Social Networks and your Business
At last, today I think I’ve done it … I’ve made my social networks updating ‘simple’. So it’s only fair that I share what I’ve done. First though, a bit about social networks and your business.Over the last few months I have been digging deeper and deeper into social networking, particularly as an area where small businesses can perform creative, low cost marketing and promotion. Since returning to the UK last year I am still doing lots of business with the Middle East with projects in Dubai, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait already kicking off this month. But I am focused on providing a solid, knowledgeable service to small, local business here in Tiverton, Devon – my home.
There are still many small businesses here in Devon that have absolutely no online presence at all and I find that fascinating; particularly as they continue to spend money placing advertisements in local newspapers stating little more than a phone number and their company name. Why not have at least a static one page website to display information that you cannot physically ‘fit’ in your tiny, expensive newspaper advert?? Who knows.
Meanwhile – what about Social Media Optimization/Marketing? Many of these small businesses who claim an aversion to the web, will be happily using it for social networking purposes via Facebook, even Twitter – so why not use these free services for business? After reading ‘Here comes every body’ by Clay Shirky last year, I was hooked and I have been continually reading and learning about social media networks ever since.
A few years ago I designed a website for Tjeerd Hendel-Blackford, a fine furniture maker living in North Devon. He wanted to be able to show the whole world images of the fantastic furniture he was making, and understood that the best way to do this was via a website. The design was a long process and had a lasting impression on the clean, minimal approach to design that has become my signature. Tjeerd wanted a clean, simple site that would allow his images to stand out, but I worried that the lack of ‘content’ would work against him in Google …. not so. We continued to promote the website and work on building genuine, high quality inbound links and it worked, but I still wanted more and pleaded with him to add a blog. He resisted for some time but recently we went live a new WP blog and I am in the process of integrating this with his main website and replacing the in-built diary.
During the last few months Tjeerd came to realise that using social media networks and blogging, allowed him to build a ‘fan’ base and communicate with them quite intimately, without adding ‘messy’ content to his show piece website. Perfect. He now has a Twitter Page, WordPress Blog and Facebook page as well as a company page on Linkedin. All of these tools will help him reach more people in different social networks and drive them all to his website … which is what it is all about. The question is, as we get bombarded with invitations to join this that and the other social network – which ones do we join and how do we find the time to update them all with content.
Well, until this week I was suffering myself with this conundrum and I have found a solution, that works for me and that I intend to use as a model for my current and future clients. The following is a casual guide for any small business owner that might want to get their business ‘out there’ in the social networking arena – it is by no means definitive but it is a good start.
First, if you don’t already have one – set up a personal profile on Facebook. Once you have done this, add as many friends as you can and send email invites to people you think you may want to put in touch with your business. Once you have a personal facebook account, it is time to set up a page for your business by clicking here. It is pretty straight forward and you can upload images and your company contact information. From your new ‘page’ you can then send a message to all of your facebook friends, asking them to become fans of your business. If they do, it will be published in their news feed and this will be seen by all of their friends … and that’s how it starts. Facebook pages can be personalised with a little HTML knowledge and I recommend that you do this once you are up and running or drop me a line 😉
Twitter.com is next, and again it is easy to set up an account, just follow the instructions on the website. You can advertise your ‘twitter feed’ and ask other users to follow your ‘tweets’ via your facebook account or email – just tell them your account name like mine is twitter.com/thepigfarmer and you’re done. You can use all kinds of applications to post tweets from your PC and phone and it is a good tool to send short messages about special offers or new products etc to all your ‘followers’.
Flickr.com is a website where you can upload photos for people to see. You open an account – again for FREE – and start uploading. Why? Well, once Tjeerd has uploaded photos of all his furniture to his Flickr account – he can add meta tags and descriptions that will be picked up by google and used in search results. He can also add feeds to his blog that will show his latest images from Flickr automatically – and even add a Flickr feed to his Facebook page … see how it all starts to come together.
For me, social media is about creating a ‘buzz’ – creating a ‘buzz’ around your product, or company or brand. Once you have created a buzz, people will network it and it will grow and all of this will help drive traffic to your online home – your website – your business. Twitter, Facebook and Flickr are just the beginning but they form a good solid foundation.
I work with small businesses every day, to help them build this online presence. A simple one page website, tied in to a co-ordinated social media presence need not cost the earth, but it really is worth doing well and this means having continuity, a unified message – all the things you have to think about when creating your brand before you even get started! If you have a small business and you have any questions at all about what you have read here, please just give me a call or an email – all of my details are on my website, I’m here to help.
Next: I’ll be posting tips on how to update all of your social media applications from one, simple dashboard!