“Things can happen all at once and little changes can make a huge difference” –
January was quite a month. In fact, it’s been my business’s (Manage My Website) busiest period since I started it two years ago.
The enquiries are coming in thick and fast – from the UK (where we’re based) and countries as far flung as the USA, Egypt and Holland. We’re working on websites for retailers, charities and even the NHS, plus we’re about to partner with MODA Commerce, one of the teams behind the Mary Portas website. My business is on the brink of exploding.
Some years ago I read a book by Malcolm Gladwell, The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference. As Gladwell explains, tipping points are: "The levels at which momentum for change becomes unstoppable."
So what’s led my business to this key stage? Lots of little things, really. They may have seemed insignificant at the time, but together they’ve created what we have become today and our business has reached its very own tipping point.
Before starting my business, I hadn’t realised I could sell. But in my eyes, I’m not selling to potential clients, I’m just extremely passionate about what I do and that probably shines through.
Nobody can predict what’s around the corner, but I have a very good feeling about 2011. I hope I’ve inspired anyone thinking of branching out on their own that if you’re passionate about what you do, have the right skills and work incredibly hard, you’ll reach your own tipping point.
It’s come to my attention over the past few months that more and more people are merging their Tweets with their Facebook and LinkedIn status updates.
I’ve also noticed that sometimes my Facebook and LinkedIn news streams are totally clogged with meaningless Tweets that have no relevance to me whatsoever.
So I thought I’d put together a few reasons why, as busy as you are, you shouldn’t feed every single Tweet to other social and business networking websites.
When a Tweet’s been fed into my news stream I know that the person who’s written it hasn’t written it from the website I’m using. It feels impersonal and can convey a lack of interest in what their Facebook or LinkedIn contacts are up to.
Twitter is the only social networking site that has its own language to either tag a subject (#), reply to a Tweet (@) or Retweet (RT@).
These make absolutely no sense on other platforms (although Facebook now has a tagging feature that uses @) and can make your update look as though you're speaking in tongues.
This mainly applies to LinkedIn in my case. Several of my contacts appear to be feeding every single of their Tweets to LinkedIn. Bearing in mind that some people might Tweet 20 or 30 times a day, this equals a heck of a lot of RSI-inducing scrolling to find even one update that might interest me.
And talking of interest…
Facebook is generally for your friends to keep up with what you’ve been up to or for businesses to promote themselves. Therefore, the fact you’ve replied to a hilarious tweet (@DippyGirl lmao and rofl!!) won’t really have any relevance whatsoever.
LinkedIn is for business people to share knowledge, help each other and network. The fact that the roast chicken you cooked with your nearest and dearest last Sunday was delicious really doesn’t matter.
Can you remember every single person you’re friends with on Facebook or connected to on LinkedIn? If not, be very careful to check your Tweets before feeding them to the other sites. If your boss is connected to you on LinkedIn he/she probably won’t appreciate knowing that you’ve just pulled a ‘sickie’ and sounded realistically croaky on the phone.
With an extremely restrictive 140-character limit on Twitter and a more generous 420 characters for status updates, it would make sense to post to these two websites separately. You can be far more personal and descriptive on Facebook, so why not make the most of your update?
If you still feel the need to merge your tweets with other social and business networking sites, please remember to be selective.
Read more about social media on the Marketing Donut:
Deadly is the Female is a Frome-based boutique and web shop specialising in fabulous quality faux vintage fashion from head to toe. Both in store and online, the shopping experience is designed to make their customers feel like old-time Hollywood starlets.
Claudia has been using social networking websites since opening her shop in November 2008.
“We started out with a MySpace page,” she remembers, “which was the site with which I was most familiar, but I soon realised many of our followers were more focused on Facebook. We now mainly use Facebook and Blogger with some Twitter on the side.
“We try to find a balance between updating regularly and bombarding people to the point of irritation. Generally, we post something on Facebook every day and on Twitter a couple of times a week.”
Do she have any good social media tips? “I find it useful to follow other people with similar businesses and learn from them. This is easiest when they do things that are annoying. I hate getting slight variations of the same picture posted again and again, so don’t do that. Try to keep things fresh and don’t focus on selling all the time, a little bit of personal stuff is a good thing, too.”
Claudia recently started using Google Analytics, to find out more about site usage. “You wouldn’t ever guess some of the keywords that lead people to your site. Occasionally, we’ll run Facebook exclusive sales, too - which is a great way to see if people are paying attention.
“Social networking is a great way to connect directly with your customers. You can ask opinions or for help and advertise events. It’s also useful for keeping an eye on trends and gauging popular opinion, which even in a niche market has an impact.”
She says her favourite thing about Facebook is the variety of ways it can be used and how visible everything is. “You can make people feel involved by tagging them. Twitter is great for short, sharp information sharing. I feel less comfortable with Twitter, but I’m still learning.
“Social networking can be quite time-consuming but it’s worthwhile. The instant feedback and volume of information shared is like nothing else and it can help with making important day-to-day business decisions. I sometimes still feel a bit silly typing my thoughts out and sending them out into the unknown, but it’s worth it.”
And if Claudia could only use one social networking site? “It would be Facebook,” she replies. “It’s so easy to add attractive links to specific pages of the website as well as endless photos, videos and just about anything you can think of. You can have your own identity without the clutter of some MySpace pages and you can make people feel part of your brand. Using social media for business marketing takes time and practice to find out what works, but my advice is stick with it and stay positive,” she concludes.
Nicki started her online vintage boutique a year ago on the back of her career spent in fashion journalism, women’s magazines and websites. Having always loved clothing with a sense of history and fancy dress, she started sourcing unique and charismatic vintage items from the UK, America and Europe.
Nicki says: “The boutique is all about style-savvy women having fun experimenting with fashion, encouraging eco-friendly shopping and preserving a piece of the past in their own individual way.”
She’s been using social networking sites since she launched the business in August 2009. Mainly she uses Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, Blogger, MySpace (not as regularly) and professional sites such as LinkedIn.
“I try to update Twitter daily – if not every other day – and Facebook, on average, once or twice a week. I used to blog every day, but time constraints now mean I can only manage once or twice a week. The MySpace page is pretty static, and I update Flickr every month or so with new stock images.
Does she have any tips for successful use of social media for business? “Keep at it!” she replies, “You have to do regular updates to maintain interest. Be creative – think outside the box. We only just started posting pictures of celebrity outfits and finding the vintage equivalent on our website. Also, link, link and link some more. Promote other people who promote you, tag photos, mention names and use content that will engage. You’ve also got to use social media channels differently. Facebook and Twitter are two very different tools, so try and use them both to their full potential.
To measure traffic, Nicki has Google Analytics installed on her boutique website so she can see who is coming from where. She adds: “Facebook emails me weekly stats on how many fans my page has and comments made; Blogger has a 'followers' tool and I get a lot of messages through Twitter and my website from people via social media.”
Social media has also enabled Nicki to more conveniently gather customer feedback on her products and website, which is crucial for an online shop that can’t interact with customers face to face. Her business profile has also been raised. She says: “Our recent video and feature for GLAMOUR magazine actually came from Twitter. I took the time to help a girl out with something for her university fashion course, and she was in the right place at the right time to recommend us directly to the magazine.”
Does she think social networking is worth the time she spends on it? “Yes I do. Social media is essential for modern marketing - especially when you’re primarily an Internet-based business such as ours. You rely solely on getting those clicks and getting your brand out there and social media is hands down the best way to achieve this. By listening to what customers and people online are saying about your business and your brand, you will only improve your service. My only regret is that I wish I had more time to dedicate to it, because it can be so time consuming - but so worth it!”
If she could only use one social networking site, which would it be? “A very tight contest, blogs second only to Facebook. As much success as Twitter has bought me, whatever you tweet feels so momentary. Also, you can’t represent who you really are and what you’re about in 140 characters and I like having more creative control over social media. Facebook allows this and also reaches out to a wider audience. Some of our fans are 16, while some are 60.
“Facebook is more recognised channel, whereas many people I know still don't understand Twitter. Facebook is the easiest site to get people engaged because your updates land in their own personal feed, keeping your presence known, without being intrusive. You can combine links, photos, feedback and status updates plus receive comments all in one place - which is why I think it’s best.”
If you’ve set up a Facebook page, you’ll probably be wondering how to (a) attract fans and (b) keep the fans you already have interested. You need to focus on the fact that your fans are people like you and me, so this isn’t a ‘business to business’ transaction. You need to be fun and keep it light.
The idea behind a Facebook page is to create a public profile that enables you to share your business and products with Facebook users. They’re very easy to create by going to Facebook, clicking on “Advertising” at the bottom navigation, and then on “Pages”.
Here are some top tips on creating an interesting page with updates that people will want to read:
1. Make sure you add an eye-catching profile picture to your page that represents your business.
2. Add pictures, photographs or videos to your page as you would with your personal account. Images of your products, events, services, employees or even the office dog will add interest to your Facebook page and give it a personal feel. Remember to tag your friends!
3. Before you start inviting your friends or business leads to become fans of the page and recommend you to others, try to pre-populate it with relevant and interesting updates. You could even ask friends and colleagues to start up a discussion or wall post that fans can get drawn into.
4. And this is intrinsic to point 3: Make sure your updates appeal to your fans. Bear in mind that your fans could be teenagers, pensioners, builders, bankers or bakers so it’s essential that your updates are inclusive, and friendly with a distinct tone of voice.
Let’s use a chocolate shop as an example.
BAD status updates:
10am: “Buy our chocolates! They’re delicious!”
2pm: “Have you tried our chocolates yet? They’re delicious!”
4pm: “Check out our website!”
6pm: “We love chocolate.” and so on…..
GOOD status updates:
10am: “If you could invent your very own chocolate, what would it be? The most inventive answer will win a bag of our delicious Pecan Pralines!”
2pm: “Did you know a piece of dark chocolate a day is good for your heart?” (link to a news story)
4pm: “Stop press: New shipment of Willie’s Chocolate now in! Get yours before they’re snapped up!” (link to relevant page on your website)
6pm: “Order anything in our shop between 1pm and 2pm GMT tomorrow and we’ll give you 20% off! Quote ref: FB03” (link to your website)
Hopefully you get the idea. Put yourself in your fans’ shoes – if they get inundated with mundane, corporate sales messages they’ll soon switch off. But make your updates varied, interesting and interactive, and your updates will be shared, commented on, and recommended to others.
5. Check in to your page regularly and respond to comments from your fans. It’ll reinforce your brand and personality as well as proving that you’re not just logging in to make updates now and then.
6. Don’t neglect your Facebook page. It’s all too easy to forget about it when you’re busy and you could end up leaving it sad and lonely for a few weeks. In the meantime your fans will have forgotten you exist or they might even “cull” your page if they don’t deem it interesting enough. Like a pet, keep your page fed and watered!
7. On the other hand, don’t over-do it either. If your fans are getting 30 updates a day clogging up their news feed, they’re not going to be impressed. It’s all about quality rather than quantity.
8. Have a go at “hacking” your profile picture. You can make so much more of the space available if you have the time to learn to do it. A simple Google search will find plenty of websites that can teach you how to do this.
9. Upload pictures or videos that you can tag your fans in. Unfortunately you can only tag your Facebook friends, but if you’re inventive you’ll find a way.
For example if our chocolate shop awarded a bag of Pecan Pralines to a fan they were also Facebook friends with, they could post a picture of the bag and tag it with the fan’s name and a caption “Congratulations Joe Bloggs! You’ve won!” Joe Bloggs’ various Facebook friends would receive the news in their feed and it could tempt them to also become a fan of your page.
10. Although you’ll ideally grow your page and fan base organically, if you want to kick start your Facebook fan attraction campaign, advertise your page by using this link. Make sure your advertisement is eye catching and unique or your investment could be wasted, and above all do some research on your target demographic before you start your ad campaign.
1 Base the business on something you enjoy – when your hobby/passion/skill becomes your full-time job, it never really feels like work.
2 Write a plan – prepare a basic business plan to set out your vision, describe your market and explain how you propose to reach out and sell to that market. Include sound financials and review the plan every six months or so.
3 Find dedicated space – create space in your house that is your workspace. When in that space, family and friends should know you’re in business mode, plus, you can walk away at the end of the working day. Invest in a good desk and chair, because you’ll be spending quite a bit of time at and in them.
4 Create a professional front door – when customers come calling, be sure they’re met with a professional welcome. This applies from the way you answer calls, to your website, company stationery and even the places in which you choose to meet clients.
5 Make the most of social media – tools such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn have been warmly embraced by the home business community. They are free to use and act as business development channel and a virtual water cooler for the moments when you miss the banter of an out-of-home office.
6 Become an expert – set yourself up as an expert in your field by blogging/tweeting about the subject, writing a report, publishing a book or hosting an event. Being an expert gives credibility and with that, comes customers.
7 Never stop learning – part of becoming an expert is continually picking up intelligence from those around you. Keep an eye on what others in your industry are doing, read about successful entrepreneurs and tune in to trendspotters so you can prepare for new market opportunities.
8 Get out of the house – attend networking events, work from the local café, sign up to a personal development course. It’s good to get out of the home office, but be sure you can still be contacted and respond via your mobile/laptop/webmail, etc. This is your “road warrior kit”.
9 Do what you do best and outsource the rest – to grow the business, focus on the core product of the company and subcontract non-core tasks (eg admin, accounting, PR, fulfilment, etc) to others.
10 Follow the golden triangle – to keep the business in balance, spend roughly a third of your time on each of three key things: customer care, business development and admin. That way, you’ll have a smooth-running business with happy customers and new income streams on the way.
Emma Jones is Founder of Enterprise Nation the home business website and author of ‘Spare Room Start Up – how to start a business from home’. Emma’s next book – ‘Working 5 to 9 – how to start a business in your spare time’ – will be published in May 2010.
A journalist calls to ask how long it takes to make a profit when starting out in business. ‘It depends on the business’ replies Emma Jones ‘but I’d say it’s perfectly possible to turn a profit within the week.’ Here’s the feature to discover if Emma got her facts right.
Let’s take a business
This feature will not apply to all businesses but let’s take the example of someone providing goods and services to consumers (a craft business) and someone offering professional services (a book-keeper.) This is how they each become profitable by week end.
Example 1: The craft business
Make item with cost of raw materials being £5.50.
Photograph item with family camera, ensuring professional/high quality presentation.
Upload profile and photo to 3 craft sites which levy a small charge (or free) for listing and exercise a sales commission. Sites such as:
Promote product via Twitter and Facebook. Include a link to the shop so people can click and buy.
Send an email to friends and family (personal, as opposed to group email) to announce the product and, again, with a link.
Upload pictures of your product to Flickr so the large audience there can see it too.
If you have a webcam, make a short recording of you making products and upload to YouTube.
Call local stores and boutiques to ask if they would consider selling your stock.
You’ve attracted interest and made a sale! Sales price is £25.99.
Cost of making sale:
Raw materials: £5.50
Listing fee: 20p
Sales commission: 78p
Marketing & promotion: zero cost but your time
Profit for the week: £19.51
Example 2: The book keeper
Start a blog using free blogging platforms such as blogger.com or wordpress.com – with helpful posts on book-keeping technique, this will help you be seen as an expert in your field.
Promote blog via Twitter.
Produce business cards. A pack of 50 cards can be bought for £12.99 from Moo.com.
Attend local networking event.
Post in online business forums with helpful book-keeping advice.
Approach small business sites with an article for them to upload that will interest & assist readers (include a link back to your blog so people can make contact).
Call local accountancy practice to ask if they require outsourced book-keeping.
Secure first client! Contract to carry out book-keeping for local home business at rate of £50 per month.
Cost of making sale:
Business cards: £12.99
Promotion and networking: zero cost but your time
Profit in first month: £37.01
Doing the sums
The beauty of both of these examples is that all this promotion and sales generating activity can be done by ‘Working 5 to 9’ ie it’s possible to keep hold of the day job and build your business (and profit) by working nights and weekends.
The secret is in keeping costs low (by being home based and making the mot of free social media tools) and focusing on making that first sale. In which case, it’s perfectly possible to realise profit in just five days. What’s stopping you? Get that business started!
NB. This feature assumes access to a home PC/laptop therefore costs of IT equipment not included.
Emma Jones is Founder of Emma Jones is Founder of Enterprise Nation and author of ‘Spare Room Start Up – how to start a business from home’ Her next book ‘Working 5 to 9 – how to start a business in your spare time’ will be published in May 2010
For many of us new to social networking and closer to being within Gen X than Gen Y, it takes considerable time to learn the rules and etiquette of social media. And to be honest, many of those rules are only just developing now. As Penny Power explains in this video, we really can learn a lot from the younger generation about being open, random and supportive on social networks, rather than broadcasting our wants and needs to friends online.
Have you taken time to learn from young people around you? They might be able to help you fast track your business.
Penny Power, founder of Ecademy.com, explains why anyone starting up a new business should be active on social networks.
Our clients, and most people we've met and talks and events recently, have asked the same question: Is social media appropriate for business-to-business marketing? Unequivocally, the answer is YES. In the last year, 40% of Clear Thought's revenue can be tracked back to a social media source, and 100% has been enhanced or aided by it in some way. In the last six weeks alone, here are some things that Clear Thinkers have achieved through social media:
From a new business perspective, social media has critical impact in the first three stages of the sales funnel. That is, Awareness, Interest and Evaluation. From a social media perspective, you need to do the following: To generate awareness: 'Be There' find out where your prospects hang out online and have a presence there. To convert awareness in the interest: 'Be Relevant ' provide information that is useful or controversial to pull people into your content. To make it through evaluation: 'Be Proven' provide case study and testimonials at every turn online, ideally with other people talking on your behalf. To really make the most of the channel, it makes sense to get some expert support - particularly in measuring and enhancing your activity. But, here are some really simple things to get you started. 10 FREE things you can do to generate awareness online:
10 FREE things you can do to generate interest online:
10 (nearly) FREE ways to prove your credentials online:
Note: In this blog, we're focusing specifically on lead generation. It is worth noting (and blogging in the future) that social media can be powerfully used in market research, recruitment, lead nurturing and much more. You might also be interested in: