sound, if several people are talking at once (or scratching themselves!), it can be very confusing. However, after a couple of sessions it does start to get easier… just.

For the first part of the module we were tasked to come up with a one page business plan relating to what we had been taught about the Business Model Canvas. We shared our ideas via Google Docs, a useful tool for collaborative projects.

This video neatly explains what the canvas is all about:

My idea was a virtual college where all the lectures were taught live via Adobe Connect, rather than pre-recorded classes that dominate that market at the moment. Although I received a few votes for my idea, the one we agreed to run with was “Dine at Mine”.

The idea in a nutshell: Dine at Mine is an app and website that, through using geolocation services, allows you to invite people in the local area to come into your home and share a meal. Similarly, if you’re not a good cook but want to get know people in your area, you can see if anyone is holding an open dinner invite. It’s essentially a social dining app.

In our team we decided which areas based around the Business Model Canvas we wanted to cover to produce a Keynote presentation, which would be narrated and sent for assessment. The area I chose was the Competitive Environment.

I spent a number of hours scouring the internet to see who was in Dine at Mine’s space and found out there were a couple of direct and indirect competitors in the market.

This is a summary of my research:

Dine at Mine’s direct competitors are sites that connect people who either want to host dinner parties or go to them: Grub Club and EatWith.

Grub Club focuses on speciality foods and is London-centric; EatWith is travel orientated, ie customers are finding places to eat in a person’s home in a foreign country.

Other indirect competitors are socialising apps that match individuals to like-minded people (eg Grouper); a religious based food site (Dine@Mine) and a left-over food app (LeftoverSwap).

Grouper is a service based on meeting people and socialising in bars (no food); Dine@Mine is for Muslim families wanting to share the Ramadan experience with other families (religious based); and LeftOverSwap is a food waste prevention app.

Looking at the social dining apps and sites that are currently in the market, none offer the same local (geolocation), non-speciality, social dining experience that Dine at Mine can.

Dine at Mine

A screenshot of our opening slide

With all our individual elements of the presentation now complete we arranged further Hangouts to feedback our research, check for uniformity, and to see if we were all happy with the content.

The last few stages were the design of the presentation and the narration, all of which was produced to a high standard by members of the team (see screenshot featuring our logo above).

Reflecting on our presentation I can see the positives and negatives of online teamwork. One of the positives being you can work from the comfort of your home and one of the downsides is the technology can sometimes be temperamental.

I feel that meeting in person is still the best option for team work, but this is certainly the next best thing. I can see how in the future a lot of business will be conducted this way, with team members being based in different countries. Of course, as technology develops, virtual environments will become more sophisticated and immersive, something that Eric Schmidt discusses in A New Digital Age (recommended reading if you’re interested in the future of tech).

Aside from the assignment, we had some insightful lectures and talks on the Value Proposition Canvass, working in teams and, as previously discussed, mobile’s influence on business.

One talk I particularly enjoyed was Jo Baker’s “Fall in Love with Mobile”. Jo is head of head of industry at Google and, according to Squared is often “the go-to person for mobile”.

She mentioned so many useful tools for understanding mobile use and leveraging this for marketing. Here are some of the resources she mentioned:

The following video is a case study she brought to our attention, and was a particular eye-opener for me. The video shows you how a trainer shop in Guatemala used geolocation services in its app to “hijack” its customers from competitor’s stores.

That about sums up module 2, I’m looking forward to the next chapter of this impressive online course.

My Squared Online journey begins

I’ve just begun a new online course that is developed with Google, powered by the Home Learning College and Endorsed by the IPA. It’s a certificate in digital marketing and features lectures from key figures from the digital marketing industry.

This is the first time I’ve studied from home using my laptop, accessing live lectures via Adobe Connect. I’m a few lectures in and although the virtual learning environment was strange at first I like the way in which it’s delivered (and that I can sit in my onesie while in class).

So far I’ve enjoyed talks from Mike Berry, Aiden Carroll, Antony Damianos, Niel Perkin, and Andy Sandoz . They’ve got me thinking about the history of tech, contemporary marketing practices and thrilling future developments.

Squared Online

I currently work for a charity and produce content for their offline and online products, ie a nationally printed magazine, website, social media accounts, email campaigns and advertising. A large part of my role is generating content ideas for the magazine and site and sourcing unpaid contributors.

My background is in journalism and I have experience of marketing through work, and want to apply my expertise in these areas to create digital content that people love, can engage with and want to share.

I’m primarily interested in content marketing and working with brands to develop their online presence – that’s why I called this blog illuminate the needle: I want to help businesses illuminate their digital needle hidden in the giant web-shaped haystack.

I hope the Squared course will help sharpen my knowledge in this ever-evolving digital field, extend my professional network and expose me to new ideas that will help me progress in my career. I also hope to make some buddies too.

For those reading this that are interested in learning more about the course, here’s the 2013 brochure [pdf].