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The Seven Deadly Sins of Social Media

November 17, 2010 by Elaine Clark

There seems to be a lot of noise about social media just now but let’s not forget that it is just a tool to help you market your business.

It is your window to the world – a much bigger world than was available before. But caution. With increasing use of social media comes the increased risk of committing one of the seven deadly social media sins.


Too often I see posts on Twitter, blogs or forums that are antagonistic, overly opinionated, inaccurate and just plain rude! Many of these are from business owners who are using social media to attract new clients or customers and who seem to have forgotten that professional ethics still apply in the social media world. What these posters seem to forget is that most people will view such social media content with the contempt that it deserves!


Social media can be over-consumed. Whilst it is easy to get carried away and get drawn into a social media conversation or debate — don’t over indulge in it. You still have a job to do! Manage your time using the age-old time management techniques.


Having a high opinion of one's own importance via your social media streams is not recommended. However having pride in your social media content, behaviour and professionalism should be actively encouraged. Pride can be a double-edged sword — make sure that you pick the right side of that sword!


Over-promoting yourself or your services on social media can be very off-putting. In fact it could have the opposite effect of leading to a loss of interest rather than the desired effect of generating marketing interest. Keep your social media content relevant, topical, interesting, helpful and not self-promoting.


Being lazy with your social media content just will not do. New ideas are required all of the time. Keep up to date with the latest news items, forthcoming events or deadlines and write content that incorporates these. Never copy anyone else’s content unless as a reference and with their agreement.


Professional envy is often evident via social media. Expressing your envy of others via your social media stream is something to be avoided. Why not learn from what is making them successful and apply it to your business — a much better and more fulfilling use of your time.


Needless to say, as in any workplace conversations, your social media behaviour should be above reproach. However to show a healthy lust or hunger for your subject matter, by demonstrating your enthusiasm, is to be encouraged. Being positive and motivated will draw people to your content and help to get your marketing messages across via your social media content.


Hopefully you will manage to avoid these sins but if not, you will need to visit the Social Media Confessional!


Elaine Clark is an expert contributor to Start Up Donut and is the managing director of, an online accountancy practice aimed at small businesses with big ambitions.

Exposing the myths about being an entrepreneur

November 12, 2010 by Rachel Miller

It’s Global Entrepreneurship Week this week and, now in its third year, the event is bigger than ever.

Global Entrepreneurship Week is all about inspiring and galvanizing would-be entrepreneurs and supporting them with training and mentors.

Here in the UK, we do need a bit of a kick up the backside it seems. While research show that over fifty per cent of us think we’ve got what it takes to run a business, only 5.8 per cent of us are in the process of setting up in business right now. That might sound a lot – it does to me – but compare that to eight per cent in the United States and a whopping 19 per cent in China.

So what’s stopping us?

The organisers of Global Entrepreneurship Week believe that five myths about setting up in business create significant stumbling blocks for would-be entrepreneurs. They are hoping to blow these myths wide open this week:

  1. Entrepreneurs are born and not made
  2. Entrepreneurship is a solo activity
  3. There is a stereotype of a typical entrepreneur
  4. Entrepreneurship is only about profit
  5. You need lots of money to start a business.

These so-called myths are part of the age-old debate about what makes an entrepreneur. But the fact is that, like it or not, the very word does conjour up a stereotype – the maverick inventor like James Dyson, the business pioneer like Stelios Haji-Ioannou, the empire builder like Richard Branson.

Sadly, there seems to be a consensus that you can’t be called an entrepreneur unless you’ve proved yourself by making your millions. And increasingly, you have to be famous too. In other words, you have to be a business A-lister.

And yet it is the continual innovating, risk-taking and sheer grafting of anyone that sets up a business that should earn them the title entrepreneur.

Like many such events, Global Entrepreneurship Week is being supported by a host of entrepreneurial A-listers, headed by Dragon Peter Jones. But what’s great is that it is also very much on the ground, with 36,000 events in the UK alone and business people of all kinds offering their services as mentors.

So let’s hope this week does kick-start a new era of entrepreneurship – one that embraces businesses of all shapes and sizes.

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.


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


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?


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.

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