BC Tip: The Ryder Cup - Keeping up the momentum

The Ryder Cup’s social media accounts kept interest in the golf event alive long after the final putt was sunk

Ryder Cup - Team Europe’s Instagram

Ryder Cup - Team Europe’s Instagram

The Feature

Golf’s Ryder Cup, the biennial team contest between Europe and the US, concluded recently in France.

There are accounts on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for both the USA and Europe teams. In the week following Europe’s victory, various celebratory posts appeared on the team’s channels. There were Twitter and Facebook votes about successful players, while collages, videos, graphics and cleverly filtered images, including some informal behind-the-scenes posts, filled the Instagram page.

Two posts used across the social channels stood out: a video produced to inspire the European team, which they watched before the event, shared and liked by thousands and viewed over 1.5m times. And a humorous vignette of two of the team’s most successful players, in bed with the Ryder Cup trophy.

Meanwhile the defeated USA team’s accounts, such as Instagram, struck a more muted tone, and looked forward to the next event in two years’ time.

The Takeaway

The mix of material posted to social channels helps to maintain engagement beyond the Ryder Cup competition itself – something that corporate digital managers can replicate in the wake of a significant company announcement, event or milestone.

Internal content can be used to give an insight into the way a company works, while bespoke material, tailored for individual channels, can attract significant audiences on social media.

This can simply be used to keep an organization in the public eye, or to give people a reason to return to the corporate website. Social referrals to corporate websites are often low, as we found in our last Google Analytics benchmark, so this is an area in which companies are frequently missing an opportunity to attract users to their sites.

It is key to keep the tone of posts appropriate though, as the differences between the approaches of the Europe and USA teams demonstrates.

For more commentaries, tips and downloads for online corporate communications professionals, visit our website.

If you have a query or for more information about Bowen Craggs, please contact Dan Drury: ddrury@bowencraggs.com.

BC tip: GSK - Volunteer vlogs

The pharmaceutical giant has successfully adapted the ‘video blog’ trend to the corporate web.

The Feature

GSK has created a series of video blogs – known as ‘vlogs’ – featuring an employee who spent six months on a company-sponsored volunteering programme in Kenya, which finished in December 2016.

Vanina Kacheva, an area marketing manager for Central and Eastern Europe in GSK’s healthcare business, created five vlogs during her stint advising Save the Children on its communications.

They are two-minute to three-minute video diaries, in which Vanina speaks directly to camera about her experiences, in the style of popular video blogs on YouTube. The vlogs are located on the corporate website in the Responsibility section, and on YouTube. GSK promoted Vanina’s final vlog on Twitter in December.

The Takeaway

GSK has taken the trend for vlogging, popular among internet marketers and millennials, and adapted it effectively for the corporate web.

A volunteer programme, which gives employees interesting new experiences to share, is a natural application. You need an employee willing to go on camera, but an advantage is that with vlogs, lack of high production values or professional presenting skills is an advantage, and adds to authenticity.

Vlogging could have a number of uses in the corporate context – employee profiles are an obvious one, but there are surely many others.

http://www.gsk.com/en-gb/responsibility/our-people/volunteer-stories/#vanina

BC tip: Channel 4 News - Effectively short video

A UK news channel provides inspiration for spicing up corporate videos.

The Feature

Channel 4 News in the UK recently published a video on Twitter, ‘If America were 100 people’. A minute and a half long, it presents demographic statistics as if one percentage point represented a single person – eg, '13 are black, six are Asian, one is Native American, five are millionaires, 37 are obese, 12 are setting up or running a new business’, etc.

The Takeaway

At the same time as video is proliferating online, many corporate videos have got a little stale – too much of the same clichéd opening music, fast-moving images of cityscapes/traffic, uninspiring scripts and boring talking heads.

The Channel 4 video was created for a general audience, not a business one, but some of the ideas employed could be borrowed by digital communicators who are also trying to be informative and hold people’s interest.

A clear editorial voice, creative use of music, finding ways to humanise dull statistics – these techniques could all be applied in corporate contexts (explaining what the business does, sector challenges, CSR issues, etc) to move past the clichés and engage the audience.

https://twitter.com/Channel4News/status/789153329850953728/video/1

 

Fashion and good navigation can work together. Maybe.

Anyone who follows our thoughts will know that we’re not big fans of the current trend towards minimalist navigation on corporate websites. We can see the attraction of clearing left menus out of the way, and for simple sites it’s quite fine – but for more complex ones usability always suffers. Or at least it has everywhere we have looked. Apologies if you’re bored with the whole subject, but there may be a way out.

The trend is overwhelming. A few sites have relaunched in the last couple of years with left nav – BP, Total, NovoNordisk come to mind – but they are many times outnumbered by those that have taken the minimalist route. While we would be quite happy if everyone headed back to menu-land, that isn’t going to happen. So let’s keep looking for a compromise.

We have an expression – the navigation challenge – that is all about finding that compromise. Can anyone create a complex site that mixes top usability with ‘no left nav’ on a full size screen (the sort used by most visitors to corporate sites)? We run tests with realistic journeys. For example a jobseeker in the careers section checking out a company’s environmental credentials and history. Or a financial journalist looking first at quarterly results, then the annual report, then the latest press releases. These require horizontal movement, perhaps deep within the site. And that’s tricky when you have got rid of a nicely visible set of links alongside the page.

A few companies do not acknowledge the problem. ExxonMobil makes you click and scroll like anything, especially in an area like Investors that does not have a dropdown menu. But most make at least some effort to tackle it. Big dropdown panels are the most common technique – the best, as used by Barclays, allow you to drill down into the site; and so by extension move across it when you are already deep in it. But you always have to click again to see the panel, and unless there is a breadcrumb trail as well, you cannot see easily where you are. Shell does have a trail, but the panel only goes down one level, so it is hard to avoid scrolling and scanning to move around. A fashionable spin on this is to have a mobile-style ‘hamburger’ menu to display a panel – though I don’t really understand this as it removes the option of having a different panel for each main link.

Other ideas have surfaced. Daimler uses the hamburger thing, but also changes the top menu as you move from the first to the second level: it could be clever, but I find it more confusing than anything. Qualcomm and ABB both use narrow strips down the left – click on different elements and panels pop out with more options. These look elegant, but have the same disadvantage as dropdown panels – you have to click them each time you want to do something.

Then last week we wrote up a particularly promising one in a BC Tip: Verizon’s ‘triple deck’ approach. Double deck menu bars used to be fairly widespread in the old days, though always in combination with a left menu – they were one way of keeping that menu shorter on a deep site. But the triple decker approach is designed to replace a left menu, and it works pretty well – the top two menus are in view when you are at the second or third level, so you can get around a fair bit without having to open up a new menu. But the third level menu does not stay in place when you are looking at a page down there – see for example the quarterly results page. That’s a drawback.

So can there be an answer to the navigation challenge? I think the Verizon approach could come close, with a bit of modification: keep all decks of the menu in view at lower levels, squeeze them together to free up viewable space. Maybe add a fourth deck. ‘Stick’ the menu to the top of the screen. If the links being used are highlighted, you will have a de facto breadcrumb trail. Then see how easy it is to move around. Of course minimalist purists will scoff because lots of links will be in view. Let them I say: it’s the users I care about.

Not all fashion is bad

We may not like what’s going on in navigation, but a trend we do rather like is for ‘looping videos’, particularly on home pages. They bring gentle life to what can otherwise be rather dull pictures – JK Rowling thought them up for her Daily Prophet newspaper, but here they are flourishing on Muggle websites. We wrote about some of them last year and were not enthusiastic, saying that ‘they can be headache-inducing’. But we were talking then about the very short, and thus inevitably dull, Vine videos – seeing the same thing again every six seconds is likely to have you reaching for an aspirin.

But the new generation videos are longer and subtler, with ‘joins’ that are hard to spot. There are several, stacked, on the home page of Verizon’s corporate site: the drone at the top is fun, though I think the low profile videos of kids in a classroom, or even a lady whose head moves a little, work particularly well. If you want more examples, try TNO, Siemens’ current home page, and Tetrapak’s innovation section. There will surely be more; no aspirin needed. 

David Bowen

The word is greater than the film

We recently tweeted a link to an interesting piece of market research from Addison Group on the things journalists most want on a corporate website. One of them is video transcripts - most journalists don't have time to watch the videos themselves, but they do want to pick out quotes. That reminded me of something a former financial analysts told us the other day - that he didn't watch webcasts but did scan the transcripts. This implies that transcripts are not just a useful extra (and good for accessibility), they may actually be more important than the video itself. Which of course leads to the question, should you just publish the transcript and forget the video? Brave, but not necessarily that stupid.

David Bowen


BC tip - The Hillary Clinton campaign: Designer subtitles

A US political video gets its message across to viewers who have their sound turned off.

 

The Site

The creators of a YouTube film of President Barack Obama endorsing fellow Democrat Hillary Clinton have made subtitles an integral part of the design.

As Obama speaks to camera, his words appear in different places on the screen, and in varying font sizes; larger fonts are used for points the Clinton campaign wants to emphasise.

The Takeaway

A problem with video online is that so many people cannot listen to the audio because they are in an office, on a train, etc. On Facebook and Twitter, videos start playing with the audio switched off as the default.

The producers of this slick video of Obama endorsing Clinton for president seem to understand this - and have made ‘mega subtitles’ an key part of the film, rather than a small-text, crude-font bolt-on.

This means that the video gets its messages across whether viewers have their sound off or on, a potential lesson for companies looking to use video effectively on their online channels.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S9W0F2mz1jc


Look before you loop

The Snapchat phenomenon has introduced many of us to the world of throwaway – or rather exploding – images. Take a photo, send it to a friend and – pouf! – it vanishes after 10 seconds. Teenagers love them, I think less for hide-it-from-parents reasons than that it’s a bit like making a silly face and moving on. Not the sort of thing you want to preserve for eternity.

Then there is a video service, Snapchat Stories, where a ‘story’ made up of snaps can be assembled that will last a whole 24 hours. I read that marketing people are starting to exploit them.

I can see the point of these, sort of. But I’ve also been seeing more and more little films, five to 10 seconds long, popping up in our ‘serious’ world. They have been appearing more frequently in my Twitter feed – for example, the tech news site, The Next Web (@TheNextWeb), is a regular producer. The best known channel is Vine, where the videos stretch to six seconds before starting again. We wrote about the Philips Vine presence in January, and now the White House is producing ‘vines’ for, and of, President Obama. Apple’s latest iPhone camera meanwhile lets you take a couple of seconds of video before and after you press the shutter.

One corporate careers site I visited recently used a short repeating video in place of a (usually static) banner image. The most unambiguous use of looping video on a corporate site that I’ve seen is on the Cisco corporate web estate. The networking giant’s ‘newsroom’ microsite has a page ‘Cisco in 6 second Vines’, which showcases four vines and profiles their creators (The banner image on this page is also a looping video).

Are very short videos effective? At their best, they can be funny and informative. Time-lapse photography – showing how a scene or a subject changes over time, can be interesting. And the New York Times is being clever, having gone all Daily Prophet in a feature on the South China Sea. For those not familiar with the works of Ms Rowling, the photos in the Daily Prophet move – I suppose they loop but it is done in a way that makes that unclear. The NYT piece is the same – the video of a man in a boat starts again after a while, but you have to look carefully to see the join.

This works well, because it is subtle. Most of the time, looping videos are annoying, verging on headache inducing. Flash animation came and went in the first 10 years of the century. Looping videos have come; I think it’s probably time they went.

- Jason Sumner