People power and social media campaigns

I just read a pretty amazing statistic… do you know how many people covered their profile picture on Facebook with a rainbow flag after the US Supreme Court ruled favourably on gay marriage back in June?

26 million!

Can you believe that? I find it pretty amazing. Of course, the photo editing tool that Facebook launched in order to do it means that there was almost zero effort required to do it, and of course it had no bearing on the ruling itself. But 26 million people standing up and saying they support something is undeniably impressive.

Rainbow filter, Facebook
Rainbow filter, Facebook

Other recent social media campaigns include the outrage over the killing of Cecil the Lion, last year’s ice bucket challenge, and (my hero) Stephen Sutton’s bucket list. Prior to social media, the main way to galvanise a huge number of people in a short amount of time was through major fundraising efforts (at huge initial cost, using mainstream mediums) such as Comic Relief and Children in Need. Now, all that is needed is a social media account, an injection of passion, and the content or a topic that will stand out.

So to those 26 million people who changed their profile pictures, well done. Maybe, just maybe, you helped to show that social attitudes are changing, and we’re becoming more willing to be counted in what we agree (or disagree) with.

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Social Media for a Small Business – Help! Where Do I Start?

Facebook. Twitter. LinkedIn. Pinterest. Instagram. Vine. Tinder. Tumblr. YouTube. Flickr. Google+. Vimeo. Foursquare. MySpace.

social_media_logos

Ok, maybe not MySpace anymore. However, this list of the first few social media platforms that came to my mind shows just how many platforms currently are available for businesses to try. Does that mean you should have a presence on all of them?

Of course not – for a small business, it just wouldn’t be possible. Don’t forget that whilst many of these platforms are free to use, your time isn’t – and that is where the cost of social media can often be seen.

So which one (or more) should you choose? The first step is to look at who is using the platforms – is your intended audience there? For example, users of Vine (a sharing platform for 6-second videos) tend to be younger so it would be pointless setting up on there if your audience are ‘silver surfers’ (broadly speaking, of course).

This analysis will form the first part of a social media plan for your business. Having a plan is essential to make sure that you know where you want to be, what you want to say and how you intend to say it online – especially if a third party (such as a staff member or external consultant) will be posting online on behalf of your business. Give that person a clear brief, as mistakes can lead to potentially costly repercussions for your business reputation.

It is fine to use only one platform. It is also fine to use several. The key is making sure that you have appealing and appropriate content to share with those who engage with your business on your chosen platform(s). Without this, you will struggle to reach or interest followers, which will see your business drown in the noise of today’s social media.

Are you bored of social media?

Facebook is 11 years old this year. YouTube is 10. Twitter was launched in 2006, meaning it will reach its 10th birthday next year. As these platforms contain to embed themselves in our marketing strategies, and are no longer ‘new’, are they at risk of becoming boring in the eyes of consumers?

By the end of 2013, Facebook had 1.23bn monthly active users. There are just over 7bn people in the world – so a seventh of the world’s population are using Facebook on a regular basis. With the sheer quantity of people posting content online, it is easy for businesses to be seen as boring, and for them to get lost in the noise.

applePyramid

So what can your small business do to make sure you stand out?

1. Never buy followers. Take your time to build an organic following of people who are local to you and are genuine customers or potential customers of your business.

2. Use humour. A funny tweet or status update is more likely to be shared. The mobile network, Three (@threeuk) are doing this well at the moment with their #holidayspam campaign.

3. Use images and videos. These work on most platforms now, including both Facebook and Twitter. They take up more of the screen (meaning you’re more likely to catch attention) and analytics show that viewers are more likely to engage with and respond to a tweet which uses photos and videos.

4. Make it interesting. Sounds obvious, doesn’t it? Even the most dull of businesses (sorry accountants!) can be successful on social media by offering an insight into their companies, providing useful tips and hints, or focusing on people rather than functions.

5. Link to, share and retweet other content. Don’t be afraid of sharing other business’ content, where it is likely to be interesting to your desired audience and is appropriate to your business’ goals. This doesn’t necessarily mean your direct competitors, but wider companies who share similar views and values to your companies. For example, a cupcake business may retweet a recipe from a diet company or celebrity chef, if it is of interest to their followers. Sharing content isn’t stealing, as it acknowledges the original location or source of the content.

You will find that more people are interested in what you have to say if you make it engaging and useful or fun for your followers, which will make you less likely to disappear in the noise of other social media users. It is worth taking the time to plan your content in advance so that you know what you want to say, and therefore how you want to say it.

It’s Never Too Early to Start Thinking About ‘That’ Time of Year

As of today, there are only 36 sleeps until Christmas. The season has started on television, with John Lewis’ “Monty the Penguin” taking the lead in this year’s favourite festive ad, and many people have already started their Christmas shopping and arrangements.

Making your marketing plans for Christmas - O'Loughlin Marketing Image courtesy of stockimages at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of stockimages at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

So, have you prepared your business’ Christmas marketing plans? If not, here are some things you might want to consider:

  • What markets or audiences do you want to target for the Christmas period – maybe you want to particularly attract office parties, parents celebrating baby’s first Christmas, or corporate gift buyers? How will you appeal to them, and are your products or services attractive to that audience?
  • Make sure you can deliver. Much like Santa, if you say people can have their product or service before Christmas, make sure you can actually do it!
  • Consider extending your Christmas opening hours if demand requires it. Don’t miss out on Christmas orders or shoppers, especially if businesses around you are extending theirs – they could take your custom if you are unavailable.
  • Collect email addresses from those who buy from you in December, and send email marketing to wish them a Merry Christmas and any offers you have for Christmas and/or January.
  • Promote your Christmas activities on your Facebook, Twitter and other social media pages, so that your customers know what you have planned.
  • Think about January – a typically quieter time for many businesses. Can you offer a voucher or offer to customers if they visit you or buy in January too?

You should always try to make sure that your marketing stands out, especially in a busy period for consumers. However, don’t forget that people want to feel festive at this time of year, so don’t be embarrassed to put Christmas, and all it entails, firmly at the centre of your marketing activities throughout the period.

10 Marketing Tips Your Small Business Can Use Today

Last week, I attended a networking group where I was asked for marketing tips which small businesses can make instant use of, especially on a small or no budget. Here are some of those discussed which your business may find useful:

  • Get people to recommend you to their friends and family – this is always my number one tip. Give good service, make sure your business’ processes are as good as they can be, and don’t be afraid to ask your existing customers to pass on your details or write a recommendation for you. There is nothing more powerful in marketing than having a friend or family member recommend a business to you, so never overlook it.
  • Always have your business cards to hand, no matter where you go. You never know who you might run into, and you don’t want to miss a potential business opportunity. A few stored in your wallet or purse will make sure you always have some available.
  • Attend networking events – they are plenty around and with a little research, you can easily find out which ones are free to attend. It is always worth trying a few different groups until you find a format and mix of attendees that works well for your business – not all groups are the same, so don’t be put off if you have one bad or worthless experience.
  • Use social media – the most popular sites, such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, are all free to use and can lead to a huge number of business opportunities. If you don’t know how to set up a page or use the sites, don’t be afraid to ask someone who does. You don’t necessarily need to pay for the advice (although those people should be the best people to ask!), a teenager is always a good start for asking social media questions! Once set up, be consistent in using the sites for promoting your business and keep the pages up to date.
  • Show off your company name everyday by wearing a branded t-shirt, shirt or jacket – it might seem a little tacky to some, but people will see your business name constantly when around you and it will help to push your business to the front of their mind when they need your services. If you have employees, make sure you’re all dressed the same for maximum effect.
  • Write articles and press releases – keep a look out for topical issues which relate to your business and submit articles or press releases to local publications. Readers are far more likely to read editorial than look at adverts, so get in touch with the editors of local publications (their details will usually be found within the first couple of pages) and send them content they can use. Small businesses looking for local customers should consider smaller publications such as parish magazines, as these are often read by local residents and so will reach your target audience perfectly.
  • Consider becoming a public speaker – if your business is of interest to others and you feel comfortable doing so, you could offer yourself as a public speaker for networking groups, such as Rotary, W.I., or other such meeting groups. They are always looking for interesting speakers, and it is a fantastic opportunity to speak directly to a number of people at once. It will take a little work to set up and you may need to do a couple to find your confidence, but if you can tell an interesting story about what you do, the people you come into contact with or the impact of your business on the local community, people will listen and you will win a new audience.
  • Don’t forget your existing customers – collect email addresses from your existing customers and send them a regular newsletter using a low cost email system such as Mail Chimp or DotMailer. Send updates on new products or services offered by your business, and keep them up to date with relevant industry news. Staying at the front of your customers’ minds will help to encourage future sales.
  • Consider using social media to give something away for free – you could run a competition on Facebook or Twitter to win one of your products or a sample of your service (i.e. a 20-minute meeting) if the entrants share or retweet your competition content. This will extend your audience to those contacts of your existing online followers and will help to build ‘likes’ or followers.
  • Don’t forget to get the basics right first – have a plan of what you want to achieve with your marketing and identify who your target audience is. This will make sure that you make the right choices to get your message to these people and don’t waste vital resources (which includes time, as well as money) on marketing activities which will not appeal effectively to your targeted customers.

Regardless of whether your business has no budget or a multi-million pound budget, marketing your business is essential for ensuring you know where your next customers are coming from, and so by putting a few simple activities in place, you can help to push your business in the right direction – i.e. upwards!

Should I post my child’s photos on social media?

As a soon-to-be first-time mum, I have been taking more interest in policies and articles surrounding posting photos of children, and particularly babies, on social media. I recently read an interesting article which discussed the long-term implications of posting your child’s photos online, including the possibility of potentially damaging their future university or job prospects, as well as a ‘scare’ story about online trolls reposting your child’s images and making stories up about your child with others. Not something any parent would want.

With many parents understandably wanting to share their child’s cutest poses and biggest achievements with friends and family, what can you do to make sure your child’s image is safe – both now and in the future?

  • Let friends and family know your decision on posting photos – whether you want to avoid it altogether or are happy for them to post on your behalf. Be clear on your wants and ask them to respect your decision. Some people may forget and post in their excitement to share your good news and child’s developments, so don’t be embarrassed to ask them to remove a photo if you feel uncomfortable with its publication.
  • Check your privacy and posting settings. On Facebook, for example, you can ensure your images are only seen by designated ‘close friends’, so make use of these to just share images with those you trust. It is a good idea to ensure your photos are never set to ‘public’ as this can leave them open for anyone to view, including those not friends with you on your page or profile.
  • Use a secure Cloud server to share images directly with friends or family. Sending a link via Dropbox means they’ll receive high resolution images as and when you want to share them and they will only be shared with those you choose to share them with.
  • Check who your friends and connections are on social media. Is it time to cull that friend list on Facebook to only have people you genuinely know and trust, or should you protect your tweets on Twitter? You may decide to do the former and only post images there – whatever you do, give some consideration to your audience and make sure you’re happy with it.
  • Don’t post photos which show your child undressed. Ever.
  • Finally, if you do choose to share your baby’s images, don’t forget that not everyone will want to see photos of every second of every day of your new arrival’s life, especially if they have suffered a loss or difficulties in having children of their own. No-one is saying you shouldn’t be proud of your child and want to share that, but try to be sensitive to those you have chosen to share your images with.

As a parent, it is entirely your decision how much or how little you want to make public of your child’s life in online photos. However, it does no harm to be aware of the potential risks of photo sharing and to take steps to secure your social media sites in order to make sure they are set up with your child’s best interests in mind.

I’ve not yet decided how I would like to proceed with sharing photos of my baby once born in the next few weeks. I’d like to think I’ll achieve a happy medium so that friends and family (especially those living far away) can share our experiences, whilst also keeping the images of the youngest O’Loughlin safe going forward. What I do know is that I will be able to control what output I have and when, which makes me feel more confident as a parent using social media.

Apologies for being slightly off topic on this – back to small businesses next post!

Today’s News – The Good, The Bad and the Ugly

A quick scan of today’s news tells of three stories showing both the good and bad uses of social media.

The Good:

Stephen’s Story – members of the public have been rallied by famous people, including comedian Jason Manford, to help dying teen Stephen Sutton to raise £1million for the Teenage Cancer Trust. The target was part of the ‘bucket list’ created by Stephen as his cancer became inoperable, and currently stands at £1,128,608.29 (as of 1.15pm on Wednesday 23rd April). This show of support presents the good that social media can do in communities and in response to an eloquent and worthy appeal.

To support Stephen: https://www.justgiving.com/Stephen-Sutton-TCT

The Bad:

NYPD Hashtag Disaster – BBC News reported this morning that the New York Police Department encouraged followers to post photos of themselves with local police officers with the hashtag #myNYPD, which was quickly overtaken by users posting photos showing possible police aggression by the force. The NYPD responded with a statement saying “Twitter provides an open forum for an uncensored exchange and this is an open dialogue good for our city.”

The Ugly:

Let’s not get started on the tweet sent to a customer from US Airways recently, which is still being investigated…

All of this shows that all social media campaigns should be carefully thought through prior to going live. You should try and consider all possible reactions to the campaign, and even though you can never please everyone, try not to walk into a situation where your brand or company is exposed.