Let’s Get Social

Let’s Get Social, it’s the phrase that I use for Social Marketing. I however dislike the word marketing as I find it to ‘in your face’. I believe in being nice and playing nice with the people that you want to connect with and the whuffie (social collateral) will follow. I talked a few months ago to a group of 20+ business owners about brand building using social media tools which went very well.

Today I talked about getting Social to 30ish businesses and how in doing so, they can build their businesses.

Check out the slides below;

Understanding the use of Social Media

A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to speak to a group of approximately 30+ local businesses about building a brand with Social Media. The seminar raised lots of interesting questions, I even received more questions a few days later. I’ve no problem whatsoever answering any questions about my work and asked the person who emailed me whether it would be ok to answer the queries in a blog post rather than email so everyone could benefit.Thanks for the seminar on Tuesday – it came over as a very professional presentation – and an interesting development potential for business.

SEOs are saturating the internet and self-inflicting an own goal because their hunger for revenue conflicts with and obscures their primary purpose – how will social media be controlled?

My personal opinion is that ‘Social Media’ is simply a buzz word around understanding how you understand and market to a community. Social Media is a tool which you can use to market correctly, you don’t make money from Social Media, you make money from your ‘product’ by using Social Media.

Keeping the Social Marketing world moderated is a different kettle of fish entirely, however I do believe it will be down to the people. The end user will know whether they’ve been marketed to correctly. A client of a ‘social media/marketing consultant’ should do their research first and foremost. It’s the same as anything else, you wouldn’t use a joiner who had a reputation of doing bad work. Research correctly and find some testimonials, don’t pay peanuts as you’ll get monkeys.

I can see that social media will work for unique products, but what about services?

Think of it like this. You have Haagen Dazs Ice Cream and Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream, both are high quality ice creams and both of which have people who like the ice cream. Some people like one, the other or both. They’re both still ice cream in the same way as a joiner is a joiner and a web designer is a web designer. There is more than one design agency, there is more than one electrical services company however different people will like a different service. Some people will become clients because of cost and some will become clients because of quality services. I and we (the rest of the industry) should be there to build the community around your product/service to provide you with constant work and engaging with your customer base so they’re happy with you and your services which in turn enables them to pass your name on.

Anyone who says ignore the competition in my industry doesn’t understand that our clients initially select on PRICE (they usually don’t know enough until we advise about the legislation)

If that is the case then your potential clients need educating through your current client base about why your services are priced as they are. Think of it more long term than immediate, building a community through education can reap rewards long term. Do you want to be here and make £10’000 a month or in 5 years do you want to be making £10’000 a day (monies are used as an example).

We usually retain our clients once they understand the quality of our services and what we stand for – how can social media help get that message over without advertising?

As mentioned above it goes beyond advertising and is in fact education, a recent client knew his customer base weren’t exactly pro’s at using Twitter but they knew exactly how to use Facebook and wanted to know how to get them using Twitter. I said that we’d teach them how to use Twitter through Facebook. People in general are becoming so switched on to forced advertising that it’s effects are dampening down. Engage, communicate and build your brand. If people love you then they’ll stay around and spend money without even thinking about it.

As you said, building a community is the target, but how can I get started on this?

There are lots of ways to build a community around a service or product. The ‘brand’ could even be a person and the best way to start is identify why your current clients love you, find out who your clients are on a personal level and market towards other people like them. All online and offline marketing techniques are individual to businesses, none are the same.

Data Protection and confidentiality are prerequisites – how is this managed and protected?

The shortest way to explain is by using your common sense, if you think something is wrong with what you’re doing then it probably is. You’re not using direct personal data to socially market your business. Confidentiality should be kept as is, there should be no reason for you to get in trouble over DP and Confidentiality if you do things correctly.

My business has full accreditation with the necessary approval bodies – how do I get that message over?

Communicate, we (as people) forget about people. It’s amazing what people realise when they just start communicating with potential clients. Let people know that you’re fully accredited and what it exactly means.

Risk to reputation – I have no intention of slagging off my competition (vast majority are NOT accredited)- so how to achieve a balanced view without getting a brick through the windows?

There is no reason for you to start slagging off the competition. In the first instance it’s highly un-professional. Let those kinds of companies get on with what they’re doing. All you can do is carry on marketing your business to your ideal client base and educating them why you are so good. Whether that be an awesome service, an awesome price of both.

Providing free advice is, I think, one of our main differentiators – any ideas on how to do that?

Again, it’s all down to communication. Don’t try to bore people, your clients are not you. If you provide them with simple facts that they understand they’ll pick up what you’re saying ten times as quick. There are a lot of different ways to communicate to your clients about why you’re such an awesome company to work with.

You will notice that a lot of the above involve forms of communication, direct to the point communication. People honestly want some trust and a good sense of communication can build that very very quickly.

Keeping a school open using effective marketing

This isn’t a normal post from me but stick with it as I think it may come in handy to some people.

Jennifer, my fiancee is an incredibly talented Nursery Teacher in a school in the North East of England. We’ve recently both noticed a change in the education system in the North East especially as this is home after all. There have been some schools in the North East which are losing numbers of children joining the school and because the schools are funded on a ‘per child’ basis every year if there is a drop in numbers there is then a drop in funding for the school for that particular year. This funding covers costs like staff wages, materials, working costs basically everything you see in a school.

The Government trying to help

It seems that the governments point of view on this is to build part private / part funded schools which are now going to be called an ‘Academy’. An academy is too be larger than a normal school and will be ran by multiple head teachers and usually have a ‘manager’ at the helm. Whilst this works for a number of local areas there are still some schools which are being left to fend for themselves.

A drop in numbers for a school could be detrimental to its survival, a heavy drop in numbers could leave the school with a deficit from £10’000 to £80’000 in any one year. Such a deficit requires quick action and usually like it most areas of work the quickest way to recover is to offer redundancy.

Remember what a school is

Looking behind the education system, you have to remember that a school is still a business. As I explained before, schools are funded by the government and the funds are decided on how many children are being taught at the school. If a schools numbers drops suddenly, so does the money in. Still with me?

If a school doesn’t keep its numbers up then tragic things happen, teachers could be made redundant and worst of all the school could indeed be amalgamated with another school or be forced to close.

Schools could indeed become complacent as it is entirely normal for them to have a good amount of new children joining the school every year, however at the moment there is literally a shortage.

Fixing the business

First off, identify the issue. If the single issue is that their aren’t enough new school starters then you need to figure out how to fix it. Parents have a choice where to send their children, just like school leavers can choose which University or College to go to. Most parents will choose a local school however some if not most will pick a school which is leading in various fields. In the United Kingdom we have OFSTED reports, the OFSTED reports show how well a school is doing. The reports are published publicly so parents can find out which schools in their area are doing really good things.

Here’s one for the teachers / head teachers and governors of schools;

If parents do not know that your school is doing fantastic things for the children and giving them the best education they could get, why would they send them to the school!?

The statement is certainly not rocket science but it is definitely something which could be overlooked.

Social Marketing and PR

Nurturing talent and building on it is a clever way to get noticed. If you have some of the best teachers you’ve ever worked with at your school nurture them, give them what they want. If they want to achieve great things along the way, give them a helping hand. If the teachers are happy the children and the parents will be ecstatic. If the parents are happy then word spreads and the schools ‘community’ grows.

You can use PR to support your marketing efforts, by letting the wider community know about the school doing well through the likes of local newspapers you are again growing your community effort. You could even use some good associated PR for the kind of school trips or community liaison work the school has done.

With regards to Social Media, nine times out of ten a schools website is pretty terrible. They usually have a donated website via the local authority which is thrown together by an I.T professional of some description. Whilst they’re perfectly brilliant with normal I.T related issues they’re certainly not web orientated.

Just off the top of my head I thought of a few things which you could publish on a school website for promotion;

  1. A school walk-around – Show the prospective clients (parents) what the school is like inside, show them the brilliant learning environments your fantastic teachers have developed for the children.
  2. List the teachers in the school with their associated skill set and tell the parents why they’re brilliant at what they do.
  3. Do walk and talk video’s with the teachers on what they’ve been doing on various weeks and detail it all for parents to watch online.
  4. Grow your school communities through social media and let the parents know of things happening online.
  5. Use Twitter as a reporting system of what various years groups are doing on particular days so the parents are kept informed.

Those are just 5 things you can do to promote your school online. The only thing you have to be careful of these days are the rights of the children not to be video’d and photographed.

Personally, because I live with a teacher I’d love to work with a school on it’s social marketing, it is business after all.

Judging your own marketing

After reading Adii’s post about ‘Marketing Substance’, it posed questions in my own mind. How do you judge your own marketing and how do you discover how well it is doing or has done. Building a personal or business brand from scratch is extensive and it takes time and patience. Adii said;

I’ve spent quite a bit of time recently trying to figure out how I can improve the marketing of my personal brand, this blog & my Twitter profile, because let’s face it – things like website traffic & Twitter followers are kind of a ego stroke / boost these days

I, in recent months have been thinking the same thing. Adii has been blogging for a good few years now and branded himself as the first WordPress Rockstar of which he became known. The branding went a step further when Adii started calling himself Adii Rockstar and even received postal mail addressed to Adii Rockstar – I know, mad eh? But now he’d like to drop the WordPress tag associated with his name and become more known for his entrepreneurial skill and spirit, after all he has accomplished a lot with Woothemes and Radiiate.

In Adii’s instance he has ran a successful blog for approximately 3 years, holds a growing list of over 3000 twitter followers and runs two companies. Breaking that down in to segments you realise that those three things retain a certain type of reader/customer/fan;

  • His personal blog – Long term reader base reading his entrepreneurial posts about business and life.
  • His Twitter feed – Links from Woothemes, Communicating with customers and blog readers.
  • Woothemes / Radiiate – Customers wanting to know about Woothemes as Radiiate is now on the back burner.

Woothemes has it’s own twitter feed as a ‘business’, after all there are 3 partners within Woothemes so why would just one person be accountable for 3000 followers? A question to be asked is, if one person from the business used their own personal twitter account for Woothemes, would they have 6000 followers (average) and therefore have a stronger brand?

I think in coming months when we hopefully see a good Twitter Statistical Tracker that we can definitely pin down exactly what “types” of followers we have. You never know that out of 3000 followers you may only have 50 who take notice of what you’re saying.

Even then…

Twitter in my opinion is definitely not the best thing to base your brand strength on. I commented on Adii’s ‘Marketing Substance’ post saying just that and how personally I’d judge the strength of my brand on my own blog and the comments within along with the amount of articles which have been spread by the community. Surely the dialogue with your readers within your blog shows an amount of respect as those individuals have taken time out of their day to discuss opinions with you in detail.

I honestly do not believe in judging your brand “worth” on the amount of twitter followers, do you honestly think that Gary Vaynerchuck would have over 640’000 followers if it wasn’t for his personal blog or winelibrarytv.com? Do you think Kevin Rose would have over 900’000 followers if it wasn’t for Digg.com?

Leaving Twitter to one side

Success and respect breeds notoriety and notoriety brings brand recognition/growth. One person might have to build an empire before people realise they are there. It is one thing building your brand in one county never mind a country, so pushing for world domination is going to take longer again.

Brands can be marketed by positioning yourself as a professional expert in a field, by spreading the word far and wide and by not letting anything stop you. You most certainly have to be thick skinned as you will pick up haters along the way, but listen to them, learn from them as they still have an opinion and in the long run be true to yourself, your skill and your ability. From this you will grow, people will find out who you are and why you’re there and respect you for it.

Get involved. Forget no-one. Learn from everyone.

What’s your budget?

budget1

Every year businesses set out their budgets for the financial year. Whilst a lot of areas are covered an important part is the Marketing budget which a lot of people forget about. Even when your first setting up as a business start-up you should budget for your marketing, this can include a wide variety of things like Advertising (radio, print or online), business cards, leaflets, networking groups and YOUR website if you don’t have one. If you do have a website, have you put money aside to have it updated or changed over the coming year?

The point of a budget is?

Forecasting your spend for the coming year is important. It allows you to know what you’re spending on which area of your business and you can account for everything going out. By tracking the amount of money you’re spending on your marketing and when you do it, you can then see what kind of Return on Investment (ROI) you are getting for it.

90% of the time businesses have a website. Most people see the advantages of having a website even if it is a simple brochure site.

Sarah Parmenter can’t build a website for £500

Sarah Parmenter posted on her personal blog about why she couldn’t build a website for £500. In a nutshell Sarah had received an enquiry from a potential client who wanted a large dynamic website building. They had filled in Sarah’s website worksheet form with some in depth detail of what they were looking for, brand awareness, structure and colour palettes usually something us designers never see as most clients need guiding rather than them knowing what they want. Everything seemed fine to Sarah until she hit the “budget” part of the worksheet where her potential client had budgeted a lowly £500 for the work they were requiring.  Sarah did a fantastic job of handling this by not only replying where most would bin the emails, she also educated her potential client on what £500 would get them and why £500 was such a low estimation from them on what they could get.

Shortly after she blogged about the issue she updated everyone with the news that the client had indeed acknowledged what Sarah said and that they were able to increase their budget.

Whilst at first I thought Sarah’s post was going to be a rant, it turned out to be a valuable piece of information for anyone in the same position. The problem with potential clients or even current clients at times is something I see quite often. Design in my opinion is somewhat undervalued by most professions even though the most wealthy people in the world rely on designers and developers day in day out to enhance their brand or increase their sales.

How much does design cost?

It depends on who you want to work with and how long they think it will take to put the best piece of design out there for you. You have to remind yourself that a good designer is not going to do something below-par just because he’s getting paid for it. We’re a strange breed where being pedantic is something in our blood and we know if something doesn’t sit right. It maybe more beneficial for a client to book a whole day or longer with a designer rather than pay an hourly rate but this is something to talk over with your designer.

When it comes to web design, think of the size of the application you’re wanting to build. Ask advice before hand with regards to budget from someone who has been there and done it. Organisations like Business Link can guide you. And remember one thing, “Pay Peanuts and get Monkeys.”

What is your budget?

I’d love to see more realistic budgets being given to designers/developers, agencies and freelancers. A designer doesn’t ask for a new kitchen and then say they’ve budgeted £500 when the total cost is around £4500. A designer doesn’t ask for a new £10k car and then tell the salesmen they have £750 to spend. We’d get laughed out of the park.

Think about your budgets, think about what you want to achieve and don’t be surprised over cost. It takes time to build a website just like it takes time to build a car or fit a kitchen.

Thoughts anyone?

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