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Community: The Key to Happiness?

This post was originally intended as a guest blog post on behalf of Welsh ICE. However, given that it’s quite personal in nature, we agreed that it’d be a best fit on SEOno instead.

ICE coworking community image
People who know me personally or via Twitter might see me as a (mostly!) cheery, friendly, positive guy. However I’ll be the first to admit that when I was growing up, I wasn’t happy for a lot of my early life… I was bullied in school, suffered from depression as a teenager, and also experienced bullying in the workplace in some job roles that I took on. I’m in my early thirties now and I’m pretty happy about my life and where I am at the moment… And recently, while looking back over key moments in my life, I noticed an interesting pattern in the times that I’ve been happiest in my life so far:

  • 2003-4: Working behind the bar at a live music venue in Leicester (The Musician Pub – I recommend it if you’re ever in the area)
  • 2005-7: Helping to run LULUMS (Lancaster Uni Live & Unsigned Music Society) while studying at university
  • 2013-present: Joining Welsh ICE, a coworking space in Caerphilly (on the outskirts of Cardiff)

In each of these instances I was in a fun environment and working on things that I love, but there was another key ingredient: a sense of community. When I worked at the live music bar, I became friends with my fellow bar staff, the pub managers/owners, the regulars and the performers (especially the locals on the open mic circuit), and we bonded over our love of good music. Similarly, with the live music society at university, I became good friends with other members of the society, the venue owners that we worked with, and the bands that we put on. Jump to the present day and I’m a self-employed online marketing consultant working out of a coworking space, and the people who run it – as well as my fellow members – have become such good friends that they feel like family.

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The Final Fantasy Marketing Strategy: Nostalgia & Back Catalogue Introduction

Note: I’ve tried to keep this spolier-free, but if you’ve yet to start playing Final Fantasy XV and you want to be kept 100% surprised at what’s in store, then it might be best to hold off from reading this post. You have been warned, dear reader.

I recently bought and started playing Final Fantasy XV (FFXV for short), having been a life-long fan of the Final Fantasy series (my first taste was with FFVIII in the late 1990s, in case you were wondering – don’t worry, I discovered FFVII later on, it’s ok). 😉

One thing that’s really grabbed my interest while playing it is how Square Enix (its creators) are framing it: when you start loading FFXV ready to play it on a PS4, you’re greeted with this message:

FFXV intro tagline

“A FINAL FANTASY for Fans and First-Timers.”

It’s the “First-Timers” bit that especially got me thinking. It’s pretty much a given that fans of previous games of the series will dive right in – so it’s interesting to see that they’re also targeting and marketing the game to complete newbies to the franchise.

In this post I talk about how Square Enix’s marketing strategy for FFXV is two-pronged…

First… a bit about Final Fantasy and Square Enix

FFXV cover artFor those of you who are reading this but haven’t ever played a Final Fantasy game before, it’s important to know that they’re not ‘true’ sequels in a series. For example, the characters of Final Fantasy XIII don’t appear in FFXV – it’s a new set of characters, a new world, a new story. However there are similarities – and expectations from fans – of each new FF game, as I’ll talk about below. It’s similar to games series’ like Elder Scrolls (i.e. Skyrim) and Grand Theft Auto – in the case of the latter, the protagonist of GTA IV does not appear in GTA V, although there are certainly ‘nods’ to previous games.

Square Enix has been pumping out FF games since FFI was developed way back in 1987. In recent years however, it has been no real secret that the company has been struggling financially. Some were theorising that they were banking – maybe even relying – on FFXV being a hit, a make-or-break game in the series which may determine their future. Well, reviews of FFXV are good, sales have been strong (in the millions of units), and in the last few days they’ve struck a deal with Marvel, so it looks like they’re gonna be ok (phew). But given this on-the-brink-of-catastrophe feeling they’ve had in recent years, it looks like they have really been pulling out all the stops to try and make their later releases accessible to fans old and new.

Let’s start with the former – us old-timers…

For fans – it’s all about the nostalgia, baby

FFXV carries with it what other games have had in the past… There’s monsters such as flans and behemoths and iron giants. There’s spells like Fire and Blizzard and Thunder. There’s chocobos! There’s a Cid! The gameplay mimicks the previous versions (you have HP and MP, you encounter enemies in the big open world, you level up and get stronger)… You get the idea.

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Looking Back on Your Achievements

Celebratory whiskey image
We all sometimes get that feeling at the end of the working day where you just sit there are you think to yourself: “enh, it feels like I didn’t get anything done today…”

One of my favourite ever blog posts (which annoyingly I can’t find for the life of me now) offered a great tip on this: actually write down what you did that day. That way, despite feeling like you might’ve accomplished nothing of note, you’ll actually see for yourself what you did and therefore realise that you managed to get a fair bit done.

When you’re engrossed in the day-to-day, it can also be easy to forget what’s happened in the bigger picture – such as during a year-long period. As we enter December, take the time to write down your achievements over the past year. Here’s mine from 2016:

  • MOM‘s income increased for the third year running – an increase of around 60% on the previous year
  • I started work with a company that I’d considered a potential dream client for years (Target Group)
  • I continued to get good results for clients… In one instance I helped to increase a client’s organic traffic by 300x in one year (from c. 30 visits per month to over 10,000 visits per month)
  • I spoke at the mighty brightonSEO for the second time (link to talk info, etc.)
  • I was a finalist in the UK Blog Awards for the second time
  • I’ve continued to write for State of Digital, and continue to receive great feedback from my editor
  • I launched Cardiff SEO Meet – we’ve had three meetups so far with turnouts of around 30-40 each time
  • I did a lightning talk for charity and raised over £300 for Climb (Children Living with Inherited Metabolic Diseases)
  • I was invited to give a talk on SEO at the Big Ideas Wales Business Bootcamp (an event which made national news), which was a huge honour
  • SEOno – this very blog – turned 5-years-old, a heck of a milestone in my eyes

And the best bit? We still have a month to go.

Don’t get me wrong – there have been problems, hassles, frustrations and probably an epic fail or two this year, too. But why fixate on that? Learn from it and move on.

How have you done this year?

[Image credit – Heather Anne Campbell]

Deconstructing the Worst Article I’ve Ever Seen

"Dear lord..."Ladies and gentlemen, we have reached peak BuzzFeedification.

By “BuzzFeedification” I refer to the recent onslaught of articles that fit BuzzFeed’s style (i.e. full of GIFs and memes) and/or follow the get-as-many-ad-impressions-as-possible model, which has been adopted by many publishers at the moment – more and more by the day, it seems – in an attempt to get that elusive click.

I came across one article that ticked all the usual boxes…

  • Unnecessary multi-page image listicle? Check.
  • Memes? UGH. Check.
  • Goes on for much longer than it needs to in order to try and accrue more ad impressions? Oh god yes check.

…and is simply one of the most frustrating and pointless articles I’ve ever read. The things publishers will do to get you to click and get you to view ads is becoming laughable.

The article and site in question (which I’ve nofollowed because I sure as sh*t don’t want to give them any SEO love)? “A Woman Makes A Shrine Of Her Used Condom Collection” on Rebel Circus.

Let’s take the time to dissect what’s wrong with this absolute sh*tshow:

They’ve turned a simple one-page story into an unnecessary multi-pager

Below the heading and opening summary, there’s a small paragraph about the ‘collection’ and an image of said collection. Below that, there’s a ‘Next Photo’ link:

RC Fail - page 1
Ok, fair enough. So far so good – no harm done.

The inclusion of the ‘Next Photo’ link led me to believe two things:

  1. It’s a multi-page image slideshow article (or whatever the technical term is), but more importantly,
  2. That there’d be more photos of the collection – and more information.

Click onto page 2 and you get this:

RC Fail - page 2
…An image of a record collection? Alrighty then.

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My Top 5 Takeaways from ReWork

ReWork book cover imageRecently I started listening to audiobooks during my commute (a great tip if you don’t have much chance reading/listening to books in your spare time), and I was recently recommended ReWork by Scott Sherwood (@scottsherwood) of TestLodge.

I’ve never agreed so hard with a book in all my life. I wasn’t joking when I tweeted that I was “screaming “yes yes YES!” after every sentence”

The best thing about ReWork is that it flies in the face of traditional business thinking – the authors are proof of it. If you do anything that isn’t truly ‘traditional’, don’t worry… and don’t let anyone tell you that you’re doing anything wrong.

If you’ve not yet read/listened to it, here are my top five takeaways from the book. I won’t lie… I really, really struggled to choose just five, but to be honest, if I included all of ReWork‘s best insights in this post, I’d probably end up just typing out the entire book – hah!

So here we go:

1) Other people’s failures are other people’s failures, not yours

If you’re thinking of starting a business, the classic “more than half of businesses fail within the first five years” stat (source) can be mighty intimidating. It might even put you off from taking the plunge because, y’know, what if you fail too?

But you know what? Why should it? What’s that got to do with you?

“If other people can’t market their product, it has nothing to do with you. If other people can’t build a team, it has nothing to do with you. If other people can’t price their services properly, it has nothing to do with you. If other people can’t earn more than they spend… well, you get it.”

…So why let it stop you?

2) Plans should be called “guesses”

Even back when I was learning about the wonderful world of business during A-Level Business Studies lessons, and despite having entrepreneur parents, I’ve never liked the idea of business plans, financial plans, marketing plans, or… well, any kind of businessy type plan. Why? Because you can’t predict what will happen years from now, and everything could radically change the moment that you action the plan, making it obsolete overnight. Don’t get me wrong… planning is important, but you shouldn’t take it as gospel and follow it blindly – it shouldn’t be set in stone. So it was a relief that ReWork echoed this way of thinking:

“Unless you’re a fortune-teller, long-term business planning is a fantasy. There are just too many factors that are out of your hands: market conditions, competitors, customers, the economy, etc. Writing a plan makes you feel in control of things you can’t actually control.

“Why don’t we just call plans what they really are: guesses. Start referring to your business plans as business guesses, your financial plans as financial guesses, and your strategic plans as strategic guesses. Now you can stop worrying about them as much.”

Click to read more!