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Balancing the personal and professional on Twitter

April 05, 2011 by Bryony Thomas

I regularly give talks for entrepreneurial businesses on how to make their marketing pay. Top of my list for most is to try social media as part of their marketing toolkit. And within that, I almost always recommend Twitter.

Particularly if the business in question is one where authentic one-to-one relationships count (which is most).

Despite being on public display, Twitter is a remarkably intimate medium — in as much as people seem willing to share all sorts of personal information. Now, I don’t mean those girls who seem intent on sharing everything… that’s what the block button is for. I mean business people being willing to share that they’re having a bad day, or that their children are ill or that they’re not in the best mood, or whatever. And, vice versa, people share great news from a child winning a painting competition, to their love of the view from their window, to closing a fab new business deal. Which is why it is such a great tool for building genuine relationships with real people.

But, there’s a balance to strike. Now, this isn’t an exact science, but as a rule of thumb, if you’re using Twitter as a business tool, I suggest a mix of about 80 per cent professional and 20 per cent personal. And, of the professional tweets, I’d make at least half of that sharing content that is not your own. Of the personal, remember your audience.

I have a few rules to keep it comfortable:

  • Be yourself. Don’t try to effect an image or give an impression of someone you’d like to be, be yourself. Talk honestly about your business, your goals, and what’s important to you. It’s much easier to maintain being yourself than to put yourself under pressure to maintain some sort of character you’ve created.
  • Don’t Tweet when drunk or angry! I know it’s tempting with smart phones to always be online, but there really are times when it’s best to keep yourself to yourself.
  • Would you say it at a networking event? I think of Twitter as a bit like a professional networking event. So, I might talk about the dresses on Strictly, who won X Factor, or the weather… I might even talk about something interesting (!) But, I personally tend to steer clear of religious beliefs, deeply political conversations, or flirtation.
  • Would you be happy for your most important client to see it? If you Tweet it, it’s out there. If you wouldn’t feel comfortable for your most important client to see it, don’t say it.

So, should you show a bit of personality? Yes, definitely. People like talking to real people. Should you use it as a confessional or dating service? No, not if you’re using it as a business tool.


Bryony Thomas is an expert contributor to Marketing Donut and is Chief Clear Thinker at Clear Thought Consulting.

The truth is, nobody cares about your blog...

April 04, 2011 by Chris Street

…well, that’s what you’d believe if you listened to the traditional marketers, online sceptics, and old-school business brains.

But – actually – there is a grain of truth in the shocking statement. Nobody cares about your blog.

Unless you give them one, two, or all of the following things:

* Useful information, such as ‘How To’ guides

* Proven case studies highlighting a return of some kind

* Open, engaged topical discussion without a hard sell

* Real-life experience and expertise in your niche for their benefit

* Passion and knowledge, packaged up in readable chunks

Or, alternatively, are you banging out a flog blog? Sell sell sell? Broadcasting, not listening?

If so, then of course nobody cares about your blog – after all, how are you really, truly, genuinely helping the reader?

Think give give give, and see what comes back – in time.

This may seem like obvious stuff, but there are a surprising number of flog blogs out there, and when you consider that 70% of all newly-launched blogs fail/quit/end within their first 12 months, you’ll see the importance of a giving ethos to ensure that your audience cares about your blog.

And, rather than being a blog death statistic, wouldn’t you rather care about your audience? If you care for them, they’ll take care of you. And that’s one guarantee careful blogging can give you.

One of the main things to remember is to forget yourself.

Posted in Online marketing | Tagged Blogging | 4 comments

Three affiliate marketing trends for SMEs in 2011

March 31, 2011 by Liane Dietrich

The challenging economic climate of 2011 has created an opportunity for SMEs to capture business from their larger competitors. Entrepreneurs and business owners in all sectors are taking advantage of the situation with hard-hitting marketing and direct communication tactics to make sure they are front of mind with their target audiences.

For SMEs to achieve cut through and generate buzz around their businesses, they need tools that are as flexible and fast-moving as they are. As a result, one of the most popular tactics emerging in the sector is affiliate marketing. Its ease of use and accountability make return on investment transparent and straightforward to track, and the range of tools and publishers available mean that campaigns can be highly targeted.

These are my top three marketing trends to watch for 2011:

  1. Mobile linking: there is now a wide range of m-commerce tracking technologies available to help advertisers and publishers reach and accurately measure the buying behaviour of mobile consumers. With mobile take-up still increasing and handsets becoming more sophisticated by the day, mobile will be a key play for SMEs throughout 2011, as they expand their current digital marketing campaigns to take advantage of the new consumer content consumption habits.
  2. Dynamic-rich media: the future is feature-rich and consumers of every shape and size are more likely to respond to messages and advertising that is eye-catching and engaging. As a result, we’ll start to see increasing use of HTML5, Flash and Javascript technologies as well as dedicated widgets to encourage a higher level of interaction with the end-consumer.
  3. RSS: RSS feeds will start to be more widely used to share information about particular products and services with target customers. Not only does this help to drive higher conversion rates, it also helps make marketing more targeted and relevant which will in turn drive increased traffic to a site and improve sales.

There’s a huge opportunity for SMEs in the current market — and digital tools are an ideal way to help them punch above their weight in the marketplace of 2011.


Liane Dietrich is the managing director of LinkShare UK.


Want to know more? Check out our guide to affiliate marketing.

Targeting your Royal Wedding merchandise

March 30, 2011 by Rachel Miller

Lots of small firms are getting in on the act when it comes to the Royal Wedding. From bunting to condoms and sick bags, it seems there are no limits to the products that can be given a royal Wedding twist. And that includes not-the-Royal Wedding memorabilia too.

But how much appetite is there for Royal Wedding merchandise? Well, it may all depend where you live, it seems. Republic, the campaign for an elected head of state, has conducted an audit looking at how many street parties are being planned in the UK.

The results make interesting reading for anyone looking to sell Royal Wedding merchandise. The broad trend is that southern areas are more likely to be hanging out the bunting while huge swathes of the north are showing little interest.

Kent is the council with the highest number of applications (54). Other places that are getting into the Royal Wedding spirit are: Cambridgeshire, Milton Keynes, South Gloucestershire, Bromley and Scarborough.

But altogether, a third of local authorities have had no applications from residents at all.

There’s a deafening silence in Middlesbrough, Bradford and Hull where not a single person has applied for permission to close a street and celebrate the nuptials of Prince William and Kate Middleton.

Even the residents of the Scilly Isles, many of them tenants of the Duchy of Cornwall, have no plans to put on a street party. And while David and Samantha Cameron are planning a bit of a do in Downing Street, elsewhere in London, no licences have been requested in Haringey and the City of London and there is only one application in Islington.

It must be noted that, with two weeks to go, there may well be a late flurry of applications.

All the same, this is certainly good market intelligence for anyone trying to sell Royal Wedding merchandise. My advice would be to target your marketing and distribution in the places where it is likely to be best received.

Rachel Miller, editor, Marketing Donut.

Read more about how the Royal Wedding could be good for your business.

What does Google's Panda update mean for your business?

March 28, 2011 by Zabisco Digital

Google is in the process of rolling out its Panda Update, an algorithm change that is set to reduce the value of content farm links. Across the web, you’ll see blogs about why this might be, the changes that will occur in the algorithm and numerous stats and figures documenting the affect the change has already had in the US.

But what do the changes mean to you and me — and, more importantly, to our businesses?

Managing the farm

I’d like to start, as all good explanations should, at the beginning. You’ll no doubt be hearing a lot about “content farms” — essentially, these are websites which seek to gain traffic by seeding content which ranks highly for long tail keywords and search phrases. They typically use advertising as their revenue stream and therefore tend to feature a lot of adverts and not much real substance.

There has long been criticism of Google for the apparent lack of policing over these sites, which essentially “pollute” SERPs (search engine results pages) with poor quality content. The Panda Update intends to reduce the value of these pages, thus pushing them down the rankings and providing better search results for Google’s users.

Great news, wouldn’t you agree? Removing bad content and allowing for good quality content to rank higher — happy days!

And you know your website has good quality content, so you can only benefit – right?

Well, not exactly. Even though you’re probably pretty sure that your content is of a high quality, it’s not just the content farms that will suffer from the changes – nor will they suffer entirely.

Here’s what the algorithm change will mean for you and your business:

1. All pages need to be high quality content

The higher the proportion of high quality pages on your site, the better you will rank. So it’s really important that every page of your site is of the highest standard. That means redirecting, or removing entirely, those poor quality pages and replacing them with well-written, useful content that appeals to your end user.

2. Social validation will be more important than ever

Social validation is the trust we have in content or a brand based on what our friends and networks tell us. Google will be looking at how your content is shared and “liked” to ascertain whether or not people thought it worthy of recommending to their friends. You can help this by making social sharing easier (add social share buttons to your site) and by providing useful content that people will want to pass on to their networks.

3. Article marketing will get creative

The Panda Update means the common practice of seeding content through “content farms” will be devalued and sending out the same press release or article across the web will be pointless. Instead, you and your marketing team will need to seek relationships with influential bloggers, guest blog on relevant sites and generally ensure that every activity you do around link-building provides real benefit to your end user.

So what is “quality content”?

For Google, this will most likely be defined by the following attributes:

  • Good click through rates – after all, if people click it, it must be useful, right?
  • No ads above the fold – you may have noticed that a lot of sites which are based on advertising will advertise to you before you even start scrolling. That just tells Google that they’re only after your traffic for advertising purposes.
  • User engagement – as I mentioned, this will be about social sharing and external links to your pages. So make it sharable!

So do keep an eye on your Analytics — and don’t be afraid to cut the pages that just aren’t performing well.


Laura Hampton is a copywriter and online marketer at Zabisco, a digital agency in Nottingham


Find out more in our section on SEO — packed with useful information and advice.

What makes a powerful brand so powerful?

March 24, 2011 by Fiona Humberstone

I often talk about powerful brands, and in fact the eagle-eyed amongst you will notice that I run branding workshops on the very subject. But what exactly is a powerful brand? And how do you get one?

Well, powerful brands are certainly about more than the way your logo looks or how pretty your website is (although they do play a role in the overall story). Powerful brands attract, engage and entice the right sorts of clients. They help you win and retain more profitable business, differentiate you from your competitors and generally make growing your business a lot easier.

Let’s start by looking at what makes a powerful brand:

Powerful brands are focused. They know exactly what they’re best at, who their most profitable clients are and what those clients value about what they do.

Powerful brands know what they want to be known for. And it’s that focus that lies at the heart of everything they do. They know what their core values are, they make sure they can deliver what they promise and they communicate that with a flourish.

Powerful brands have a point of difference. Something that makes them stand out from the competition. Something that adds value to their clients. Something that means they don’t need to compete on price.

Powerful brands communicate with a flourish. They take themselves and their image seriously. They invest in a look that communicates their core values, entices and engages their ideal clients and seduces them into buying.

Powerful brands deliver what they promise. They make doing business with them a pleasure. They delight their clients and those delighted clients refer more people like them.

Everyone that works for a powerful brand knows and buys into the brand. They’re proud of the business and they make it their business to deliver what they promise, delight their clients and reinforce the brand image.

You can see that a nice logo is only part of the story. There’s a lot more to a powerful brand than just the “look and feel”.

Fiona Humberstone is an expert contributor to Marketing Donut and runs her own creative consultancy.

Still need to know more about branding? Read I'm a small business - why do I need a brand? And check out our guide to building a brand.

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