I've recently started twittering, for no reason other than, well, to partake in something that has grabbed millions of people around the globe. As an alleged marketing entrepreneur, I was beginning to feel distinctly uncomfortable whenever the subject of Twitter came up, and I knew that I wasn't part of the crowd! That said, I didn't go into it with any strategic plan or any great expectations and my initial thoughts were to use it as an online diary. As a business author, I reckoned it would be a useful discipline to see if I could write mini stories within the 140 characters limit, with no txt talk! So, having used Twitter religiously for six weeks, documenting my daily antics and providing a blow by blow account of my latest Amazon book rank, what are my thoughts so far? Firstly, I'm fascinated by the sheer randomness of Twitter. I’m not doing anything to gain followers, other than attempting to write interesting tweets. Well, they seem interesting to me, because after all, I am the subject matter! But boy have I attracted some unusual followers. I've had three women of obvious shady character (a euphemism for porno queens) that I suspect follow anybody with a pulse and a heartbeat in the hope they’ll get one or two people interested in following them. Then I've had the people that are obviously doing keyword searches on Twitter, and you tweet on their chosen subject and they either follow you for your next two tweets before summarily despatching you or they stick around because you start following them. I've ‘met’ some fascinating people and I've also got a handful of clients, following me, which means that I have to think about what I write. And obviously, there are the followers that I don't know. At the moment I've got a very good magazine and a television company following me. My strategy? To play it cool. I've not set the world alight with a huge following, but then I'm not doing anything to generate one and I'm not Stephen Fry! So how much enjoyment do I get from twittering? If you look at my postings, you’ll see that I like the sound of my online voice. I’ve gone back to my teenage years when I kept a diary, except now my diary is there for the world to see, (minus the drunken antics!). I've definitely increased my book sales on Amazon through Twitter and I've had direct messages from some interesting people. I suspect that if I really made the effort I could crank up my followers. But, I've made a conscious decision not to do this. I'm going for the slow scenic route. Let's see where it takes me.
As with many things there is often a solution and increasingly that solution is web based and I don't just mean your simple search engine query input and pages upon pages of answers solutions. Clever computer types have created a myriad of tools for web analytics and monitoring. Some tools offer fantastic graphical representations that will illustrate where you have come from and where you ought to be going. Having demonstrated the web application of Tweetdeck in my previous post as a means of monitoring your small business online in the real time stream of consciousness that is Twitter, this post will demonstrate to you just how you can analyse your company blog-where it has come from and where it ought to go. Whatever purpose your blog serves, it is expected that posts will be categorised and then subcategorised by 'Tags.' Not only will tags organise content for you, search engines love nothing more than to feast on tagged content. Tagging makes life easier for you, search engines and your reader. Now here comes the web solution to analysing your blog content. Assuming your blog has an RSS feed-many blogging platforms throw this nugget in for you- copy and paste the feed URL into the appropriate field on Wordle, sit back and watch it make a pretty diagram for you. Wordle, in their own words, ‘…is a toy for generating “word clouds” from text that you provide. The clouds give greater prominence to words that appear more frequently in the source text.’ Now you could compare your Wordle diagram with your blog’s ‘Tag Cloud,’ should you have one or just take the results at face value. What does it tell you? Does the diagram match up to your perceptions of what you think you blog about and in turn demonstrate you are writing on topic and selecting the most appropriate tags for your wonderful content? Or does it highlight a need to tweak your content? It could be that it encourages you to write more broadly or to focus on one particular topic in order to readdress the balance or to fine tune your niche. You will see that I have produced the Wordle diagram for this here blog, we can see that ‘Marketing,’ ‘Business’ and ‘Online’ feature prominently, as you would hope for a blog which shares the latest thoughts on marketing to small businesses in an ever increasing online world. It could be suggested that the Marketing Donut blog would do well to drive more content along the lines of the key topics which are displayed on the Marketing Donut site itself in order to increase the depth of coverage in the field of Marketing. Give it a go and see if it gives you an illustrated guide to being on topic or not. Where have you come from and where do you want your blog to go?
Is this a blog from a professional marketer, or a thinly disguised rant from a miffed customer? I don't know, but after a visit to my local coffee shop this morning, I felt compelled to share a few thoughts on the subject of... smiling.
I've read no end of marketing books over the years and always taken some great advice from each one, in addition to some cracking statements that I use when training small businesses in the art of marketing on a shoestring. Most recently, the line: "the process is as important as the outcome" about the delivery of a product or service, really stuck out. And this morning, it was in at the front of my mind when being served by the owner of the coffee shop. She did the right things, albeit in an efficient manner that was bordering on brusque. However, she didn't make eye contact with me and she failed to smile even though I gave her a big beam. What made it worse was that she became animated and smiling when talking to her colleague.
It got me thinking that in our zeal to find the big marketing miracle at the end of the rainbow, we can often overlook the fact that the smallest things make the biggest difference. It's not simply what we actually deliver - whether we sell cakes and coffee or build websites, it is how we actually deliver and whether we make our customers feel fabulous. In my experience, many small businesses can get caught up in searching high and low for their unique selling point when in fact what makes them unique in a sea of "me too" products and services is how they interact with their customers.
So, a warm and genuine smile can go a long way, especially if we deliver products and services face to face. But, if we are not within an arm's-length of our customers, the words we use to describe what we deliver should communicate passion, warmth and enthusiasm. I believe that relevance, simplicity and humanity will define the successful brands of the future and not just the clever use of technology. Now will someone put the kettle on!
I’ve spent the week at the Cannes Lions International Advertising Festival Like many delegates this year, I wasn’t there to party or pick up an award, but to learn about how marketing is evolving and how brands of all size need to adapt in today’s fast changing and fragile economy. An impressive list of media, agencies and brands were there to spread words of wisdom through more than 50 seminars, workshops and masterclasses. Here are my top line takeaways from Cannes 2009 – of importance not just to big brands, but all the millions of small businesses out there, too. Digital creativity: Without doubt the key theme running throughout the week was the rising importance of digital as the primary means of engaging consumers. There was general agreement that the recession had accelerated migration of spend to digital, as consumers seek value when making purchases. It seemed clear that traditional advertising is unlikely to return to the heady heights of 2007. This is partly because consumers can no longer be talked at, interrupted, annoyed or even tricked into watching adverts – including banner ads online and heavily-branded websites. Central to digital creativity is the need to think less in terms of linear campaign planning and more as an ongoing ‘on-demand’ marketing strategy, reacting to consumers’ conversations in real-time. Small businesses are some of the most prolific users of Twitter, suggesting that they may well be ahead of the curve on this trend. Brands as publishers: In his book, Here Comes Everybody, Clay Shirky claims that content is not king, but conversation is. Consumers are absolutely leading this trend through their own social media and networks, requiring brands to follow. There was a key message running through the week that brands must build useful content in order to be part of consumers’ conversations in their own habitats. iPhone applications have become highly successful for this very reason – they provide some form of utility to consumers’ daily lives. In such an environment, the brand is becoming a publisher. Video, audio, social tools like blogs or widgets, images and, of course, text are all key tools in the information era. Because production is cheap and accessible, small companies can use these tools as profitably as large businesses. Embracing the cloud: If content creation is on the rise, where will it all live? A number of speakers pointed to the ‘cloud’ - key areas on the web where content lives and consumers hang out. YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, FlickR – they are all cloud-based services, so the chances are your business is already in the cloud to some extent. But the rise of the ‘social web’ is making these platforms more and more important, not just as a place to share content but to communicate. Businesses of all sizes have a chance to participate in this cloud ecosystem. Arguably, smaller brands have a bigger chance of success since building a small following may be easier than the masses larger brands will need to reach. The future is undeniably going to be digital for brands across the board. As 2009 unfolds, budgets may continue to shrink, but in this digital landscape, the ‘long tail’ of businesses stand a greater chance of flourishing. There they have a much richer set of tools and opportunities to market their brands. Perhaps that is worth celebrating.
No one knows when it might happen again but one thing is certain, the first Twitter Conference hosted by Marketing Donut, under the #mydonut hashtag, was a fantastic event and great success on many levels. On Tuesday, 30 June at 0930 GMT the event kicked off with a flurry of activity. Overall it could be said that the conference was a piece of organised chaos where ideas were exchanged, views were shared and conversations were had. The event was organised with help from Twitter for business expert – Mark Shaw – who shares the Marketing Donut goal of helping small businesses get the best from their marketing activities. Early estimates made by expert Twitter analyser, Andrew Fielden, indicate that the conference saw over 1,800 tweets exchanged in the 90 minute marathon session. Andrew said: “Wow, it was manic wasn't it and just goes to show how popular something like that can be. Well done to you guys for the effort being put in.” The biggest result, in Twitter terms, was the 4th place positioning in the trending topics chart for a sustained period of time. The best part of the conference was the real reach that the event had and saw small business owners exchanging ideas, questions and views in one place with experts. As you can imagine, Marketing Donut site traffic was on the up and the overall reach of Twitter users who could have seen any one of the tweets was 67,562. The range of topics covered was vast and we hope that it was a gainful experience for all involved – as a trial event we did not know what might happen; but there is a definite working idea, which can be adapted for another time, in order to help small businesses maximise their marketing activity, and to get them connected with experts in one place for free! Thank you to everyone who took part. A selection of tweets by experts, small businesses and the Marketing Donut during the event:
yBCmels RT @simon_editor: Phew! Thanks for you question and comments, everyone. Good event! #mydonut// Solid effort! Tuesday 30th of June 2009 Signposter Great conference #mydonut people. Have a fantastic time. Now back to work ;-( Tuesday 30th of June 2009 MarkPocock Are you building your list on your web site? No, don't offer your damn newsletter.Offer something of value. #mydonut Tuesday 30th of June 2009 ThePodCompany RT @Firzzy: Do facebook pages really work? #mydonut Tuesday 30th of June 2009 MarketingDonut Today a twitter conference-tomorrow..some kind of Glastonbury for Twitter? #mydonut Tuesday 30th of June
Local press has been having a torrid time of it lately. It seems that scarcely a week goes by without reports of more problems for titles and groups within the medium. It's also a tough time for small businesses, which are seeing their profits squeezed by the downturn, while knowing full well that there has never been a more important time to shout louder than others in their field. Given these circumstances it might seem like a very frightening time to commit precious promotional budget to a struggling medium. But there are alternatives, and now is a great time to explore them. A service such as Signposter.com, an online service helping UK businesses buy and manage outdoor advertising, offers a viable, effective, low-cost and risk-free way to build up promotional collateral free from any potential surrounding editorial negativity. There is no denying that local press has a role to play in the promotional mix for small businesses. It's a proven way of reaching consumers in a local area. But now is surely the time for local businesses to do some research and be more adventurous, and gain stand-out by doing so. Outdoor advertising is now within the reach of small business managers.