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Accessibility: An interview with Rebecca Cryan

Our Senior Digital Editor, Rebecca Cryan, talks about accessibility at Macmillan and our most recent audit.

What is the importance of accessibility at Macmillan Cancer Support?

We consider our website to be a digital service. Our cancer information, our online community and content like the financial guidance tool need to be accessible to everyone. Web accessibility is vitally important to us meeting our organisational aim of being there for everyone affected by cancer.

It’s also important that all the ways people can give to Macmillan are easy too. We don’t receive any government funding so we can only provide our services to people thanks to the generosity of our donors. Online giving is an expanding proportion of our donations portfolio with over 17% of all money raised by Macmillan in 2017 coming from online. Accessible forms and sites mean that it’s easier for everyone to donate to us. Developing accessible sites is also more cost-effective in the long run, meaning that we’re using our budget in the most responsible way, which is obviously a key consideration for a charity.

Since people are living longer with cancer, our demographic is skewing older, which is also a segment of the population more likely to have accessibility needs. So, accessibility is important to make sure we’re providing for our specific audiences.

However, it’s important to note that making our content accessible doesn’t just benefit our disabled users, it makes it more usable for everyone using the site. Logical navigation makes it easier for everyone to find what they’re looking for; correct mark-up makes the site perform better and faster, across all devices; proper labelling and use of alt-text improves SEO. So there are many benefits to making our sites accessible. It’s important to us for a range of reasons: social, legal, financial and technical.

What have you done recently to improve accessibility at Macmillan?

Over the last year we’ve really focused on helping people across the organisation understand why accessibility is important and how they can support our aims. We’ve started a working group made up of front-end developers, UX/UI designers, graphic designers, content creators and editors. These people are all involved in the production of a piece of content and can all do their bit at their touch-point with the content.

We’ve also worked on a policy so we can be really clear about what accessible means to Macmillan and the minimum standards we expect of content produced both in- and externally.

In order for us to move towards having fully accessible digital products, we need everyone to be on board and understand what they can do to make it happen. Accessibility is everyone’s job.

Why do we conduct accessibility audits?

We audit to check how we’re doing against Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG). This is a globally recognised set of standards for creating accessible websites. For us it’s the best way of understanding where we’re doing well and what needs more work.

We use an agency called Nomensa to perform formal audits for us. They are extremely thorough, performing over 200 manual tests per page. We tend to select pages which are representative of a wide range of our content and audit those, so we can apply the results as widely as possible. Day-to-day we perform accessibility checks on all new and updated content; it’s a part of lots of people’s jobs including developers, designers, and editors.

When do we audit?  

We tend to audit at different times, for different reasons. Sometimes we’ll do an audit on a specific section which we plan to dedicate significant resource to over the next few months. This gives us a clear awareness of the issues and strengths before we start work.

Sometimes we’ll audit content of strategic significance such as our forms to make sure we’re flagging any potential issues. We then use the results to form a business case for making changes to these areas.

What were the key elements looked at in our most recent audit?

As I mentioned, Nomensa do over 200 manual tests per page so they highlight a really broad range of issues. We asked them to look at our Donate, Events and In Your Area sections where they discovered we were missing some text alternatives on images and some interactive page elements were not keyboard accessible.

We also don’t have a skip-to-content link allowing users to bypass the navigation and get straight into the page content.

These findings give us a really clear plan for things to work on, to make sure our digital sites are available to everyone who needs them.

 

Image: Shutterstock

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Good things really do come in streamlined packages…

Our Social Media Manager, Carol Naylor, has been busy supporting teams around the UK to update and streamline our regional Facebook pages. Carol discusses how the project manages to slim the total down from over 30 to just 13 regional accounts. 

It comes to us all eventually.  One day you’ve got a stable of active Facebook accounts all happily chatting to their target audiences and then gradually demographics shift, projects reach the end of their shelf life, teams get rearranged and suddenly you notice a few of the smaller pages simply have tumbleweed rolling through them.

It’s unavoidable, no matter how strict you make the rules about futureproofing, sustainability, and resourcing. Things change and you can’t anticipate them all.

That’s the challenge we faced at the start of last year. Macmillan’s 33 regional Facebook pages needed a new approach. The organisation of the teams managing them had changed and we needed to adapt to this.  Staff were still eager to use social media but content was harder to plan and page management was getting frustrating. The growth in followers was stalling. It was time to update our Facebook network.

Fortunately, Facebook lets you merge pages.

That wasn’t the whole solution though. We wanted a new arrangement that would be intuitive and accessible for audiences and yet still be manageable within our internal structure. So, we sat down with the regional team heads and a humungous map of the UK and threatened to lock the doors until a solution was found after a lot of head-scratching and cups of tea we came up with a new map of regional pages. It didn’t exactly match our internal structure but that wasn’t the point. It would make sense to our supporters.

Next, we defined the project principles (and drank more tea):

Rationalisation – a more logical organization for accounts and a clear naming structure will make our accounts more accessible to followers.

Consistency – all pages will deliver a clear standard of service, appearance, and content.

Customer Expectations – ensuring that followers can find accounts easily and have a clear idea of what support each kind of account can offer.

One Team – anyone following our Facebook pages will see not only how Macmillan raises funds in their area but also what it does with those funds to support them locally.

Delivering Results – “build it and they will come” is long past. The new pages will have clearly defined KPIs and objectives that go beyond just audience sizes.

Page management was the next hurdle.  But we were starting out with just two pilot pages so we could experiment safely.  A few more pots of coffee (we got bored with tea) and we had a rota that assigned daily management of the page to different teams on a weekly basis. This was overseen by a core editorial team who managed content strategy. This gave everyone the chance to get hands-on experience of managing a Facebook page and avoided the danger of everything falling on the shoulders of a few enthusiastic individuals.

Naturally the new page managers needed plenty of support. So we produced FAQs on how to handle enquiries and complaints, provided sample text to use in the ‘About Us’ sections of each page and produced new branded profile images for all the pages so that they all had a common style. We also set up a page admins group on our intranet for sharing best (and worst) practice.  Doing page merges in groups rather than all at once meant that we had a growing pool of experienced admins who could help any worried rookies.

Initially we were very apprehensive about how the planned changes would be received by the communities following the existing pages. Would they be territorial and resist the idea of combining with other local audiences? Would the appearance of a post from a long-dormant page in their newsfeed simply prompt them to unfollow?  So, we gave followers plenty of notice on each page and started posting content relevant to the whole new patch on pages even before the merges took place. We wanted audiences from the merged pages to feel at home.

Once the pilot groups got going, they got imaginative. They involved local Macmillan professionals, they experimented with strategically sharing content with neighbouring pages, they tried out ‘themed’ weeks with all content related to a specific topic like Volunteering or Corporate Partnerships. They also shifted the focus of the pages away from fundraising to a more holistic view of our work and tried to balance fundraising content with awareness raising information and news about services.

Here is one of our active pages, raising awareness about our live Q&A session on benefits:

Our East of England Facebook page

By the end of the three-month pilots, they had a wealth of experience to share. At that point we took stock and learned some interesting lessons:

  • Audiences were OK about pages being merged.  We’d explained the advantages to them and they understood.  By the end of the project we’d done 10 merges and not one supporter complained about any of them.
  • An established page management team and content plan was critical. One page which wasn’t directly involved in the merge process tripled its follower growth rate after putting these in place.
  • The demographics of our audiences didn’t change despite the shift in content focus. However, once given the choice, they demonstrated a greater appetite for information about Macmillan’s work than for news about fundraising events.
  • Engagement for the combined audiences considerably exceeded the sum of the original wholes.  We assumed at first that the novelty value of a new page might be responsible for this but engagement levels stayed consistent even after the novelty had worn off.
  • One of the reasons for this was that the quality of content got pushed up.  For example, instead of 5 teams needing to find content for 5 pages, they were competing with each other for space on just one page. And since they only had to run the page for one week in five, they had the luxury of time to think about what they *really* wanted to post.

The process we’d established got tweaked with each subsequent merge – some teams had a designated social media person, others all wanted to have a go – but the principles remained the same.

The biggest headache came with the final merges when we lost our contact at Facebook and discovered that the Facebook help pages and community were not as useful as we’d hoped.

Tip – if you’re advertising on Facebook, ask your agency to help find someone who can help you at Facebook, it’s the only way.

And, just over a year after we started, you can see for yourself how it’s all working out:

Stop by sometime and say Hi.

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Ad servers and Google Analytics: who to believe?

Sharing her tips and tricks, Rebecca Buchanan, Digital Marketing Officer, writes about how to analyse Facebook campaigns to achieve the most accurate results. 

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3 simple steps to building customised campaign URLs

Digital Comms Officer, Rebecca McCormick, shares her top tips about building customised campaign URLs and finding them in Google Analytics.

1a. What are customised campaign URLs?

Customised campaign URLs are destination URLs that have campaign tracking (or “parameters”) added onto the end of them. These “parameters” allow you to easily identify the campaigns that send traffic to your site, in Google Analytics.

1b. When do I need to use them?

Customised campaign URLs can be used for all types of online marketing activity that drive traffic to your site – ads, PPC, paid social, organic social, email marketing, etc.

For example, you might not want to just see your incoming traffic from Twitter, but whether that traffic is the result of a particular series of tweets. Or, you might not want to see the influx of traffic from a newsletter, but whether that traffic is the result of a particular banner or link in the email itself.

2. How do I build a customised campaign URL?

To build a customised campaign URL, you will need to use the Campaign URL Builder tool, filling out the fields below. You must fill out the first 4 fields which are shown below:

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1. The “Website URL” is the full webpage URL you are directing traffic to.

2. The “Source” is the “referrer” – what specific source brought traffic to the webpage. This could be “google”, “newsletter1”, “twitter”, “exampleblog” etc.

3. The “Medium” is the “marketing medium” – the type of activity that brought traffic to the webpage. This could be “organic”, “email”, “banner”, “cpc”, “referral” etc.

4. The “Name” is how you want to name and identify your specific campaign, promotion, or product. This could be “notalone2017”, “givingtuesday”, “longestdaygolf” etc.

“Term” and “Content” are optional fields, often used when creating customised campaign URLs for paid search or ads. For when to use these fields, please see the definitions below:

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For consistency, it’s best to fill in the fields using lowercase with no spaces and no special characters.

As you are filling in the fields, or making any changes to fields, the URL will be automatically updated below. Click “Copy URL” to copy the full URL. Alternatively, click “Convert URL to Short Link” to convert the full URL to a shortened Google one. Shortened URLs are useful when a full URL is difficult for users to remember, or looks confusing or unattractive for users. Another option is to convert your customised campaign URL using a URL shortening site.

3. How can I find data for my customised campaign in Google Analytics?

Log in to Google Analytics.

1. Select your chosen “view” and date range in the top right-hand corner. Navigate to: Acquisition > Campaigns > All campaigns.

2. Type the name of your campaign (that you used when creating the customised campaign URL) into the search function. If you can’t see your campaign, check that you entered it correctly or try typing in just part of the campaign name. You can also click “show rows” in the bottom right-hand corner, to show more rows.  Isolate your campaign from any others by clicking on it (the name, in blue).

3. You’ll then be able to see the data arranged by “source/medium” (based on the naming conventions that you entered when creating the customised URLs). You can isolate one “source/medium” from any others by clicking on it (the name, in blue). If a specific “source/medium” is not showing, try clicking “show rows” in the bottom right-hand corner, to show more rows.

4. If you want, you can then select the box next to your “source/medium” and click “plot rows” (just above it) to plot its performance over time. Or you can click “Export” at the top of the report, to export the data to a csv or pdf.

5. When exporting data, remember to click the “day”, “month” or “year” button, and select the metrics that you would like (using the drop-downs above the graph e.g., “Sessions” and “New Users”) to dictate format and content of your csv data.

 

Social Media: The Importance of Being Aware

Social Media Officer, Hayley Devlin, discusses the importance of awareness days/weeks/months.

As a cancer charity, we see awareness days a lot. October, famously, is for Breast Cancer Awareness. In January, we have Cervical Cancer Prevention Week and in June it’s Cervical Screening Awareness Week. In November, it’s a triple whammy: Lung Cancer Awareness Month, Mouth Cancer Action Month and Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month.

Here’s an example of a Facebook post we ran for Lung Cancer Awareness Month: 

lung-cancer-awareness-month-fb-post-002

Our Social content calendar features a whole host of ‘awareness’ days and they’re not always cancer related. There’s Deaf Awareness Week in May, Random Act of Kindness day in February and (our personal favourite) World Emoji Day in July.

But why tie in some of these seemingly frivolous days with our content? Shouldn’t we be posting about different cancer types all the time anyway?

Social media is, essentially, just a big conversation. It’s a loud and busy one, and it’s easy for your voice to get lost in the crowd. Awareness days, weeks and months are great because they usually trend, making the conversations visible to people who might have otherwise missed it. As social gets more saturated, reaching new audiences organically (without any spend) is becoming increasingly difficult. The #AwarenessDays are great, because they’re a conversation that lots of people are already having, and present us with the opportunity to add in our two cents, reaching new people along the way.

Of course, cancer awareness days/weeks/months are particularly important to us. They give us an excellent springboard to create content we know will not only be relevant, but that people are also looking for. One of our top performing posts of the year came from Cervical Cancer Prevention Week in January. It had a staggering organic reach of 362,319, was shared 2,048 times and earned 5,115 likes. To put that into context, our top performing post this year was our tribute to Caroline Aherne. It had an organic reach of 549,909 people and earned 6,554 likes. It was also a video, which we know the Facebook algorithm still favours, so the fact that our cervical cancer awareness post did so well is a testament to how important they are. 

Here’s an example of a Cervical Cancer Prevention Week post:

cervical-cancer-post-fb-002

On top of allowing us to showcase our cancer information and support services, the more ‘fun’ days are a chance for us to think more creatively. They give us the opportunity to showcase Macmillan using an angle we may not normally go for. For #WorldEmojiDay, we created a timeline out of emojis to help show how we’ve grown as an organisation since our beginnings. The World Emoji Day tweet had 38,477 impressions, which is more than double our average (average of about 13,000).

Our World Emoji Day Tweet:

world-emoji-day-tweet-002

On #WorldKindnessDay, we used a quote from the Not Alone Campaign and a tip from The Source to encourage people to share their own tips on the platform. We used #WorldHelloDay to introduce some of the experts we have on the Online Community. We’re always on the lookout for new awareness days to consider for our content planning.

Mind you, I don’t see us posting about International Dog Biscuit Appreciation Day at any point soon!

To find out more about our awareness days/weeks/months, follow our Facebook and Twitter social media channels.

 

Inside UX: An Interview with Bruce Waskett

Curious about UX? Bruce Waskett, former Head of UX and UI at Macmillan explains what it is, and how it fits in at Macmillan.

What is UX and why is it important?

User experience (UX) has become a very over-used and misunderstood term in our industry for a few years now. It has always been a broad-ranging skill and discipline but certain terms are often picked up on and become the ‘must have’ thing for organisations and people.

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Periscope and Facebook Live logos

Live video: Experience the world through someone else’s eyes

In this post, Bernard Muscat, Senior Social Media Officer at Macmillan, aims to demystify live video, identify key live-streaming platforms and provide best practice tips for creating engaging live content.

We are seeing a large increase in live video content on social media.  By tuning in to live video, users can experience the world through someone else’s eyes. For example, you could be at home in the UK and watch live events from the streets of New York City, Bangkok, or Melbourne, if someone is holding up their device and live-steaming.  Users watching the live video are able to follow live, respond and interact with the live content.

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Instagram Stories: New feature launched today

In this post, Social Media Officer, Alice Hajek, talks about the introduction of Instagram’s new feature – Instagram Stories and what it means for Macmillan.

Today, Instagram launched a new feature ‘Instagram Stories’, in an attempt to fill the platform with less polished, more real time content. Very similar in name (well, pretty much the same name) to Snapchat’s My Story function, the new feature allows you to share photos of your day that you may not have published to your Instagram profile ordinarily. These photos, just like Snapchat, will disappear within 24 hours. You can also use their drawing tools and emojis to enhance your photos (like Snapchat).

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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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