How to use Social Media to enhance your Credibility and build Trust

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You’re good at your job, you have experience and expertise in your field but how do you let potential customers and stakeholders know you’re credible and can be trusted?

As a new start up credibility can win or lose you business, it all depends on trust. Social Media can be harnessed to demonstrate your credibility and begin to build trust with your audience, and here’s how to achieve this:

Blog

Share your experience, knowledge and skills of your industry to position yourself as an independent thinker and thought leader in your field. Write in your own style in your own words and don’t be afraid to go against industry norms. Personally I don’t care if I don’t agree with what everyone else in my industry is saying, if what I believe will benefit my customers then that’s who I aim to please.

Be controversial, not argumentative by always writing with substance and evidence to back up your beliefs. Be unique, be different and in the words of Seth Godin, be remarkable.

Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook and Google+

Join and create groups on LinkedIn, Facebook and Google+ relevant to your industry and provide comments on what you think is right and wrong. Be seen and heard by the very audience you aim to influence. Open up your views to constructive criticism, you might even learn something by being open-minded.

Everyone can see what you Tweet, your words are not just limited to small groups. Let people see you connect and engage with other people and businesses, and make sure your sales-related posts are well targeted. Nobody wants to engage with people who just sell themselves, take a genuine interest in your audience.

Network with top industry experts and thought leaders to demonstrate that you can hold your own with the best in the business.

Be Transparent

Invite and answer difficult questions, don’t shy away from subjects that people want to know about. Use Social Media as a Customer Service tool to answer queries and even complaints let your audience see how quickly and effectively you handle their queries. Your business is precious to you, not your customer – they want results and you must respond quickly and effectively.

If people see that you’re not just trying to sell then you’ll become more approachable, credible and trusted.
Offer Free Advice

If your business isn’t offering free advice, then your competitors certainly are. This is where I get a little controversial and say don’t always have a call to action to buy buy buy. Invite comments yes but don’t always use your blog to sell. If you raise awareness, be transparent and engage with real people in real time then you’ll be a credible and trusted source.

Prove it

Don’t ever buy followers or likes! Build your followers and fans organically and aim for volume (not at the expense of quality). The 1st thing people see on your Twitter, Google + and LinkedIn profile and Facebook page is the number of followers and fans you’ve amassed. Shout about your achievements from the rooftops, let your audience know that you’ve reached 1,000 Twitter followers or 1,000 Facebook likes – it helps to build credibility.

Promote client testimonials and share comments from people to prove people like and trust what you have to say. When people tell you that you’re good – let everyone know.

Are you a new business? How do you build credibility and trust on Social Media? Let me know what you think, thanks.

5 Top Twitter Tips

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When people browse the internet and Social Media sites their attention spans are extremely short and if you don’t grab people’s attention within the 1st 10 seconds, then your chance to engage with them will pass.

That’s why I love Twitter so much, 140 characters short and sweet. Communicating in 140 characters helps you to condense your message to make it as appealing as possible. Social Media has changed the way people communicate and Twitter has played a pivotal role in altering how people communicate in short bursts of information.

Small business can use Twitter more effectively by following these 5 top Twitter Tips:

1) Targeting

Hashtags can be used to identify potential customers, industry trends, stakeholders and competitors. Twitter were the 1st Social Media platform to use hashtags which have now become so popular that Facebook and Google+ have now adopted their use as a search function.

Followerwonk is a site that allows users to search for people, businesses and phrases which are not currently possible to conduct via Twitter. The Twitter bio of people & companies often include hashtags, geographical locations and key words such as their industry and specialist areas. Use followerwonk to target potential customers and competitors according to the information provided in their bio, something which is not possible to implement on Twitter.

For example use followerwonk to target restaurants in the Edinburgh area specialising in vegetarian food to target your audience by being as narrow and specific as possible.

Follow your competitors and follow their followers. The list of people & businesses they follow is likely to be a similar target audience to the one you’re aiming to connect with.

2) Lists

Creating lists pertinent to your own industry and interests is the best Twitter tip I can offer, it changed the way I use Twitter. When I first started using Twitter I couldn’t understand why I was receiving so many messages, literally new posts every second – so how do you keep up with the pace of tweets?

Easy – create distinct lists that are relevant to your business and company interests. For example if you’re say a Gardener then create lists of potential local customers, existing customers, competitors and relevant newspaper articles on your industry. This way when you want to read tweets, you can do so according to each individual list created, simply switch lists to view the type of information you want to access.

3) Share and be shared

Sharing is the name of the game, you want your posts to be shared as does everyone else on Twitter. Retweet posts you like and think may be of interest to your audience. When you retweet a post you like make sure you always include the Twitter handle of where it originated. Change the heading of the post or add your own comments to show both the poster and your audience what your opinion is on the subject.

Include a Twitter button on all your blogs & articles to encourage readers to share your material to a wider audience than you can achieve on your own. Invite comments and offer something for free – mainly your time by answering questions and being seen as a leader in your field who is approachable.

Communicate and engage with people just like you would face to face, don’t simply post sales-related content or people will click you into oblivion.

4) Follow and be followed

Here’s where I get a little controversial, with Twitter volume is important. Now this doesn’t mean aim for volume over quality, but aiming for a higher number of followers is essential. Do you trust a business with 56 followers of 5,000? It’s Twitter etiquette, follow and be followed.

Be wary of fake Twitter accounts, they’re surprisingly easy to spot. Someone who has posted 50 tweets yet has 10,000 followers should instantly set the alarm bells ringing.

5) Respond

Set up Twitter notifications on your phone, computer or tablet so you instantly know when you’ve been mentioned in a tweet. Respond to that post as quickly as possible to engage and keep the conversation flowing, after all Twitter is part of SOCIAL media where people socialise.

Always thank people for sharing your posts and link previous posts, articles and blogs where relevant to increase traffic to your posts.

How do you use Twitter? What tips or problems do you face? Any comments are as usual greatly welcomed.

The Forgotten – Small Businesses in Small Communities

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The Importance of Small Business

The UK has 4.8 million registered businesses, of which 3.6 million are sole traders. That means 75% of all UK businesses are sole traders and shape our economy, commerce, innovation and small business communities. To prove the importance of small businesses here are some fascinating statistics from the Federation of Small Businesses:

• 97 % of firms employ less than 20 people
• 95 % employ less than 5 people
• Over 500,000 people start up their own business every year
• Small firms contribute more than 49 % of the UK turnover
• 64 % of commercial innovations come from small firms
• Small firms collect and pay Tax, NICs, VAT and other dues which help pay for public services

Some published statistics are often dressed up with flowers and sprinkles, but I look at the above statistics and wonder why there is such a lack of focus and attention on Micro-Businesses. Small businesses in small rural communities simply do not get essential business support from the UK government and lack any real focus from larger private businesses. Why? I believe it’s because there’s a belief that small businesses are too much work for little financial return. As usual it’s all about money – Capitalism rules the day and the little guy is priced out of the market.

Isolated

Small rural businesses operate in isolated conditions far from our city centres and towns, and far from available support from government and commerce. Mary Portas and the government promote the “Save our High Streets” campaign with little thought about rural villages and communities.

Clusters of businesses in cities thrive as competitors induce competitive spirit, innovation and collaboration. Many incentives have been promoted by the UK government such as reduced rates in High Street shops and reduced NI rates for employees, but what if you’re a sole trader working from home with no employees?

It’s called SOLE Trader for a reason – you’re on your own.

Why we should admire and support small rural businesses

Starting up your own business demonstrates Entrepreneurialism whilst boosting local employment, business start up and survival rates. Small business owners offer unique products & services, unlike the homogenised shops and products available in every High Street.

Small rural businesses have drive and take risks to start up their own businesses, without the need for government funding and business support. In a turbulent economic climate where more businesses look for external support, isolated small rural businesses operate independently and have the drive to succeed in the toughest of conditions. Small rural communities would struggle to exist without small rural businesses and more should be done to support such a valuable commodity.

Community Values

The world’s population is growing and our major cities will become overloaded as a result, but rural communities will also begin to grow. Small towns and villages is where our kids will grow up, families will live and people enjoy a more intimate tranquil way of life.

I’ve lived in bustling cities and have experienced the difference in the way of life of rural living. There’s a togetherness and community spirit which thrives in rural communities that simply does not exist in the rat race of big cities.

CSR is no longer a buzzword where big businesses write a paragraph in their year end reports to satisfy shareholders. ALL businesses of ALL sizes need to embrace community spirit and demonstrate community values by being committed to the very communities they serve.

If ALL businesses engaged and trade with just one small rural business a month then we will begin to experience more thriving, prosperous and self sustaining communities that will enrich our way of life.

Do you think rural businesses and communities are important? What do you think would help support rural businesses? Your comments and opinions are warmly welcomed.

Why your Business will die if you don’t adopt Social Media

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The explosion of Social Media has always fascinated me. Not so much from a Marketer’s or business perspective but to see the monumental shift in the way people communicate and conduct their everyday lives.

Business need to adopt Social Media into their Marketing strategies or run the risk of being left behind, not just from competitors but from connecting and engaging with customers. Social Media won’t solve all your Marketing dilemmas and must be integrated with a wider Marketing strategy to work, but I propose that your business will die if you don’t embrace it.

Communicate like your customers

Communication has vastly evolved since the introduction of mobile phones, the internet, computers and now the rise of smartphones & tablets. When I was a kid pen pals were common and you had to use a landline to communicate with friends and family. Now I don’t even have to talk to people to communicate.

Who are your customers and how do they lead their daily lives? Just look around you in any street in any town or city in the world, even in developing countries and you’ll see a set of thumbs clicking away. The way people communicate has evolved and businesses need to evolve to communicate in a manner which is familiar to ordinary people.

Low cost Marketing

I’m a huge advocate of the fact that Social Media has helped to even the playing field in Marketing between large and small businesses. One negative of Social Media is that it requires sweat equity and drains your time, but use that time to your advantage.

Small businesses don’t have big budgets so utilise your time to gain a competitive advantage. Spend your time communicating and engaging your audience, something that big businesses with millions of customers really struggle to implement. Yes time = money, but far less than the big budgets required to compete with big brands.

Reach

Place an advert on TV, Radio or by Direct Mail and only the people who directly receive these Marketing messages are the initial recipients. A rule of thumb in publications is to multiply the volume of sales by 4 to calculate overall readership numbers. Word of mouth is required to increase reach on more traditional Marketing platforms, but doesn’t come close to the reach you can achieve via Social Media.

The exact message delivered on Social Media can be shared with people from all over the world in a matter of seconds, something that simply isn’t possible using traditional Marketing methods. No Chinese whispers, no misconstrued information, the exact same message to a global audience.

Competitors

I’m a late adopter of technology and don’t do things to keep up with the crowd, but in business you cannot sit back and watch your competitors stealing a lead on your company. If you wait for your Marketing message to reach your customer in a mail drop or in a magazine or newspaper then it reaches your customer much slower. Do this and you could already have lost sales to competitors using Social Media who engage with people in real time.

Social Media is where people socialise, enter their world and do it quick otherwise your competitors will leave you in their dust.

Older consumers

Does your mum have a PC or smartphone? Do they have a Facebook account where they talk to old friends and family members abroad? –Yes!

Even the 50+ market are starting to adopt Social Media and are the fastest growing segment on Facebook, they soon convert to see what all the hype is about.

I recently conducted market research for competitors and spoke to mainly the 55+ market and almost all of the people (apart from the 75+ market) I spoke to said that they use Google to search for certain companies. The evolution of communication isn’t just limited to the younger generations.

Older generations will begin to die and a new generation of tech savvy consumers will arise, just don’t let your business die with them.

Social Media IS the 7 P’s of Marketing

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PRODUCT PLACE PRICE PROMOTION PEOPLE PROCESSES PHYSICAL ENVIRONMENT

The 7 P’s of Marketing existed well before the explosion of Social Media and for decades has been taught to Students, Marketers and Business people as the fundamental basics of Marketing, known as the Marketing Mix. For any Marketer or Business knowing your 7 P’s is always a good place to start with Marketing, but as you become more advanced there are so many other theories, elements and concepts involved.

The initial 4 P’s of Marketing is more widely used whereas B2B and International Marketing are more suitable for the use of the 7 P’s. However any business in any industry can use the 7 P’s, but can we apply Social Media to all 7 elements?

PRODUCT

What do your customers think about the product/services you sell to them?
Do you have ideas for a new concept or star product?
Would your customers be willing to pay more for a premium priced product?

Ask them. Co-creation involving your target market at the stages of idea generation and product development can be conducted via Social Media. Conduct a focus group on a webinar, groups or forums. Run polls on Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+ and Facebook or post videos on You Tube or pictures on Pinterest. Get feedback from the very people who will ultimately buy your goods and include them at the R&D stages.

Co-creation of your PRODUCTS and ideas, all done using Social Media.

PLACE

You don’t need a shop, fancy website or offices to sell to your customers, Social Media can facilitate all of this. Some small businesses find it easier to sell their products by uploading photos to the Business Facebook or Google+ Pages rather than entering complex code into the back end of company websites.

For example my own business website is modest at best, a free page which is very limited so I try to sell using my Social Media sites – and it works. As a recent graduate with a brand new business a new website isn’t in my budget yet so I network on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and forums which has won me new business in my 1st 2 months of trading. All I need is a computer, a phone, sweat equity and my Social Media networks become the PLACE I sell my services.

PRICE

Different Social Media networks have varying demographics which opens up the possibility of charging more or less according to each target segment. High net worth individuals can be targeted to sell at a premium price, whereas lower income earners perhaps could be targeted with discounts or budget ranges.
Co-creation can also be applied using Social Media to help determine the PRICE of your product.

PROMOTION

PROMOTION, this one is easy. You can promote on almost all Social Media sites as long as you know who your market is and what channel they use. Content Marketing and customer engagement are vital when promoting your company, but always remember that Social Media is social where people communicate.

Target your ads and always narrow your target market to as small a segment as possible and always keep the conversation flowing. If you get a like or a comment, respond immediately to engage with real people on a 1:2:1 basis.

PEOPLE

PEOPLE areTHE most important element of any type of business, service or product in any sector anywhere in the world. Your customers are number 1 so consider them in every choice you ever make for your business and you’ll always do well.

Use Social Media to connect with wider stakeholders to your business such as your local community, competitors, trade associations and public bodies. Employees can be used as an asset when communicating via Social Media but ensure you train them and have a solid social media policy implemented.

PROCESSES

Customer Service PROCESSES can be facilitated on your company Social Media sites. Respond swiftly to customer complaints and re-tweet, share and post any testimonials or positive feedback. Check all your Social Media sites at least twice daily and regularly conduct searches for key words about your company.

PHYSICAL ENVIRONMENT

Walk down any street in any city and you’ll most probably see someone on their mobile phone. Go into any cafe, University or shopping mall where people communicate on their handheld devices. Their world, their PHYSICAL ENVIRONMENT is in that device, talking, laughing, crying and sharing their lives on Social Media.

Get into their world, the rise of Mobile advertising targets consumers according to their habits and businesses need to think about how to fit into consumer lifestyles.

Even the old fundamental classic 7 P’s of Marketing can be adapted to incorporate Social Media. By applying old and new theories and tools, Social Media should be seen to compliment and enhance traditional Marketing.