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How Small Businesses can more than hold their own with social media

small-business

It’s all well and good talking about huge social media campaigns but this week’s post will focus on the other end of the scale i.e. social media for small local businesses and how they can use social media to develop stronger ties with the local community. I want this article to go beyond the usual 10 ways to succeed at social media with a couple of case studies chucked in type post and to offer genuine value to my readers with something a bit different

Reciprocity

This is the fancy way of saying ‘you scratch my back I’ll scratch yours’, in my experience small local businesses react well to a helping hand on social media, even if its nothing more than sharing their promotions amongst your followers its things like this which will enable the Smaller business to extend their network beyond immediate friends & family the first hurdle which a lot of local businesses fail to get over in my experience. Just as one swallow does not a summer make, one tweet doesn’t constitute a campaign it’s the lack of consistent effort which I find trips up SMEs entering the Social Media arena lack of consistent effort and overarching strategy which I find separates the professional from the amateur use of social media.

Social media strategy

I’m keen to go beyond the generic advice which constitutes most online articles, BUT a social media strategy is an essential requirement for using social media professionally and in order to have a social media strategy, goals are required, SMART guidelines (see bibliography) ensure that these goals are realistic and measurable, Obtain 50 Facebook followers by August 15th, 2016 is an example of a basic Smart Objective. The strength of this approach is that it generates further questions such as:
• Why do I want 50 Facebook followers?
• How do I get 50 Facebook followers?
• How can I get even more followers?
• How can I use Facebook to generate even more leads & custom?
These are the sorts of questions, which need to be considered when using Social Media effectively to promote your business, I’m not satisfied with the way my Facebook company page is performing, Twitters doing great but engagement is unsatisfactory on the Facebook page

One of the most lively Communities I’ve seen is Kendal Sell and Seek on Facebook which offers second-hand goods for sale to those based in the Kendal area, I’ve also seen it used for recommendations of local tradesmen and services, this is a goldmine for great quality word of mouth recommendations, as I’ve seen some local businesses in the Kendal area frequently recommended, a social network which aims to tap into this ‘local’ vibe is Streetlife.com which quite deliberately sets out to build a sense of community around a locale describing itself as ‘the local social network’, I’ve personally found work for a local charity from Streetlife and I’m sure if used more actively it would be great for local businesses aiming to raise their profile locally. In fact the notion of social networks is nothing new with the Legendary WELL (Whole Earth ‘Lectronic Link), which has been in operation since 1985 making it one of the oldest virtual communities in existence serving the residents of San Francisco as with most virtual communities your status in the community will be influenced by how helpful you are to other members, so by helping others with expert advice you can raise your profile in a positive and sustainable way, I hear an awful lot of dodgy advice chucked around in my niche so if you can debunk some of the more common myths about your industry then you are providing a genuine service to your local community.

Parting Thoughts

Its not all bad news for SMEs wishing to compete against larger companies/corporations with far more resources, they do have a genuine connection with the communities they serve its this which the SMEs who are successful with Social Media leverage rather than the tired generic social media which can at times categorise corporate social media channels, properly leveraged its this authenticity which underpins GREAT social media with SMEs frequently being the most effective .Jeff Brand sums it up beautifully when he states

Authenticity—you know it when you see it. It’s not a metric. It’s not easily measured. But it’s there. It’s that feeling you get when you see something either incredibly on brand or incredibly off point.hootsuite.com

I feel authenticity is something SMEs can and should be doing well, offer friendly genuine interaction with your customers and be a friendly face that can be trusted in the modern digital marketplace for the Small Local Business that’s the surest way to achieve success with Social Media NOT the generic Social best practices advice such as inspirational quote et al which quite frankly have been done to death, the problem which faces Smaller Businesses is how can they find the time to utilise Social Media effectively?

Further Reading & Bibliography

Social Media ROI: Managing and Measuring Social Media Efforts in Your Organization (2011)
Olivier Blanchard
  1. How Local Businesses Should Size Up & Tackle Social Mediasearchengineland.com
  2. How small businesses are making the most of social media to grow Guardian.co.uk
  3. Social media for SMEs: it’s all about engagement Telegraph.co.uk
  4. 5 Local Businesses That Have Mastered Social Media Marketing http://www.business2community.com
  5. The Best Social Media Strategy? Authenticity Hootsuite.com
By | May 6th, 2016|Social Media, Uncategorized|0 Comments

Reexamining Pod-casting

Microphone

Image credit: Rich Menga(Flickr.com)

Podcasting is an often-overlooked form of content. This is a shame as the low entry level & costs means its perfect for smaller businesses wishing to stand out from the crowd, due to the success of podcasts such as “Serial” podcasting enjoys a much higher profile in the United States, that’s not to say there’s no podcasting in the United Kingdom BBC Radio 4 is well represented in the UK podcast charts, however the use of podcasts as a form of content is certainly less common in the UK.

What are podcasts?

Podcasts are downloadable audio recordings not dissimilar to old-fashioned radio shows. The word itself is a portmanteau of the words iPod & broadcast

Really Simple Syndication (RSS)

Podcasts use technology such as RSS (really simple syndication) allowing users to easily subscribe to shows they particularly like; this can be done through software such as iTunes.

Benefits of podcasting

Podcasting enables content to be delivered in an easily accessible & convenient way, one executive interviewed by smallbusiness.co.uk admitted to preferring podcasts over music to listen to on the way into work, this is an opinion I’ve heard a number of times. thetimbre.com argue that

it comes to audio, car is king. Nearly 90 percent of Americans listen to AM/FM radio weekly, and more than half of that listening time occurs in the car. So when will podcasts start to fill in that vast chunk of time?thetimbre.com

Smartphones are another popular way to listen to podcasts so contrary to popular belief you don’t need an iPod to access them, I generally listen to podcasts on my computer .Podcasts allow the producer to inject a bit more personality into content

Simon Hénault suggests that ‘they’re much like your own radio show but listeners can tune in any time they want to. Being able to express emotion and bring personality to your marketing communication can be very powerful. From public relations, customer relationship management, thought leadership, branding, training, to generating leads and sales, all can be done through podcasting.

parting thoughts

Although podcasting enjoys greater popularity in the United States there is still plenty to recommend it to Small UK based Businesses wishing to make an impact online, its a great way to demonstrate expertise in a particular niche or market, this in turn will enable you to develop more authority and build a better relationship with your customers, an additional benefit is the lack of competition utilising this medium in the UK. The best podcasts are lively, fun and very informative. Personally I find listening to a light-hearted dialogue between experts a completely effortless way to develop knowledge in a subject area.

By | March 18th, 2016|Uncategorized|0 Comments

Reacting to Facebook’s Reactions

Facebook Reactions
In Social Media this week the big development is undoubtedly Facebook’s new like button which has been dubbed ‘reactions’, it is that and the questions it raises that I ill be examining with this weeks blog post

Why have the Facebook introduced reactions?

The like button is an iconic representation of the Facebook brand so why change it? Extensive worldwide research was undertaken to see how people commented and what reactions/emoticons would be appropriate. It neatly bypasses the issue I found incongruous i.e. ‘My house has burned down!’ Mr Inconsiderate likes this. Now its easy to add more appropriate emoticons. Why its been introduced has been neatly if cynically summarised by Amit Choudry at Forbes.com who argues these reactions have been introduced to enable the collection of richer data. I’d imagine this was part of the motivation behind the change given the fact that Facebook users can be quite change adverse I doubt the roll out of the reactions tool bar was a decision taken lightly, and fortunately for Facebook it seems to have been well received (at least by my friends, I’ve not yet a bad word about it)

Parting Thoughts

Personally I have a love/hate relationship with Facebook its enabled me to restore contact with friends who’d drifted apart for the social side of things its excellent, the reactions tool bar adds much needed functionality to the old like button with love wow sadness and haha emoji’s being added to the mix, Id still like a rolls eyes emoticon but I’ll survive.

No Dislike button and why I think it’s a good idea

One feature that wont be getting added is a dislike button. Mark Zuckerburg the founder of Facebook has voiced his opposition to the idea, given the fact that cyberbullying is a real problem with Facebook being quite a bruising experience for some people I think this is a prudent move

By | March 4th, 2016|Uncategorized|0 Comments

Stand out from the crowd, with genuinely helpful social media

Helpful

Image credit: Loren Kerns(Flickr.com)

This week I want to return to a topic I’ve covered in the past that of authentic social media but this time with a slight twist, this post has been inspired by a recurring theme in the Tao of twitter by Mark Schaefer

my dilemma

One of the things which bugs me about social media, alongside unasked for game invites, is insincere corporate noise I feel it’s a by-product of the quantity over quality mindset school of tweeting one I have mistakenly utilised in the past, however my opinion has emphatically swung to the opposing camp quality > quantity every time. In a world which despite protestations otherwise values quantity over quality is it possible to differentiate oneself from the noise I personally don’t feel that the Internet needs more ‘inspirational quotes’ adding to it or #entrepreneur related stuff, I’d much rather stand out by being helpful, authentic and sincere especially for smaller businesses (who are the lifeblood of my business) that is an approach I can wholeheartedly subscribe to, and it would align perfectly with my website’s content.

How to be genuinely helpful online? Understand your customers

Personally I think the key to being genuinely helpful online is to understand your customers and their needs inside out, and in order to do this there’s a need to listen to them. Some observers point to customers being less loyal than they used to be, and the fact they are spoiled for choice means they can shop around, the guardian argues

Consumers and sales prospects are interacting with your company in myriad ways across multiple touch points in this new interactive economy. Today’s customers are empowered: they expect companies to give them what they want, how they want it. guardian.com

My content & social media are designed to demystify ordering company websites so customers can make informed choices when ordering websites

This means answers to their questions (frequently required in IT related areas such as websites – so there’s no shame in being techphobic the majority of people only have a vague understanding of IT) those I try to assist I ensure that information provide in a plain English, jargon free manner, readily understood by the layperson.

Parting thoughts

This is similar to Jay Baer’s Youtility concept, Jay argues ‘the more you know about your customers and prospects, the more useful your brand can become to them’ (source: Youtility this mirrors Kristina Halvorson’s definition of good content. Useful content which answers YOUR questions is almost by definition interesting that fact alone will enable you to cut through the noise on Social media, and lets be honest there’s quite a lot of noise at times 😉
Jay Defines Youtility as ‘content so good you’d pay for it’(source: YouTube.com) This is a long term strategy as opposed to the short term sell. Who are prospects going to trust The Company/Brand who has been providing meaningful helpful interactions for three months especially if you’ve got to know the poster and built up a rapport or someone who posts a stream of meaningless waffle with the occasional sales pitch chucked in? Exactly

By | February 11th, 2016|Uncategorized|0 Comments

To be the best you’re got to write epic shit

epic-sunset

Image credit: Flickr Michael Gil

I’m not completely satisfied with the way my site or business are performing, there’s always plenty of room for improvement and the post which has inspired me the most this week is ‘write epic shit’ by Corbett Barr, he argues that Building a raving audience online all starts with writing epic shit. Period. Hands down. End of story.(fizzle.co) Corbett completely hits the nail on the head when he castigates so many sites for,

And I didn’t say “write mediocre shit.” Mediocre content is all over the web. Don’t waste your time or other people’s time by writing the same inane crap that 10,000 other sites have already published.

This is the point, which struck home with me, there’s so much web content that is ‘meh’ at best, how many more blog posts need to be written about completing twitter profiles properly? its been done.to death. Also sites offering ‘templates’ which are little more than Microsoft word documents containing a table. ‘Experts’ reheating articles which were tepid 2 or 3 years ago. This isn’t content, its noise.

As so often happens this weeks post took a detour from the original topic, which concerned shareable content, in short shareable content is epic content. You don’t say to online friends ‘ hey come and look at this it’s completely ordinary’

Why epic is good

Epic is good because it will make a great first impression and provide all of the following benefits, most of which are very attractive; Epic content is the only way to do this. Average or OK doesn’t cut it, we’re swamped with mediocrity, this relates to authenticity, which I’ve discussed a few times before.

  • Enable you to stand out from the crowd
  • Increase Brand visibility
  • Establish your reputation
  • Earn Backlinks and better search rankings
  • Increase your expertise

Parting thoughts

I don’t want to be merely good or OK,I want it to be EPIC, yes I appreciate there’s work to do!(stop sniggering at the back.I think in some ways the content rat race (the need to constantly develop new content) will almost inevitably lead to declining standards trying to figure out a way to counteract this problem, this makes it an interesting/difficult challenge for the smaller business to overcome. I think a content lifecycle which focuses on continual improvement in response to measurement/feedback rather than continual growth is possibly te way forward here.Challenge accepted.

By | October 30th, 2015|Uncategorized|0 Comments

Transform your social media with the power of Community

(image:courtesy  Niall Kennedy:Flickr)

(image:courtesy Niall Kennedy:Flickr)

Alongside Engagement, Community must be one of the most abused terms in social media, many networks like to refer to themselves as community, where I feel its barely appropriate to use the term. The term community has a vague warm fuzziness, one quickly exploited by marketing departments

Defining Virtual Community

the type of community I am referring to is a virtual community. Social Media books are replete with examples of successful communities transforming the fortunes of companies, Wikipedia define virtual community as

A virtual community is a group of people who share common interests, feelings or ideas, or pursue similar goals over the Internet or over any collaborative network. Social media is the most common vehicle for this sharing and interaction, which can potentially transcend geographical boundaries, race, culture, political views and religion when people are connected by another common interest or agenda.(Source: Wikipedia)

The Benefits of Community

Properly Implemented and Managed virtual communities offer numerous benefits for business such as.

• Improve brand loyalty
• Gain marketing insights
• Feedback on new product ideas
• Quickly address customer problems
• Advertise promotions
• Give a business a human face

Encouraging the Development of Community

There are certain ingredients I believe are essential for the development of community including

• Enthusiastic community members
• Good communications
• Effective Community admins

To use a slightly poetic metaphor developing a community is like growing a garden and it’s the job of admins to ensure that the community grows in a positive and friendly manner; left untended virtual communities can quickly become very negative places.

The role of community admins

As I see it the role of community admins is to nurture the community and enable it to overcome almost inevitable challenges (such as the occasional disagreement), which will arise, Convinceandconvert.com identify 6 core skillsets for community admins

• Listening
As I’ve mentioned in previous posts listening is THE core social media skill to develop, rather than stock photography and feel-good ‘we’re listening’ headings actually listen to your community
• Content Curation
• Conversation
• Social Etiquette
• Facilitating and mediating
• Collaboration (source:convinceandconvert.com)

The community admin with all of these skillsets will be perfectly equipped to nurture a vibrant community, such communities do NOT grow by accident they are deliberately cultivated

Parting thoughts

Community offers both businesses and organisations the opportunity to engage in direct communication with customers and the opportunity to understand perfectly what motivates them; information the smart business owner will be able to make good use of, in a future post I’ll try to develop a practical framework for developing a community on twitter or the social network of your choice.

By | July 10th, 2015|Uncategorized|0 Comments

Bing Announce Mobile Friendly update

mobile friendly

(image scource:Flickr Takashi Hososhima)


This weeks blog post will examine Bing’s decision to develop a mobile friendly ranking algorithm, I’m quite aware I examined Google’s ‘mobile friendly’ algorithm which has since been nicknamed as ‘mobilegeddon’ by the Search Industry, however rather than go over old ground I wish to examine the concept of mobile friendly further this week

Mobile Friendly Factors

Now we’ll examine some of the factors, which determine if a site is mobile friendly,

Unplayable Content

Google helpfully identify a number of common mistakes on their Mobile SEO Webmaster guidelines this includes factors such as unplayable content which is a problem associated with technologies such as Flash, elsewhere Google advise

Most mobile browsers do not render Flash-based content. Therefore, mobile visitors will not be able to use a page that relies on Flash in order to display content, animations, or navigation. We recommend designing your look and feel and page animations using modern web technologies.
(Source: Google.com

This corresponds with general best practise not using Flash for Navigation purposes as it may render sites unusable, fortunately this is a web design trend, which has been consigned to the past, Flash only sites are thankfully rare these days.

Typography

The legibility of text is another factor, the aim is that the mobile user should not need to zoom in order to read website content on the website for this a value of 16px is recommended for body text, headings should be larger than this

Page Speed

Page speed is another factor where some websites fall down; there are a number of steps Google recommend for webmasters to ensure that sites load quickly

• Enable compression
• Reduce server response time
• Eliminate render blocking JavaScript & CSS in above the fold content
• Leverage Browser caching
• Prioritise page content

Some of these actions are best handled by your hosting company, others are the responsibility of your web designer, rather than boring readers by listing every factor which affects page speed (there are plenty) I’ll leave it by saying that page speed is an important factor when considering SEO & user experience.

Parting Thoughts

Microsoft’s decision to include a ‘mobile friendly’ algorithm underlines the growing importance of mobile computing. Research has shown that mobile users are an unforgiving lot with mobile bounce rates being noticeably higher than desktop equivalent (source:shareaholic.com)

if a site fails to take them into account they are only too happy to leave and visit another site, as it stands I need to ensure this site is faster loading so that’s another task I’ll need to complete for this site to be up to date

By | May 22nd, 2015|Uncategorized|0 Comments

What is findability? and how it can improve your website

findability

Image Source: Flickr


A Commonly encountered argument is that “content without access is worthless” findability is the art of making sure your content is easily found. Wikipedia defines Findability as “Findability is a term for the ease with which information contained on a website can be found” Findability expert Peter Morville defines Findability thus
“the ability of users to identify an appropriate web site and navigate the pages of the site to discover and retrieve relevant information sources”(source: Wikipedia)

Informationarchitechted provide the following definition:

Defining Findability

‘Effective Findability retrieves content in context. Therein lies the crux of Findability. It cannot be attained simply by search – even a powerful search. Findability provides intuitive interaction between the user and the content. It provides multiple ways at getting to content, each tailored to a specific type of retrieval need, which includes necessary controls over security.’(informationarchitect.com)

I think an easy way to picture findability is to facilitate the creation of information trails which give users the impression they are on the right track to getting the information they need, as stated context is a defining characteristic of findability. Although findability is used interchangeably with a number of different terms such as searchability and indexability there are subtle differences between them it is this confusion I will attempt to clear up now.

indexability

Indexability is the ability of search engines to index and retrieve the contents of a website, this is where Flash websites have fared badly in the past; poorly coded JavaScript can also cause indexing problems. site hierarchy is an important consideration where indexability is concerned.

Searchability

Searchability is a closely related term which is concerned with how easily ‘specific content within a site may be accessed when using a search engine (deep linking) afhill.com defines Searchability thus

‘Searchability refers to the idea that site visitor can easily navigate to the specific information he’s searching for within the site’ (source: afhills.com)

I feel the difference is related to the means of locating content within a website using an internal search engine. Where findability refers to the way that the site and content is organized this includes factors such as taxonomies. Informationarchitect.com suggest that A fundamental difference between Findability and its predecessor and component, search, is where the burden of effort lies. Under Findability, the burden of intelligent con- tent processing is placed on the content itself (source: informationarchitect.com). Now that we’ve got some working definitions I’ll look into ways that the findability of content can be improved on your website.

Taxonomies

As Discussed previously context is a fundamental factor when considering the findability of data. When considering both findability and usability and usability a lot of data is paid to taxonomies. Taxonomies refers to how content is organised a readily understood example of a taxonomy is in music players such as iTunes where music files are sorted into albums, genres and artist. Having a robust taxonomy is vital when organising larger music collections when considering both findability and usability this is where there is a degree of overlap between the two disciplines, well structured content leads to logical website navigation
, Well-structured content makes the process of locating it intuitive.

Parting Thoughts

In an era where content is seen as vital it is imperative that site visitors can quickly and easily locate the information they want failure to achieve this will drive visitors to other sites and may cost your company sales and goodwill

By | November 7th, 2014|Uncategorized|0 Comments

To G or not to G? re-examining Google plus

googleplus
This weeks Blog Post has been rather a difficult one to write. it concerns the Google plus network, which I’ve examined in previous posts. Rumours continue to surround the future of the Google plus with observers split on the future of Google plus, one thing is for sure there’s an awful lot of confusion concerning Google plus, I’ll attempt to clarify matters with this article and examine the cases for and against Google plus together with my conclusions.

Social Network or Social Layer?

One of the most fundamental confusions has been concerning the purpose of Google plus, is it a social network a la Facebook and twitter or a Social Layer which integrates Google’s family of products such as You Tube, Google Calendar, G Mail and Google Docs. Unhelpfully I think its a bit of both and I’ll use two definitions of Google plus for the rest of this article, these being:
Social Network this is the service accessed by pressing the plus button when logged into a Gmail account with circles
Social Layer this is the way that Google plus accounts are integrated with services such as You tube(I can leave comments on you tube using my Google account)
More confusion stems from how Google calculates User figures for Google plus, the Bloomberg BusinessWeek famously described Google plus as a ‘ghost town’ and the social network is fairly quiet especially compared to its main rival Facebook, does pressing a plus button on an external website characterise someone as an active Google plus user? When compared against the Facebook social network Google plus has undoubtedly been a failure. I’ll now examine the arguments from both camps before offering my conclusions on Google plus

The Futures bright!

Most of the positive posts about Google plus’s future are now getting rather old they certainly predate the departure of Vic Gundotra from Google in April 2014 (he’s generally regarded as the main driving force behind Google plus), most of the Google plus articles since that watershed are considerably less upbeat. Generally the positive posts had an element of “Wait and See” about them and pointed to the potential of the Google plus, a potential I’d argue was hinted at but never truly fulfilled

Its dead in the water

After April 2014 the general view is less upbeat with some observers such as TechCrunch describing Google plus as walking dead this is despite protestations from Google spokespersons to the contrary,Marketingprofs.com point to Google transferring resources to other projects suggesting that

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see that Google+ has been massively deprioritized internally and is being disassembled, piece by piece.(Marketingprofs.com)

If taken alongside other consideration such as the ditching of Google Authorship in June 2014 and the fact that the creation of new G Mail accounts no longer integrates new users into the Google plus superstructure, the future of Google plus as both social layer and social network looks pretty bleak.

Conclusions

Personally I don’t feel that Google plus has much of a future as either social network or social layer however it would in my opinion be premature to discount it altogether as it is still integrated with local search even if in a somewhat haphazard manner, I do feel it would a waste of time and resources trying to develop a major presence on the Google plus Social Network however maintaining at least a company profile page would make some sense even if its just for Google local purposes.

By | October 3rd, 2014|Uncategorized|0 Comments

Understanding the impact of Visual Content

visual content

(source Flickr:Shineswithoutend)


Although I attempt to avoid the use of clichés, sometimes they are the best way to illustrate a point (no pun intended), the adage in this case is ‘ a picture is worth a thousand words’, given the attention starved nature of the web, where a website or social channel has literally seconds to grab the attention of a viewer, it is for these reasons that industry experts are noting the growing importance of visual content/visual social media and that is what I’ll be focussing on with this weeks post. By Visual Content I mean images or videos, this definitely includes things such as infographics & photos.

Benefits of Visual Content

Engagement

Visual Content has a number of advantages over other types of information such as textual content.

A 2012 report by ROI Research found 44% of respondents were more likely to engage with brands that posted pictures on their social media channels rather than any other type of content (Source: Curve.gettyimages.com)

Emotional Connection

Photographs and other images are for more effective when it comes to conveying emotions that their textual equivalent, especially when other people and animals are featured in the photographs beautiful natural scenes also result in positive feelings, when it comes to emotions such as Joy or Sorrow, the effective use of photographic imagery has no equal. Redsicker argues that:

‘People connect more emotionally with images than they do with text. In fact, customers are more likely to take action or make a decision when prompted with an image.’(socialmediaexaminer.com)

When this engagement leads to the sharing of content, the results can be dramatic with viral videos and memes being a substantial part of what drives the social networks

Easily Absorbed Information.

One large advantage which visual information holds over textual is the ease and speed with which it is assimilated, up to 60,000 times more quickly according to some research (Walter & Gioglio 2014), in an age of limited attention spans this is a very desirable quality, especially when selling to a younger audience, Data visualization allows large amounts of data to be looked at quickly (Sviolka) this is why the use of infographics has seen such explosive growth in recent years, alongside standard inbound marketing considerations.

With the rise of social networks such as Flickr & Pinterest that are essentially visual in nature, the importance of visual content & social media is emphasized, This importance is likely to continue into the future, the purchase of Instagram (by Facebook) and Vine by twitter confirms this importance. Due to the fact the human brain is largely visual in nature, this importance is not likely to be lessened any time soon., therefore it is imperative your companies content & Social Media campaigns take the many advantages of visual data into account, for assistance in helping your company to develop an effective visual content marketing or visual social media contact me today, I’ll be delighted to help with any questions you may have

By | September 12th, 2014|Social Media, Uncategorized|0 Comments