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digital content

I no speak digital

As the digital world continues to grow, so too does its language. Annabel Howarth breaks into smaller chunks, some of the digital fodder she’s been served so far.

When I moved from the Campaigns team into the wonderful world of digital, I was not prepared for the fact that I would have to learn a whole new language. To save you the embarrassment of feeling like a dinosaur- here’s a jargon-buster for 10 commonly used digi-terms you can impress your colleagues with:

    1. CMS

      CMS stands for Content Management System. This means a computer application that allows you to publish, edit, modify, organise, delete and maintain online content. For example, Macmillan uses a CMS to publish and edit webpages. We are in the process of migrating all our content from our old CMS, over to a shiny new one with heaps more functionality that we hope will improve user experience.

    2. SEO

      Search Engine Optimisation is the process of affecting how visible a website or webpage is in a search engine’s unpaid results. Literally this means how high up the Macmillan webpage features on Google’s search results page when a search term is entered. There are lots of ways you can optimise your webpage, such as keyword tagging, a variety of content (such as images or videos), and generally ensuring your content is unique and high quality. You could also look at updating it frequently, Google loves new content.

    3. Meme

      Here’s where I get geeky. So I thought a ‘meme’ was purely a modern phenomenon – funny pictures with captions that my teenage cousin sends me. However, despite the popularity of the modern meme, the term was actually first introduced by Richard Dawkins in 1976. A meme is a virally-transmitted cultural symbol or social idea. Historically, a meme is a discrete ‘package of culture’, which would spread through word of mouth, like a joke, a parable or an expression of speech. Nowadays, memes are generally used to refer to pictures of cultural references with funny quotes over the top spread using social media. The best ones tend to involve cats…or Ryan Gosling.

      Image of Ryan Gosling with the words 'Hey girl, feel my sweater, know what it's made of? Boyfriend material' overlaid.

    4. Above the fold

      This is the upper half of a webpage which is visible without you having to scroll down. Below the fold would be what you see after you scroll down. Hamilton wrote a great post about user behaviour concerning ‘the fold’.

    5. Call to action (CTA)

      Basically what it says on the tin. Emails and webpages have these, and they are the bit where we ask the user to do something, this could be to donate, sign a petition, download a report, or just simply follow a link for more information.

    6. Accessibility

      A really important one…this is about making sure everything on our website is accessible for everyone, including people with a range of disabilities. Accessibility demands that you think about the fact that not all people consume web content in the same way. People with sight difficulties for example, may be accessing our content using screen readers, and people who are colour blind may be unable to read a graphic that uses red writing on a green background. Accessibility is not only about a physical impairment, it also involves accommodating people whose first language isn’t English, or who have a lower reading ability. Here at Macmillan we’re big on accessibility, and we are always trying to get better.

    7. Alt-text

      Linked to accessibility, alt-text is something you add when you are uploading an image to a CMS and aids those using screen-readers. The text is read out by screen readers at the point at which someone without an accessibility need would see an image. Great alt-text allows the user to visualise what’s happening in an image, so they remain as engaged as if they could see it.

    8. Migration

      Macmillan’s Digital team have been in migration mania recently. We are currently migrating content from one CMS to another, updating our website, making it mobile optimised and amazing looking. If you want to learn more about our migration project, have a read of Becca’s blog.

    9. Agile

      A difficult one for me to explain, but essentially Agile is a method of project management or way of working, which focuses on short phases of work with frequent reassessment and redesign to deliver quality products. Here’s a useful guide of the 12 principles of Agile, or read Andy’s post about both Agile and ‘mobile first’ to get a clearer idea.

    10. Microsite

      A small website that serves a very specific function, under the branding of a larger site/organisation. Our Coffee Morning microsite is just one example, but as an organisation we have over 15 microsites!

I hope at least a few of your digital conundrums have been solved from reading this post. But if there’s anything specific you want to ask us, tweet us @mac_digital! We’d love to hear from you!

Why I love Instagram (and why Macmillan should love it too)

In this listicle Macmillan Social Media Officer, Alice Hajek talks about why Instagram is her favourite social media network and the opportunities that #throwbackthursdays and #motivationalmonday posts can provide an organsation.

Instagram boasts 300 million active monthly users worldwide. Despite this rather large figure, it is a relatively new social platform for many brands. At Macmillan, we only got into the Instagram swing of things last April when our follower base stood at 3000 people. 10 months later, and with 12,000 new followers, we are starting to establish Instagram as an integral social media platform at Macmillan.

Here are five reasons why I love Instagram (and why Macmillan should love it too).

1. It’s pretty

I love how anyone can make average photographs look great. Of course, I don’t have this problem because all my photos are brilliant… Whether it is a photo of your spiralised courgetti, the sunset from your office (the number of times our digital and PR teams have grammed the sunset over Battersea Power Station must be in the thousands) or our fantastic fundraisers – it’s easy to make your pictures look good. What more could you want?

healthy food image macmillan fundraisers vauxhall sunset

2. Engagement is high

As Facebook cuts the reach of brand pages considerably, the amount of likes and comments on Macmillan’s Instagram posts can sometimes outperform those on our Facebook page. When you consider that Macmillan has 600,000+ likes on Facebook and 15,800 followers on Instagram, this shows just how strong the engagement is on Instagram and the high percentage of followers that we are reaching with our content. It highlights Instagram as a key social channel for Macmillan.

On my personal account, it’s all about the 11 like threshold. If the names of those who liked it are still visible (you need 11 likes to go from names to numbers) you might as well admit defeat and take the post down – #embarrassing.

10 likes vs. 11 likes

3. The younger audience

We have noticed that some of our followers are quite young. There are a lot of usernames full of kisses and ending in years of birth such as ‘04 and ‘05. We know this young audience is not really Macmillan’s target demographic but it is great that we are able to reach them this way. Are they taking in our messages in the 0.02 seconds it takes to double tap (like) a photo, who knows? But at least they know we exist.

However, this is the extreme end of the scale. From what we can see we’re reaching lots of people in their late teens, twenties and thirties as well as our usual Macmillan supporters. I must admit, the younger audience is definitely more useful for Macmillan than for me personally. It can be quite hard to contain my jealousy as my younger sister and cousins receive more likes than me…

4. Recent updates

We can now flick between different Instagram accounts without having to log in and out. YAY! This means it is a whole lot easier to go between my personal account and the Macmillan account, oh and the account my sister and I set up for our dog Angus over Christmas…

Instagram has also announced that we will soon be able to see how many times people have viewed our videos, which will be great for analysis and evaluations. Instagram are still behind Facebook and Twitter in terms of their analytic offering so we are quite excited about this update. They will be rolling the new feature out over the next couple of weeks.

5. Instagram content is the best (in my opinion)

There are lots of clichés on Instagram. Wanderlust photos, motivational quotes, throwback Thursday pics, dogs in fancy dress, cats in fancy dress, random items spread out on the most pristine white tables you’ve ever seen, but I love them all. And luckily lots of them can work for Macmillan.

We’ve shared a pug in a Macmillan t-shirt, motivational quotes from our case studies, throwback Thursday photos, minions up mountains, healthy recipes and cat coffee mornings, to name just a few. And there’s more we can do. We’re still experimenting with what works well but it is an exciting place to be right now.

pug minion quote

You can Follow Macmillan on Instagram here.

R.I.P Twitter?

Social Media Manager, Carol Naylor, talks about Twitter’s proposed character limit change. Is Jack Dorsey set to ruin the clarity of our 140-character lives? Or is this a change that we will slowly grow to love?

I heard it on Whatsapp first; one of my team woke up to the news and posted it to the group chat we all share.

Image showing Whatsapp conversation between Hayley, Carol and Alice. Text reads, Hayley - According to the news, the boss of Twitter has 'dropped his biggest hint yet', that the platform is going to drop its 140 character limit (broken heart emoji_ Carol - R.I.P Twitter... Alice - (crying face emoji)

I’m really not a morning person but that certainly woke me up. We’ve all heard plenty of rumours like this before but figured that even Twitter execs would ultimately recognise what made their service so valuable to us. Apparently not.

This is what Jack Dorsey, CEO of Twitter (@jack) had to say:

Jack Dorsey's tweet

I checked the comments – unsurprisingly there were loads but I could only find one person who approved. So what on earth would lead Twitter to think this was a good idea?

Let’s think it through:

Competing with “the other social media network”
Facebook currently has about three times as many users as Twitter [1]. So clearly it’s the platform to beat. Consequently lots of Twitter’s recent updates have been intended to match features in Facebook. Often this has been at the expense of Twitter’s own culture. Changing their favourite star to a heart symbol brings it a bit closer to Facebook’s ‘like’, even though it totally ignored the way that many tweeters were using the feature – as a bookmark or acknowledgement rather than an endorsement.

And why change your service to be more like the competition when Facebook is already so good at being Facebook?

Greater depth of conversation
It’s true we’ve all complained about the restrictions of 140 characters in the past. And, as Jack Dorsey pointed out, it wasn’t actually an original feature, only being introduced to cater for tweets being made via SMS (which was popular back in the mid/late noughties, remember?). So I can understand the logic here.

But the problem is that we’ve got the hang of it now and we rather like it. In fact we’re quite proud of how clever you can be in only 140 characters. It’s like digital Haiku, and, given consumers’ ever-decreasing attention spans, it’s very appealing. Changing the character limit now is the equivalent of making everyone learn Cantonese in order to post and, once we’ve all mastered it, saying “No, just kidding you can use English”.

Keeping hold of users and content
About a third of all website traffic [2] is referred from Social Media posts. Facebook is the top source in this respect, but Twitter bobs about in the top five. Think about that – you’ve got 21% [1] of all internet users signed up to your service but mostly they just use it as a jumping off point to other web sites. That’s gotta sting a bit. No wonder there’s so much confusion over Twitter’s business plan and how it’s supposed to generate revenue. Facebook doesn’t have quite such a problem and even they’re trying harder to hang on to users with the introduction of locally hosted content like Instant Articles.

Searchable text
This is understandable. At present anyone wanting to exceed the 140 character limit on Twitter has to embed their content in an image to get around it. There are even online services to help you do this. And some of them look pretty cool.

Example of creative way of putting text into Twitter image

However, since most search engines don’t use Optical Character Recognition (OCR), all this wisdom is invisible to searchers.

Lessons from the direct message (DM) limit change
There’s a precedent. Limits on Twitter’s direct messages were increased to 10,000 characters last year – there were no riots, reports of pestilence or other manifestations of the apocalypse (let’s leave flooding out of it for now). In fact this has been really useful for Macmillan by allowing us to offer more detailed support to people affected by cancer. However, that’s largely because DMs are private and we can deal with confidential issues properly without having to leave the platform.

Is there a demand?
Having said that users don’t want this, there’s probably a small contingent that does. We don’t know much about how this proposed change might be implemented but it’s possible that Twitter will adopt Facebook’s technique of truncating a post after a few hundred characters and adding a link to “more”. It’ll require a culture change amongst users but it might still be possible to scroll through headings and just expand content that looks interesting. But, as marketers get the hang of it, how long before tweets just become a succession of click-bait headings? For example, “This woman was cynical about Twitter 140-character limit – you won’t believe what happened next!!!!”

Without being a mind-reader, those are all the reasons I can dream up in favour of an increased character limit. It wasn’t so hard to think of all the reasons why it would be bad idea:

Loss of immediacy
For most Tweeters the service is primarily a news source. When a news story breaks we want to know what’s happening and we want to know now. When the BBC reported the death of David Bowie it took them over an hour to get more than a sentence online about it. So I took to Twitter to get more information in the meantime – what kind of cancer was it? What was his ex-wife going to do on Big Brother? Is his son Duncan the one who was christened ‘Zowie’? And I got some of my answers just scanning down my newsfeed. Obviously when the public become the news reporters some errors or agendas will creep in, but that’s not a big problem when you can scan a whole range of tweets to get a general overview. How easy will that be when you have to read through a 10,000 character post to get the information? Even using the “more” link approach there’s no guarantee that you’d see important information first. “Above the fold” is still just jargon to most people online.

The dangers of a walled garden
This is connected to the idea of keeping as much content as possible on your platform – why would users want to go elsewhere and see other peoples’ advertising if you provide everything they need? This worked well for Internet service providers (ISPs) like AOL and Compuserve in the nineties – many of their users would refer to their services as “the Internet” not realising that it was only a small part. It got picked up by Rupert Murdoch and Fox in the early noughties as a political tool – it’s very powerful to be the sole source of news for some demographics. That worked okay for them offline but online users had become more sophisticated and didn’t like being herded. Despite that, both Facebook and Twitter seem to be favouring this tactic; it’ll be interesting to see if their subscribers are happy about that.

Unique Selling Proposition (USP)
Twitter have created a very useful demand online and have been fulfilling it successfully since 2006. It’s not longer a unique service but they still dominate the micro-blogging landscape. Why abandon something that is so fundamental to their offer?

Competition
That leads on to the next danger. If Twitter don’t want to cater exclusively for a short-form audience, then someone will. It’s no coincidence that within 24 hours of Jack Dorsey’s announcement, social media channels (especially Twitter) were buzzing with talk about Peach, a new iOS-only app from the founder of Vine that also functions like a walled garden, but is nevertheless being hailed as a challenger to Twitter. No one can tell yet whether it really is a giant-killer, or will go the way of Ello, but there’s always another app ready to step up if it fails.

So I’m not going to give up on Twitter yet but take heed guys, I’m signing up to Peach ….just in case*.

(* – As soon as it comes out for Androids obvs)

[1] http://www.pewinternet.org/2015/01/09/demographics-of-key-social-networking-platforms-2/
[2] http://www.forbes.com/sites/jaysondemers/2015/02/03/social-media-now-drives-31-of-all-referral-traffic/

Thumbs up and thumbs down - pros and cons of introducing long copy to social media

Long copy takes to social

Digital Editor Hamilton Jones sheds light on the introduction of long copy on social channels, weighing up the pros and cons for the Macmillan website.

Since the rise of social media, people have been accessing information online in a completely different way. Driven by short character limits and even shorter attention spans, social media’s fast paced nature has traditionally seen it play a very separate role to that of the website. But that could be about to change.

The past weeks have seen announcements from two major social networks that indicate a move towards long copy on their platforms. Twitter is looking at lifting the 140 character limit across their whole platform, having recently done so for their direct messaging service, while Facebook’s in-built publishing tool, Instant Articles, is currently being tested by major brands worldwide.

The move by both parties invites brands to expand their social presence by sharing much longer pieces of content, content that perhaps would usually have appeared exclusively on their website. The impact this is likely to have could result in digital editorial and social media teams working much more closely to create cross-platform content.

At Macmillan, the Information and Support section of our website contains thousands of invaluable long copy pages for both generic and cancer specific information. By using tools like Instant Articles, we may have the opportunity to share some of this information across our social networks, helping us to reach more people affected by cancer than ever before.

While this may sound like a fantastic opportunity, sharing some of our long copy on social media has its downsides too. By creating a hub of all of our content on our social networks, we are taking users away from our website. While having more traffic on our social platform is a good thing, it also means we do not have as much control over how we interact with and reach our audience. By driving users to our own website we have the opportunity to capture better data and provide them with a more personalised experience.

So what does this mean for Macmillan? Well, watch this space! Over the next few months as these changes roll out across Twitter and Facebook, and perhaps more widely across all social channels, it will be interesting to see how we, as a digital team, adapt to and embrace these changes.

Thoughts on this?
Tweet us @mac_digital or leave a comment below!

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