Archive for David Armstrong

About the Author: David Armstrong
David Armstrong is a Senior Marketing Manager at TBI, with almost a decade of experience in marketing for academic publishing.

Getting your customer data to work harder

Getting closer to your audience is something that every marketer should be passionate about, and one aspect of this is a shift to interacting at the individual level with customers, whether they’re authors, readers, students, society members, or institutions. Personally engaging with your users is of course part of this, and it’s rare to see a company in our industry that doesn’t have an active presence on social media to connect with their customers in this way. But there are other techniques to connect your customers with the news, product information or services that are most relevant to them.

Personalised marketing is something that’s gaining more traction as technology gives us new ways to interact with, and query, the data we hold about our customers. Amazon is a great example of how this data can be put to work – the coverage of their databases is so broad and deep that they can recommend products for customers to you based on your browsing or purchasing history. They’ll also use data from millions of transactions to let you know what other people purchased alongside the items in your shopping cart. As a customer, you benefit by seeing other potentially useful items alongside the product you’re searching for – and Amazon benefits with every additional item you add to your cart. But you don’t need to have the same wealth of data at your fingertips to make some potentially game-changing alterations to your customer marketing.

If you’re already collecting customer data beyond contact information – for example, particular product types, subject areas, or event attendance – and if you use email marketing software that supports customised content, you can create highly tailored marketing communications that ensure each customer in your database sees the items that are of most relevance to them. With the average subscriber receiving over 400 marketing emails a month, making your email messages more relevant will help you cut through the inbox clutter and connect your customers with the information that’s of greatest value to them.

Getting started with personalised communication does need a little investment, from effective segmentation through to the preparation of tailored copy – but with customers increasingly expecting that marketing messages take into account the data you hold about them, it’s an area that is only going to become more important.

Getting the most out of social media – Twitter

In my last post, I looked at ways to help update your Facebook strategy to better connect with your customers on social media.

Twitter poses a slightly different challenge in that the sheer volume of posts on an average user’s timeline can drown out your message. More than 10,000 tweets are posted every minute by Twitter’s c. 115m active users – and with the average Twitter user following 102 accounts, your Tweet’s ‘prime’ is probably within the first 20 minutes of posting.

Organizational Twitter feeds – particularly those operated on behalf of a journal or publisher – tend to be used mostly as a type of newsfeed to announce the publication of articles, books, journal issues or other bulletins. This means that if you post article or publication links regularly, important news can struggle to stand out in your and your followers’ timelines. With that in mind, some publishers have hit on a creative way of ensuring top stories catch their followers’ attention – linking to the same content at different times throughout the day or week with new descriptive Tweets. You can use tools such as Tweriod to find the best time of day to send your tweets, and schedule them in advance using a social media dashboard or a service like Buffer. Combining these with URL trackers such as will help you gauge responses to help pinpoint which messages and times of day work best for your followers.

Not only is Twitter a good place to start conversations with your customers or members; it’s also becoming the first place they’ll turn to if they have a query about your product, service, or brand – or a complaint.

Dealing with dissatisfied customers is a rite of passage in social media, and though it can be a bit of a minefield, handling a complaint well in a public forum such as Twitter can help increase your followers’ sentiment towards your brand.

It’s important to delineate between genuine complaints and those who just want to ‘troll’ your accounts, though – many top brands’ customer service teams engage with customers’ complaints first via a publicly-visible “@” response, asking for more details to be sent as a Direct Message (or DM) in order to resolve the issue. This shows that they are responsive to customer complaints without cluttering up public timelines with the ins and outs of resolutions.

Alongside Facebook, Twitter is an essential part of any organization’s social media strategy. If you’d like to know more about how TBI can help social media have a greater impact for your company, why not read our case studies, or ask about our staff training programmes?

Getting the most out of social media – Facebook

Social media is still a relatively young technology in the context of scholarly communications, with many organisations still trying to find the right way to maximise the strengths of the most popular networks. If you’re still finding your way in social media, there are a few simple – yet often overlooked – tactics that can make the difference between making a conversation spark or fizzle.


Facebook’s immense popularity – with roughly one in seven people worldwide maintaining a profile – means that it’s often the first port of call when building a social media strategy. But are you making the most of your followers’ connection with your brand?


One of the defining factors of Facebook is that, in most cases, people tend to use the site as a respite from professional life. That’s not to say that content aimed at ‘the day job’ doesn’t gain traction, as there are countless journals and learned societies that do a great job of engaging their audience through Facebook. Rather, it’s a question of choosing the right stories to feature.

Put simply, the content on Facebook that gets the most traction is that which generates an emotional reaction, whether that’s a gasp of admiration, laughter at a punch line, or a grin of acknowledgement as people interact with a story that impresses them. Announcing the publication of a new journal issue might not get those reactions from your followers, but putting a spotlight on a ground-breaking article, challenging opinion, or thoughtful editorial piece within tends to increase re-posts and comments – extending that post’s reach beyond direct followers. (Unsurprisingly, posts relating to serious society/company business – aside from conferences and other events – tend to generate significantly fewer interactions.)


Tone of voice is also an important consideration. All too many organizations use the same uniform tone across all communication channels, but the personal touch is far more appropriate in social media. Whereas a brochure or email campaign might need to speak for your organization as a whole, keeping a light-hearted, conversational tone in Facebook posts will make them feel less like a one-way broadcast and more like part of a conversation – which is the precise strength of social media. Don’t be afraid to add some personality to your organisation’s Facebook posts!


If your social media strategy needs a further boost, TBI can help with anything from communications audits to staff training. Melinda and Charlie have also written about how to integrate social media in a campaign communications mix to achieve optimum results.

Information on the go – the move to mobile

The concept of the web in your pocket is far from a new one – WAP and iMode have been available on feature phones since before the turn of the millennium – but the advent of the smartphone, and fast 3G and 4G data networks, have resulted in a fundamental shift in how people find and consume information. And if you’ve noticed family members, colleagues, or fellow commuters poking at a portable screen of some sort, you’ll probably not be too surprised to learn that mobile makes up at least 10% of all internet traffic, and it’s growing fast.

Understanding how mobile changes an audience’s experience – and expectations – of your content is a challenge that many publishers are still catching up with. Some publishers, such as the BMJ Group, have developed Apps that act as windows onto their content, allowing subscribers to access information on the move; however, libraries and publishers alike frequently run into administrative roadblocks when trying to cater for remote users, as Judy Luther discusses on the SSP’s Scholarly Kitchen blog.

A large part of the challenge in adapting content for mobile is the myriad hardware configurations that your customers are likely to be using. Device-aware site designs that automatically display for visitors using a mobile device might be ideal for pocket-sized screens, but impractical on a tablet; responsive web design overcomes such issues to provide an optimal viewing experience on any screen size but can make for higher testing and design overheads; and platform-native Apps can play to the strengths of individual devices, but can be very expensive to develop and support.


Our upcoming TBI Masterclass, Going Mobile, looks at ways in which the rise of mobile will affect how your customers interact with your content. For more details, and to register for what is quickly becoming our most popular Masterclass session, click here.

What gamification means for your audience

Increasing audience engagement is a perennial challenge for societies and publishers. An invested audience is more likely to cite a work or renew their membership dues, but with people’s time fragmented by a seemingly endless number of information sources, it can be harder to capture their attention with your content or increase their involvement in society activities.

Gamification, the process of using game design theory and tools to engage your audience and address everyday problems, is an approach that’s ideally suited to building audience investment. A generation of new customers and staff have grown up hand-in-hand with electronic entertainment that speaks directly to what motivates us, providing feedback on progress and challenging them to reach that next milestone. And from social to mobile, the way we interact with the web makes introducing those familiar elements into business and consumer contexts ever more relevant.

Gamification has been applied in a wide variety of scenarios, from health and fitness community Fitocracy, to productivity applications such from Salesforce. Consumer brands like Nike have embraced gamification with the Nike+ initiative, and it’s even being used to motivate self-directed learning through the Kahn Academy. The success of gamification methods such as these has led analysts to predict that 70% of the world’s top businesses will be managing at least one gamified platform by 2014.

Getting gamification right requires a deep understanding of why and how your audience is engaging with a system, process or community. It’s not as simple as simply bolting on a points leaderboard or a badge system – for gamification to work in the longer term, it needs to be designed to complement the underlying task or system, hence incentive models such as LinkedIn which drive you towards an ever-more complete profile, or the coding Q&A community Stack Overflow, which awards engaged users with both special profile badges and access to additional features on the website.

Gamification is an exciting area that fascinates us here at TBI. We’ll be talking through some of our experiences of how it can benefit learned societies and scholarly publishers in a forthcoming TBI Masterclass – you can register here.