Can a Business have a Personality?

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People have personalities, not businesses – right? When people go to work they paint on their work faces, put on their work hats and become the consummate professional.  There’s a manner in which bosses and colleagues expect their employees to sound, look and act when in the workplace.

Yes there’s a need to be professional, yes customers demand a deservedly high level of attention, care and service – but is there a need to be so dull, stuffy and corporate about it?

The Business of People

Businesses consist of physical assets, products and services but it’s ultimately people who are the nucleus of a business. Owners, Directors and Managers set strategies and employees execute those strategies to the paying public. Employees and customers have individual personalities, morals and values – and so can a business.

All too often businesses assume a pre-programmed drone tone when dealing with customers. We’ve all experienced this whilst dealing with call centres or on Social Media – that scripted and overly cheery or politician-like response, delivered in true Stepford wife style.

Whatever sector your business operates in, the products & services you produce will be almost identical to your competitors. Therefore one of the few ways to create a genuine differentiation strategy is to focus on customer service by promoting your company values & culture.

Business Culture

The culture of a business should seep out of every pore and be consistent across all areas of a business – it’s called Branding. If customers identify your products/services with your company, it isn’t the pinnacle of Branding – you need to adopt a vision and set of values which resonate with the lifestyle of your customer base.

Create a mission statement so your employees buy-in to your company vision, providing a common purpose for all. Company values help to create a way of thinking consistent across all departments where guidelines are created to achieve an expected manner in which all employees should behave. With the creation of company values there’s a necessity to embed those values onto the daily processes and practices of your company – including posting on Social Media.

Social Media

One of my fundamental golden rules of Social Media is to BE SOCIAL. Minimise the use of one-way communications pushing your company products and services. Be creative in your approach to Social Media by devising a Content Marketing strategy offering a range of topics and material for your audience to enjoy and engage with.

The content you post and the manner in which you engage with your audience can help to define the values and culture of your company.  Send posts about the weather, your local community and even post something funny. Now humour is subjective, but as long as it’s light-hearted and family friendly humour then you won’t offend your audience. The reality is that customers won’t just follow posts from your company about product updates and special offers, provide them with more reasons to read, engage and share your content.

If you’re relevant, friendly and approachable on Social Media by exuding your company culture, then your personality will shine through and become synonymous with your Brand. So can a business have a personality? – Only if you want it to 🙂

What do I post on Social Media?

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A common problem with small businesses and Social Media newbies is deciding what type of content you should be posting.

How do you find enough fresh material to post on your Social Media sites every single day?
The 1st question you should be asking is: What does my audience want to read?

Ask and Answer Questions

Social Media isn’t about you or your company, it’s a platform to connect and engage with your audience. If you want to know what your followers want to read, ask them.

Conduct some basic market research on Social Media by running a poll which lists a variety of topics, it can be something simple like:

What Social Media platform do you want to know more about?

A. Facebook
B. Twitter
C. LinkedIn
D. Google+

A poll is a quick and easy method for people to respond to, and once you establish the results you can then post content relevant to your audience.

Provide tips and advice relevant to your industry. You’re the expert in your field, not your customers so become a useful source of information and offer your skills and knowledge for free. Once you become a credible and trusted source of information, you can engage with individuals and tailor your products/services to suit their needs.

Share

Share content from sources outside your company that are relevant to your industry and specialist areas. By sharing external content you’re providing a richness and depth to the content you share with your audience.

Some examples of the types of external content you can share on Social Media are:

• Newspaper articles
• Articles & links to industry associations & trade bodies
• Competitors blogs (not your immediate competitors)
• Videos
• Industry Experts
• Academic & Industry Research

When you share content from external sources, you’ll experience an increase in followers and your own content will also be shared. Share and be shared.

Post about your Company

When posting information about your company, their products and services it is essential to create a balance. Too much information on your company and people will very quickly disengage, too little and people will simply be using you as a source of free information.

As a rule of thumb apply the 80:20 rule, posting 80% of content NOT related to your company and 20% about your company. Use this as a guide and alter according to the level of response and feedback you receive.

When posting about your company, consider posting:

• Offers & Discounts
• New product/service launch
• Awards & Achievements
• Client testimonials
• Specialist/niche areas

Be Social

This is THE golden rule of Social Media – BE SOCIAL.

Honestly Social Media isn’t complicated; it’s simply about 2 parties communicating. Respond when people have shared your content and respond promptly to every single comment, like and new follower.

Small businesses have a distinct advantage over larger competitors if you take the time to connect and engage with your audience. Provide a truly customised level of service that larger competitors will struggle to replicate due to the scale of their customer base.

You might not have a big Marketing budget or thousands of employees, but you can offer personalised 1:2:1 customer service earning you a competitive advantage.

What approach do you have to posting content on Social Media?

Marketing your Small Business Blog

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Now that you’ve started your blog, it’s time to put it in front of as many pairs of eyes as possible. There’s no point in putting in the blood, sweat and tears if nobody reads or benefits from your blog.

Small businesses usually have little to no Marketing budget so this article will explore ways to promote your blog using only sweat equity.

Sign Up

Your blog should contain interesting, engaging and practical information that people find useful. You’re giving away information tips and tricks for free so ask for something in return – their email address and/or social media details. This way you can build a database of prospects and you now have their contact details to facilitate relationship building with your target audience.

Twitter

Twitter is a micro-blogging site and you’ve got 140 characters to capture the attention of passersby to make them read your blog. Videos, images and infographics will help to increase engagement but with Twitter you need to focus on words.

Post your blog everyday for 2 weeks, change the heading until you find the winning formula. Don’t think “what heading shall I use to describe my blog” – answer questions, solve problems and think like your customer.

LinkedIn

Join groups on LinkedIn relevant to your industry and target audience. Post your blog onto LinkedIn groups and if your blog is interesting then you’ll begin to gather feedback and open up debates.

Don’t just use LinkedIn groups to promote your blog, contribute to conversations and make your opinions heard so those very people will have an interest in reading your blog because they know who you are.

Google +

The most important reason to consider Google + or any other Social Media platform is to communicate with people according to how they communicate, and Google + is growing in size.

However SEO is a critical reason to use Google + to promote your blog. WordPress is an excellent platform for creating a blog, so just copy and paste your work into Blogger. Last week’s blog Small Business Blogging touched on the SEO benefits from blogging and if you want to get seen on Google then get on Google +.

Join communities, much like groups on LinkedIn share your blog content and always respond to comments, +1’s and feedback.

External Promotion

Your existing network is finite and therefore limits the exposure of your blog to your followers, friends and friends of friends. Personally I feel that building credibility and trust so you can create long term relationships is the most important aspect of a blog. Of course you want to sell, but gain credibility, trust and build relationships 1st – then you can sell to people who trust you.

Put your blog on someone else’s platform, you obviously lose an element of control but the benefits of leveraging their experience and fan base can seriously boost your exposure. The reason I recommend this method is because it works. I was recently approached by a company who read my blog on an external website which wouldn’t have been possible using only my own WordPress account.

Here are some of the best B2B platforms to help you catapult your blog into the big league:

http://www.business2community.com/

https://exploreb2b.com/

http://www.businesszone.co.uk/

An up and coming platform http://www.thewriterssocial.com/

When promoting your blog on Social Media always remember to share and be shared, build your network and grow your audience.

Use external platforms to build your fan base by sourcing websites which look for authors/bloggers like you to help provide them with interesting and fresh content.

Why don’t you blog? What problems do you experience? Got a blog already but not being seen? Your comments are welcomed 

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.

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.

Why Content isn’t King!

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If “Content is King” then Marketing and Advertising is dead. Consumers may be suffering from advertising saturation on our TV’s, Radio, the internet, newspapers and social media sites but I truly believe that good Marketing can make Advertising & Marketing relevant and appealing.

Research Findings

I base my opinion on facts learned from researching small business owners on the subject of their Marketing and social media usage for business purposes. The majority of small business owners don’t know what Content Marketing is and therefore don’t apply the concepts and practices. Research findings from small business owners highlighted that posting mainly sales-related content to the correct target market that have shown an interest in a particular company/products/services resulted in increased sales and enquiries for those companies.
Now not all companies will experience success by posting mainly sales related content as the research findings determined that B2C and product-based companies experienced the most success. However the importance of segmentation and accurate targeting must not be ignored or undervalued. If you know who your customers are, where they are, what media channels they use and what interests them, then it’s possible to achieve success in your Marketing activities.

Sometimes you don’t need Content

I’ll use an example from Groupon who posted an offer for a Spa day at a luxury resort near Edinburgh to one of my female friends. The advert offered 60% off usual prices which was an excellent deal. My friend passed on the advert to all of her female friends on Facebook which resulted in 8 ladies all booking a day out at the spa. The significance of this example is that not a single piece of “Content” apart from the offer was promoted. If your offer is appealing enough and targeted to the right audience then it is possible to achieve success without believing that “Content is King”.

Content Marketing is Still Important

Content Marketing is an important element of a company’s Marketing strategy and it is a good way to raise awareness of your brand and gain new followers, but for small businesses they need to tread carefully. Posting industry articles, sharing content and writing a blog require sweat equity and time-starved small businesses often cannot afford to dedicate their time to content Marketing. A balance needs to be reached to ensure a mixture of quality content and sales-related material is implemented into any Marketing strategy. Just don’t overuse and abuse the now cliché “Content is King” – that’s nonsense, the customer is King.

LISTEN!

As marketers we should be listening to what consumers want and what form of Marketing actually works rather than what we perceive to work! A recent article entitled The Digital Gap between Consumer and Marketer by Jacey Gulden on Social Media Today highlighted the gap in perceptions of consumers and Marketers. Jacey writes about the benefits that smaller businesses have when personalizing communications with consumers, which I agree with when targeting the correct target market.

Yes Content Marketing is important and yes content should be designed to engage your audience but people are interested in companies, brands, products and services and what they have to offer. Good Marketing practices should be focused on the customer and provide them with what they want, when they want, we just need to listen.
My previous blog Is Content Really King offers more on this subject.

Is Content Really King?

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Content is King

“Content is King” that’s the current buzz phrase in social media marketing which focuses on the relevance and impact of creating content which is engaging. It’s one of those sayings which are true in theory but in practice it can often be overused and used to hide ulterior motives. In a world of information overload people and companies blog, tweet and spew seemingly free information. Siphoning through the volume of information on the internet can indeed unveil some ground-breaking research, genuinely engaging content and suitable to people’s individual tastes and preferences. We can access information on any topic when we want and about what we want, but does the content we consume manipulate us to then become customers?

Free Content – At what cost?

Ask yourself why is it possible for me to watch this video or read this article completely free of charge? That’ll be because you’re always being sold to. Almost everyone providing you with a free blog or video or free e-book are leading you down a path of consumerism, somehow you’ll end up paying. Even me writing this blog, I’m attempting to raise awareness of my skills and my company which will ideally lead to a sale. There’s always a hook leading to a sale of some kind, you just have to look and you’ll find it. Businesses cannot survive without sales and by giving away the secrets to their trades, they want something in return.

Manipulation

Marketers and businesses can be clever in understanding human psychology as we all have buying trends and impulsive behaviours. Content is not always king as our predictability as human beings can be manipulated to the advantage of commerce. People respond to colours, images, sounds and visual effects used in much of the content we access which is designed to illicit buying impulses, not to provide free content. Videos, gimmicks, special offers and freebies are offered to raise our awareness of a particular brand who want a share of your wallet, not to provide free content. Perhaps after decades of people enduring advertising and marketing saturation, we become immune to the realisation that there’s always a hook leading to a sale.

Jargon

If you truly believe that “Content is King” then you’re trying to sell something to someone. As a marketer I fully comprehend the meaning behind the phrase and believe customers do benefit from the ability to access truly rich and engaging content, but always at a cost. Content is king is now just marketing jargon which has lost its meaning and is over-used and abused for commercial gain. The only thing worthy of being attributed with the tile King is the customer.