3 benefits to my small business of having a presence on Twitter

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I joined Twitter back in 2010 and then promptly did what a lot of people do. Had a quick look, felt completely overwhelmed and then didn’t look at it again for around 5 years. With only 140 characters to make my point and not really having any idea of what that point was I decided it wasn’t for me. What with hashtags and mentions, squeezing in a link and possibly an image it all seemed like hard work and many of the Tweets I was reading could have been written in a foreign language for the amount of sense it made to me.

“When people ask me what the best tip is for their new business, or any business for that matter, the answer often surprises them: Twitter.” – Gary Vaynerchuk

Fast forward to now, March 2018, and I would probably agree with the quote above. In 2015, when I started my own small business blog, I realised I was going to have to do something to get visitors to those painstakingly crafted posts and ultimately to my website.

So, I decided to up the activity on Twitter and can now see definite benefits to my business:

In the last 12 months I have won two new projects as a direct result of Twitter.At just under a month in my most recent blog post has already received 2,000 visitors.Last but not least, I’ve forged some online relationships that have helped all aspects of my business beyond converting to new customers.New customers as a direct result of Twitter

Back in 2015 when I realised I was going to have to take some action to get traffic to my blog and website, one of the first things I did was to start following other small local businesses. Many of them were as active as I had been. In other words, they’d created an account and Tweeted a handful of times followed by a sustained period of inactivity.

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Solved! Small business social media profile picture problems

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If you’re running a small business and managing a couple of social channels you may well have had a few issues with profile pictures. What should you choose and then once you’ve decided how on earth do you get it to fit? Read on to find out:

How to choose your profile picture and,How to get your profile pictures to fit within the allotted space.Choosing a profile picture

The picture you choose depends on your business. Before you start have a think about the image that you want to project. Remember your profile picture is likely to be the first thing that anyone will see when they come across your profile and first impressions are important. The first decision is simple:

Do you use your logo?Should you have a picture of yourself?What about a combination of both?Using your logo

If you’ve invested in branding and have a logo that you are hoping to use to project a unified image across all social channels, your website and on printed material you possibly think this is the best option. But before you do just consider the image you’re projecting and the audience you are hoping to engage. If you’re a small to medium sized business and you will be posting for the company then yes go ahead and use the logo. Do make sure it’s the right size and all of it is visible … more on this later.

Using a head-shot

Using a head-shot may be better if you are a small business, possibly a sole trader. In this instance, you are the business and it is you who people will be engaging with online and ultimately doing business with. Your online audience will be engaging with you personally so choosing a picture that represents you as the face of the business is sometimes a better option.

If you’re going for a head-shot of you it’s worth investing in a session with a professional photographer. Tempting though it is to try and cut costs here, that blurry shot of you at a friend’s party with the wine glass cropped out is not really going to cut it. If you need a little more convincing have a read of this post which discusses profile pictures for your website, but also the importance of having them professionally taken.

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Are you using social media for customer service?

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We’re now all familiar with the benefits of social media for promoting our small businesses. It can:

generate brand awareness,showcase your expertise and knowledge,generate leads,boost sales andboost your website’s search rankings.

I always encourage all new website owners to embrace at least one social media channel to help to promote their new website if nothing else. If you still need convincing have a read of Social media ... do you need to bother?.  

One of the common arguments I hear for not doing so is that small business owners are worried about negative comments and feedback about their products and services being posted on their public profiles and feeds. These negative comments are going to happen from time to time, possibly on your own profile and if you’re a small business providing local services some of these may well turn up on local Facebook groups.

So how does this tie in with customer service?

We tend to think of social media as a means of promoting our small business by finding new markets and encouraging those potential customers to engage and start to use our products and services.

But your existing customers are also using social media. You may have great relationships with your customers, but with the best of intentions sometimes things can go wrong. The odd one of these less than delighted customers may well air their grievance on social media.

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Should you auto direct message all new followers and fans?

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Short answer ... I don't think so!

First of all what is an automatic direct message or auto DM?

Twitter has a private messaging facility for sending direct messages to other users. An auto direct message is one that is sent automatically, usually triggered by a new follower.

Social media is just that ... social!

You should definitely be interacting and engaging with your followers so why is a message welcoming a new follower not necessarily a good thing?

Think about how you interact with someone who you've just met face to face:Do you dive straight in and talk about yourself and your services? Probably not.Do you ask them to do something for you, like recommend your services to a colleague? In social media speak follow you on other networks or re-tweet for you? Again, unlikely.Do you immediately start to sell to them? I doubt it.

With the above in mind you can imagine my reaction when I recently received the following message:

"Hey Ann Warne, fancy a top of the range website with no upfront costs? Our design team could create you a cutting-edge, pay monthly website from just £39pm. Packages include: - Bespoke Expert Design - FREE Domain Name - Website Hosting - Content Management System (CMS) - Desktop, Tablet & Mobile Responsive - On-site SEO - Social Media Integration - Business Email - Ongoing Support If you like I can arrange to give you call to discuss things a little further? Many thanks, Amy"

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Are you a reluctant small business blogger?

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Blogging has become an integral part of most business marketing campaigns but many small business owners are still reluctant to embrace what is, time commitment aside, free marketing.

I hear lots of reasons why:

I haven’t got timeI don’t know what to writeOur customers aren’t interested and no one would read it

All valid reasons, but lets compare a blog post with traditional means of promoting your small business. You may decide its worth spending a bit of time researching what to write and getting your content out there.

Local Advertising

Many small businesses still use small adverts in local newspapers and community magazines.

How much time does it take to prepare those ads?How much are the printing costs?What happens after that publication has reached its lifespan of a month or maybe as little as a week?

Compare that with a blog post.

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Hashtags! What, when, where and how?

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They’re everywhere and we’ve all seen them cropping up in all sorts of unexpected places, but if you’re new to social media and you’re finding your hashtags a bit of a minefield then read on.

What are they?

A hashtag is a way of tagging, or key wording, your posts on your social channels. They help to get your posts, tweets, status updates etc. found by users searching for content on any given subject.

So for example, if I were searching on Twitter for information about the recent Olympics I might search for ‘#Rio2016’ which would return Tweets containing that hashtag.

When and how should you use them?

Whenever you can but proceed with caution:

Make sure they are relevant to the content you’re sharing. For example, if I'm posting a fun image of a dog that has nothing to do with web design, I wouldn't tag it #webdesign.Use your keywords. So for example, I use #webdesign #smallbusiness #websiteTry not to join too many words together. Better  #smallbusiness #webdesign than #smallbusinesswebdesignTry to use hashtags that are already in use and there is a useful little autocomplete that pops up as you type … unless of course you’re creating your own intentionally. More on this another time.Avoid tagging every word and generally over tagging – although it’s more appropriate on some channels than others.Humour works and it goes without saying … correct spellingWhere do you use them?Twitter: This is where it all started. One or two per Tweet and I would say no more than three. Adding a hashtag at the end of the Tweet will create a link to all other tweets on that topic, so only do this if it’s going to enhance the value of your own Tweet to your audience and is relevant.Facebook: Hashtags are not generally associated with Facebook although they are now being used. As a general rule no more than two per post. Research shows that the number of interactions drops as the number of hashtags increases.Linked In: Hashtags are not supported by Linked In so they are best avoided.Instagram: The hashtags here really should be about describing the picture and use all that are relevant … you can use up to 30. It’s OK to use two that are similar – for example, #webdesign and #websitedesign

This is by no means a comprehensive list of all the social channels or all the appropriate usage, so please add your own experiences in the comments below and anything else that may be useful to a small business just starting out with social media.

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User Generated Content: What is it and should you be doing it?

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User generated content is any form of media that is created by users of an online system or service, for example blogs, discussion forums, posts, chats and tweets and incorporates, text, images, video and audio.

So how is user generated content going to help your business?

We all know how important it is to add fresh content to our small business websites. However, coming up with that content can sometimes present a challenge and then once you've created it how do you get people to read it? This is where user generated content can help.

People do business with people and If you have an existing, returning customer base the chances are they're happy with your products and services. That could be a potentially huge resource of brand affirming content for you to share and engage with either by blog post content or sharing and engaging with you on your social media channels.

Users and customers also tend to be more interested in hearing from their peers ... some studies have shown that consumers trust user generated content more than all other forms of media. So it's a win ... win.

Your users create the content for youIt's more valuable to your existing and potential customers

What's not to love about it? So how do you get started?

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New to managing a Facebook page? Stuck for post ideas?

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Then read on if you need some inspiration

Those first few posts on your new Facebook business page can seem a bit daunting. What on earth do you post? If you've just launched a new website, use some of the content from that to ease yourself in to it and then move forwards using these guidelines.

Share tips and best practise advice from within your sector. Demonstrating your knowledge builds credibility.Post images of your products and/or work you've recently completedHumour works well ... it doesn't all have to be about your products and this gives you a chance to show a bit of personality behind your brandMotivational quotes ... but be sincere (that's my personal opinion) and probably not too frequently.Ask questions. For example, I have to select images for websites and one of my early posts that worked really well was quite simply asking people what they felt the message was behind the photograph.

Also don't forget you can share some of your Pages post on your personal Facebook profile to relevant groups that you may be a member of. But, do be careful ... too much 'spammy' behaviour and bombarding various groups with the same post in a short space of time can alienate your audience and more worryingly cause Facebook to suspend your page.

Promotions and sales posts ... proceed with caution

Try not to obviously promote your business too much. The odd post about an offer or a promotion is fine. But if all you do is constantly advertise your products and services people will switch off. They may even start to hide your notifications ... nobody likes to be sold to all the time!

Etiquette

Finally, don't forget to interact with your audience and thank them. People like to be acknowledged. Share other pages content and if someone shares yours try to acknowledge it. Commenting on the thread of your own shared content is a very good way of doing this. Plus you are benefiting from the audience of whoever shared in the first place.

There's a lot to take on board here ... but really, just make sure you're posting and sharing if you want to increase your Facebook reach. If you could do with some advice, please get in touch on 01494 537612 and we can get you on the right tracks and we have some useful contacts we can put you in touch with if you just want to hand it over to someone else to manage.

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"No one's seeing my Facebook page posts!"

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This is something I hear regularly from clients who have just launched a new website and are hoping to promote their business and website through Facebook.

One of the best ways of getting the word out there about a website and/or a new business venture is undoubtedly through using social media. Let's face it, aside from your time ... it's free and the potential audience is huge! If you're still not convinced about using social media to promote your business read this earlier post.

There are many social channels available and for a business providing goods and services locally, business to consumer, Facebook is a good choice.

However, you have to put the work in.

So, you, or your web developer, have created the Facebook page and the temptation is to invite all your friends to like your page. Remember your friends are not necessarily your potential customers, although you could argue that it depends on what you're offering. If you're providing garden services then perhaps someone within that immediate network could require your services and quite possibly friends of friends could increase that likelihood.

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Social media … do you need to bother?

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Short answer ... YES you do! You've set up your new business and you have a brand new website.

The phone's going to be ringing off the hook ... right? Wrong!

It's going to take time before your new small business website starts to get found in any Google search results. Starting a social media campaign is just one of a number of things that you can do to help speed up the process, although there are no guarantees of achieving page 1 of Google for your chosen search string.

For now though, let's just focus on the advantages of using social media as a small business ... and there are many, beyond search engine optimisation and driving traffic to your website.

1. Generate Brand Awareness

By creating a consistent presence on your chosen social media channels, your company and it's brand can create a recognisable image. Good quality posts can help build and enhance your reputation. 

2. Showcase Your Expertise and Knowledge

Sharing your knowledge and giving away valuable free tips on your social media channels will show your potential customers that:

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