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Common-sense social media tips

March 22, 2011 by Sarah Bale

Which network?

There are many different networks, each with their own pros and cons. Spend some time looking at the various options and listening to the online chatter, and assess what suits your business. Where are your customers most likely to be? Does LinkedIn make more sense for you than Facebook?

Where’s the value?

Participate where you can add the most value. Do not just try and be everywhere and likewise do not just stay within your own domains.

Be flexible

Keep flexible and aware. Technology is constantly changing and just because certain networks suit your business today does not mean they will necessarily be the right choices in three months’ time. Look out for key customer trends and where relevant, use them to your advantage.

Who are you?

Develop an online style. Become “human” online with a tone of voice and brand personality; but be true to you. You need a coherent message on your website, through social media, in advertising and in person. Think of your audience. If you are selling kids’ toys for example, is a corporate tone of voice appropriate? If you are selling luxury items is it appropriate to be relaxed and jokey or will this impact on perceived professionalism? Put yourself in the shoes of your customers.

It’s all about the strategy

Have a communication strategy; a framework that covers off how you plan on using the channels you decide to be involved in. This should look at frequency of comms, how to deal with specific queries, who to escalate to, what should be deleted (if anything) and how to deal with public complaints. It is very important that the people responsible for delivering the social media strategy fully understand the communication strategy. A joined-up approach is very important for a business, however small.

Do I have enough resources?

Think about your resources carefully. Do you have the resource to keep up the level of content you are planning? Do you have the resources to deal with feedback in real time? Do your team understand the communication strategy? Will any training be required to ensure consistency in approach and understanding of various networks? How will you monitor work vs. personal time on social media?

Technology barriers

Do you have the technology to support your strategy? Are there any firewalls that could prevent access? Who do you want to have access to the sites? Could this cause internal conflict?

Take part

Within the networks you decide to join, do not just listen – that will not get you noticed. Do not just sell – that will get you ignored. Find a balance between offering advice, recognising others’ contributions, sharing content and telling people about yourself. The balance will vary depending on the network so make sure you take the time to sense and respect the norm.

What’s too much?

Do not swamp people. Content is king but overload is not! The definition of “swamp” will vary across networks. For example, in a single day people would expect to see more than just you on their Facebook home page. Twitter is different. Because it is constantly moving, followers like information to be shared as long as it is relevant and interesting and therefore you could post a bit more if you wanted.

What are your competitors doing?

See what your competitors are doing and try and get a sense of how you can improve on it. Look at customer comments and what they are asking for. Assess what appears to work for others in your marketplace by looking at customer interactions and use it to your advantage. There is no point in starting right from the very beginning if you do not have to.

Can you handle the truth?

Be prepared for feedback, whether you ask for it or not. One of the best things about social media is the ability to hear customer feedback in real time. This is something many are afraid of but actually they should embrace. In order to build a community online you need to know what you do well and what you could improve, what people like about you and what they don’t, what you have above competitors and where you lack. Treat this information as gold dust. Respond to feedback honestly and publicly, in line with your communication strategy.

Be polite

Thank people publicly. If people say nice things about you and your products, thank them. Engage with them so they know you appreciate their business and opinion. They are more likely to praise you again if they think they will get recognition in return.

Sarah Weller is an expert contributor to Marketing Donut and marketing manager at Simpleweb.

Top tips for successful newsletters

March 21, 2011 by Sharon Tanton
  1. Get sign up first. However lovingly worded and beautifully designed, if they didn’t ask for it, it’s spam.
  2. Be brief. People are busy. Even scrolling down too far is too much. One page max.
  3. Grab their attention. Headlines matter. Newsletter 73 isn’t going to get anyone rushing to click, but a great offer just might. Be careful though. We all love a bargain, but too many once in a lifetime sales make you look desperate.
  4. Use your voice. Newsletters need to follow your brand guidelines, in a tone of voice that matches the rest of your communications. So no text speak if you’re a firm of solicitors, and no stiff formality if you plan parties. (Actually, no stiff formality anywhere. Straightforward, honest and warm covers most bases).
  5. Reward. People on your mailing list are your special customers. Make them feel part of an exclusive club and they’ll reward you with loyalty. Money-off deals work, but so does information. Letting your favourite customers in on the news before the rest of the world makes them feel important.
  6. Get the timing right. Once I signed up for a diet newsletter and they mailed me twice a day. Way too much. Once a year, and your customers might have forgotten who you are. (Unless you sell Christmas trees).
  7. Share success. Letting your clients know about your latest award makes them feel happy to be associated with you. It’s an affirmation that they might the right choice in working with you. We all like to be right.


Sharon Tanton is an expert contributor to Marketing Donut, a freelance copywriter and marketing consultant and a Valuable Content associate.

Mobile Marketing - Nokia moves the goalposts

March 18, 2011 by

February has seen the announcement of a new deal between Nokia and Microsoft, which will see the Finnish manufacturer adopt Windows Phone as the operating system of choice for its future smartphones.

A lot of people have taken their eye off Nokia recently, preferring to watch Android and the iPhone battle it out for smartphone leadership. In contrast Nokia, the one-time undisputed mobile phone champion, has been in the doldrums, with its Symbian operating system looked increasingly dated, even in its most recent incarnation.

Nokia is still the best-selling mobile brand in the world, though, and the alliance with Microsoft could revive its ailing fortunes. If it does, the implications for mobile marketing are significant.

  • Firstly, for customers wanting free satnav on a smartphone, Google Maps is no longer the only game in town. Access to Nokia’s Ovi Maps is rumoured to be one of the sweeteners that attracted Microsoft to the deal. If your business is not already listed there, now would be a good time to add it.
  • Secondly, the future search engine of choice on Nokia’s phones will not be Google but Bing. Many of us are tempted to overlook Bing in our search marketing in favour of Google, which has over ten times the market share. On the mobile platform battle is not won, however. Smart marketers will hedge their bets by optimising for Bing search as well – and by making sure their company is listed on Bing Local as well as Google Maps.
  • Lastly, looking at mobile advertising, Google is as dominant right now as it is in search, with something like fifteen times the market share of Microsoft (source: IDC). For companies looking to push advertising to either the iPhone or Android platforms, Google’s AdMob leads the pack by a country mile. But with the deal between Microsoft and Nokia, that could be set to change.


Bruce Townsend is an expert contributor to Marketing Donut and online marketing specialist at SellerDeck.

For more information on mobile commerce, read our guide to mobile marketing.

How to make your product buzz buzz buzz

March 16, 2011 by Robert Craven

How do you know if your product is creating a buzz? While the following list is far from definitive, it suggests key factors that determine the level of buzz about your product/service. It should be most of the following:

  • Exciting – ‘to fall in love with’, ‘to die for’ eg iPhone, iPad
  • Innovative – eg
  • A personal experience – eg books, airlines, cars
  • Complex – eg software, medical procedures
  • Expensive – eg computers, shoes
  • Observable – eg clothes, cars, phones.

Test your buzz

Take your service or one of your products.  Score it on its ‘buzz’ factor.

Is your product exciting?

1%  -  10  -  20  -  30  -  40  -  50  -  60  -  70  -  80  -  90  100%
In your dreams             On a good day                          Got It!

Is it innovative?

Can your product be used or considered as a personal experience?

Is it apparently quite simple and yet complex?

Is it expensive?

Is it observable – is its use relatively conspicuous?

How did you score? 

A few thoughts:

  • Can you think of any area where you could have done better?
  • Can you think of anything that you could do this week, or even today, that could improve any of your scores?
  • What’s holding you back from getting on with these actions?


Robert Craven is an expert contributor to Marketing Donut. He runs The Directors' Centre and is the author of business best-sellers Kick-Start Your Business and Bright Marketing.


The price is right on social buying sites

March 15, 2011 by Rachel Miller

In today’s cash-strapped times, we are all looking for a bargain. But where does this leave the small business?

There are so many ways that shoppers can find the best price. There are price comparison websites, online voucher sites and even apps that allow you to scan barcodes and compare prices elsewhere.

Price-cutting is rife and big businesses are at it all the time. Some retailers are running almost continuous sales in a bid to bring in more business. Meanwhile, the supermarkets can afford to offer highly competitive prices on loss leaders just to get shoppers into their stores.

These kinds of practices don’t always work for small firms whose margins are already tight enough and who can’t afford to be constantly discounting. But the fact is that many consumers now expect some kind of special offer before they are prepared to open their wallets.

And so the arrival of social buying sites like GroupOn, BuyWithMe, TownHog and LivingSocial could well be very good news for small firms with a local customer base — as well as being good for canny shoppers.

The social buying sites all work slightly differently but essentially they allow businesses to promote a specific offer to subscribers in their local area offering tempting discounts with extra money off when groups of three or four buy together.

Sites like GroupOn send out emails to their subscribers with a daily offer. Subscribers respond, they get a voucher for the product or service and the business gets the revenue after the social buying site has taken its cut. So businesses only pay when they sell something.

Yes, businesses advertising on the sites have to offer a discount. But it’s a targeted offer to an audience of interested subscribers. It’s not constant price-cutting. It’s much more strategic and measureable than that.

But does it work? One upmarket restaurant in Bristol — Bells Diner — sold an impressive 413 meals for two via LivingSocial when it offered a 52 per cent discount on an eight-course meal in November 2010. Now that’s an attractive offer, for sure. But that’s 826 additional customers that have come through the door — and they could well be back for more.


 Rachel Miller, editor, Marketing Donut. 

Why SMEs like Mondays - and Wednesdays

March 14, 2011 by John Keating

The SME market is, of course, huge. With a turnover of over £1350 billion, it’s no wonder many companies engage in direct marketing to this lucrative sector, spending nearly £6 billion in doing so. How much of that £6 billion could be saved, or how much could businesses increase their returns, if they had known how the SME market wants to be communicated with?

Luckily, the latest research from the DMA and partners as part of the ongoing survey, The SME Voice, has provided the answers. OK, let’s cut to the chase.

First and foremost, the notion that social media is more powerful than email marketing is not cut and dried according to this report. Email was found to be the preferred method of contact among SMEs, with usage even showing an increase from 69 per cent to 80 per cent as 2010 progressed. One reason may be the rise in popularity of smartphones that allow email to be accessed on the move.

The research also found that SMEs prefer to receive marketing emails on Monday and Wednesday mornings and not more than once a week. It’s a risk though to stick too rigidly to this mantra as we know that the SME market is never stagnant and marketing communication strategies often have to be updated.

Finally, what should businesses be sending to small firms? It may be tempting to bombard them with trumpet blowing and sales propaganda (zzz) but what they actually prefer is a healthy mix of messages focusing on price and product benefits.

Overall the message here is: don’t just presume your marketing material and messages are best suited to your target market — ask them what they want and that feedback will be vital to improving your direct marketing ROI.

So for email marketing, here are the key findings:

  • Email rules OK. 80 per cent say so.
  • Weekly contact works for email. Calls and direct mail — monthly.
  • SMEs like Mondays — get your message in early in the week


John Keating is an expert contributor to Marketing Donut and director at Databroker.

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