Will Francis https://willfrancis.com Technology, digital and social media expert in London, UK Tue, 02 Jun 2020 07:33:19 +0000 en-GB hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=5.5.1 https://willfrancis.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/cropped-icon-32x32.png Will Francis https://willfrancis.com 32 32 31 Vegetarian and Vegan Dinner Recipes That Make Up My Meal Plans https://willfrancis.com/vegetarian-and-vegan-dinner-recipes-i-cook-regularly/ Wed, 27 May 2020 12:28:13 +0000 https://willfrancis.com/?p=7309 Here are the tried and tested vegetarian and vegan dinner recipes that I pick from when I meal plan each week. They’re all tasty, healthy and relatively easy to make/clean up after. Any recipes that aren’t vegan can all be made so with small tweaks (e.g. leave off the cheese). Enjoy! British Summer Salad with […]

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Here are the tried and tested vegetarian and vegan dinner recipes that I pick from when I meal plan each week. They’re all tasty, healthy and relatively easy to make/clean up after. Any recipes that aren’t vegan can all be made so with small tweaks (e.g. leave off the cheese). Enjoy!

British Summer Salad with Asparagus, Chives and Fennel Recipe

British Summer Salad with Asparagus, Chives and Fennel

Minestrone Soup Recipe

Minestrone

Nourishing Cauliflower and Lentil Dal Recipe

Nourishing Cauliflower and Lentil Dal

Pasta Alla Norma Recipe

Eggplant pasta in tomato sauce in a bowl topped with ricotta cheese and basil torn crusty bread in the background

South Indian Chana Masala Recipe

South Indian Chana Masala

Roast Aubergine, Chickpeas & Mushrooms Recipe

Shawarma Roasted Aubergine

Vegetarian Curry with Toasted Cashews Recipe

Vegetarian Curry with Toasted Cashews

Thai Sweet Potato and Baby Corn Panang Curry Recipe

Thai Sweet Potato and Baby Corn Panang Curry

Chipotle Corn on the Cob with Homemade Refried Beans Recipe

Chipotle Corn on the Cob with Homemade Refried Beans

Hearty Vegetable Shepherd’s Pie Recipe

Hearty Vegetable Shepherd’s Pie

Mexican Black Bean and Buckwheat Bake Recipe

Mexican Black Bean and Buckwheat Bake

Black Bean Chilli with Rice Recipe

Black Bean Chilli

Lentil, Vegetable & Butter Bean Chilli Recipe

Lentil, Vegetable & Butter Bean Chilli

Lentil and Vegetable Hotpot Recipe

Lentil and Vegetable Hotpot

Spiced Moroccan Lentil and Chickpea Soup Recipe

Spiced Moroccan Lentil and Chickpea Soup

Mimi’s Nutty Tom Yum Noodle Broth Recipe

Mimi’s Nutty Tom Yum Noodle Broth

Spiced Cauliflower and Courgettes with Yellow Rice Recipe

Spiced Cauliflower and Courgettes with Yellow Rice

Aubergine Linguine with Chilli and Sun-Dried Tomato Recipe

Aubergine Linguine with Chilli and Sun-Dried Tomato

Sri Lankan Sweet Potato and Green Bean Curry Recipe

Sri Lankan Sweet Potato and Green Bean Curry

Pan-Fried Gnocchi Recipe

Pan-Fried Gnocchi

Pesto and Tomato Gnocchi Recipe

Pesto & Sun-Dried Tomato Gnocchi

Greek Ragu Recipe

Greek Ragu

Sandro Petti’s Cheeky Pasta Puttanesca Recipe

Sandro Petti’s Cheeky Pasta Puttanesca

Lentil and Charred Vegetable Halloumi Salad Recipe

Lentil and Charred Vegetable Halloumi Salad

Tabbouleh with Grilled Halloumi and Pomegranate Recipe

Tabbouleh with Grilled Halloumi and Pomegranate

Roasted Butternut Squash and Halloumi Jumble Recipe

Roasted Butternut Squash and Halloumi Jumble

Harissa Halloumi with Pomegranate Tabbouleh Recipe

Harissa Halloumi with Pomegranate Tabbouleh

Paella de Verduras de Temporada con Frijoles Recipe

Paella de Verduras de Temporada con Frijoles

Leek and Courgette Risotto with Toasted Pine Nuts Recipe

Leek and Courgette Risotto with Toasted Pine Nuts

Leek and Pea Risotto Recipe

Leek and Pea Risotto

20 min Asparagus & Pesto Risotto Recipe

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42 Branded Podcasts to Inspire Your Content Marketing https://willfrancis.com/branded-podcasts-to-inspire-your-content-marketing/ Mon, 25 May 2020 08:18:50 +0000 https://willfrancis.com/?p=7291 Brands have been creating podcasts for years now, though the latest boom in interest for the audio format is seeing a new wave of companies producing their own shows. It can be one of the most effective forms of content marketing. Your voice in people’s headphones, literally inside their heads. That’s as intimate as your […]

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Brands have been creating podcasts for years now, though the latest boom in interest for the audio format is seeing a new wave of companies producing their own shows.

It can be one of the most effective forms of content marketing. Your voice in people’s headphones, literally inside their heads. That’s as intimate as your relationship with people is ever going to get. There’s no other channel like it.

Here’s a regularly updated list of the branded company podcasts worth listening to:

The Red Room from Barry’s UK

The British gym business talks to notable people in fitness, health and wellbeing to gain unique insights into how to live a better, fitter life.

TGIM from Shopify

The ecommerce platform to rule them all has been an exemplary content marketer for years. This podcast from the team is a motivational series aimed at self-starters with big ambitions. Some great advice and inspiration here for budding entrepreneurs.

J&J Innovation Podcast from Johnson & Johnson

Hear about trends and developments in the healthcare industry, as the medical and pharma conglomerate delves into the latest innovations in this space.

Jump Start from Uber & Girlboss Radio

Short six-part series on how to pitch, fund and run the startup of your dreams hosted by Away co-founder Jen Rubio.

#LIPSTORIES from Sephora and Girlboss Radio

A rotating cast of guests join the host for relaxed, fun, and honest chats about self-image and how we can all be a little more confident.

LifeAfter by GE

General Electric were one of the first brands to use the audio drama format in a branded podcast, and did it very well with The Message, and the follow-up LifeAfter.

RISE AND GRIND from ZipRecruiter

Season of insightful episodes about business, with high profile host and guests. Daymond John of Shark Tank fame talks to business leaders and shares his own experience of building successful companies.

The Distance from Basecamp

Project management tool Basecamp present The Distance, a podcast series that features stories of private businesses that have been operating for at least 25 years and the people who got them there.

Keeping You Organised from Smead Manufacturing

US manufacturer of office and organising products present this long-running podcast all about… organising! It’s one of those that is surprisingly more interesting than it sounds.

The Science of Social Media from Buffer

If you work in social media marketing, this podcast is one to add to your app. Latest developments, trends and tips on getting more out of social from a knowledgable team.

Endless Thread from WBUR and Reddit

We’ve all come across incredible stories and jaw-dropping threads on Reddit, and this podcasts leans on that aspect of the site, delving into the site’s vast and curious ecosystem of online communities.

Beyond Brexit from PwC UK

This topical podcast from Price Waterhouse Cooper covered the impact of Brexit as the story was unfolding. Some of the episodes are still relevant and provide some insight into what may be to come after the UK’s departure from the EU.

IRL – Online Life Is Real Life from Firefox (Mozilla)

Trailblazers with Walter Isaacson from Dell

Slack Variety Pack from Slack

Upgraded from Hobsons

Everyday Bravery from Prudential

Shopify Masters from Shopify

The Beauty of it All from Superdrug

True Tales of Luxury from Harrods

Sorry, Not Sorry from Galaxy

Hackable? from McAfee

Work In Progress from Slack

The Lowdown from Luya

2 Minutes of Zen from Zendium

Escape Your Limits from Escape Fitness

On Life and Land from John Deere

Flipping The Game from Reebok

The Venture from Virgin Atlantic

.future from Microsoft

The Secret to Victory from Gatorade

Open For Business from eBay

Casting Call from Squarespace

Pick Me Up from Lyft

Why We Eat What We Eat from Blue Apron

DTR from Tinder

Invisible Forces from Jefferies

Think with Google

Up At Night from WeWork

Dress Codes from New Balance

RecurNow from ProfitWell

Protect the Hustle from ProfitWell

Subscribe To All Of Them In One Go

If you’d like to subscribe to all of these podcasts in one go, here’s an OPML file link. Plug that into your podcast app and as if by magic you’ll subscribe to every single one of these branded podcasts.

https://www.listennotes.com/listen/branded-podcasts-GTg3PHayX5U/opml/

The List

If you use ListenNotes (podcast search engine and discovery platform), here’s the list on ListenNotes.com where I curated this list. Check it out below or see it in full over at ListenNotes. Enjoy, and get inspired 🙂

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Instructions for Your Remote Podcast Guests https://willfrancis.com/instructions-for-your-remote-podcast-guests/ Tue, 19 May 2020 15:35:15 +0000 https://willfrancis.com/?p=7282 Recording your next podcast guest remotely? Worried about the audio quality of the recording? Here’s what I send my guests, to make sure I get the best possible audio for my podcast edit. Can You Compromise on Audio Quality? When your podcast is competing with the likes of NPR, iHeartRADIO and the BBC for audience […]

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Recording your next podcast guest remotely? Worried about the audio quality of the recording? Here’s what I send my guests, to make sure I get the best possible audio for my podcast edit.

Can You Compromise on Audio Quality?

When your podcast is competing with the likes of NPR, iHeartRADIO and the BBC for audience attention, your low-quality, compressed Zoom-call audio isn’t going to please your listeners’ ears.

So you’ll need to get your guest to record themselves on their side, and then send you the audio afterwards. But what do you tell someone with no background in audio production how to make a radio-quality recording of themselves, and avoid a potentially great interview being lost to technical gremlins?

Even for the biggest broadcasters this is presenting technical issues. After all, you’re at the mercy of your interviewee’s technical setup and knowledge. In Louis Theroux’s lockdown-themed podcast ‘Grounded’, he interviews notable celebrities with whom he’s long wanted to talk. The inherent technical difficulties of relying on his guests to record their own audio is out front and centre – mentioned in the intro and made light of throughout. So you can rest assured that if the BBC struggle with this stuff, it’s OK for us mere mortals to as well.

Getting the Best Results From Remote Guests

I’ve tried lots of different approaches, based on the podcast and the technology my guest owns. There are three key variables to conquer:

  • microphone – this is a huge factor in determining how close to ‘studio sound’ you get in your finished podcast. Built-in microphones are OK, and in fact some phone microphones are surprisingly good, but they’ll never beat a dedicated mic. Some podcasts actually send an external microphone to their guests to use with their computer, and you could do this too for around $50 or £50. A popular option is the Blue Snowball iCE.
    If that’s not an option, the next best thing is a built-in smartphone microphone. The key here will be getting your guest to record consistently close to the bottom edge of their phone, which should be placed in front of their face on a stack of books.
  • recorder – for your guests, this is either their computer or their phone. And then there’s software to consider. The simplest options are:
    – iPhone – the built-in Voice Memos app
    – Android – something simple such as Voice Recorder
    – Mac – the built-in Voice Memos app or Audacity
    – PC – Audacity
    – Chromebook – the Twisted Wave web app (there are many web-based recorders but TW allows input selection, and records high quality 24-bit WAV files)
  • the room – another huge factor in the sound of a recording is the room in which it takes place. Again, it’s the difference between achieving that dead, reverb-less ‘studio sound’ or that ringy, spare bedroom sound.
    Studios are of course totally unnatural spaces, designed with air-tight double walls and all sorts of acoustic treatment devices such as foam tiles and bass traps, to counter the bouncing around and convergence of sound waves in a room. Anyone who’s stepped foot in a professional studio vocal booth will tell you that the complete lack of any room reverb is pretty unnerving at first, like a sensory deprivation experience. And whilst that’s not realistic for a podcast interview there’s plenty your guest (and you) can do, as outlined in the instructions below.

One last thing to remember is to keep an eye on your guest’s recording. Make sure they’re recording when you start and check periodically that they’re still recording. You’re coaching them to do something unfamiliar here, so you need to stay supportive, relaxed and friendly. But at the same time, how stupid would you feel if you didn’t actually record all your interview after going through all this with them?

OK, so onto the instructions for your podcast guest. This might look like a long email but much of it can be deleted as appropriate. I’ve included everything you might need to say based on your guest’s technical setup at their end.

Email to Send Your Podcast Guest

Hi Sarah,

Looking forward to talking to you on Friday. Here are some guidelines on how to record your side of the interview at the best quality. Any questions, however small, just drop me a line 🙂

[If your guest has a microphone, or you sent them one]

It’s great that you have an external microphone. To get the best recording you should use a pop filter (don’t have one? You can quickly make one from a variety of household items), and then mount your mic somewhere where it’s easy to maintain a consistent distance of an inch or two from your mouth.

In terms of software, here are some instructions for Mac, Windows PC or Chromebook:

Mac – if your Mac is relatively up-to-date, you should have the ‘Voice Memos’ app. Open that to record, and in the app’s preferences change ‘Audio Quality’ to ‘Lossless’.

Ensure you’re capturing audio with your external mic by opening ‘System Preferences’ on your Mac, and in ‘Sound’ selecting your microphone as the input. When you start recording tap the mic grille to ensure you can see spikes in the waveform in Voice Memos.

When the interview is over, click the share button in the top-right of the app interface and email me the audio file.

PC – download Audacity and install it on your computer. Open it and you’ll see a blank project. Simply select your external mic from the input drop-down menu in the lower part of the main toolbar and press the record button. You should see a waveform being created as it records you.

After the interview, go to File > Export and select ‘Export as WAV’. Save that file and send to me via email, or if larger than 10MB (quite likely) please use WeTransfer to send it to me.

Chromebook – go to TwistedWave.com and click ‘Online’. Login with my credentials [insert email and password here – you need an account for longer/higher quality recordings].

Once logged in, click the ‘New’ button and select ‘Empty file’. This opens a popup window with an audio recorder tool. You just need to change two settings before hitting record. Firstly, under ‘Audio’ in the main menu click ‘Select Audio Input…’ and select your external microphone. Secondly, under the ‘Audio’ menu again, hover on ‘Recording Options’ and ensure ‘Use Uncompressed Audio’ is selected.

Press record to record our interview, and you’ll see a waveform being created as you speak. Afterwards go to ‘File > Download’ in the main menu. Settings should be:

  • File format – WAVE Audio
  • Compression: None
  • Bit depth: highest value available

You can then send me that file via email, or WeTransfer if too large.

[If your guest doesn’t have a microphone, get them to use a smartphone to record and instruct them as follows]

In terms of recording your audio, it’s best to raise up your phone to mouth-level on something in front of you (e.g. a box or stack of books) so that the bottom of the device where the microphone is points directly at your mouth and is no more than a few inches away throughout the interview.

iPhone

First of all, make sure you have the Voice Memos app, from Apple, on your iPhone. Then, open your iPhone’s settings, and scroll down to Voice Memos (it’s among all the other Apple apps). Change ‘Audio Quality’ to ‘Lossless’. This ensures we get the best quality file after we’ve recorded.

To record the interview, just open the Voice Memos app and hit record. After the interview you can send me that file through the ‘Share’ button. If it’s too big for email, hit ‘Share’ and put it in iCloud or Dropbox, then send me the link to that file in the cloud.

Android

On your phone, download the Voice Recorder app. In ‘Settings’, select ‘Recording quality’ and choose the highest value available. Then just hit the red record button before our interview. You can then send me that file through the ‘Share’ function within the app, or from your phone’s file system.

To ensure we get the best sound at your end, it’d be great to take some basic steps to improve the acoustics of the room you’ll be in. Here are some tips for that:

  • choose your most cluttered and softly-furnished room to record the podcast in. The ideal would be a closet full of coats, whereas the worst room would be a glass office, so however close you can get to the former scenario, the better!
  • close any windows to keep out street sounds, and if you do live on a busy street it would be best not to be in a front-facing room to avoid traffic rumble and sirens.
  • if possible, place pillows or cushions around your microphone/device to create an acoustically dead space to speak into. This will really help avoid the sound of a home recording. There’s a handy primer on the idea behind this here.

And one last thing, if you could wear headphones for our video call that will really help keep the recording at your end clean, and free of my voice!

Can’t wait to chat, any questions just let me know, we can quickly check your setup when we first talk on the interview call anyway.

Thanks!

Will

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7 Free Social Media Training Courses on the Web https://willfrancis.com/7-free-social-media-training-courses-on-the-web/ Sat, 08 Feb 2020 14:36:25 +0000 https://willfrancis.com/?p=5408 Social media is more than just funny memes and cat videos. Today it’s where consumers learn about, engage with and buy new products. Where they get to know brands, and develop loyalties that can last a lifetime. But so many businesses still lack the right skills and resources in-house to use these platforms properly, and […]

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Social media is more than just funny memes and cat videos. Today it’s where consumers learn about, engage with and buy new products. Where they get to know brands, and develop loyalties that can last a lifetime.

But so many businesses still lack the right skills and resources in-house to use these platforms properly, and so many waste time creating the wrong content and getting terrible results.

Fortunately, most of the main platforms have developed courses for those in business to learn social media skills from the ground up. And there are other resources too, as the online earning sector has grown considerably in recent years.

Of course, nothing beats face-to-face social media training courses, particularly when seeking to gain more strategic insight and see how a practising marketer uses the platforms. But if you’re a self-starter looking for a thorough introduction to the key topics,  below is a list of the best free online resources for digital marketers.

  1. Blueprint (Facebook)

Blueprint is a helpful resource for businesses using Facebook to generate leads and enhance their brand. It is essentially a platform that offers free training on how to use Facebook as a digital marketer, covering a wealth of relevant social media topics.

Different courses are available that will address niche questions that Facebook marketers face. For example, you can learn how the choice of images in your Facebook ads make a difference and even get recommendations of apps that can improve those images.

All of the courses available at Blueprint are made to help with Facebook marketing. Yet, some of the skills picked up on these courses are transferable and will come in useful in other aspects of social media marketing.

  1. Flight School (Twitter)

Another platform-specific marketing resource is Twitter’s Flight School. Just like Blueprint is for Facebook, it’s a place where marketers and business owners can go to obtain a wealth of information on making ads on Twitter, managing campaigns and creating videos.

It will enable learners to grasp the basics of using Twitter to promote products and services in digestible steps. Again, the information here is made for this specific social media platform, but many of the skills can become useful in other areas of online marketing.

  1. Skillshare

A popular source of expert knowledge, across the creative disciplines is Skillshare. There’s a paid subscription but many courses are free too. The site houses a wide range of free lessons covering topics from illustration and watercolour painting through web development and movie editing.

You can also learn about influencer marketing, with my detailed course on the topic there. It takes you through the entire campaign process step by step with on-screen demonstrations and a project for you to download and complete as you go.

Skillshare also has an app available to download on both Google Play and the App Store, meaning you can stream classes and improve your social media marketing while on the move.

  1. LinkedIn Learning

LinkedIn Learning makes the list of free social media marketing resources but only just – by 30 days exactly.

The professional social media platform offers over 15,000 courses and many of them are applicable to digital and social media marketing. Yet, it must be noted that only the first month is free (at the time of writing) and then you will have to pay per month to continue using the lessons. Cancellation is required or you will automatically be enrolled into the paid package.

Nevertheless, there is still a lot you could take advantage of in the first month. Plenty of opportunities to develop social media marketing skills can be found in lessons such as Photoshop and data analysis.

  1. YouTube Creators

In 2019, it was reported that YouTube is the third most-watched TV channel in the UK. Younger generations are spending more time on video streaming sites than picking up the TV remote, enjoying the depth of content and algorithmically personalised feeds tailored to their interests.

If you want to learn how to use YouTube as a marketer, or even just do a health check on your current channel, head on over to YouTube Creators.

The site is full of YouTube videos that will teach marketers how to optimise their channel and pass on valuable information. Content is predominantly aimed at everyone with a YouTube channel or considering one, but a lot of the information also comes in useful to digital marketers.

  1. Google Digital Garage

Google is helping businesses and solo professionals enhance their digital marketing skills through free courses on their Digital Garage. Some of the marketing courses are not tied to social media, but they do offer an eight-hour course that discusses how to make content go viral, namely Content, Advertising and Social IMC.

The Digital Garage is a fantastic point of call for newcomers to digital marketing due to their flagship Fundamentals of Digital Marketing Course which comes with a certificate upon completion.

  1. Quintly

Quintly is another excellent free social media marketing resource for newbies to this niche of digital marketing. They currently offer a course on social media analytics to help marketers understand how data is used within a successful social media campaign.

The course uses a combination of text and videos to cater to both learning styles and is easy to follow. For anyone looking to refresh their knowledge on social media analytics, this course is well worth checking out.

Where to Start?

The courses above are just some of the best free social media marketing courses available to date. There are many more options out there worth investigating. But with so many to choose from, where do you start?

Unless you have been charged with the responsibility of marketing from a specific social media channel, begin with courses that have transferable skills and knowledge. Once you have come to understand terms and processes, start to zone in on Twitter, Facebook and the rest of them.

If you would prefer face-to-face social media marketing lessons and seminars, take a look at my upcoming events or drop me a line about bespoke sessions, where you can go deeper and see how an expert marketer executes successful digital campaigns.

Featured image by Trent Erwin on Unsplash

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The Perfect Apple Watch Face for Sailing and Watersports? https://willfrancis.com/the-perfect-apple-watch-face-for-sailing-and/ https://willfrancis.com/the-perfect-apple-watch-face-for-sailing-and/#respond Sat, 09 Nov 2019 15:24:40 +0000 http://box5209.temp.domains/~explouc1/wf/the-perfect-apple-watch-face-for-sailing-and/ Updated 9th November 2019 Water sports enthusiasts will know there isn’t one app that completely makes a tidal or sailing watch unnecessary. I’ve used some apps with glances, but these are horribly inefficient ways to access data given you have to swipe up, scroll to the one you want and then wait forever for it […]

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Updated 9th November 2019

Apple Watch with sailing-focussed complications on the watch face

Water sports enthusiasts will know there isn’t one app that completely makes a tidal or sailing watch unnecessary. I’ve used some apps with glances, but these are horribly inefficient ways to access data given you have to swipe up, scroll to the one you want and then wait forever for it to load.

It took a bit of time playing around and some wasted money on apps but I think this is pretty cool, and worth sharing. You’ll need a few apps and here’s how to put it together:

Apps you will need:

My Tide Times Pro – this simple tide app offers tide times for any location in a nice, clean format. Once installed, simply look up your desired location in the iPhone app, then open the Watch app and select that location. Once the tide times are displayed force touch to set that location as the one which shows in the Watch face complication.

Carrot – a weather app with a difference – your weather reports come with a dark, snarky sense of humour. It is nicely designed too, and provides powerful weather forecasting tools. The reason we use it here is because for an extra premium upgrade fee it allows you to choose other data points to show in the app’s Watch complication, including wind direction and speed, which I use in the small bottom-left spot.

Dark Sky – whilst you could use Apple’s native Weather app for showing the temperature, I really like Dark Sky as it also shows rain warnings in the complication as well as more detailed alerts about changing weather through app notifications. The iPhone app has been praised as one of the finest third-party weather apps for iOS and deservedly so. Through its near-perfect interface it allows easy access to shockingly accurate rain forecasting and all the other important weather data you’ll need. <<< Update: I now just use Carrot for the weather summary.

Now to set up the watch face:

1. Force touch your Watch face to reveal the face selection and editing menu. Scroll to ‘Modular’ and tap ‘Customise’.

2. From top-left, the complications in the photo above are Date, Time, Carrot (weather summary), Carrot (wind), My Tide Times Pro (set to my local marina), Moon Phase.

3. That’s it. You can keep this face next to your ‘every day’ one to make switching easy.

The only thing I’d like to add is live wave height data, and when something comes up that can do that, I’ll edit this post.

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Featured Photography on Unsplash This Month | Oct ’19 https://willfrancis.com/featured-photography-on-unsplash-this-month-oct-19/ Thu, 31 Oct 2019 20:10:24 +0000 https://willfrancis.com/?p=3180 Photos I uploaded to Unsplash this month.

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Sailing around Ireland’s sunny south east, trying to extend the sailing season as far as possible, allowed me to snap some lovely colours and little vignettes of life on the water.

View, download and use these images for free at Unsplash

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Is Social Media Listening Still Relevant in the Age of TikTok, WhatsApp and Snapchat? https://willfrancis.com/is-social-media-listening-still-relevant-in-the-age-of-tiktok-whatsapp-and-snapchat/ Thu, 15 Aug 2019 13:12:45 +0000 https://willfrancis.com/?p=1754 As social media users recede into private spaces, personal messaging apps and 'dark social' is social listening a worthwhile exercise for brands?

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As social media users recede into private spaces, personal messaging apps and ‘dark social’ is social listening a worthwhile exercise for brands?

More people than ever use social media every day. In fact, 67% of the entire British population use a social platform, three quarters of whom actively engage or contribute their own posts monthly. This is fairly typical across the Western world and in some parts of Asia these numbers are even higher.

That’s a lot of information about what people think, what they care about, what they’re feeling. And some of that information is about your company, or your industry, or even just some topics related to the problem your product solves. Either way, some fraction of that huge sea of noise is invaluable market research for your business. It’s not asked for in a survey, but published without prompt, willingly. It is truly authentic and a real reflection of honest human thoughts.

Social listening is tapping into those conversations, and gaining insight into what’s in the hearts and minds of our past, present and future customers.

Is It The Same As Social Monitoring?

Sort of. They’re very similar activities, and often done using the same tools. But the structure and process is different.

Social monitoring is an ongoing system of searches, alerts and responses to people on social media mentioning your brand, products, competitors or industry topics.

Social listening on the other hand is more of an isolated piece of research into those conversations online. It’s an analysis of what they mean for your company, or an upcoming campaign. Think of it like the difference between manually checking your car’s oil with a dipstick and rag (listening) versus just driving along with dashboard lights coming on when something needs attention (monitoring).

Is Social Listening Still Relevant Today?

There’s no doubt that it’s become a lot harder to gauge what people are sharing in social media now that more of us are spending time on the platforms known collectively as ‘dark social’. We’re also increasingly sharing content that is visual rather than written.

Back in the days of open text data on sites like Twitter, Tumblr, Reddit, blogs etc it was arguably easier to take a read on what the world was thinking. Now that those sentiments are being expressed through non-searchable imagery and video, and on non-searchable platforms like TikTok we have to understand the limitations of the social listening exercise.

However, much consumer opinion is still expressed on those older platforms. People are far more likely to discuss your products in a tweet, than do so in a snap on Snapchat. And this distinction is most pronounced when opinions are strongly negative or positive, with people using the more traditional platforms for venting or advocating a brand.

Is Social Monitoring Still Relevant?

Again, there are challenges as the social media landscape changes, but monitoring your brand on the available and relevant channels is a must. Your customer service team should be directly integrated with your monitoring process and tools.

It could be said that customer service is at the heart of great modern marketing. It’s the one activity that shows how you treat your customers day to day, and therefore what kind of business you are, what human values you hold.

If People Love People, Brands Need To Be Human

We connect with brands emotionally, much like we do with people. According to McKinsey, 70% of buying experiences are based on how the customers feel they are being treated.

Recent years, and the rise of social media, has made transparency a key attribute of any modern brand. Consumers demand far more in terms of ethics and ethos from businesses than they ever did, and this will only continue to develop further.

Through monitoring social media for mentions of your brand, both good and bad, you gain opportunities to put on public display the human side of your business. You get to show the world how you think customers should be treated.

So regardless of new platforms and media formats, there will always be places online that are rich in easily searchable insights into what people think about your brand and products. The opportunity remains to be proactive in responding to those, and showing us who you are and what you stand for.

Featured Image by Donald Giannatti on Unsplash

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The Content Calendar is Killing Your Social Marketing https://willfrancis.com/the-content-calendar-is-killing-your-social-marketing/ Wed, 20 Feb 2019 12:12:21 +0000 https://willfrancis.com/?p=1611 Listen to this article: It is often said that to succeed in content marketing you must be useful or entertaining. Because by doing this, you’re adding value to people’s lives. Sadly, most content marketing is neither of these and therefore has no value to the people it lands in front of. It’s just crappy promotional […]

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It is often said that to succeed in content marketing you must be useful or entertaining. Because by doing this, you’re adding value to people’s lives.

Sadly, most content marketing is neither of these and therefore has no value to the people it lands in front of. It’s just crappy promotional noise that no-one wants in their feeds, inbox or life.

The main reasons for this stem from the fact that most marketers today are playing by yesterday’s rules. Working on assumptions they made in 2012 and have not since revisited.

These assumptions are many, but include:

  • ask questions in social – people will engage with you!
  • jump on topical ‘moments’ – regardless of relevance, people will engage!
  • make a content calendar – to manage the huge amount of content we have to post to be present in our various social media channels

Of course, questions and topicality can work. But when applied with the assumption that they will magically achieve results, without the need for creative quality or insight, we get this:

This example from Bet365 is an inane and pointless social media post that the world doesn’t need. If this is your brand’s contribution to the internet as a whole it’s time to have a fundamental rethink of what the marketing team are doing, and what their objectives are.

Another example from Perrier is less heinous for sure. Some thought has gone into this animation which riffs self-referentially on Banksy’s ‘self-shredding’ artwork stunt in 2018. But to me this feels like a social agency filling the calendar they agreed to fill for $xx per month, to ‘drive engagement’ around their client’s brand.

Whilst nicely executed no-one is asking – is this of inherent value to the person it lands in front of? Because the answer is no, it’s not.

Do Less, Brilliantly

Easy for me to say. I don’t run an agency anymore, and don’t have the pressure of keeping the lights on, and so keeping those clients retained. But I’ve been there and I’ve churned out content because someone agreed to do it for a monthly fee, and the world will fall apart if we don’t keep feeding the beast.

Screenshot by Andrew Macarthy

In hindsight, what I wish I’d done in those early years of social media marketing was ask these questions:

  • Is this of real value to people out there who don’t care about this brand the way that we do? If we didn’t work here would we be happy to see this?
  • Is that value intrinsic, regardless of where it came from? The Michelin Guide is a great example of this – doesn’t matter who wrote it, the thing is inarguably useful.
  • Should we stop for a minute, and ask what the most ambitious version of the above could look like? Is one high-impact thing better than a drip-drip of content?

What could we achieve if we cancelled a month of crappy social posts and created one awesome film instead?

Unfortunately the presence of a content calendar doesn’t push you towards those bigger, more impactful pieces. It encourages anyone who looks at it to fill in the white bits ASAP. And that leads to a protracted drip-feed of the weakest tea imaginable, rather than a damn good coffee in the morning.

In an algorithmically-driven digital world, create less content, with higher impact. Don’t try to sneak in marketing messages, just create media of true value to the people who will love it the most. And then get it to them. Simple 😎

Featured Image by Charles 🇵🇭 on Unsplash

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What Self-Driving Cars Will Learn from Online Poker https://willfrancis.com/what-self-driving-cars-will-learn-from-online-poker/ Tue, 12 Feb 2019 11:16:42 +0000 http://box5209.temp.domains/~explouc1/wf/?p=1544 When millions of autonomous, algorithmic bots on wheels hit the roads how will they judge each other, and predict our next move?

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I’ve personally dabbled with online poker on and off for the last 15 years. In my twenties, time-rich and money-poor, I was constantly experimenting with ways to make money online.

Screenshot courtesy of TSP Zeus

After researching advanced poker tactics such as multi-table playing I soon came across Poker Tracker. It’s an interesting idea – this third-party piece of software tracks all the players in all the games you play and shows what it knows about each player in real-time.

It integrates neatly with the main poker apps (in my case Poker Stars) and using simple meters displays how aggressive, cautious and successful that player is. With no affiliation with the poker sites, all the data is collected by you, meaning you start on day one with no information about anyone. But surprisingly quickly you build up highly useful stats on the players at your table and can start to make better guesses about their likely position. Do they genuinely have the strong hand their play suggests or are they just bluffing? Anything that can help you judge a player’s character is invaluable.

So what does this have to do with self-driving cars?

One big surprise with Poker Tracker was how often I would enter new tables, and see players who I already had data on. You imagine in the vast, global sea of poker players that repeat encounters would be rare, but not so it seems.

Autonomous vehicles boast a wide array of sensors – LIDAR, image and radar. Combined with powerful software to crunch all the incoming data efficiently, it seems likely that number plate recognition would be in there somewhere. And just like my experience roaming the online poker circuit, we’ll (hopefully not literally) bump into the same cars again and again.

Think about your school run or work commute. Your supermarket trips and family visits. You drive past the same people all the time without realising it. But the algorithms on board your self-driving car will know it, and judge those drivers accordingly. In fact, autonomous vehicles will have to do this in a world where there are both human and software-driven cars on the road. Until 100% of cars out there are autonomous, tracking other drivers is an invaluable survival mechanism for the technology.

The key debate at the heart of automated vehicles is always around the ethics of driving itself, and specifically collisions. Whether the car should swerve to hit an elderly fat woman or a healthy, young dog is important, but there seems to be little discussion around the data these vehicles will collect and how they use that.

“A world where my cautiousness at roundabouts leads to marketing that plays on specific fears showing up on my screens is not unimaginable.”

Aside from conspiracy theorists (warning: InfoWars link!) who believe that autonomous cars will serve as a network of surveillance drones, there is a huge privacy question. Will human drivers be tracked and judged by number-plate recognising autonomous vehicles, and will that data be owned by Google et al?

Will my driving style become yet another input into the psychographic map of me held by the big tech companies, which allows them to show me ‘better’ ads? A world where my cautiousness at roundabouts leads to marketing that plays on specific fears showing up on my screens is not unimaginable.

As the 2030s – the decade many predict that automated tech becomes normalised – grow nearer, we have to ask these questions. But as we’ve seen with today’s mobile and social technology, we’re only capable of really caring about privacy when it’s far too late.

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Is Meat the Next Tobacco-Scale Health Scandal? https://willfrancis.com/is-meat-the-next-tobacco-scale-health-scandal/ Tue, 22 Jan 2019 11:16:14 +0000 http://box5209.temp.domains/~explouc1/wf/?p=1358 Listen to this blog post: A growing body of world-class research points to meat as a cause of the big killers. But how are the meat industry, and meat eaters responding? Well, slowly. In the 1920s, as the first medical reports emerged linking lung cancer to smoking, newspapers refused to write about them, in fear […]

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A growing body of world-class research points to meat as a cause of the big killers. But how are the meat industry, and meat eaters responding?

Well, slowly. In the 1920s, as the first medical reports emerged linking lung cancer to smoking, newspapers refused to write about them, in fear of losing a huge chunk of revenue from tobacco advertisers. In the 1950s and 1960s a series of major medical reports confirmed tobacco as the cause of multiple diseases and cancers, but by this point Big Tobacco was a seemingly unstoppable industry.

Sound familiar? Well that’s very likely where we are right now with meat. It is well proven to be harmful (and nutritionally unnecessary), yet it is a still a central part of people’s lives with meat consumption celebrated and enjoyed with little thought for the consequences.

As a vegetarian myself, the smoking analogy also fits from a personal point-of-view. As someone who has smoked, if only socially, I completely understand the pleasure of a cigarette, especially with beer in hand on a summer’s evening. But now when I walk past smokers hunched outside offices and restaurants it looks so strange to see otherwise functional people slowly self-destructing. Stood out in the cold, deeply inhaling fumes that we have been told again and again will ruin your one and only body, and shorten your precious life.

Likewise, I stopped eating meat whilst backpacking in Thailand. A misjudged burger in the hotel restaurant followed by a trip to Bangkok General Hospital prompted a cautious approach to eating out, if only for the rest of my trip. But surprisingly quickly, within weeks, I would look over at people eating meat and start to see animal carcass, boiled flesh, bits of recently alive beings being drizzled with sauces and tugged at with teeth.

I guess I just never got round to eating meat again. In those early days I would answer the “why are you vegetarian?” question with “I just don’t fancy it these days”. The ethical, environmental and health dimensions have taken years to develop for me, but having now lived half my life without meat it seems like madness to consume animals. Suicidal on a personal as well as an environmental, global scale. Much like the smokers on their breaks.

The EAT-Lancet Report and Veganism

Last month a global group of 37 eminent scientists who specialise in food, farming and environment announced a diet that could save 11 million deaths, and crucially allow us to feed the 10 billion people who will live on this increasingly crowded planet by 2050. The diet is heavily plant-based. Not quite vegan but asking us to adopt more foods we associate with that diet e.g. plant-based proteins such as beans instead of animal ones like milk and meat.

Broadly the diet suggests:

  • Nuts – 50g a day
  • Beans, chickpeas, lentils and other legumes – 75g a day
  • Fish – 28g a day
  • Eggs – 13g a day (so one and a bit a week)
  • Meat – 14g a day of red meat and 29g a day of chicken
  • Carbs – whole grains like bread and rice 232g a day and 50g a day of starchy vegetables
  • Dairy – 250g – the equivalent of one glass of milk
  • Vegetables -(300g) and fruit (200g)

The diet has room for 31g of sugar and about 50g worth of oils like olive oil. And bear in mind that the meat allowances are maximums rather than recommendations.

This report comes at a time when veganism is booming, with Veganuary – a British charity that challenges us to go vegan for the month – enjoying its biggest year ever. This January 250,000 people made a vegan pledge, as many as the previous four years combined.

Far from being a dietary fad like Atkins and Paleo, veganism has much deeper political and ethical roots in the environmental and animal welfare movements, as well as the growing sense among us that the scientists might just be right – humans work best on a plant-based diet.

A glimpse into the weight of this scientific backing from the world’s most credible sources can be gained from best-seller How Not To Die. In the book, Dr Michael Greger goes through the key killer cancers and diseases, demonstrating how going plant-based is proven by large, credible studies to prevent and reverse them. Some read the book as a reminder of what they should eat. To me the book is a damning indictment of the meat and pharmaceutical industries who profit hugely from making and keeping us unwell.

With yet more campaigns making an impact (see this week’s Million Dollar Vegan campaign, offering Pope Francis $1m to go plant-based for Lent), it feels like we’re right on the tipping point. As meat consumption goes down and farmers are further squeezed, it will be interesting to see what the next few years hold.

Further watching – check out Simon Amstell’s comedy film for the BBC, Carnage. The hour-long piece imagines a 2067 where everyone is vegan, but the shadow of the past looms. It’s dark and hilarious but could well be an accurate prediction of how this will all pan out.

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