I’m a Squared Online Graduate!

I started my Squared Online – Google’s digital marketing course- journey in July 2014 and am very proud to say I graduated on Thursday!

If you are interested in the course, I have blogged throughout. One of the highlights of the course has been the people I have got to meet in my two project groups – really talented, clever people who were a pleasure to work with.

I have learnt a lot from the course but as it’s an online course, you do need to put in the time and effort. I’m particularly proud of my team’s Google Analytics report for the fourth project. Our group was cited as one of the best reports overall and my Conversion Report was chosen as ‘the best of’! For our last project we had to produce a Whitepaper and our group got the insurance sector. Once again ours was cited in the live graduation class as one of the best, so I’m immensely proud of my group and the hard work we put in.

Congratulations to all my fellow July cohort Squares and all the best to those still on the journey or those starting out. Give it your all!

Squared Online project and lessons from working in a virtual group

I have just completed Module Two: Think Commercial of Google’s Squared Online course, where I learnt about the rise of digital and how some businesses are harnessing technology to disrupt traditional businesses (think Airbnb and how they are disrupting travel agents, hotels, classified ads etc). This module was definitely a step-up from the first module in terms of complexity and workload.

Students were put into groups and we had to complete our first group project – to produce an online business idea in the style of a presentation with an audio voice-over. Initially my group had seven people but by the first couple of emails two had dropped out of the course, leaving us with five. One member of our group was rather elusive and didn’t attend the first or second Google Hangout and, to be honest, we had doubts that they were going to contribute at all. Luckily they did make the third hangout and turned out to be a valuable member of the group.

We will only receive our grades for the project by 7 November so I can’t tell you how we did. I do believe we have a strong product and our pitch was really good so fingers crossed for a good mark!

Lessons learnt from working in a virtual group

  • You need someone to step up as project manager to coordinate meetings (via Skype/Hangout or even in person if you are able to).
  • Assign action points after each meeting and summarise what was discussed in a follow-up email.
  • Use collaborative working tools such as Google Drive or even the group forum in the Squared Online campus so that people can work, edit and feedback on the go.
  • Set deadlines for each stage of the process so that there is always a goal to work towards.
  • Allow the team to feedback on the final presentation and give enough time to edit if needed before the project deadline.
  • Be realistic – everyone in our team works full time and has responsibilities outside of their jobs so be realistic about what can be achieved in the time that you have.
  • Quality over aesthetics – everyone wants to have a sleek, professional looking presentation but it’s more important that the business idea is actually viable so spend more time on fine tuning your idea rather than designing slides and graphics.
  • Be polite and be a team player – it’s important that everyone contributes and pulls their weight. Sometimes group members may disagree on something, which is perfectly normal, but the key is to be polite and constructive – not destructive.

This may be an online course but it’s designed to reflect real life, hence why we are put into groups with people who live in different countries. It forces you to find ways of working together and to overcome challenges such as time differences, strong personalities, different cultures and juggling other work and life commitments with meeting a project deadline. Luckily I have a great project group and I’m already looking forward to working with them on the next project

Thoughts on Squared Online Module One

I promised to post about my Squared Online journey so here are my thoughts now that module one is complete.

The first module is all about A connected world and it forced us to think about our own digital life. If I’m honest, I found this module rather basic but I understand that the course is made up of around 300 – 400 people all with varying levels of experience and we need to start somewhere. From module two, where we are put into groups to work on our projects, it steps up in terms of level of difficulty.

At the end of module one we had to complete a project, which was to create a video to introduce ourselves to our fellow ‘Squares’. Having no prior experience of creating a video, I was considering just doing a basic webcam video. However, the whole point of me taking part in this course was to learn, so learn I did. I used Window’s Movie Maker to create my video and although the recommended time to finish the project was 2 hours, this probably took me about 6. Yes, seriously…

It’s not a great video, I admit. But I did it all by myself with no help at all and I’m really rather proud of it. If it were a picture, I would have stuck it to my fridge with a magnet.

Module two will look at how to think commercially and the project looks challenging. Bring it on!

Squared Online- a digital journey

Last night was my first Squared Online course. Squared Online is Google’s Digital Marketing course and I will be embarking on this virtual learning journey over the next six months.

These are my thoughts so far:

1. The classes are all conducted online, every Thursday night from 7 – 8pm. This is a challenge for me as I much prefer face-to-face. I found (when it was enabled), the reams of messages from fellow Squares rather distracting. Looking at them too much made me feel slightly sea sick. On the plus side, I was in my pajamas and sipping a cider – not something you can do in a face-to-face class…(at least I don’t think you can).

2. From module 2 (or maybe it’s 3…I forget) we will be put into groups ranging from 5 to 8 people and assessed as a group. Again, this is challenging for me. I’m not a perfectionist but I feel slightly uneasy about having to rely on people I don’t know to pull their weight and make as much out of the course as I plan to do.

3. I need to get over the unease of virtual classes and group work and just get on with it.

Things I’m looking forward to are:

1. Making the most of this opportunity and learning as much as I possibly can, then putting it into practice.

2. Meeting new people from all sorts of backgrounds and cultures, with different levels of experience and hopefully having lots of interesting discussions (note: discussions, not arguments).

3. Challenging myself.

4. Sharing what I’ve learnt.

I’ll be posting about my journey along the way so check back for regular updates.

Oh, and if you’re also taking part: I’m in the green group. If you are too and you’re on Twitter, let me know and I’ll add you to my list.

Some new and nifty social media features

I don’t know about you but I’ve spotted new features on a number of platforms recently. Have you? If not, never fear… here they are:

1. Pinterest Place boards – now you can pin places (buildings, restaurants, landmarks etc) on to a map board. It’s really easy to use and looks great. Here’s an example.

2. Instagram DMs –  you can now send a photo or video directly (and privately) to a friend on Instagram. Could this be a nifty way to build donor relations? Imagine getting a personalised Christmas card or fundraising ‘thank you’ from a charity you support?

3. Facebook donate button – you can donate to charities on Facebook now (US only for the moment but expect to see it here mid 2014). This could have huge implications for charities but of course a Facebook Ads grant would have been much better… Read this article for more info on the matter. And you can sign a petition here to encourage Facebook to set up a non-profit Ads grant, much like Google’s Adword grants.

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4. Google + custom URLs – now you can change your Google + page URL, which surely beats those random numbers right? You will need to meet three criteria to be eligible: You have to have a profile photo, at least 10 followers and an account which is over a month old. Google is rolling this out in stages but you will be informed when you are eligible to change your URL. Be warned… once you set your custom URL, you can’t change it (like Facebook Page names – and we all know how painful that is if you rebrand).

5. Twitter mobile gets a facelift – The Twitter mobile App has a new look. And it is sleek. ‘Connect’ is now called ‘notifications’ and ‘home’ is now called ‘timelines’. If you have different Twitter accounts you can now move more easily between the two timelines.

Have you spotted any others? Share them in the comments field.

What I’m looking forward to at the Institute of Fundraising’s Digital Fundraising Conference

The Institute of Fundraising’s Digital Fundraising Conference takes place this coming Monday, the 9th September.

I am really excited to be their Conference Ambassador at the event and will be live tweeting throughout the day using the event hashtag #IoFDigital. So if you are unable to attend the event, you can still follow all the presentations with the hashtag and by following @IoFTweets and @LondonKirsty (that’s me).

Here is the programme for the day and, as you can see, it is jam-packed with great speakers and interesting topics. I’m particularly looking forward to hearing Laila Takeh, Head of Digital Engagement at UNICEF, talk on Digital Transformation. I’ve heard Laila present a number of times before and she always leaves you with lots to think about.

Another session that has caught my interest is the Google and Grow your charity online Workshop with Richard Craig from Charity Technology Trust and Maryam Mossavar, Industry Manager for Nonprofit at Google. I’m hoping to pick up lots of tips to help small charities, in particular, through my freelance work.

Lastly, the Marketing Automation – Building the Strategy presentation with four speakers, including Robert Elliot from Save the Children, should be really good.

Not only will I be live tweeting but you can also count on there being a Storify the next day. Don’t forget to join in with the event using #IoFDigital

Takeaways from the Institute of Fundraising’s Technology conference

Last week I was very lucky to attend the Institute of Fundraising’s Technology conference as a guest of The Access Group.

IoF Technology Conference

IoF Technology Conference

It was a jam packed conference with excellent sessions including a keynote from Dan Sutch from Nominet on What does social tech innovation look like?

If you know me at all, you will know that I love to Storify so here it is:
View the story “The Institute of Fundraising Technology Conference” on Storify

My Top Takeaways were:

1. Creativity and risk taking, entrepreneurship and willingness are what we need to redesign how we use technology for good. Cancer Research UK’s Cell Slider is a great example of this in action.

2. Anticipated value of mobile transaction in 2013 is $600 billion yet how many charity websites do you know who can’t take a mobile payment? The time to optimise your website for mobile is now!

3. The mobile environment is difficult, ever changing and crowded but charities can not afford to ignore it – 25% of Save the Children’s donations are made through mobile.

4. Google Adwords should be part of an integrated marketing campaign. It’s about quality, not quantity. Get the basics right – structure, relevance and targeting – as it will drive more relevant traffic to your website and drive the costs down.

5. Be Digital First, focus on visual storytelling and engagement and maximise the potential of technology.