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Online abuse has long plagued the Twitter platform, and given the very nature of such networks it is a difficult beast to eliminate. Twitter however continue to try, recently announcing their latest effort which will see them partnering with a research team led by Susan Benesch, Faculty Associate of the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University, and J. Nathan Matias, a postdoctoral research associate at Princeton University, in a new collaborative study which intends to battle the issue not with force or punishment, but with transparency and education.

In a Medium post explaining the initiative, Benesch wrote, “Today Twitter will begin testing such an idea: that showing an internet platform’s rules to users will improve behavior on that platform. Social norms, which are people’s beliefs about what institutions and other people consider acceptable behavior, powerfully influence what people do and don’t do. Research has shown that when institutions publish rules clearly, people are more likely to follow them. We also have early evidence from Nathan’s research with Reddit communities that making policies visible can improve online behavior. In an experiment starting today, Twitter is publicizing its rules, to test whether this improves civility.”

The study will maintain full independence from Twitter in order to ensure the integrity of the research and its results. Privacy is also an obvious concern, one which the researchers addressed by assuring users that Twitter will only provide them with anonymised, aggregated information; the lack of identifying information will make singling out any individual impossible.

Whether or not the study will have any form of long-lasting effect on the rampant trolling and abuse that continues to blight Twitter remains to be seen, but it is at least good to see the company continuing the fight. Social networks should be platforms for the free exchange of ideas, not the unpleasant environments they all-too-often become for all-too-many users.

For parents, sharing photos of their children online is fairly common practice, with most parents reportedly posting more than 1,500 photos of their child before they reach the age of 5. This could however be a costly misstep that could have drastic ramifications for the child in question, maybe even placing them in view of a potential predator or paedophile.

This is the warning being given by the Child Rescue Coalition (CRC), who recently launched the #KidsForPrivacy campaign in an effort to educate parents about the dangers of oversharing on social media platforms. The non-profit organisation partnered with creative agency David&Goliath to create the campaign, in which they and their followers will take over all hashtags deemed to overexpose kids online, flooding them with images of children not in compromising scenarios, but instead holdings signs bearing the clear and simple demand of “Privacy Please”. The campaign will run throughout the entirety of April.

The CRC is also asking parents to go beyond a one-off hashtag campaign and also take some time to think about how they approach online sharing. They urge parents to ask themselves four simple questions before they share an image of their child online:
  • Why am I sharing this?
  • Would I want someone else to share an image like this of me?
  • Would I want this image of my child viewed and downloaded by predators on the Dark Web?
  • Is this something I want to be part of my child’s digital life?
“Once you’ve posted your child’s photo, you can’t have total control over it,” the CRC warns, “so think twice about sharing something that may seem cute or innocent. Together, we can bring safety to our children and other victims of child sexual abuse around the world.”

Further information about the campaign and the hashtags to be included can be found in the promotional video below, as well as the campaign’s official website. You can also follow the campaign on Instagram (@KidsForPrivacy), Twitter (@ChildRescueCo), or get involved using the hashtags #KidsForPrivacy and #PrivacyPlease.

It’s good news for baseball fans in the US as Twitter announced yesterday that they have renewed their deal with Major League Baseball (MLB), a deal that will once again allow out-of-market games to be broadcast weekly, free-of-charge, to Twitter users throughout the country.

In an announcement on their official blog, Twitter said, “A new Major League Baseball season is here as fans of all 30 @MLB teams were following every season-opening pitch on Opening Day last week. A historic Opening Day such as this is a reminder that fans around the world will turn to Twitter to follow their favourite teams, players and chatter about the news on and off the diamond in real time.

“No matter where their allegiances lie, all fans can count on Twitter for nonstop baseball action. Once again during the 2018 season, live streams of weekly @MLB games will happen on Twitter.”
Twitter will kick-off this year’s series of live-streamed games on Thursday 5th April, when the Texas Rangers take on Oakland Athletics at 3:35 PM ET. The full schedule for April can be seen below.

The weekly games will be available to watch on both desktop and connected devices via and the @MLB Twitter account. Unfortunately for the overseas fans of MLB, the streams will be available in the US only due to the conditions of the deal.

Outside of certain sectors (such as fashion and food), brick-and-mortar retail is all but done - and it’s well past its heyday inside those sectors. It just can’t compete with the cost-effective convenience of today’s e-commerce model.

It will never truly die however; in fact, it still has a good deal to teach us. Think about it; it’s been around in essentially the same form for a long, long, long time, and its mechanics have been tested and polished to a mirror shine.

So as big e-commerce companies look to out-innovate one another, let’s take a step back and review the classics to see what retail tricks we can flagrantly steal.

Here are 4 well-established retail tricks you should grab right away.

Keep Loyalty Rewards Simple

Retail store loyalty schemes all function in essentially the same way. Whenever a loyal customer makes a purchase, they get a discount and/or receive points that can at some point be redeemed for some kind of reward.

It’s a solid system that makes customers happier, gets them to spend more, and keeps them around for longer. So why don’t more e-commerce stores offer basic rewards, and why do those that try to implement schemes get them so consistently wrong?

I’ve seen some loyalty points vanish into nothingness somehow, and others pile up only to be considered insufficient to exchange for the most trivial item. I’ve actually yet to see an e-commerce store with what I would consider a good loyalty system, let alone a great one.

The margins may be thinner in e-commerce, sure, but you don’t need to offer heavy discounts to make loyalty rewards feel worthwhile; just make it a little cheaper so customers can get more of what they already want to get on a consistent basis.

Oh, and package them clearly. If the average customer doesn’t know how loyalty rewards work after several purchases, or doesn’t even realise there are any, someone should probably be fired.

Provide Interactive Elements

I remember visiting big retail parks as a kid and delighting in the numerous distractions dotted around the stores. Playable keyboards, “try me!” buttons, colouring books to use... I’d meander around and significantly impede my parents’ progress.

This isn’t a point specifically about children, but about how plain-ol’ entertainment can drastically extend a shopping trip; and the longer you spend on a shopping site, the more likely you are to buy something.

Now, in some ways an e-commerce site is more limited in what it can do to entertain its users. It can’t set up a big physical display for everyone to try, or provide a corner to rest in.

But in other ways, it can do so much more. It can add interactive elements: quizzes, polls, etc. It can tell stories in a visual fashion. It can offer customisable user experiences. It can even offer games specifically designed to connect customers to particular brands.

Through embracing elements that might not play directly into the sales process, you can greatly increase the level of user engagement and hold attention for much longer. This is something that Air Jordan took on when they dropped in the US - they were committed to creating a fundamentally interactive and gamified retail experience that combined social media with in-store perks. Interaction can help you bridge the offline/online gulf with ease.

Discount Extra Stock

When e-commerce first came into existence, it must have seemed a great boon that so much of the process could be hidden behind closed doors. An online-only business need never suffer the indignity of having large piles of clearly-unpopular items clog up its premises.

But in hiding their behind-the-scenes stock mishaps, plenty of e-commerce stores miss out on all the ways in which they could take advantage of them.

Consumers are eager to get maximum value for minimum expense, so when they see stock clear-outs, they smell blood in the water and have the urge to move in for the kill. This happens even if they don’t really want the items in question.

Some stores may contend that clearance sections and the like don’t fit their brands; they deal in high-quality items and don’t want to undermine that association.

That may be true in some instances, but in many others it’s entirely possible for an e-commerce business to accommodate varied customer preferences.

Carefully Direct Attention

The classic superstore layout is a thing of purchase-driving beauty. Everything from the ideal lighting and colours to the direction in which customers prefer to walk has been puzzled out over decades of experimentation.

While you obviously can’t take these tacks directly to a website (there being no physical space available), you can certainly learn from them and strive to turn your website into the perfect online retail space.

The home page is by far your best opportunity for this optimisation. Once a user clicks on a category, they’ll be sent elsewhere, and you won’t really be able to get away with intruding upon that kind of page without mightily annoying your prospective customers.

So consider the layout of your homepage, and think back to how big retailers configure their stores; essentials placed tactically around tempting items so that visitors can’t reach the former without also spotting the latter.

And remember the allure of till-adjacent candy when setting up your checkout area. Offer a low-cost item as a last-minute addition and you’ll no doubt pick up some extra sales.

Traditional retail may have been supplanted by the unstoppable march of digital technology, but the basic principles of retail really haven’t changed.

Look to the past for inspiration and you’ll be better placed to deliver an e-commerce experience that keeps your customers buying and coming back for more.

Before you get schmoozed with tech, read this. Image courtesy of Pixabay Amigos3D
Facebook “pauses” bots; Typeform launches an interactive article. It’s been a busy week and it’s only Wednesday.

How do we keep up with the speed of technology and SaaS (Software as a Service) launches?  When it comes down to it, no matter how interconnected and brilliant our tech is, the fundamental genius is our underlying idea.  Everything else is the glitz of delivery - but it certainly helps. 

Do we need CUI (Conversational User Interface)?  It’s cool, but not essential.  Look at how infamous “Dave’s” poster became, ironically old school printed, based on a smartphone text exchange.  The poster was commended by Swedish Designer Tom Wysocki on twitter and currently stands at 28,249 retweets and 71,420 likes.

Geofencing (the use of GPS or RFID technology to enable software to trigger responses when your mobile device enters or exits a particular area) can turn your house lights on as you drive home, or notify you of some much coveted shoes being on sale as you walk past your favourite store.

Children of the 80s had “Choose Your Own Adventure” books, a ground-breaking sensation of the time which made you the main character, choosing the path your story took.  Voice technology is changing consumer behaviour.  By 2020 it’s predicted that 75% of homes will have smart speakers.  Now, thanks to Select a Story, you can interact with a story being read aloud to seal your fate.  

Siri answers our questions and Alexa orders our food.

Are too many options resulting in decision fatigue?  In a flip side to the world of increasing tech, there’s a human angle which is desperately reaching out for old fashioned connection.  The hand-written note.  A gift through the post.  The customer experience.  Some aspects of marketing may be destined to come full circle.

Danielle LaPorte, known for her audio and online Fire Starter Sessions, Desire Map and White Hot Truth has just launched an experience based programme called “LIGHTER” which is video and Facebook-Group-Free, sent-stuff-in-the-mail, “papery, inquisitive things you can touch”.

Adjunct professor of digital marketing, founder of The Front Row community for entrepreneurs and digital marketing strategist, Jen Lehner says, “Relationships first, business second.  My MO from the beginning has been look after your people and create experiences to surprise them from time to time.  When you genuinely love what you’re doing and the people you’re reaching, it’s actually not something you really have to think about.”

In the race to enlist all the gadgets have we been overlooking the obvious?

Ideas before the internet have stood firm.  Russell Brunson recalls how, as a teenager he poured over direct mail offers before later putting them to use in the online world to create his sales funnel systems.

Some of the most iconic copywriters of today’s generation (I’m talking Frank Kern, John Carlton and Jay Abraham) have arrived at timeless principles of human communication by deconstructing the greats.

“The Lazy Man’s Way to Riches” was sold only through direct marketing by author Joe Karbo in 1973, netting him a cool $10 million by selling 3 million copies.

Social media has become word-of-mouth on steroids.  What used to take a PR person weeks to accomplish can be achieved by an influencer in a nanosecond.  One of the reasons to love the internet is because it breaks down barriers.  You don’t have to be connected to virtually connect.  The person who can change your life is but a click away.

You need self belief.  Or pluck.

Before that you need to arrive at your purpose.  Anything else isn’t sustainable.  In 1955, modern advertising pioneer, David Ogilvy famously wrote copywriting insights to a Mr Calt which included: “I write out a definition of the problem and a statement of the purpose which I wish the campaign to achieve.  Then I go no further until the statement and its principles have been accepted by the client.” 

Too often entrepreneurs are dazzled by shiny object syndrome, using it to spark ideas in order to make use of and justify the technology.  When this works, it’s great, but just like the adventure stories you’re being led down a path, only to find, on occasion, “You chose wrong”.  

Danielle LaPorte actively states she goes on regular inspiration diets, saying “I do not read other people’s work when I’m writing my own books - I don’t want to be influenced.  I want to write about my own experiences, in my own words.”

Begin with your own idea.  Make it bigger, bolder, better.  Prove it.

Only then refine the means to get your message out there.  Technology moves so fast, new ways of delivery will be unveiled whilst you’re working.  Or you might take a second glance and adapt traditional methods.

Nothing beats a clever idea, well applied.  And if it’s a strong idea, it will outlive and meld to changes in technology.  If you connect with people and have a consistent plan, all will be well.
Albert Einstein famously worried about technology saying “The human spirit must prevail over technology.”  Elbert Hubbard, American writer, born 23 years ahead of Einstein said “One machine can do the work of fifty ordinary men.  No machine can do the work of one extraordinary man.”  I’d like to think both men were right.  With the messenger bot on pause and online interaction clamouring for our attention maybe it’s time to get a little more… human.

YouTube has firmly cemented itself as one of the leading players in the online world, but what you may not realise is just how big the now-global platform has become. From its humble beginnings as a video hosting platform for home movies and silly user-generated content, YouTube has now become a legitimate arm of the entertainment industry in its own right – one witnessed by a great many people.

The platform’s reach and influence in the western world is widely known, but the company has also amassed great popularity wider afield. Take India for example, where affordable data and localised language content have enabled YouTube to reach across 80% of internet users across all age-groups, according to the company’s own claims. The company further claim that on mobile platforms alone, they reach around 225 million active users throughout India, making this the fastest growing country for the platform.

YouTube go on to assert that 65% online video viewers subscribe to channels on YouTube, and that 85% of them will watch a new video within two days of it being uploaded. The website’s uses go beyond pure entertainment however, with 50% of working women reportedly referring to YouTube when purchasing beauty products, automobiles, holidays and travel experiences, and even real estate.
The aforementioned claims are made off the back of recent research conducted by YouTube, in which the company interviewed 3230 respondents throughout the cities of Mumbai, Delhi, Lucknow, Bhopal, Bangalore, Hyderabad, Chennai and Kochi/Trivandrum.

Rajan Anandan, Vice President for South East Asia and India at Google, said, “YouTube has become a powerful platform for users, content creators, and advertisers alike. [The] huge variety of premium content combined with the growing base and popularity of our creator community truly differentiates YouTube from all other platforms.

“For brands, YouTube is now an end-to-end platform and as per the Dec. 2017 ComScore Video Metrix Multi-Platform it reaches 85% of all highly engaged Internet users, in the 18 years and above age-group, across India.”

Robert Kyncl, Chief Business Officer for YouTube, also commented, “In the last few years, India has emerged as an incredibly dynamic content and user market for YouTube. We now have more than 300 channels with over a million subscribers, from just sixteen channels in 2014.

“We will continue to invest in programs to support creators and encourage more diversity and distribution of their content. And we’re doubling down on our efforts both on product and advertising to unlock the potential of online video advertising for everyone.”

Paolo Vendramini presents "The Power of the Message" at a Fiverr Talk on 15 March 2018 in London

"No one will go home and talk badly of me this evening, because I have come here to share ideas and talk sincerely.” Paolo Vendramini said at a recent Fiverr talk on graphic design in London.

Paolo has something.  Apart from making branding sound more exciting in an Italian accent.  There is something about someone standing to speak humbly before an audience they haven’t met, sharing their thoughts on life, their approach to their career, their passion.  The culture of “can do”, a genuine approach and sincerity on a topic you love, goes a long way in a crowded marketplace. 

The pioneering Amelia Earhart said, “Some of us have great runways already built for us.  If you have one, take off.  But if you don’t have one, realise it is your responsibility to grab a shovel and build one for yourself and for those who will follow after you.”

The Americans have their dream, Aussies “give things a go”, the French have their laissez-faire but the Brits seem to be stuck with Harry Enfield’s “You didn’t wanna do that”.  There is a strange cultural dichotomy when it comes to entrepreneurship in the UK.  We celebrate eccentric inventors, yet caution our young people into conventional, often aspiring corporate job roles.  In a fast moving world of tech and startups, things are changing.  There’s a greater ability now to run with your ideas and to reach more people directly on and offline.  The entrepreneurial spirit is catching.

UK statistics are sketchy, but back in 2016, 82% of young people wanted to start a business.  

Getting your idea off the ground and taking action quickly is where online marketplace platforms like Fiverr come in.  Launched in February 2010, Fiverr now has over 11 million entrepreneurs online, selling their gigs, starting from $5.  Freelancers can join for free.  In June last year, Fiverr Pro was launched, a premium service with carefully selected professionals.

Online marketplaces give people the opportunity to outsource and project manage key aspects of their business so they can free up time, concentrate on their area of expertise and maximise their budgets.  Vincent Van Gogh said, “Great things are done by a series of small things brought together.”  Tactical use of the gig economy can help small businesses make great strides.  On the flip side, sites like Fiverr represent huge potential for entrepreneurs who want to sell through a platform.  Marketplace platforms are like search engines - if your offer stands out you have access to potentially generate a lot of business. Bobby “Wingle” on Fiverr bought a house and paid for his own wedding with his Fiverr profits.

This year, Fiverr’s motto is “Year of Do” and #InDoersWeTrust.  The “doers” aren’t to be underestimated.  40 million projects have been completed since 2010, with over 24,700 gigs purchased every day.  10 million gigs have been posted since 2010 with 7,500 services created every day in 2017.  Last year 1.5 million brand identities were refined, courtesy of Fiverr.

Paolo’s presentation featured Forbes’ research that 75% of people think they know their own brand and what people think of them, but out of 75% only 15% are right.  “Design deepens your relationships” Paolo says, “design’s purpose is to tell stories with an image.  It’s an idea into an image.”  Most startups seek out some kind of brand.  It’s become part of the process to define yourself, tell your story and package your offer.  In an online marketplace that means you can check out a vast array of designers’ portfolios before commissioning your chosen work.  If you're a designer how do you stand apart?  Paolo suggests requesting to join the “Pro” part of Fiverr immediately, to put your best work into your portfolio and to be patient.

Ultimately winning business comes down to the quality of relationships you build and the quality of service you deliver.  “Be yourself fully and prove it with facts.  No one likes lies.  Ask what they think of you.  Be aware.  Go to the social media.” Paolo urges.  And his sincerity and commitment on this particular evening, earn him the respect of new fans. 

Learn more about Paolo here.

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