Thursday, 14 August 2014

Getting started on social media as a business

It's been a while since I wrote about where to get started on social media. As you'd expect the technology has advanced and the platforms have developed so the advice has to change to keep up!

If you've not got any social media presence - at all - for your business there are 2 "must haves":

1. A personal profile on LinkedIn

  • Use it to build up your online network of business contacts to complement your offline activities.
  • Research which of your contacts knows the people you want to connect to. 
  • You can be found by name online and can be easily contacted

2. A Google+ business page and up to date "map" information

  • Critical if you have a premises. Important even if you don't!
  • Google+ is an integral part of your maps presence so make the most of it!
  • It's Google - of course you want your business information on there!

How much effort you put into maintaining these profiles will obviously have an effect on how well they work for you. Having said that, a little can go a long way on both LinkedIn and Google+. A few minutes a week can really make a difference.

Try looking at LinkedIn at least once a week (Yes, I know keen users will feel that's too little!) Here's a checklist of activities that'll take you no time to do:

  • Like a few updates
  • Find some new contacts
  • Accept the contact requests you feel are valuable to you
  • Put out an update that's business related

Ten minutes and you're done... Once you feel at home, look at who you can recommend and who can recommend you too.

With Google+ 5 minutes a week is all you need to get started

  • Find people to put into circles
  • Put out a business update - use a picture if you have one
  • +1 a few updates
  • Check your profile for reviews

Of course there is a lot more you can do with both these platforms. But you need to start somewhere, so what's stopping you?

Friday, 30 May 2014

Too many #hours in the day?

The phenomenon of local #hours on Twitter has increased steadily over the last couple of years. It's a great idea and I use appropriate geographical and subject themed #hours for my own business and for my clients.

There comes a point, however, where several #hours coincide or follow on from one another. At this point I'm seeing the same tweet from people 4 or 5 times in a couple of minutes - each with a different #hour on it. This is then repeated every 10 minutes until the #hour is over. This makes for very repetitive and boring content! It's also a wasted opportunity in my opinion.

I had a debate with a particularly enthusiastic #hour frequenter. Their response to their followers that were getting bored with all the "noise" they were generating was...

...use the mute feature.


Do you really want to be the account that encourages your followers to mute your output? Seems like an exercise in self defeat to me!

Using loads of scheduled tweets to cover multiple hours may seem like a cost effective solution, but you'll soon hit a brick wall. I think that a training company local to me summed it up nicely:

Well said...!

The other major issue with #hours is over zealous retweeting. You've probably come across the "retweet everything that moves to try and get new followers" gambit. It can create just as much noise as the sales tweets. If you want to curate good content for your followers to keep them engaged then you don't want them turning off your retweets on your profile page.

Here are 3 top tips to keep you involved with your #hour of choice without boring the rest of your followers:

1. Interact with people on your #hour of choice (i.e. start your tweet with an @)  You're still visible on the hashtag and it limits the #hour fatigue generated amongst the rest of your followers.

2. Retweet selectively. Target businesses that are good suppliers/clients or ones that you'd like to talk to. Or, of course, tweets that say something relevant to your followers' interests!

3. Looking desperate is not a good sales tactic. Concentrate your efforts on a couple of #hours and try actually talking to people instead of just broadcasting. You'll get better results.

Don't annoy the followers you've already got.

Wednesday, 19 March 2014

5 key points to consider when outsourcing your social media

If you're a really busy business person (or if you just don't like "doing" social media) then outsourcing is always an option. Here are 5 key points to consider when deciding which social media company to work with:

1. Who owns the feed?
If the company you are considering doesn't instantly come back with the reply "you do" then walk away!

Also, which email account will the feeds be tied to? It's vitally important to have access to that email account should you and the outsourcing company ever go your separate ways.

2. Who are you trying to reach?
If there's no discussion or advice forthcoming on this aspect you may want to consider if the company you're talking to is the right choice to handle your social media. They should be clear as to what audience they are targeting on each platform and how the content they produce will attract that audience.

3. How is the content to be generated?
A rough guide to this is that the cheaper the price for this element, the more automation is involved.

It doesn't take an experienced social media person long to set up a piece of software that trawls various newsfeeds for "industry related content" and then periodically spits it out on your social media platforms. Once it's set up, there's little or no interaction required by the outsourcing agency. Be clear what a monthly retainer fee actually includes for this type of service.

The risk with this much automation is that if the keywords used to select your content aren't well thought out then you can end up posting the same tired stuff that everyone else in your field does. There is another risk in that automated content pickers can occasionally be tricked into selecting inappropriate content. It only needs to happen once for your online reputation to take a major hit.

The more direct human involvement you have in your social media, the more it will cost you (as you'd expect). The benefits, however, are worth thinking about. If you'd prefer someone to handpick your content, select the most effective time for it to be broadcast and select the most appropriate platform then you'll be far more certain of attracting the right audience to your output. But I reiterate, it'll cost more.

4. How will the overall effectiveness be measured?
Here comes the science... Well, it should do! Many companies will send you a automatically generated file that their management software produces each month. Unless you decide, beforehand, what it is you're actually aiming for these reports can have little value.

Don't get too hung up on numbers of followers/likers/circlers. Here are a few ideas for you to track: mentions, retweets, website visits, customer footfall, awareness levels... and so on.

5. Service Levels
Nail down the specifics:
How accessible are the company to you if you have a query?
Exactly how many updates will you get on each platform?
Will the company talk to people for you on your feeds?
Do you want/need them to interact or will you do it?
Will those updates be identical across all platforms, or is some form of selection used?
Is the content generation entirely automated?
What happens if something goes wrong?

One last thought. Even if you outsource all your social media then take time out to check what's being said in your name. Your digital footprint is part and parcel of your overall reputation and you need to make sure it stays in tact.

Monday, 24 February 2014

The perils of a mishapen digital footprint

If you had easy access to several leaflets about a company and they all had different phone numbers or different addresses what would be your opinion of that company? Chances are you'd feel unsure which number to call or which address to visit. At which point, it may well feel "safer" to use another company altogether...

In this increasingly online age that feeling of consistency and currency  - and therefore trustworthiness - is still vital. Your brand isn't just about the visuals, although I'll agree that's an important part of the whole.You can post the most fabulous content, but if it's lost in a sea of historical online noise it will lose it's impact.

I've been working with companies recently that have either ignored the state of their online presence, or simply haven't had time to audit where they appear on the web.

One business was quite shocked to realise that they were still on many of the free directories from their start-up days. Not only had their base of operation changed 3 times, but their phone numbers had too. The contradictory information that was appearing in their search engine results was confusing people that wanted to use their services.  They're currently trawling through the entries, tracking down log-in details (not as easy as it sounds!) and generally tidying up their digital footprint.

Then there's the business that has accumulated web addresses over a period of about 10 years. Not all the web addresses have content, some don't have redirects to the latest website and others have redirects that are not advantageous to SEO. It's also very confusing and off-putting to someone looking for them online. Needless to say, they're now on the case.

Then there's social media to add to the mix as well. Several popular platforms perform well in search engine results and may still be picked up even if you've not looked at them yourself for years. It's still a part of your digital footprint. Unused and unloved social media feeds don't make a business look good. This is especially true when it's Generation Y doing the viewing.

So, when did you last read your own bio on Twitter or update your profile on LinkedIn? Is there a blog sitting unloved in a corner of the internet that hasn't been updated for months? You get the idea.

Go and do a search for your business online. Take a look at the results as a whole, not just the one place your preferred website appears. Think about what that list of results says about you to potential clients. Then, start shaping your digital footprint into something that adds real value.

Sunday, 9 February 2014

3 rules of 3

So many people I come across are reluctant to use social media because they "don't know what to say".

Here are 3 rules of 3 to get you started.

This first one is featured in more detail in a blog by Daniel Cadden that I contributed to:

Social media small talk

1.  Seasonal
2.  Regional
3.  Topical

Have a read of the original blog to get some ideas of how to put this into action.

Non-sales business ideas

1.  My diary today

  • Within reason of course! If you can name-check someone in your post so much the better.

2.  Tasks in progress

  • What are you actually working on right now?

3.  Projects completed

  • With a link to any website information there might be about it too

More than just a business

1.  Social good

  • Charity fundraising
  • Community projects, 

2.  Helping hand

  • Answering questions
  • Sharing good quality information from other people, 

3.  Personal

  • Choose a couple of things that you are happy for your business clients to know about you. (Mine are that I like coffee, cats and chocolate) Whether you like gardening, running marathons, dog walking etc the occasional mention will humanise your business. 
  • Being social on social media is vital!