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Protecting your digital brand on Twitter

November 11, 2010 by Howard Scott

A digital brand is the collective impression of all that is online about a person or a business, including your own, and it is important in establishing and building customer trust and loyalty. Increasingly, businesses are using popular social networking sites such as Twitter to encompass their digital brand.

Unfortunately, many businesses rush to set up Twitter accounts without recognising that a digital brand communicates your quality, professionalism and standing, and that everything posted on Twitter (or online elsewhere) will contribute to your brand.

Furthermore, companies are letting their employees, who may be untrained and unaware of brand values, manage these accounts on a day-to-day basis. As a business, you should be aware of this, and make an effort to protect yourself on Twitter.

Just one misplaced Tweet by an employee could have a negative impact on your company. Earlier this year Vodafone was forced to issue an apology to thousands of followers on Twitter after one of its customer service staff broadcast an obscene message. Despite Vodafone deleting the message from its Twitterfeed, users of the service saved a copy of the Tweet and sent it across the internet.

The episode damaged Vodafone’s digital brand, and the company was forced to apologise to hundreds of individual followers.

The Vodafone case highlights the importance of choosing carefully which employees manage your businesses Twitter account. Those entrusted with the responsibility should be well aware of the tone, language and brand values you wish the business to express through its Tweets.

It’s not just existing employees that can bring damage to your business’s digital brand through Twitter misuse. Individuals associated with your company in any way, such as ex-employees, can bring harm through disparaging remarks made on their personal Twitter accounts.

So what can you do to protect your brand against Twitter?

  1. You can start protecting yourself by setting up a Twitter account and placing your business in control. This discourages competitors from registering fake accounts with the intention of damaging your digital brand.
  2. Put a social media plan in place. This outlines a strategy for social media use. A clear policy also establishes boundaries for your employees tweeting under official business (and personal) accounts, and makes clear what is acceptable and what is not.
  3. People increasingly use Twitter to talk about their opinions towards a company or service, including yours. There is nothing your business can do to stop this, so you should look to protect yourself by using Twitter to monitor conversations about your brand, engage with customers and build positive relationships.
  4. It may not be possible to change everything posted on Twitter, but you can protect your digital brand against naysayers by counteracting negative information with lots of positive content. Let the world know how effective your business is by highlighting and re-tweeting positive mentions from your customers.
  5. Even if your business doesn’t have an official Twitter account, it’s very likely people will still be tweeting about you and building your digital brand in your absence. It’s much better for the reputation and standing of your brand, if you can control this process.

Don’t shy away from Twitter, embrace it, but have a solid strategy in place. Make sure your business is proactive, and you can deliberately build a positive digital brand that is protected against Twitter, and which extends your ability to achieve awareness and create lasting customer loyalty.

 

Howard Scott is digital marketing director at agency, Sequence Digital.

You were the most expensive... but we'll go with you anyway

November 08, 2010 by Fiona Humberstone

How often do your clients say that to you? In a competitive marketplace, it’s so tempting to feel like you need to compete on price. After all, if you’re the cheapest, clients will flock to you won’t they?

Take a look at your marketing literature: your website, your latest leaflets or flyers. What’s the main message? I met with a prospective client recently and the message that was coming across loud and clear was “we’re cheap”. This lady runs a successful business, her team work hard and they’re making a profit. But I can’t help thinking that they could be making an easier profit, attracting easier clients and making a larger profit if they just thought about repositioning themselves.

Most businesses have a Unique Selling Point (USP) that extends beyond how much they charge. The trouble is, they rarely communicate that USP effectively. The downside to this? You’ll end up attracting customers who only want to work with you because you’re cheap. They won’t value what you do, they probably won’t want to spend what you want to charge, and they’ll just recommend more people like them. It’s a vicious circle.

Moving your marketing away from being “the cheapest” takes a bit of bravery. Putting your prices up takes even more courage. But trust me, if you can do it effectively you’ll start attracting the sort of clients who really value what you do, and they are the people who will be with you for the long term.

If you run a service-based business you’ll also buy yourself enough time to do the quality of work you really want to be doing. And if you can communicate the benefits of the value you’re offering effectively, you’ll finally hear those magic words: “you were the most expensive, but we want to work with you anyway.”

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

 

Two important factors that influence Google local search results

November 01, 2010 by Daniel Offer

One of the first points to consider, when thinking about creating a business website, is the locality of your target audience. Are you aiming to attract customers from other countries, or are you concentrating solely on the country where your business is located?

There is a very good reason for asking this question and it is something that very few people consider when they develop a website. The domain extension you select and the actual physical location of a web hosting company’s servers can affect whether or not your website will appear in Google’s local search results.

Many small businesses only wish to serve a specific location within a country itself, say a particular town or district. For these businesses, local search can be very influential. Google is placing great importance on local search and it is important to a small business for their website appear within these results. But for this to occur, their website should have the correct domain extension and be hosted on servers that are geographically relevant to their target area.

When deciding if a website is relevant to local search results for a particular location, Google will examine two essential factors.

Has the website got the correct domain extension for that location?

Is the website hosted on servers local to the specific area?

Let’s take a closer look at these two factors:

Domain Extensions

Most web design companies and SEO specialists always insist that a business opts for a .com extension. Search engines do favor this extension in general but not when it comes to local search results. The only exemption here is local searches in the Unites States. In the US, Google automatically defers to .com.

The reason Google considers a website with a country-specific extension more relevant to local search is they assume (with good reason) that the site will likely contain content that is more relevant to search users from the same country. It is that simple.

Web Hosting Server Location

The second important factor is the location of the server a website is hosted on. This is often overlooked by many web designers and SEO companies. It is not always prudent to go for the cheapest reliable web hosting company, without knowing the location of their servers.

This applies to all countries. Many of the popular web hosts have servers that are located in eastern European countries — where property, labour and utilities are cheaper. It is important to do some research before choosing a web host and if you cannot find the information on their site, phone or send them an email. Ask where their servers are located and if they are unresponsive, or dodge the question, the servers are probably not located locally.

There will be perfectly reliable web hosting companies with local servers and the difference in price between these and those with non-local servers will often be negligible. Google does rank server location when they provide local search results, so this is an important choice if you are looking to appear in these results.

There is another factor to consider for any small business that targets a specific local community. Servers located in the same locality as a particular location-based search query can also influence a website’s position in the local search listings.

As with domain extensions, Google presumes the website hosted in the same locality will contain the most relevant content for that area. This is not only country-specific; it can also be area-specific, so bear this in mind when choosing a web-hosting provider.

Google claims that one in five search queries is now a location-based search. At present Google is the prominent search engine and the above two factors do influence how a website is ranked in the local search results. Keep these factors in mind and give your website a local search advantage.

 

Daniel Offer is a partner in the Facebook chat programme Chit Chat for Facebook. 

Next Generation approaches to persuade, engage and stand apart

October 27, 2010 by Sally Danbury

Phone and email for new business generation are still at the heart of all new business marketing programmes when reaching out to an audience; however social media is playing a growing part in these strategies.

Neilson research reveals that social networks are now more popular than email. And yourBusinessChannel highlights this well in their online video: The world has changed (for business).

Here are a few suggestions showing how you can widen your reach to be noticed, to persuade your audience, engage them and stand out from the crowd.

LinkedIn

Join discussion groups — those your key targets are part of and active in. Get involved and offer your expertise, help solve their problems.

Twitter

Follow key targets, including a sample of their targets, to get a feel for trends, issues, challenges and popular topics being discussed.

Online expert forums

Independent expert status will deliver a deeper level of trust. Get involved with forums that will be most valuable to you and share relevant content across these platforms.

Regular media monitoring

Have a close look at media in your sector, the angle taken, your targets’ positioning and the audience they are reaching out to.

Trade events

Attend all key industry events and engage with your target audience. What are your targets showcasing, how strong and professional is their positioning, collateral, understanding of their audience?

Whitepapers

You’re an expert. Share your knowledge and industry opinions.

Networking events

Attend carefully chosen conferences and seminars, consider speaking at them, particularly those that are the benchmark for your specialism.

Your website

Your website needs to be interactive to allow your audience to connect with you. Make it easy for them to reach you through an online blog where they can post comments or find you through other social media platforms and connect with you there.

 

Sally Danbury is an expert contributor to Marketing Donut and the founder of Cake Business Matching.

How long should my blog posts be?

October 22, 2010 by Fiona Humberstone

When you’re starting out with your blogging, getting into “the groove” can be hard. Just how long should your posts be? And where on earth do you find the time to blog?

I’m a firm believer that you should be blogging two or three times a week, and if you can manage to squeeze one in every day, so much the better. Your writing will be better for it and your readers will thank you. In fact, as long as you can keep focused, the more you write, the better you’ll be. And the better you are, the stronger your following of readers. And that means more business for you. So it really is a win-win.

But to answer my original question, just how long should your blog posts be? Well I recommend that they’re around the 250-300 word mark. This length is easily digestible for your readers, and is pretty quick for you to write. You should be able to produce something of that length in around 30 minutes. And if you can write quickly, you’ll be blogging often.

You don’t need to get too perfectionist about it. I recently read an article that was lambasting people that didn’t spend at least a day refining and sculpting each blog post. I’m sure that it does make for great writing, but the fact is that unless you’re a professional, full-time blogger, none of us have eight hours to spend perfecting, refining and crafting one post, so why even try.

Write from the heart. Start with a plan and stay focused. And if you stick to my recommended word length, you’ll find that you don’t have time to ramble on. Just make one point, and make it well.

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

How sponsorship creates a push/pull marketing dynamic

October 21, 2010 by Jackie Fast

Upon opening the many newspapers London provides, you will undoubtedly find at least one article describing how the loss of sponsorship funding is endangering a sports team.

This has created an impression that the sponsorship industry has been dealt a severe blow by the credit crunch. However, while many of these multi-million pound sponsorship deals are drying up, there is a surging interest in B2B sponsorship.

The reason for the surge in sponsorship deals is partly due to a marketing shift in the industry – the push/pull dynamic.

Traditional push media such as TV, billboards, radio, newspapers and magazines offer one-way communication between the brand and the consumer. In the past these have proven effective alone. However, at a time when people are constantly marketed to through more and more channels, traditional push marketing is increasingly falling onto deaf ears.

It is now becoming crucial to engage your audience. Pull marketing is interactive, two-way communication between the brand and the consumer. This is more effective than ever thanks to internet marketing, social media, RSS, blogs, forums and so on.

Of course, combining push and pull marketing is most effective of all. And sponsorship can deliver this.

Aligning your brand with something about which the target audience feels passionate can create goodwill. It is an age-old fact that people tend to favour others who like the same things as they do; this dynamic is no less true when it comes to forming a relationship between brand and audience.  Through sponsorship the target audience can be primed to be receptive to the brand.

In addition, sponsorship can create pull marketing through tangible “touchpoints” for the consumer to interact with your brand. The push marketing creates the awareness and the pull marketing gets the consumer involved.

Social networking sites like Twitter and LinkedIn allow you to engage with each of your consumers on a platform that they are comfortable with. Digital marketing platforms work exceptionally well within a sponsorship programme as your customers are already primed to engage with your brand.

Although sponsorship is not the only way to facilitate this push/pull dynamic, it is certainly one of the easiest which is why we are seeing a surge in these partnerships. If you are relying too much on push media and not achieving the results you are after, it may be time to consider sponsorship as a way to help incorporate this push/pull dynamic with your brand.

 

Jackie Fast is an expert contributor to Marketing Donut and managing director of Slingshot, a specialist sponsorship agency.

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