Now that we’re in the new year, it’s time for me to look back at the main highlights of 2014 – on this blog and outside it. Looking back to look forward, right?
I jotted down a few highlights from the past year, and that quickly turned into quite a few lists… So, in the interest of time and brevity, I present to you my top highlights from 2014.
Top 5: brnrd.me Posts
I definitely wrote a lot more last year compared to the previous year, maybe not as much as I would’ve liked, but it was a fun ride nonetheless. Here are my most read posts from last year:
- On social sentiment and sentiment analysis: this is by far the most viewed post on this site, and definitely my favourite post of all time 1. The subject of sentiment analysis and its accuracy often comes up during social media/marketing events, so it’s handy for me to direct people to this post instead of me going on and on about it (which I can also do – after all, it’s a subject I’m passionate about);
- Reach, audience and impressions – on Twitter and beyond: this was posted back in September 2013, almost a year before Twitter rolled out Twitter Analytics 2.0, giving everyone access to true impressions instead of just an approximation. Till this day, a lot of marketing solutions and analytics tools still use approximations for impressions. In fact, to my knowledge, the only digital analytics tool that has updated their reporting to include accurate impressions is Simply Measured:
— Ben Donkor ⚡️ (@FR314) July 14, 2014
That aside, I was pretty chuffed to discover that this post is used as lecture material in the University of Perugia (Italy), in the study of theories and techniques in digital marketing. What?! Yes – personal accomplishment here.
- The death of PTAT (People Talking About This): PTAT died just a week before my birthday, and I had the pleasure of documenting its demise. It was (and somehow still is) a metric that a lot of marketers and industry solutions relied/rely on. Frankly, Facebook weren’t big fans of this metric either, so I’m not surprised that they finally pulled the plug on it. Here’s what Facebook recommend instead:
To better see how people interact with a pages content, the PTAT metrics have been split into separate elements: Page Likes, People Engaged (the number of unique people who have clicked on, liked, commented on, or shared your posts), Page tags and mentions, Page checkins and other interactions on a Page. We recommend that you use these metrics moving forward to evaluate your Page posting strategy and engagement.
Even though Facebook took off this metric in July, they fully removed any mentions of it from Facebook Insights in September, when they revamped their analytics dashboard. I’m ecstatic to see what’s in store for Facebook analytics in 2015.
— Ben Donkor ⚡️ (@FR314) September 9, 2014
- Engagement vs. Consumption: the Facebook Dilemma: this took me quite some time to crack down and write down, but it was totally worth it. This was about a 2-year dilemma that a few marketers tried to fully understand and explain: what’s the difference between engagement and consumptions, and engaged users and consumers? Those metrics had changed over time, yet the definitions provided by Facebook were quite “fuzzy”. Jon Loomer did a brilliant job at highlighting the change and trying to break down the (confusing) definitions in this blog post. However, as Jon put it, he was just trying to break down these definitions with a best guess. So, after months of digging into those metrics, cross-checking and endless supply of coffee, I managed to give a clear-cut definition of consumption, engagement, consumers and engaged users. Here’s one lesson I learnt from all this: the confusion originated from a really bad habit that Facebook has of not explaining their metrics properly. So, whether you’re just a marketer working on you own, or an analyst working for a big corporation, always make your metrics clear and easy to understand, for others and for yourself.
- Engagement Rate – out of Fanbase or out of Reach?: not all engagement rates show actual engagement. I went into detail in this post to show how different ways of calculating engagement rate can make a lot of difference. It got a few people thinking, including Socialbakers, which were strong advocates of calculating engagement rate out of fanbase. (They later introduced engagement rate out of reach, and linked me in their blog post announcing this – yay!). This debacle comes mainly from the fact that a lot of tools calculate engagement rate in their own way without fully disclosing how they calculate it. My main takeaway from this post is well put in the last paragraph:
“Question everything about your analytics tool – whether it’s a free tool or a premium one, whether you’ve had it for a long time, just acquired, or you’re thinking of adopting one. Make sure you understand exactly how each metric that you’re going to report on is calculated, and try and match it with your own calculations to see how accurate your reports are going to be if you decide to rely on whatever tool you have.”
Top 5: Posts Elsewhere
Here are 5 posts I really enjoyed reading last year, posts that I’d definitely recommend:
- 30 Under 30 Who Are Changing The World 2014: I’ve been following this list since it first came out in 2012, and those who know me know that I have a goal of being in this list before I turn 30 (I still have a few more years left). It’s not for fame, not even for the recognition, but it’s a push to do something great, something amazing, something life-changing for someone else, for a good cause. I definitely recommend having a good read through this link. There were 450 “prodigies” last year (as Forbes calls them), and each one of them has an amazing story of how they got up and did something great, from Evan Spiegel (Snapchat co-founder, 24) to Palmer Luckey (Oculus Rift, 22), and beyond. Oh, and Bruno Mars is on it too.
- Creation is a beautiful torture: this was written in the wake of Philip Seymour Hoffman’s passing, It’s a powerful piece about creativity, art, and the pain of knowing that, alas, you’ll always fall short.
- More than Liking and Bookmarking? Towards Understanding Twitter Favouriting Behaviour: this is a study that surfaced last year, and it tickles the analyst and linguist in me. In a nutshell, it’s a study in the “psychology behind the Twitter Favourite”. An interesting read if you too are into computational linguistics, or if you’re just curious to know what makes people Favourite Tweets.
- The Ultimate Guide to Solving iOS Battery Drain: if you have an iPhone or iPad and you want to read just one article today, let this be the one. I followed the tips in this post, and my battery has improved dramatically, especially after turning off all notifications from Facebook, Facebook Messenger and Facebook Groups. Sure, I don’t see Facebook messages right away, but do I really need to instantly reply to each Facebook notification ? No, not really. It’s time to treat push notifications as sacred (as this article by Owen Williams puts it), and the difference that will make to your device performance and, more importantly, your productivity is immense.
- Charged: fair enough, this isn’t a blog post, BUT it still counts as one of the best things to come out of 2014. It’s a weekly newsletter by Owen Williams, editor at The Next Web. Simply put:
Charged a weekly newsletter that helps you keep up with what’s going on in tech, find cool startups and interesting reads, without you needing to decipher cryptic stories.
If you’re interested in technology, social media, startups, and “the next big thing” and you’re looking for a way to be in the know, this is the newsletter to subscribe to. Oh, and if you’re looking to see how the process of creating newsletters is painstakingly amazing and rewarding, I recommend this other post by Owen
Top 5: Tools
I’m surrounded by tools and applications I use every day, for work, for personal work, for personal reasons, and for wasting time. (This comes from someone with over 200 apps on his iPhone, but I digress) If I had to choose my top 5 tools that made my life easier in 2014, I’d nominate the following:
- Buffer: where would I be without Buffer? I tried so many tools to schedule posts in the past, but in the end I settled for Buffer, and I don’t regret it. I have a thousand reasons why I use Buffer, but the main ones are:
- I can always access it on whatever device I’m on – I can schedule Tweets on my iPhone, check my schedule on my iPad, and throw a few more items in the list from pretty much any iOS app that integrates with iOS 8 extensions (including Reeder, Tweetbot, Drafts, Pinboard and Pocket, apps I use daily);
- It integrates with what I do every day: thanks to Buffer’s extensions, not only can I send any site to my Buffer list, but I can also use it on quite a few social sites, including Twitter, Facebook, Reddit, and even Tweetdeck (as long as you’re using their web app). It’s all seamless and in the words of Steve Jobs, it just works;
- the design! You can tell that the developers at Buffer aren’t just developing the app, they’re designing it too, taking care of the tiniest details. I have an eye for design and beautifully crafted apps, and I’m glad Buffer thinks the same way.
- Visually: sure, Google Analytics offers reports and alerts if you need them, but when it comes to simplicity, Visually blows Google out of the water. Every Monday morning I receive an email highlighting the previous week’s highs and lows for my site – how much traffic did I get, how many conversions, how much traffic was from social, how about traffic from mobile devices, and what about the bounce rate? All of that is covered, and that’s one of the few newsletters I eagerly look forward to every week.
- GTD: Omnifocus + Clear: I discovered GTD back at University, and I’ve been using it ever since. GTD (“Getting Things Done”) is a productivity/time-management method that’s built to help you visualise your tasks, break them down in smaller tasks, and prioritise. The end goal is to spend less time doing the things you have to do so you have more time for the things you want to do. To help me achieve that I use Omnifocus, where I keep track of pretty much everything, including tasks and ideas. To break these down, I list the 5 most important tasks of the day in Clear: the success of my day is determined by how many of those tasks I’ve completed and how I’ve completed them. Clear is a clear (ha, puns) and no-nonsense way of managing my daily tasks. I also manage my yearly Vision Board there, as a constant reminder of what I need to work on this year.
- RIL (Read It Later): Pocket + Pinboard: whenever I see something interesting online, or whenever I don’t have enough time to read an article, or if I see a great post that needs my attention, I’ll save that to Pocket, and/or if I really like the link or if I think it’ll come in handy in the future, I’ll archive it on Pinboard. Pinboard is my digital library where I bookmark interesting links and/or links I don’t want to forget about. These include really cool sites or great tools and applications that I recommend. (Pinboard doesn’t have an official app, so I use Pushpin on iOS and Spillo on Mac.)
- Mailbox: listen, Mailbox saved me from email flooding. Mailbox definitely improved the way I handle emails: if the email takes less than 5 mins to deal with, deal with it now; if it doesn’t, schedule it for a better time; if it’s not that important, archive or unsubscribe. Simple. The aim is to reach Inbox Zero, a zen-like state where you have no emails at all in your inbox.
Top 5: Songs
Looking at my most played songs, I’m chuffed with the top 5, and I can guarantee that I’ve blogged with these playing in the background:
- Uptown Funk – Mark Ronson x Bruno Mars
- Paris – Little Dragon
- But We Did – Thomas Dybdahl
- Talk Talk – George Maple
- The Light – SBTRKT x Denai Moore
I don’t really do New Year’s resolutions, not anymore anyway. However, as part of my Vision Board for 2015, I’m reshuffling my workstack:
- First of all, I’m putting more emphasis on writing: blogging and guest-blogging.
- I’m going to start reading a lot more – as tempted as I am to get myself a Kindle, I’m going to get started with iBooks on iPad and iPhone instead. Mark Zuckerberg is reading a book every week this year for his New Year resolution – well, I’m reading one book a month. (At least one.) First book on the list is “Culture Shock: A Handbook For 21st Century Business” by Will McInnes. I’ve had this book for over a year now, maybe two, and I’ve been meaning to read this from cover to cover for so long – it’s about time. Here’s a quick synopsis from Will himself:
“Culture Shock is a book about a movement of revolutionary businesses that are emerging into the 21st century and radically changing expectations about how businesses should behave, that are addressing some of the biggest problems of our time, and doing so in exciting, subversive and powerful new ways.”
- I’m going to speak at a few events here and there in the meantime, starting with Berlin and Frankfurt in the next few months.
To help me accomplish all of this and a couple of other big projects I’m starting this year (fiction and coding), I’ve had to make a decision: I won’t be freelancing in 2015. No freelancing. At all. Sure, I’ll still be writing, and sure, I’m always happy to write on other sites too. But, when it comes to freelance work, regular or irregular, 2015 will be an off-limits year.
So, in a nutshell, I’m going to write more, read more, travel more, and be much more than I was last year.
(Sounds about right.)
Studying linguistics was worth it after all…↩