GDPR: The good, the bad, the ugly and how to be prepared!

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Note: These are just my random thoughts at this hour, ignore the typos and the grammar!

Most of you who are in the marketing profession, are probably running scared of one acronym right now: G.D.P.R!

That is the General Data Protection Regulations that come into force in May 2018.

Note: I am writing the ramblings fromWhat this will be doing is strengthening the data protection offered to consumers, whose data an organisation may be processing.

Now, I am not going to delve into the legislation too much, as it is a vast subject to cover.

What I’d like to very quickly discuss is what the status quo is and how you can prepare to be GDPR compliant.

The greatest impact that these new regulations will have for marketers is that we will not be able to use personal information to market to people without their consent. So that means no direct mail, outbound calling, SMS or email marketing without capturing our customers’ consent first.

For many years, many commercial organisations have been getting away with the ‘soft opt-in’ loophole. That is, if a person has become a customer of our business, we can assume that they have granted us consent to market to them, unless they explicitly have told us not to contact them.

Using this loophole many commercial entities have used email, direct mail and outbound calling to market to existing customers.

Come May 2018, this soft opt-in will no longer exist. We will need to capture our customers’ consent to market to them. The consent will have to be captured at a granular level as well. That means to email them, they will need to have ticked a box; to call them, they would have needed to tick another box, and so on.

Just to make life slightly more difficult, the regulations require us to keep an audit trail or people’s consent – yippee!

For some of the organisations I have worked with, come May 2018, they will not be able to market at all to their customers, as they have not captured consent on any level whatsoever!

Personally, I think these regulations are long overdue. Privacy is a very hot topic, especially amongst the EU technocrats.

So how can you prepare for D-Day?

Well, you can start collecting permission from your customers right now. Send them a simple email linked to a Google form, asking for them to submit their communication preferences.

Email is cheap – practically free!

If your customers are more old school, send them a letter and ask for them to submit their preferences on an online form [located on a special link] or by returning a completed slip to your business.

And if you’re feeling even more adventurous, you can use digital display advertising targeted to your existing customers, asking them to submit their communication preferences.

Chances are that most people will probably ignore you. However, if you are not a serial spammer, then you should have no problem in obtaining consent from your most loyal customers.

So what will happen if you do not comply with the new regulations?

Well the ICO [Information Commissioners Office] will monitor the level of complaints against your organisation and may end up launching an investigation. This could lead to a fine up up to 20 million euros or 4% of your global turnover!

It doesn’t matter if you are a small operation or not, if you’re in the business of mass marketing, using people’s personal information, you need to get compliant.

The first step in the process is to do a Consent Audit of your current customers and see if you’ve collected any consent, whatsoever. Following on from that, you can formulate an engagement plan on how you will capture the consent of your other customers.

That’s a lot of words I’ve written in 15 minutes! If you get stuck, as always, I am here to assist 🙂

SEO is dead – LONG LIVE SEO!

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When I first entered the digital marketing arena almost a decade ago, SEO was the buzzword of the time.

It was a relatively simple concept to grasp and quite simple [yet labour intensive] tactic to deploy. Best of all, there was no need to invest in monthly digital advertising!

Businesses could create a website in a day and use what are known as ‘blackhat’ marketers to dominate the front page of Google’s search results to generate customers on autopilot.

The tactic these blackhat marketers used was rather simple – build as many links as you could back to the website you were trying to rank.

At the time Google’s algorithm treated these backlinks as votes and the more votes you had, the more credible you were and Google would reward you with higher rankings in its results.

I’ve known several people who have turned over millions of pounds and dollars simply playing the blackhat SEO game.

Several fraudsters selling magic potions and pills [you can imagine the sorts] had used Google’s platform to con hundreds of thousands, if not millions of people into buying unregulated crap.

Come 2011, when Google thought enough is enough, it’s time to de-list all of these low-quality websites, it introduced the Panda update.

Thousands of online businesses that had been cash cows for years, suffered a collapse in revenue, literally over-night.

The good ol’ days of gaming Google for a quick buck was over.

Google wanted to improve the user experience it was providing its search engine users, which meant that it had to fix its algorithm to display the most relevant results on its first page.

This was a time when Facebook, which was by now the largest social media website in the world, was looking into entering the search engine market.

Over the next few years, Google has tweaked its algorithm even further with the Penguin, Hummingbird and Pigeon updates.

The ‘Masters’ of SEO decried that SEO was dead! We had to either start investing in good quality content or venture into paid advertising.

Search engine spamming was surely dead, but could business owners on a tight budget, still use SEO to drive a steady stream of visitors to their websites?

The resounding answer is YES!

However, there is a caveat and that is the process is now a lot slower and SEO is a longer game.

Rarely will you find that you’ve published a new page on your website and it gets ranked into Google’s database over night.

Instead of counting how many backlinks your website has pointing to it, it is measuring the quality of the links.

It is better that you have 10 links from credible websites, than 1,000 links from one-page blogs.

So how can you win the SEO game? Simply invest your time in creating a better user experience for your target audience.

This means fixing up issues on your website, such as the loading time, navigation, page titles – the so-called ‘on page’ elements.

You also need to invest some time in creating quality content both on your website and off your website i.e. on other blogging platforms, videos, etc.

Here’s a couple of things that you should incorporate in your SEO strategy for 2017:

  • Identify websites where you can publish a guest blog
  • Create a content plan for producing more videos for
    publishing on YouTube
  • Get more social – create fan pages on all relevant sites        and link back to the mothership [your website]
  • Contribute to industry/market specific podcasts
  • Put out press releases for any major announcements

All of these tactics will help you to gain good quality backlinks to your website.

The name of the SEO game is still building backlinks, but focus on the quality over the quantity.

On that note – SEO is dead! Long Live SEO!

 

Abul Hussain: Responding to allegations of Anti-Semitism

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In September 2010, an allegation was made against me that I had posted anti-Semitic comments on the social networking website, Facebook.

At the time of this incident, I was a member of Respect’s National Council and was the General Secretary of the Tower Hamlets branch.

As a result of this allegation, which was initially made by a blogger, I was expelled from the Respect Party.

The expulsion occurred after a phone call between the party’s top brass [Chair, Secretary and Treasurer], and was within hours of the blog piece being published.

Sadly, the charges were never put to me for comment, before this ad-hoc disciplinary committee decided to expel me.

Essentially, I was tried by the ‘media’ and executed by the party that I had loyally served for two years, without being asked to say anything in my defence.

After the party decided to expel me via a press release [that is how I found out!], a handful of mainstream media outlets decided to pick up on the story.

The chain of events was totally bizarre and incredulous.

Usually in such circumstances, a credible political party would suspend a member pending a full investigation.

Up until now, I have been advised not to publicly respond to any of these allegations.

However, the original allegations and their recent repetition four years on, have warranted a formal and public response from myself.

Firstly, the comments that have been attributed to myself, were not made by me.

I accept that the Facebook account used was mine and the childish comments that were posted around 3am, were the result of a phenomenon that is colloquially known as a frape.

A friend had gained access to my autosaved login credentials – through me using their device to check my Facebook some hours earlier – and decided to post some silly ‘statuses’ on Facebook.

Their motivation for such actions was simply boredom. Do bear in mind that I was 22 around that time and my friend was younger than me.

On one of the statuses, the word Jew was used multiple times to describe my supposed selfish and money-hungry behaviour.

Growing up in the Eastend of London, the word ‘Jew’ was and still is very loosely used by many working class communities in a derogatory manner.

I fully accept that the use of such words were and are crude and stupid.

However, the intent behind their use by my friend [pretending to be me] was not anti-Semitic, nor designed to incite any hatred or violence towards the Jewish community.

Naturally, I appealed against my expulsion from the Respect Party and was readmitted and reinstated to my roles, a few months later – I have the documents for anybody who wishes to review them.

Now, the real question is this… why was I targeted?

The answer to that is simple. I was active in local politics and had stood in the council elections in May 2010.

I was also one of the community organisers working to elect the independent mayoral candidate, Lutfur Rahman, who had falsely and viciously been smeared as a sympathiser of Islamic extremists.

By targeting and character assassinating myself, certain members of the right-wing press wanted to further tarnish the reputation of Mr Rahman.

There is a strong contingent in the mainstream media that does not like articulate British Muslims engaging in public life and is hellbent on destroying them.

I believe I have been a victim of such gutter journalism, which seeks to divide communities and incite anti-Muslim sentiment.

I have spent countless hours working on interfaith initiatives that aim to foster unity amongst different faith groups, including working with the Jewish community. I also have many friends who are ethnically Jewish.

Having been a victim of racism in my childhood, I abhor and condemn all forms of racism, including anti-Semitism.

I hope this statement will finally lay to bed these allegations, which have significantly tarnished my reputation amongst my peers.