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Digital insight

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Google Analytics: An interview with our Digital Analyst

Hattie Biddlecombe, Digital Analyst at Macmillan Cancer Support, uses Google Analytics to provide insight into Macmillan’s online presence. I sat down with Hattie earlier this week to discuss how Google Analytics helps her in her role and the impact that it has on Macmillan.

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Digital trends in 2016

With January behind us, Hamilton Jones is considering some of the digital trends set to come our way this year.

2016 is already shaping up to be an exciting year for digital, and we in the digital team are always keeping an eye out for new trends, looking at what they mean for Macmillan and how we can respond to them. Here are our top five digital trends to watch out for this year and the work everybody here in the team is doing in-line with them:

1) Unifying the online and offline user experience

As digital continues to work its way into everyone’s day-to-day lives, we are coming to expect seamless integration between online and offline. With many users’ journeys seeing them hit several touch points across both of these mediums, 2016 will bring more technologies that help organisations make their user experiences unified.

Macmillan users could see a great benefit from technologies that allow us to unify how we support people across their journey, and we are already starting to implement them: The My Macmillan area of our website has been designed to help users to feel more supported by giving them easier access to information relevant to their existing journey. When someone logs in they are able to save pages on a dashboard that they can access later, which also displays pages they’ve recently viewed. To further unify the dashboard with other parts of the website, we have developed single sign-on with our be.Macmillan domain and allow users to input their postcode to find out what’s in their area.

2) 24-hour technology that doesn’t sleep

Anytime. Anywhere. That’s the internet, and it doesn’t go to sleep. 2015 saw many organisations respond to the rise in user generated demand of always on services, but in 2016 we’ll see mass adoption of in-house and external social to be the main point of contact for out-of-hours services.

We know that cancer can be a scary place, that’s why we’re trying to make sure that nobody faces it alone. Because of this we are already offering several services for users outside of office hours. Our social media accounts and Online Community are manned on weekday evenings and for several hours over the weekend. Our website has information standard approved content that people can access at all times of the day and night, while the online community also offers peer-to-peer support that is accessed by users around the clock.

3) The year of connected devices

The internet of things is quickly becoming the internet of everything as new connected devices are starting to appear almost daily. With the advent of wearable technology and a rise in healthcare orientated apps, patients and healthcare professionals are being given the chance to diagnose and treat certain illnesses like never before. The scope for how this could impact people’s health is huge – from contact lenses that can read blood glucose levels to games that improve emotional wellbeing.

In the UK however, it might take longer than until the end of 2016 to see these really impact people affected by cancer. Without a data standard in place for apps, healthcare professionals and organisations are unable to fully utilise their potential, but we are excited to be working with organisations like the NHS on the opportunities for standards and accreditation in areas like apps.

4) Personalised data gets more personal

We are already growing used to being connected in every way, and we’re producing huge amounts of data about ourselves. Using this to create personalised experiences isn’t something new, but 2016 will become more dynamic, creating experiences that reflect people’s changing needs and preferences over time.

We want to help everyone affected by cancer to take control of their journey and access the support and information they need at a time they need it. By helping people express preferences, they enable us to provide them with personalised information that’s relevant to them and their location, while also making recommendations on where to go next. This has the potential to empower people to navigate the system, make decisions about treatment and take control over their healthcare journey.

5) Virtual assistance

Most smartphone operating systems now have personal assistants: Siri, Cortana, Google Now (this one’s tragically lacking a space-age name), and they’re starting to learn like humans. A lot of work over the past few years has been put into virtual personal assistance, with the ultimate goal of making them so slick that the user can be completely conversational and still achieve their desired outcome.

Somewhere down the line we could be using technology like this to offer support to people affected by cancer, but where we see the most benefit for this tech in the near future is to enable our healthcare professionals to have even more information at their fingertips, helping them be even more amazing for people affected by cancer.

Questions about this post? Leave us a comment below or tweet us @mac_digital. We’d love to hear from you!

Twitter adds more choices to native polls

In October Twitter announced it was launching native polling for all users, so now everyone can find out what their followers think about certain issues.

Twitter product manager Todd Sherman described the appeal of polling on Twitter in a blog post:

If you want the public’s opinion on anything — what to name your dog, who will win tonight’s game, which election issue people care most about — there’s no better place to get answers than on Twitter. For poll creators, it’s a new way to engage with Twitter’s massive audience and understand exactly what people think. For those participating, it’s a very easy way to make your voice heard.

Twitter polling enables creation of a query with two possible answers. The poll is displayed within a tweet, giving users the ability to vote with a click and results are tabulated in real time. Each poll remains active for 24 hours, with the time left to vote being displayed on the poll. After the poll expires, results are given in percentage form.

The polling feature is likely to be very popular with brands due to the ease in which it can be created and the level of engagement it’s likely to lead to.

Once the poll has expired, twitter will send a notification to all the people who participated in the poll, letting them know the results are in and prompting them to check them

This month twitter has announced they will now allow users to add a third and fourth option for people to vote, giving in more choice to users and allowing further engagement with their followers


We’re looking forward to seeing what the first Macmillan twitter poll will be!

Google isn’t giving up Google+ just yet

Earlier in the year we discussed the changes Google were making to Google+ and it looked like they were giving up on the social media platform that was never the success they thought it would be.

However its looks like Google+ isn’t going anywhere and has in fact just been given an update:

The revamp includes a focus on “collections” and “communities” changing it from a personal social network to an interest- network.

In a blog post Google stated “Today, we’re starting to introduce a fully redesigned Google+ that puts Communities and Collections front and centre. Now focused around interests, the new Google+ is much simpler.

The updated has also made the platform more friendly “”And it’s more mobile-friendly – we’ve rebuilt it across web, Android and iOS so that you’ll have a fast and consistent experience whether you are on a big screen or small one.”

Google have even been visiting users in their homes to get feedback, a post on the on Google+,”We’ve spent lots of time talking to people who are passionate about Google+. We visited them in their homes, we invited them into early testing communities and we learned more about how and why they use Google+.The predominant answer? Having a great place to keep up with and talk about their interests.”

All of this indicates that Google are trying their best to keep Google+ and are committed to making changes that their current users will like, they just can’t seem to let it go!

Is Yahoo blocking users who have ad blocking software?

Earlier this month some Yahoo email users were having trouble accessing their mailbox, they were served with the message “disable Ad blocker to continue using” which appeared if the user tried to open their mail in Chrome or Firefox.

This issue was highlighted after users flocked to Adblocking forums complaining about being locked out of their inboxes, there are workaround solutions such as accessing your mail on a different device or using an alternative web browser- if you decided not to disable your ad blocking software.

Yahoo has come clean on exactly what was going on and have confirmed that they were trialling a new “experience” in the US which involves using tests to block a limited number of customers who use ad-blocking software “At Yahoo, we are continually developing and testing new product experiences,” Yahoo said in a statement issued to the New York Times.

Yahoo did not reveal how many US accounts have been affected by this test and they didn’t confirm is this new “experience” will eventually come to the UK.

In September we looked into the rise in ad-blockers and the reasons why this may be happening. Something important that was highlighted was how users were unaware that websites were free because they were funded by advertising and by blocking adverts the site then does not receive revenue. This may be have been a reason as to why Yahoo decided to carry out this test to raise awareness of the importance of adverts for a website and also to possibly test how likely people are to change their minds on having ad blocking software if its affects the services they use regularly.

It will be interesting to see if this test is carried out on a bigger scale by other companies, on a larger volume and in different countries. We will certainly be keeping out eye open for this!


“Dislike” button is coming to Facebook

“Dislike” button coming Facebook

In the past Facebook has ignored requests from users to introduce a “dislike” button due to fear it would be unpopular with brands who use the website however CEO Mark Zuckerberg has announced that this function is a officially under construction.

According to Business insider the announcements was made at Facebook headquarters on Tuesday “I think people have asked about a dislike button for many years. Today is a special day because today is the day I can say we’re working on it and shipping it. What they really want is the ability to express empathy, not every moment is a good moment”

However Mr Zuckerberg went on to say “he did not want it to be mechanism with which people could “down vote” other’ posts instead use it for times when clicking “like” on a “sad” posts felt insensitive”.

What do the psychologists think?

Prof Andrea Forte, an expert in social and participatory media at Drexel University in Philadelphia, said users will not suddenly turn on each other’s posts.

She wrote: “They may use a dislike button to express some negative emotions (like frustration with ads popping up in their feeds) but I doubt it will cause them to start disliking pictures of their friends’ babies, dogs, cats and cooking experiments.

“I suspect it will mainly be used to express mild disapproval, or to express solidarity when someone posts about a negative event like a death or a loss.”

In fact it won’t really be a “dislike” button at all…

Mr Zuckerburg had made is very clear he doesn’t just want to build a dislike button because “we don’t want to turn Facebook into a forum where people are voting up or down on people’s post”. We also believe the dislike button would be detrimental to the companies currently using Facebook (just look at youtube!) advertising within Facebook is continuing to grow so it’s important that companies are protected. Instead it has been suggested that the button will instead be something along the lines of “sorry” or “Empathy” this way you can show your support on a post regarding a death, a job loss or a break up without it being used negatively.

What does this mean for Macmillan? 

If the button is created to be used to express compassion this will be a welcome addition for Macmillan who will be able to show support to people on Facebook during difficult times.


Flickr is working on a Virtual Reality Photo Experience

We had forgotten that Flicker even existed; now the place to upload all your photo’s has been taken over by instagram, but it looks like they are looking to make a very interesting comeback. In fact they are getting on board with a very exciting and trending technology, the photo sharing company is currently working on a virtual realist photo viewing experience which in the future may be integrated into their services.


Virtual reality is one of the trending technologies that tech companies are pouring vast amounts of time and research into, and one company that wants in is Flickr. The photo sharing company is working on a virtual reality photo viewing experience that may be integrated into its service in the future.
Flickr was reporting to be showing of their virtual realist demo at X0X0 festival in Oregon earlier on this month, they have been working on this technology for only a matter of weeks.

What does the technology do at the moment?
Once you put the headset on your’re immersed in a 360-degree panoramic photo that enable the wearer to look in every direction to take in the complete scene. When you want to move onto the next picture all you have to is look down at the Flicker logo for a few seconds and the next photo will appear.

What are the plans for the future?

Bertrand Fan engineer and project lead at Flickr explains that the plan right now is for 360-degree photo pages to have a special button for VR headset viewing.
What’s even more exciting is how VR technology could be used for browsing through photo collections enabling people to browse through your library and even organize your photos into albums just by waving your hands, Minority Report-style.”
In terms of time frame, Fan is hoping to launch some sort of Flickr virtual reality functionality to the general public in early 2016!

Google+ is changing

Google have announced some major changes to its social networking platform Google+.
The platform launched in 2011 and was created to help people discover, share and connect across Google and unify its different services.
Bradley Horowitz, Google’s VP of Streams, Photos, and Sharing, explained the reasons behind these changes:
“People have told us that accessing all of their Google stuff with one account makes life a whole lot easier. But we’ve also heard that it doesn’t make sense for your Google+ profile to be your identity in all the other Google products you use. So in the coming months, a Google Account will be all you’ll need to share content, communicate with contacts, and create a YouTube channel and more, all across Google. YouTube will be one of the first products to make this change and you learn more on their blog ”

What do these changes mean for marketers?

It’s completely giving up on competing with Facebook

  • The announcement from Google makes is clear that is never going to compete with Facebook – although this has been evident for some time
  • Marketers that still use or are interested in using Google+ in the future can now treat is as something completely different to a poor Facebook competitor

The data is still going to be there (fingers crossed)!

  • Google has build the web’s most successful ad business so it seems very unlikely that it would alter Google+ without having a way to keep a combined data view
  • So marketers (probably) don’t need to worry about that google will lose the ability to track users across is properties and be able to translate this data in order to deliver effective ads

Google+ and Macmillan 

The social media team has used Google+ in the past but have not found this platform to be as engaging as other platforms. In the light of the recent changes to Google and the fact that it is now part of a larger company, Alphabet,  they will continue to monitor Google+ and its part in the wider social media field.


Twitter removes background images

If you think is looking different don’t panic it’s not just you, the company has removed all customized wallpapers from home and notifications timelines and replaced them with a bright all-white background, on list and collection pages the customised background is still available.

As you can imagine the reaction on twitter to twitters action was not very favourable with many users tweeting there disappointments a few examples below:

twitter new

This change has also had an affected on brands that have often used the twitter background to make their page stand out, convey information to their followers and also promote marketing campaigns. Below are some great examples of how brands have used the background image:



Find some more examples here

The change came very suddenly as it happened over night with no warning for both users and brands, which has reminded everyone that social platforms are still and will continue to evolve quickly.

There has been a lot of speculation as why twitter made these changes including whether twitter will use this space for new advertising offerings or perhaps the change was made in order to help existing products; the cleaner look could be to allow autoplay ads and promoted tweets to stand out more.

For now we will just have to sit tight and wait and see as twitter isn’t revealing anything about its reasoning behind the decisions.



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