You’ve entered the world of social media. Your website is up and running, you’re becoming a Twitter enthusiast and now you’ve decided it’s time to add a blog to your marketing arsenal.
Before you launch into blogging you really have to ask yourself “Why?”. There are already over 200 million blogs out there so it’s essential you know why you’re spending this time doing something everyone else is already doing.
Don’t let the numbers put you off. You aren’t competing with the millions of others (that’s impossible!) but you will need to find your niche and have a purpose. Simply by having a purpose your likelihood to persist and persevere with your blog increases.
Confession time here, in the beginning I didn’t give blogging any thought at all. Someone asked me why I wasn’t blogging, so I just did. Yup, that much thought. My early blog entries are a (very) random series of miscellany that I wrote whenever I felt I should. But they served no purpose whatsoever and they never will.
And I’ve changed direction at least twice since I started. You can read my early work as it’s still here, nothing has been erased. I’ve left them on this blog as thoughtful, how not tos. They aren’t really terrible, just a bit clueless.
See I’m human. I’ll even share my not so greatest moments with you so you can learn from my not always so brilliant example.
Right, back to you and your blog. When you decide to write a blog to support your business you should at least start thinking about why.
Knowing why you’re blogging is not only important for goal setting and establishing a direction, it’s important as a motivation tool. Blogging is where you will spend the largest chunk of your time in your social media world. I don’t mean you’ll be on your blog for hours at a stretch, but writing a good blog takes up a greater chunk of time than send out a dozen tweets, or putting links onto your Facebook Business Page.
It’ll take you more than a few minutes to write something publishable, edit it, decorate it with pretty and relevant pictures, edit it again, save it, find those three (at least!) spelling mistakes, edit and again and then finally publish it. Then, and there is a then, time to promote it on your other social networks, using it to direct traffic and therefore clients to your website. Knowing all this activity has a point is essential to the small business owner.
So finally, why do people/companies/organisations blog? Here are a few reason why:
1. To establish your reputation as an expert
2. To engage in conversation with others
3. To express your thoughts – self publish
4. Show prospective clients who you are
5. To share ideas – can be both personal and business
6. To help and advise – again can be both personal and business
7. Enhance your chances of being found by search engines i.e. improve your visibility
8. For money – blogging as a job
9. Affiliate marketing – selling someone else’s product or service
10. To develop and sell a product
12. Fame and fortune
13. Writing content for other online resources or offline projects
Finding your niche and
connecting to your happy customers
Vancouver, Canada – 2011
You can blog for any one of these reasons or a combination of a few or most of them. Mine’s a cocktail of 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 11 (OK and as it’s ultimately for work and the blog does direct people my way, it’s also a bit of 8). Keep in mind when you start a blog that it’s work and it will take patience and it should be a part of your long term plan.
I understand there’s a learning curve and that the phenomena of social media can be a bit of a maze. It takes dedication, time and practice to learn how to use these tools to their best advantage.
Good luck and happy blogging.
– you take this network seriously and have respect for the business world, and fellow professionals online,
– you know how to take advantage of the best opportunities, and
– since you know how to network online properly, this demonstrates clearly that you’re Internet savvy.Connections and future connections on LinkedIn will be impressed, and take you more seriously, rather than the opposite, which is to relegate you to Deep Web oblivion.
1. Complete your profile 100%. According to LinkedIn, by fully completing your profile, you will be “40 times more likely to receive opportunities”. Well I suppose they would say that, wouldn’t they. But even if that statistic isn’t quite that high, “opportunities” should be an incentive for you to make the effort.
Now this is a topic that I really understand from both sides. And I hang my head in shame at my earlier self.
I was you. The skeptic. Well not exactly skeptical, a big, “Oh no I don’t want to do that. It’s going to take up time I don’t have and frankly I can’t be bothered”. That was me.
I run a small business helping people sort out in general terms their stuff, including: IT, files, information overload, etc…( and now Social Media of course). I was busy flinging myself around at networking events, attending forums, scrounging for clients in every legal way I knew how and generally getting on with the whole ship load of activities it takes to run a small business. Where was I going to find the time to engage in Social Media and honestly were my prospective clients even there yet?
That was two years ago. So most of my clients weren’t there and I had yet to take the plunge. As a vastly over qualified information professional (yep. breaking my arm, patting myself on the back :-)), I was already spending far too much time in the ether, on the Internet – trawling through databases, compiling research for clients, filing electronically and even with paper. So I knew all about information and people.
Hand on heart I just didn’t want to learn anything new. I knew what I was doing and how it was supposed to work. Well time for one of those paradigm shifts. Horses and cart can still get you from place to place to. Even walking works if you have enough time. But now, the Pony Express is but a legend and a great film set but no one is seriously ever going to contemplate it’s revival as a viable form of transportation.
We have and must move on. So kicking and screaming (all right mild foot stomping) I leapt into Social Media and against my traditional judgement I found myself liking it very much.
Why? “Why such a quick and devoted convert,” I hear you ask. Easy, I love that Social Media is available to all and it brings the consumer back in control. For how long have we been sold at, talked down to and had our likes and dislikes dictated to us? With Social Media the product don’t get any better but the customer service comes back into play and it becomes about us and not about them.
As the owner and operator of a small business that puts my clients’ needs first, that’s what I like the most. Customer service counts again! Social Media doesn’t improve the product but it does improve your relationship with your client.
Social Media is a forum that works for businesses of all descriptions and budgets of all sizes. As long as you have someone (or yourself) who is devoted to establishing a cunning plan and will work diligently towards establishing an engaging long term relationship with their client base, then everyone has a chance of success.
If you are a sole trader, a micro-business, a small or medium business, you can use Social Media effectively in your marketing scheme. Through proper time management, effective strategizing, you can creating a personalized niche for your brand and you will find the clients you want and deserve.
You can’t afford to ignore Social Media, not now and definitely not in the future. Social Media is still relatively new and over the next year even more businesses will start taking advantage of the opportunities it has to offer. For your business, find a format that suits you and your marketing strategy and start making a name for yourself. You don’t have to compete with the granddaddies of branding but you can promote yourself in your little corner of the web and the world.
There are currently over 500 million Twitter accounts, a billion million people on Facebook and the professional social networking site LinkedIn reached over 100 million members last year. Your people are out there.
Start talking to them.
Now this is the article where I show my true colours as a Social Media Heretic.
I’ve written a number of articles about following on Twitter and you have asked me how to, why to and mostly what to do. First off, please understand these are entirely my own opinions. I don’t run a complicated stats package and I don’t use studies or fancy algorithms to back up my insight. My Twitter advice comes from 20+ years working with people and establishing productive working relationships with them in the flesh and online. I do know what I’m doing. I was manhandling online information before Twitter and before Mark Zuckerberg had any friends.
What you get from me is straight talking.
If you have read any of my previous articles, you’ll know that my advice is primarily aimed at small and medium business enterprises. I want to help you develop and maintain an engaging, open and positive relationship with your clients. All my advice is based on my mantra (yep here we go again):
However, I’m not exclusive and any and all my advice can be taken on board by anyone. It’s good stuff!
I probably spend more time on Twitter than most because I want to get under its’ skin and find out how it works for those of you in the real world. It’s my job to sort it out Social Media for those of you who want to part-take but haven’t got the time or necessarily the inclination. I would like you to be able to maximize your opportunities and enable you to use your time online productively.
So back to being a Social Media Heretic.
For SMEs (and most of us) I sincerely believe that it’s not about big numbers but quality numbers. This is why I don’t adhere to the more is more plan of action. I don’t slavishly follow everyone who follows me. Honestly I don’t understand why some people do follow me. They obviously haven’t read any of my tweets, visited this blog or gone to my website. They usually leave before the week is out. Yes, confession time here. People leave me in droves! OK a minor trickle, but it happens.
I don’t care. (OK it’s very nice to have loads and loads of followers. I do enjoy having a fan club that may or may not listen to what I have to say. I’m human, I want to be liked!)
What I do care about more is the people I follow. And yes many followed me first and I liked what I saw and followed back. The others I discovered myself. I’m choosy not a ego manic.
“Oh, but you’re so mean because that’s not very nice”, I hear you cry. Not so. I’m sure the other 189, 999,301 plus accounts on Twitter will find their own fans (in some cases I wish they would just go away but…).
Come on! Who has the time?
Really is it important to be followed by everyone including the cat’s brother? Wouldn’t it be better to develop a solid core of interesting and engaged followers who actually know who you are? People and businesses you can talk to/sell to/rely on/are interested in? My answer is yes. Your most effective use of Twitter is as an integrated part of your marketing scheme. So use it to it’s best advantage to find your particular niche audience.
I say this because I feel that you must always keep in mind the “Social” aspect of Social Media and this require dialogue, interaction, exchange. You know – being social. And yes, to use Twitter really effectively you have to do this.
The formal lingo for developing a compatible/useful/involved following is called “Organic”. Because it’s a selective process, takes a lot of time and yes you have to wade through some decomposing natural products to get there (nice euphemism eh?).
In the long run (and do keep in mind that all Social Media is for the long run, it’s not an over night quick fix), developing your home grown organic followership will be much more rewarding than 1,500,000 followers who only need you to make their numbers look good.
It’s not just a popularity contest. Twitter is a business platform. Seriously.
Hope this helps clear up a few things. Any ideas, objections, insights……you know where I am.
profile, then you can treat yourself
We all know “times there are a changin” as the virtual world becomes an integral part of your business’s marketing strategy (not to mention your life).
But it’s really not that different from the pre-Internet days, apart from a remarkable change in format. Sometimes old fashioned, hackneyed, over used maxims are still completely appropriate.
1. “Nothing ventured, nothing gained”
Still the first step you have to take when setting up your business. This will never change, the plunge into the great unknown.
2. “As ye sow, so shall ye reap.”
Manners matter and professional etiquette is still the only acceptable type of behaviour in the online business world. You still have to show up on time, play nice and “please” and “thanks yous” never go amiss. Establishing a reputation as a credible business person who is fair and dependable, is probably even more important than ever, as the Internet enables people to reach farther and provides them with a much longer memory.
3. “Burn the candle at both ends.”
Get the rest and sleep you need. Just because the world has shrunk and everything is running 24/7, doesn’t mean you can or should even try to keep up. You won’t function properly without sleep and your colleagues and clients will be grateful if you stopped storming about and screwing up. Honestly it’s for you own good. Functioning and awake we can put up with you. Unreasonable, obstinate and irrational, well, hide the fire arms.
4. “It’s all fun and games until someone loses an eye.”
Backup backup backup – I know a lot (OK more than 10) people who have lost data because they didn’t backup. Family photos — gone. Essay you’ve been researching for weeks (OK hours) — gone. Reports, invoices, documents blah blah blah — gone. Hard-drives don’t cost much, aren’t complicated to use and if you haven’t got room for one then use the Cloud. (I could wax lyrically here about Dropbox but will resist)
5. “A Jack of all trades and a master of none.”
No one can do everything. It’s your primary responsibility to focus on the success of the product or service that your business provides and to get the help you need to ensure success in the areas where you have little or no talent. Marketing, social media, human resources, accounting whatever. There is no need to do it all and your business could suffer because of your reluctance to delegate.
6.“Take it with a grain of salt.”
If one person says you’re doing it wrong – ignore them. If ten people tell you in a week – do something about it!
7.“Go the extra mile.”
I was initially reluctant to do this as I thought 1. who’d listen and 2. if I give my advice for free who’d hire me!? Upon reflection (and with further experience), now I’m in complete agreement. Give advice for free. Even better – give good quality, well thought out, honest advice for free. You’ll develop an excellent reputation as a reliable source and people will want you to provide them with a service because you have shown yourself to have the required knowledge base, the skills and the savvy. They’ll want you because, frankly you’re good at it and they have better things to do.
8. “All work and no play, makes Jack a dull boy.”
Disconnect from the Internet for a day, and go out an play – Digital free days/holidays/weekends away/etc aren’t skiving. They’re an opportunity to get away and reflect on your accomplishments, assess your future and they give you the impetus to come back to the office with renewed vigour.
The Internet has brought with it different ways of doing business but always remember:
For business people Twitter represents a unique opportunity to communicate with others in a quick and engaging way. The core challenge to every Tweeter is to find a distinctive and engaging voice that will enable them to connect to their audience.
The key to effective tweeting is to give people something they will value using a variety of tweets. By being interesting/useful/insightful/attribute of choice, followers will be attracted. They’ll want to find out more about you, get to know what else you have to offer, or even chat just to you. All this activity will ultimately increase traffic to your website and increased awareness = more business. All in all, good tweeting is good for business.
So now you’re using Twitter but what to say? Are you new to Twitter or just suddenly become tongue tied?
Here are a few tips and suggestions on what to tweet to get you started or get you going:
1. Give your audience cool stuff. I’m sure you have come across a few wonders on your travels across the Internet. If you get a bit stuck now and then, a short trip to Stumbleupon is always refreshing. I’m never going to admit how many days I’ve lost wandering in that universe!
2. People on Twitter love to chat. If you can’t think of anything to say ask questions – see what they want to talk about
3. Retweet the stuff you receive that’s worth passing on. This is also seen as a compliment to the original tweeter and you’ll be known as a collaborator and as someone who shares the good bits. Retweeting what others have posted is a great way to build community.
4. Sometimes they’re worth a 1000 words, so show a photo or two. Your shop, your product, your great new haircut!
5. Be sure not to talk relentlessly about work and your stuff. Don’t be an ego maniac. Be human rather than a work drone and slightly go off piste. Be informal. On Twitter you can talk about what interests you, engage in comment on politics (be mild though remember this is a very public forum), discuss movies, sports …..whatever!
6. Do talk about yourself. What you are doing/going to do/have done. When you do talk about your stuff, make it useful/interesting/fun. If you work in a team or have employees include them (of course with their knowledge and consent). Let everyone know who is doing the 10 k run, who’s working on a new product, who is making the tea and coffee run this week.
7. Send useful links and point out things of interest in your field. Establish a reputation as an expert.
8. Send messages. Chat to other people. Stop with the monologue because people are on Twitter to talk and find out what’s going on. So tell them!
9. I’m sure you’re having a great time on Twitter but don’t forget about work completely. Broadcast your news! Definitely use Twitter to promote your website and your blog. When promoting a blog post or directing people to a website etc. give a hint what it’s about. It’s very helpful to give your followers an indication as to why you bothered to write or post something. Followers sometimes may need a nudge to go to your link.
10. If you’re stuck, ask for help. Twitter is GREAT for getting advice because people love to share what they know and what they think.
11. Really stuck for something to say? Occasionally you can be profound or fun. Send out an inspired quote or just a whimsical picture. Remember what all work and no play did to Jack.
Goa, India – November 2009
I hope these few suggestions will help you get started or get you out of that rut. If you have any tips I haven’t mentioned, I’d love to hear from you.
There are an overwhelming 500 million plus accounts on Twitter (not quite as scary as it sounds, as there is some debate on how many are active), but how do you choose who to follow? If you’re not selective you can find yourself wading through a lot of dross to get to the good stuff (and sadly there is a lot of dross). Finding the right crowd is worth it because the better the quality and relevance of who you follow, the more value you will get out any time you spend on Twitter.
I know there are dozens of applications on offer that will find you the 1,000,000 people you must follow and in return they offer the 2,000,000 who will follow and hang on your every word. That is absolutely not where I am at.
I’m not into pointless extravagant numbers that you can’t really manage properly. I much prefer quality. Big brands and big celebrities may have huge numbers but as a SME, I feel it’s critical to know and understand the people you choose to follow. You can and should use Twitter to promote and develop your product/service so you can increase your value to your existing clients and of course entice new clients; making them aware of your unique business propositions.
Collecting or choosing followers is also a time issue. Especially for the small business as you always have to keep in mind why you are spending your valuable time online. Can you really develop a responsive relationship with 1,000,000 followers if you aren’t the size of Coca Cola with a marketing budget the size of the GDP of a developing nation? It’s probably not feasible. Also, really ask yourself do you want to!
If you manage a SME, then Social Media is an essential part of your marketing and communications strategy but not your core business. so quality will trump quantity every time. Follow people you are genuinely interested in, who you like and who will be of use to you. Then remember to involve the people you follow, and not neglect them. Twitter is a great opportunity for you to create a vibrant, closely-knit community in your particular niche.
If you’re like me and want to develop better business relationships then you want to engage and be engaged by Twitter. So be choosy! To help you get started here are a few of my finely tuned selection habits:
1. A really easy idea – I already connect to you in the ether by LinkedIn, Facebook, MySpace (they’re still around and rumours of a comeback!), Email, Blog etc etc. If we’re already speaking in another part of the Internet, why not talk on Twitter too?
2. I met you live and in person and:
– I liked you, or
– I feel at some point we could make beautiful music together
i.e. do business.
3. You followed me on Twitter so I checked you out and you appear to be real (not a nasty bot) and have something worthwhile to say – at least occasionally. On Twitter I don’t expect every tweet to be oozing with profound insight, there is a lot of scope for frivolity. But please do come prepared to partake in the “conversation”
4. I actually used Twitter’s homegrown tool to find people I am am interested in. Too easy that one eh?
5. I followed your blog or landed on your website – liked what I saw, so decided to follow you on Twitter.
6. My friends are noted for their impeccable taste so I (mostly) trust their recommendations. As my Twitter friends/followers are also carefully selected and scrutinized, I’ll also follow Tweeters who they think are the “bee’s knees”.
7. You’re Stephen Fry. Sorry, I just can’t help myself!
8. I came across your name somewhere in the physical world i.e. not on the Internet. I believe this does happen occasionally 🙂 In order to keep in touch with “reality”, I unplug every once in a while and have been know to read an actual newspaper!
9. Serendipity. Don’t remember how we found each other but obviously it’s meant to be. Not the greatest tip ever but true.
10. You’re the famous/legendary/earth-bound authority/expert on a subject I’m very interested in. You’re “The One”. I want to pick your brain and learn from you.
11. You’re a client and I taught you everything you know so now I have to keep an eye on you!
However, overall caveat – just because I start to follow you doesn’t mean I’ll stay. To keep my attention – keep it interesting and keep it real and I’m there for the long haul. Start committing Twitter misdemeanors and I’ll be off.
I’m a bit of a organising freak (um enthusiast) so do a radical review of my Twitter list every so often. Hey people change even online and so do I. A clear out is essential so you can get the most out of your world online.
I hope these tips help and if you have any other tips, please share.