Taking time out

I have taken 18 months out of this business to concentrate on a few projects which also included my masters thesis being published. It has been rearranged as a case study in order to fit in the chapter parameters, but it is still true to the thesis idea.

It’s not always recommended to take time out of a new business but sometimes other opportunities need to be taken in order to grow. I have spend the past 18 months working on a large grant project with an industry organisation, plus have been very involved with my local chamber of commerce.

Volunteering within and for, the business community has been rewarding on a personal level and has enabled future business growth. I have updated websites, helped with social media plans and platforms, learnt more about social media, talked up grant opportunities for businesses, mentored trainees and juniors, and worked with leaders in business, industry, and government. It’s been busy!

Feel welcome to grab a cuppa and have a read of my work.

Collaboration – a case study


Today’s article is all about time – a commodity that can be in short supply in business, both small and large.

Let’s start with how much time is spent in the business compared to ON the business. Business owners and managers all recognise that they need to spend time ON the business (planning, strategy, marketing and other administrative tasks) and now they need to add another bow to their string by managing their social media presence.

“My goodness! I don’t have time to waste on Facebook / Twitter /Pintrest / Google+ etc” are the words most commonly used. ‘Wasting’ time on social media is the first hurdle to get over. Time spent on social media marketing and communication is only wasted if it is not directed to the intended (and engaged) audience.

Knowing what content to post is half the journey, next is when to post it. Scheduling tools are very useful for a business’ main tools but it doesn’t mean schedule and forget. A business needs to check back for the interaction through the social media forums.  This is where the conversations and online relationships with potential customers are forming. Check out this article from Social Media Connect about  the popular and free scheduling Facebook tools.

Scheduling posts means that a business can set aside a block of time in a week and plan out the social media activity. It is very important to check back on the content that is planned in the event of a wider public occurrence (floods, fires, etc) to ensure that material is not seen to be insensitive or inappropriate.

0da285d6430e196a058340415a13998fHow much time should be spent on social media communication? There is no definitive answer. Every business is different and has different needs. Points to consider are:

  • How many social media platforms is a business using
  • How much content do they have
  • What interaction are they getting from their fans / followers

Some forums require more interaction – think Twitter and Facebook, others are less time sensitive. Trip Advisor and similar  customer review sites should also be considered as social media.

Responding to feedback and comments is just as important as putting the original content out there. Potential customers like to see how a business has responded to good and bad reviews.

Setting aside small portions of the administrative day allows a business owner to check into social media and make the appropriate responses in a timely manner but does not consume hours of the day.

Planning out the content to match business events, marketing promotions,  anniversaries and other highlights strengthens and streamlines the message going out. Potential customers know what it is the business is telling them and the message isn’t getting lost amongst other ‘noise’.

I hope you enjoyed this article, please share amongst your social networks.

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Content – Finding Inspiration

In an earlier blog (What is relevant content?), we discussed having relevant content which can then lead to creating your content. What content do you use, how do you keep it fresh and exciting for your customers / fans/ followers? Some businesses are very dynamic and have new events or images available every day, others may have something new once or week or even once  a month. So, what do you do?

First we can rule out the ‘spam’ posts of cute animals / children etc – unless of course, this is relevant to your business. The key is relevance  and engagement. Once you know who your customers are, then you should have a very good idea of what content engages and appeals to them. Have your posting schedule worked out around what the business is promoting or the business activities. Have a Tuesday special?  Make that your Monday evening post (or Tuesday morning). You know that most of your fans are online later in the evening? Schedule your posts to show when they are online.  A little like seeing all those income protection advertisements during the evening news.

Nothing new in the business? Introduce a team member, or yourself if you haven’t done so already – make your business personal to your customers. Just remember to follow privacy protocols when posting about yourself and employees – no private contact details, professional images only,  and content to be business related. An example could be ‘Joe’s Fishing Supplies’ featuring their best salesperson, Frank. An image of Frank in the business, wearing work clothing along with a few words “Come in and say hello to Frank, he can tell you all about XYZ product as he is a keen beach fisherman. Ask him about his favourite fishing spot, tell him about the one that got away”

Amongst the social media blogging and commentator community, feelings are mixed about posts that ask for ‘Likes’, ‘Shares’, ‘Retweets’ etc. It may create a short term gain and even a database for future sales but to gain the most  benefit from this form of social selling, it is recommended to have your strategy and systems in place. This article by Keira Pedley provides a simple ‘how to guide’.

Keep your readers / fans engaged, throw in the occasional ‘funny’, but again, keep it relevant to your business. You may find that this type of post will create a lot of sharing and views, but do not be tempted to repeat these types of posts too often as they can be ‘off message’ about your business.  A schedule will help your business organise what you want to say and when. Analytics  and insight data will help your business see what has engaged your audience and allow you to adjust your posting schedule,  remove or change anything that is not resonating with your intended audience.

Inspiration does not come easily to many, especially small business operators who may be more concerned about the daily operations and business planning.  Our advice is to look back at your business, engage with your customers, see what is driving them to you. You may find your inspiration there.

Connect on Facebook or Google + .  Engage by leaving your comments and feedback, let’s continue the conversation.

Does your social media presence lead to sales?

The question that all business owners ask themselves when planning their marketing strategy and the budget allocations is: “What additional revenue will the business receive from this financial outlay?”. ROI (return on income) is the catchphrase that is most often used during these discussions.  To give any kind of indication of return, it means that a business’ strategic activities must be measured to see how successful each activity was.

Giving your business primary data from sources, other than relying on a customer remembering whether they saw a Facebook post or liked an Instagram picture, is essential for accurate analytics. Primary data allows a business to measure what activity  / content posted by the business has attracted the most attention and action. Has a Friday funny gone viral? Well and good if it has, but did it attract more potential customers back to the business social media site or to the website, did it create more conversations in the business forum? Was it relevant to the business? 

Web and blog sites can use google analytics, which can give a great indication of where traffic is coming from, where the customer is moving within a site and how long they are spending there. But – how do you measure the success of your social media? By typing in social media measurement tools into your search engine, you will be flooded with options, some more specific than others. There are free tools (basic versions) with costs to upgrade to a ‘full’ or ‘pro’ version. To help you make sense of all of that information, there are equally a  number of blogs and other articles that list the pros and cons of various software.  Quite often the decision of which metric to use will depend on a business’ budget, the time that can be allocated to reviewing the analytics, and also the expertise within the business. 

A business will not make sales from a  social media presence if your potential customers do not know that you are there. Promote your pages and links, engage with your audience and provide relevant content. If sales are your goal, make sure that your sales sites are easily accessible from your social media forums.

Where a post has created more fans / followers / +1’s , it can be classed as a good post. If that post has lead to a sale or sales enquiry on a website, phone call, email or in person, then it is a successful post. Not every post will generate a sale but it should generate interest and responses from the online community; without these responses – who is your business talking to?

Enjoyed the read? Would love to read your comments or about your experiences.

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Marketing your brand in the digital world

Facebook turned 10 this year, we’ve all seen our friends ‘movie’ summary (confession – I did also participate and publish my walk through memory lane) and it seems that we are (mainly) all pretty comfortable in Facebook land amongst friends. What about the other social media forums? Twitter, Google+, Instagramme, Pintrest, Blogs, Tumblr, LinkedIn, and others? Do you use them in your own social life?

If you do, have you thought about how you can use these forums for your business?  Well, the first question to ask is: do these platforms fit in your digital marketing strategy? Not all platforms will suit your brand or business so you need to explore which platforms best suit your business and marketing strategy. You should also have a very good idea of which platforms your intended audience is using.

Research  – who are your potential customers (and your current customers), which media platforms are they using, what kind of engagement do they offer.  Digital Insights have created an info graphic based on research by ReachLocal which list eight types of social media followers ranging from Casual Liker, The Ranter to the Loyal Fan (part of that image has been used in the feature image of this blog). For the complete list descriptions, please follow the link: digital insights. You may already recognise these ‘types’ as customers of yours and already have strategies in place that provides the proper communication to them. Expand this to your digital media strategy.

If, for example, you think that Facebook is where your potential audience is and where you will get the most engagement, then it may be worth your while to investigate paying for Facebook advertising, but do note, this is not where you will make a sale, it is where you will bring your brand and product to the audiences attention. Once you have their attention, you must provide the relevant content to continue and expand their engagement plus direct them to the location of where you want your potential customers to purchase.

Facebook has started their page Facebook for Business, which is an indication that they as a company see business brands on Facebook as a viable option. This page promotes the use of Facebook advertising to promote your business. It is very easy to manage an advertising campaign via the Facebook apps and see your returns (likes, engagement, people talking about) in your insights section as well as traffic directed to your website in google analytics.

 Twitter also have paid promotional spots and again the purpose of these spots should be to increase your brand awareness in the Twitterverse.

Social Media blogger, Jeff Bullas has written many articles about social media, engagement, and content. Here is one of the more recent articles, which discusses the social media trajectory. Business 2 Community Google+ posted the blog article; Is This The Social Media Marketing Tipping Point? and has some very relevant points to take note of.

Two stand out points for us are:

  1.  Grow your social network now
  2. Create the best content you can

Growing your social network. Get your name / brand out there. After deciding which platforms suit you best (look beyond Facebook and Twitter), let your customers know that you have a digital presence in their arenas. Use the links to your sites in newsletters, your website and signage around your location. Add the links to invoices or receipts, your email signatures, everywhere that you communicate with your customers.

Follow the media influencers in your field, interact and engage with them. Gain their confidence in your product and brand and they will retweet (RT), share or talk about your brand / product.  Media influencers usually have many followers / fans and a great audience reach. As always, you must provide relevant content to get the engagement with your brand.

Create the best content you can. Creating the best content does not mean that you have to have the very latest graphics or video production but it must have relevance to your brand or product, have some meaning for your intended audience. Use the best images you have, keep your text direct – calls to action (like, share, enter, answer, etc). Encourage the conversation, if someone comments – reply, even it is just to say ‘Thank you’. Share your audience’s pictures if they post to your site. Favourite a tweet, follow a Pintrest board if it is relevant to your brand. Encourage your customers to provide content e.g. how good your product / service / location is.

Bringing us back to the same message – content, relevance and engagement will keep your conversations going in your digital world and create brand relationships with your customers.

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Feedback and Conversations

Feedback. Negative comments. Positive reviews. It seems that all of our digital media can revolve around good or bad comments on our sites.

What happens when you directly (i.e. face to face) receive a compliment or acknowledgement of  a job well done? You usually thank the person and continue your conversation. It does not matter how public the place was  that the compliment or acknowledgment was given

What happens if you receive an insult, negative comment or otherwise bad feedback in the same situation? Do you laugh it off, get angry and reply in kind, or swallow your reaction and walk away? Some of your reaction will depend on where you are when the comment is made. Are you in a large meeting or social setting, in your office, or in a one to one meeting? The more public the location, the more defensive you are likely to be. Defensiveness is commonly expressed through aggression, humour, denial, passivity and probably a range of other emotions.

Comments received in your digital media forums are all very public locations, open to everyone and have the potential to be seen by a vast audience (potential customers).   Positive comments and feedback are easily accepted, thanked and shared to your customers, team members and associates. They are quite often used for customer testimonials. Negative comments and feedback are ones that a business owner may instinctively want to hide / delete or ignore.

Some forums,for example, Trip Advisor, do not give a property the luxury of removing a negative review, however one sided the owner may feel the review is. But, and this is  important, you can respond. Your potential customers will read the review and will also most likely read your response. If you have responded appropriately and fairly, then your potential customer may not dismiss your property out of hand, you may get another chance.

Website, Facebook, Twitter comments can be easily removed but again, it may be better to respond to those comments to provide a balanced view of your business. It allows your potential customer to see how you handle good with bad.

How do you respond? To put it simply, as politely as you can – this is a public forum and everything, yes everything, you say will reflect on your business. The format is the same as any complaint handling procedure.

  • Acknowledge the complaint / comment
  • Thank them for bringing the item to your attention
  • Tell them what you will do to or change to ensure that there is not a reoccurrence of the issue
  • If the comment refers to something that cannot be changed e.g. bad weather or the journey, then a combination of humour and polite facts can be used to answer the comment. You, as a business, cannot change the weather, the road, their transport method or whatever the ‘problem’ was. Acknowledge the comment and move on
  • If a comment refers to something that is not likely to change e.g. decor / fixtures/ fittings, then you need to have a well practised response that fits with your overall marketing strategy
  • Offer the customer a means of contacting you outside of the public forum
  • Follow up, make this as personal as you are able, let them know that the thing you have said you will do, has been done.
  • Invite that customer back to experience the change /s made in your business. You do not necessarily have to provide anything free, it will depend on the initial complaint, your response and what your business feels is suitable recompense (if anything).

Profanities, personal attacks, or other inappropriate posts (identified as trolls) should be removed immediately. These type of posts are nuisance posts and have no place in your digital space. Persistent ‘trolls’ should be reported to appropriate administration of the media application. It is best not to dignify these type of comments with a reply.

Responding to your feedback and comments are yet another way of keeping the conversation going with your customers and potential customers. It is relevant because this is what your customers are concerned about, it is relevant because your potential customers want to be assured that you acknowledge and respond to problems.

Responding to your online feedback and comments extend your customer service and continues the engagement with your digital community. Your customers know you and your business better and should lead to higher trust levels of you and your business. In a nutshell, this is what your digital marketing strategy should be all about – relevance, engagement, connection, and building trust; guiding your customers to confidently purchase from you and recommend you to their networks.

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Choosing your digital platform

Once you have decided that your business does need a digital voice, there is now the decision of which platform (s) to use. Which will suit your business best? Is your business very visual? Can you take regular new images on a daily basis? Well perhaps Instagram may suit you best but you can also use Snapchat, Facebook and Twitter for your imagery.

It brings you back to the question of who is your intended audience, what platforms are they communicating on? If you already have a social media presence then a quick look at your analytics may give you the answer to that question, however this is assuming that you are directing your customers to your website or other sales area that can track the origin of the transactions.

The all important questions to ask are: what is your business, who are your customers / intended audience, where are they finding you, how easily can they find your business details. The ‘when‘ comes in as ‘when‘ do you have the time to manage your content. Social (or digital) media content is now required to be current and relevant. A potential customer looking at your page / profile/ account that sees no activity for a month or more, can rightly assume that this is a forum where they can’t contact you and expect a response in a reasonable length of time. 

Having current content and images creates a good first impression and gives the potential customer confidence in contacting you with their business enquiry.

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