Blog Archives

Zapier as a Marketing Orchestration Platform

Zapier’s new multi-step workflows have created a simple low cost method to carry out marketing orchestration. Amazingly, despite the low entry price, Zapier (pronounced like happier with a z) is also incredibly powerful.

This is important for marketers as it provides a means to test new ideas quickly and cost effectively.

The idea is simple. An event happens, data is loaded, filters are applied and then multiple actions are triggered.

All of this is unlocked through a simple web based interface that can connect to any web-exposed service or app.

Zapier screenshot

Zapier screenshot

This includes tools like MailChimp, Twitter, Trello, Google Docs and Unbounce. Data can be enriched from a service like FullContact or even using CRM data. Transformations can be applied using built in text and number functions. If those aren’t enough, custom JavaScript can do even cooler transformations or lookups. Filters can be applied to stop the process if certain conditions aren’t met. Finally instructions and data can be quickly passed to another app or apps.

The use cases opportunities are huge and it’s a tool I’m using with Storm81 to automate elements of my marketing.

For instance, I want to add any of my MailChimp subscribers who have a large follower base to a list on Twitter. My opening trigger is a new subscriber, I then load the count of their Twitter followers by looking them up using FullContact. If they have more than 1,000 Twitter followers, I add them to a list.

The most obvious benefit I see for marketers and technologists is the ability to quickly prototype ideas that are often just talked about. Crucially, it will involve prototyping without the need for developers and database analysts.

Marketing Orchestration Platforms are something I’ve talked about in the past and I think Zapier have brought a very viable option to the table.

You can find out more about Zapier’s multi-step Zaps on their blog:

Posted in Marketing Automation

Facebook Instant Articles – Everything Marketers Need to Know

Facebook has been a giant in the world of content distribution for a few years now. Every hour 3 million links are shared on Facebook and because of this marketers and content creators are finding it incredibly difficult to get their content noticed. “Average” content isn’t likely to find the same number of people it did 2 or 3 years ago.

Thankfully, Facebook is working to help us to create quality content and they’re doing this by introducing Instant Articles.

What are Instant Articles?

Do you remember Facebook Notes? It was Facebook’s attempt at entering the world of blogging. “Notes lets you write full-length posts with formatting, tagging and pictures. Use Notes to publish content that is too long to post to your Wall or that requires formatting.” –

Although Notes are no longer commonly used (are they used at all now?), Facebook has come back with something much more incredible. Instant Articles. In a video posted by Facebook on their Instant Articles Facebook page, Creative Director from, Shezad Morani, describes them as “a living page. This is a living, breathing article that is beyond just words.”

Instant Articles’ aim is to help quality content get the attention it deserves. It does this by doing these three things.

1) Moving images

I know what you’re thinking, and no, I don’t simply mean videos.

Instant Articles have a short video that instantly plays when scrolling through the news feed. What makes it different to a normal video? The whole thing is a link. That’s right. Click anywhere on the video at any time and you’ll go straight to the article. This is how they’re grabbing consumer’s attention.

2) What’s the fastest way to get from A to B?

If you said move B closer to A, then you’d be right and that’s exactly what Facebook have done. An Instant Article is built into Facebook, so there’s no leaving the site, thus reducing the time taken to load.

I’ve just clicked on the first link on my news feed; a link to a article. It took 5 seconds on 4G to show the article and 10 seconds before all of the content was available. When I click an Instant Article, before I’ve even had chance to take a breath, it’s fully loaded.

I imagine the drop off rate from clicking on a link to reading an article will plummet with connection speeds like this.

3)  More interaction

Working like a featured image, the video shared on Facebook (the one designed to grab your attention) continues to play at the top of the page, giving the reader some consistency. They then have the option to click on the video to open it and play with sound. A landscape video will show full screen on your smartphone and you can tilt your phone from side to side to display the edges of the video.

With a variety of other interactive features including images, image galleries and videos (including embedded Facebook content) there is plenty to keep the consumer engaged. There is also the option to play audio clips over still images or image galleries to create interactive images without resorting to video.

Facebook Instant Articles

Facebook page for Instant Articles

Instant Articles over blogs?

You’re probably thinking the same as me. Why would a blogger, news outlet or business choose to keep their content on Facebook when they’re goal is to create traffic to their site?

This one is a tough question that I think there will be a lot of debate over.

For some organisations, getting people to read their content is their goal. There are a bunch of ‘other posts by the same author’ links at the bottom of each Instant Article, but the links I’ve tried to click have just given me a blank screen, so I wonder if this is a work in progress. I’ve also noticed some ‘sponsored’ content, so it looks like Facebook will be inserting some of their adverts within each article, perhaps monetising them for content creators in a similar way to Google.

How can I try it out?

The short answer is… You can’t. Not quite yet.

Facebook is trialling Instant Articles with nine publishing partners and hasn’t released any indication of when it will be more widely available. You can contact Facebook to request more information about becoming an Instant Article publisher here. I’ve sent a request for information and received an email advising me to join a the Facebook Group for news, media and publishing to hear updates.

Instant Articles Launch Partners

Instant Articles Launch Partners

I’d recommend heading across to the Instant Articles Facebook page to check them out for yourself. At present they only work on the latest version of Facebook on iPhones, but I’m sure they’ll be working on an Android version soon.

What are your thoughts on Instant Articles? Could they be the big shake up that content creators need? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.
Written by Alan Milner

Posted in Business, Digital Marketing, Marketing

Launching Storm81: A New Home for my Work on Digital Strategy

When I originally started blogging, I didn’t expect much of the blog and built a simple WordPress site on to an existing domain I had called theSealeys. As the popularity of the blog has grown I felt it was time that we took on a new name and a rebrand. Read more ›

Posted in Digital Marketing

Personalisation Preperation Matrix

Your success in personalising the customer experience will be based on your readiness and ambition. Readiness is a function of your people, process, technology and data. Ambition is a function of the personalisation business case, the sophistication you wish to apply, and the consistency you want to achieve across channels.

As the matrix shows, when ambition outstrips readiness the personalisation project is at risk of failing. Essentially the risk of failure increases given the capability gap you need to fill in order to achieve your goals. Also the amount of work required will be significant which will give you issues around funding and stakeholder management.

At the opposite corner, when readiness is far greater than ambition, the business is failing to achieve the full value of personalisation. For instance a business with a sophisticated email marketing platform that only personalises the subject line is not getting the full value out of that expensive asset.

My recommendation is that before starting in personalisation, you take stock of how you’re doing and create a set of requirements that is a match to that. Having matched readiness and ambition you can create a roadmap and plan that gradually builds your business capability, achieves success and helps you gear up to the most sophisticated levels of personalisation.

For more on personalisation, I recommend you read 4 make or break rules for personalisation by my colleague Matt Roberts.

You may also be interested in this post on the top web optimisation techniques available.

Posted in Digital Marketing

A smaller agency focussed marketing cloud

While the big boys like IBM, Adobe and Oracle have been hoovering up marketing technology platforms to create their own complete marketing suites, the smaller nimbler software providers have joined forces to create a marketing cloud for agencies. MailChimp, Unbounce, HootSuite and Freshbooks have built a single proposition called JustAddTalent.

Read more ›

Posted in Digital Marketing

Cross channel attribution presentation

I had the pleasure of presenting at an Adobe event this morning on the challenges of cross channel attribution. Here are the slides from the session. I’ll be sure to type up some notes when I have a little more time.

Posted in Digital Marketing

SXSW Day Four: Would I go again?

SXSW is difficult to summarise. It is equally brilliant and frustrating. On the one hand you can learn about cloud architecture from Amazon’s CTO or open web standards from Tim Berners-Lee. On the other, you can queue with 300 people to stroke grumpy cat (seriously this happened). Read more ›

Posted in Digital Marketing

SXSW Day Three: Intent and Affinity

Nate Elliott of Forrester gave an engaging presentation today on the differences between user intent and affinity. Marketers can start to tap into this data of intent and affinity as it becomes available from Google and Facebook. However the key point was made that these sites don’t hold all the data yet. Read more ›

Posted in Digital Marketing

SXSW Day Two: Sir Tim Berners-Lee

It was an absolute pleasure to hear from Sir Tim Berners-Lee today. His passion for the web and depth of knowledge were staggering. In the introduction the point was made that he could have privatised the web for personal gain when he created it. He didn’t. He gave it to the world for free and I certainly owe him my career for that. Read more ›

Posted in Digital Marketing

SXSW Day One: Gamification, Enterprise Mobility and Nice People

SXSW started today and as a first timer I found the day somewhat frustrating and confusing. Everything was too busy. I couldn’t get into presentations and the weather was abysmal. That all turned around when the afternoon started. I managed to get into some amazing sessions and went for a meal with some great people I’d only just met. Read more ›

Posted in Digital Marketing
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