Most of us are pretty clear about the importance of design when brand building, but we are often less sure about which words to choose to bring our brands to life.
But every time you put pen to paper you either engage or disengage your customers. Words matter and brands that tell their stories as well as showing them win hands down. Successful brands like Apple and Volkswagen match the words to the visuals to create a strong voice.
Twitter, instant messaging, texts, online chat — they’re all proof of the power of words. How many times have we heard about people forming long distance relationships online, with only words at their disposal?
And think of how much information we find on the web before purchasing just about anything nowadays. Reviews, descriptions, listings and websites all contribute to our decisions to buy.
Finally, assess your writing capabilities honestly and if writing isn’t your thing, get help. You can keep costs down by doing as much groundwork as possible, putting all the content together in one document. Most copywriters charge by the hour.
I recently went to the Social Customer Service Summit run by Our Social Times. The event was attended by major brands and technology providers in the social customer service space and looked at all aspects of social customer service in relation to larger organisations.
But if you are a small business or an entrepreneur is this relevant to you?
Let’s assume you have a social media strategy in place. No doubt you have read plenty of hints and tips about social media etiquette; how Facebook and Twitter differ from LinkedIn; how Pinterest, Instagram and Vine will transform your business; and you are up to speed with what you need put on YouTube.
But you may still be wondering if social customer service really is relevant to you and your business. Here are some facts to consider:
So what needs to be done to make social customer service in your business a reality?
Well, it depends on who your customers are and how they behave. As a small business, the chances are you know exactly who they are, whether they are active on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn and you also know how they like to interact with you. Some will prefer email, others will prefer to use the phone or they may — lucky them — get the chance to talk to you face-to-face.
As a small business you can control exactly what sort of customer experience your employees give your customers, and the fact that you treat your customers in such a personalised way is something they value as much as you.
The challenge comes when your business starts to grow. At present you probably use Twitter and Facebook to get the message out and hope that people hear what you have to say. The question of how to deal with customers who complain on Facebook or Twitter probably isn’t front of mind at the moment.
But as your business grows it has to be.
So think ahead to avoid disappointment and consider the following:
Marc Duke is a marketing consultant.
Finding your content on the internet is almost as difficult as looking for a specific star in the Milky Way. It would take you over 340 years to peruse the 2.15 billion actively indexed web pages out there — even if you just spent five seconds on each one.
In short, people aren’t going to simply stumble upon your content. Even though you’ve created an interesting, relevant, high-quality article, you’re still going to have to do some legwork to make the most of it.
Continuing to market and track your content helps deliver reach, targeted delivery and increased credibility. Here are some free ways to increase your content’s exposure after publication.
If you’re on a budget, there are still lots of ways to get your content in front of relevant audiences — you just need to tap into your networks.
Using your article as a resource in LinkedIn Groups can be effective for sharing your expertise without seeming too promotional. Find like-minded groups and make a habit of joining their discussions before you share your own content. Likewise, don’t overshare and keep it professional.
Adding your most recently published article to your email signature functions as an instant credibility badge. I almost always follow a link like this if I want to know more about someone who has emailed me. It demonstrates thought leadership in your industry and it gets your message in front of the people you’re trying to reach.
This is a good place to extend the conversation about a published article without duplicating content. Can you follow up on your original blog? What did you learn from the comments on your article? Are there any comments you’d like to respond to? Be sure to include a link to the original article.
In addition to getting your content maximum exposure, it’s important to follow the data and use metrics to drive your decisions. With Google Analytics or a similar platform, you can track your leads and conversions by source. If one source stands above the rest, you know you’re effectively reaching your audience, either with your content or the publication.
Tweak your content marketing strategy by immersing yourself in the metrics and making positive changes. Set a goal for your content, whether it’s increasing visits to your site, starting more conversations with prospects or converting more leads that find your site through your content.
Content marketing isn’t a vanity exercise. If you’ve ever done it, you know it takes time, effort and strategy. Don’t make the mistake of assuming your content’s journey ends once it has been published. You’ll be missing out on an opportunity to keep your content working for you.
Mark Hodges is a brand strategist at Influence & Co.
Why do they call it social media? It is anything but social. It is antisocial.
What social media does can be really damaging to a business. Under the mistaken idea that they are “doing business”, business owners and sales/marketing people get preoccupied with social media and replace the basic, traditional forms of sales and marketing with counting clicks, likes and followers.
The bare facts are that doing business is about understanding who your customers are, what their problems are and engaging with them so that they buy from you when they are ready.
Too many people confuse talking business with doing business. They become social media-obsessed and confuse their social media interactions with their original purpose. In effect, they become busy fools.
Most businesses spend:
This is all so wrong. So upside-down...
You need to turn this pyramid on its head and spend:
Obviously, social media done well is another matter.
Robert Craven runs The Directors’ Centre, helping businesses to grow and advising on how to work smarter. He is a keynote speaker and best-selling author of Kick-Start Your Business and Grow Your Service Firm.
I read the 2014 Lloyds Bank Business Digital Index with interest. Its findings broadly corroborate our own research conducted at the London Business Show into SMEs’ attitudes to online marketing — although the Browser Media survey found that most small firms do in fact have websites, compared to the 50% in the Lloyds study.
However, both reports found that SMEs generally have a laissez-faire attitude to digital marketing. Many small businesses build their website and sit back and wait for clients to arrive, instead of actively promoting themselves online.
It’s not that SMEs think their website is working for them — many admit to being unhappy with their Google rankings and online presence — but they aren’t investing in marketing to improve the situation.
I initially thought this was a financial issue and still believe that’s a big part of the problem. Any small business will tell you they have to cut their cloth according to their means and can’t invest in everything on their wish list.
However, I also think there may be a certain “Britishness” behind these attitudes as well. Many small businesses start up because the owner has already worked in a particular field or has a particular personal interest. Either way, the business tends to focus on a small group of prospects at first; and, let’s face it, promoting yourself is just not a very British thing to do.
Our research also found that those companies that were using an external agency for digital marketing were happier with the results than those who were undertaking this in-house. This may be partly because the external agencies have more expertise but it is also much easier to market someone else than market yourself.
We also looked at SMEs’ understanding of various marketing disciplines: most had heard of social media marketing and email marketing but few were aware of content or inbound marketing (although more were familiar with the related field of SEO).
In fact, small businesses can really make an impact with content and inbound marketing as they’ve usually got a lot of niche expertise. Building up a loyal customer base by providing useful content is an excellent way to create a long-term business.
If you’re a small business, don’t make the mistake that other SMEs may be making of sitting back and admiring your shiny new website — use content as an online megaphone and spread the word about your business to the digital universe. If recent survey findings are anything to go by, you’ll already be one step ahead of the competition.
Ali Cort is the PR director at digital marketing agency, Browser Media.
One of the most frequently asked questions I hear during my “What’s the point?” series of social media talks is: “How do you find the time to do all this?”
My initial answer is, I’m abnormal. Don’t expect to do what I do — I’m not an average social media user.
My daily routine involves switching off my alarm and checking Facebook, Sky News, LinkedIn and Twitter on my smartphone. I have the same routine before I go to sleep. A couple of times a week, I’ll also look at Google+ and Pinterest. I might also look at Instagram at weekends.
I check in several times during the day — depending on where I am and what I’m doing — usually mid-morning and just after lunch, as my newsfeeds contain the most new content at these times.
But if I was a “normal” social media user, what would I recommend?
You need a plan. You need to know what you want to achieve and identify the best tools to enable you to achieve it. It’s far better to use two or three tools really well than to attempt them all.
First, spend time planning your content. Using a calendar to plan evergreen content frees you up to focus on the real-time stuff.
If you spend time planning, you can maintain an active and effective social media presence in just ten minutes a day.
This gives you time to check your newsfeed or timeline, share timely content, and engage with connections or followers — say thanks, like or add a comment.
Social media needs to become a habit, just as email use became a habit 10+ years ago. Technology is here to make our lives easier. It’s not fundamentally changing what we do — just how we do it.
It takes just 21 days to form a habit. In three weeks, social networking can become a part of your daily life.
Research suggests the following posting frequencies work best:
Facebook: three to four updates each week
Twitter: four to five times a day
Google+: two to three times a day
LinkedIn: two to three status updates each week
Once or twice a week you should check out who has viewed your profile on LinkedIn and participate in a group discussion. Regular participation will ensure you soon have a manageable habit to acquire news and information, and to engage in meaningful conversations.
If your timelines are filled with information that’s not of value, you need to reset your filters. Don’t be afraid to “unlike” and “unfollow”. You can use Twitter lists to organise the accounts you follow into manageable groups, then select which lists you view and when. Your LinkedIn home page allows you to customise the updates you see regularly.
Start forming your social media habit today — the chances are you’ll wonder how you managed without it.