The good, the bad and the ugly things about holiday…

The good…going on holiday.

The bad…realising you haven’t written any blog posts and scheduled them to go live whilst you’re away.

The ugly…wondering if scheduling posts and updates to happen whilst you’re away is a good idea for a small business/sole trader? Does it make you look good that you’re always available and online? Or potentially damaging because you look like you’re there and contactable when you’re actually not. Discuss…

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Facebook Timeline – How was it for you?

So, you’ve put a nice cover photo up that explains your business, right? Have you had time to click on any of the other buttons in the admin panel to see what they do? Well, if you haven’t yet, then next time you log in, take a second and just click on the ‘Build Audience’ button and email your contacts. Tell them you’re testing the new timeline and if they want to follow you on Facebook, that’d be really great. What’s the worst that can happen?

Life Changes in 7 days – Countdown to Facebook Timeline

If you don’t already know, 30 March 2012 is when life changes forever.

Ok, slight exaggeration. It’s when we all get automatically updated to Facebook Timeline (the new Facebook pages layout), whether we like it or not.

You may have created your new-look page already and be perfectly happy with the timeline layout. Or you may be in complete panic mode and have no idea what this means or how to handle the change. My advice when it comes to Facebook is to use guides such as Nonprofit Facebook Guy who is unbelievably helpful. I often get lost trying to get the information I need directly from Facebook, so I use sites like this for a less stressful life.

Check out the video tutorial (only 3 and a half minutes) on customising the new pages. Even if you’ve been on Facebook for a while, now is a good time to make sure you’re using it to the fullest, so have a look at other sections, such as Newbies, for a refresh. I’ve got a couple of pages to change for people this week – here’s hoping all goes smoothly!

To tweet or not to tweet?

I’ve spoken to quite a few people recently, both here and in Germany, about why Twitter is such a useful tool. Now, don’t get me wrong, some individuals may never want to get involved in the tweeting world, but if you’re in business, then there are undeniable benefits.

As of February 2012, Twitter has 200 million* members. Not quite as many as Facebook’s 845 million*, but it’s a different media and should be treated in a different manner. It’s less about friends and more about engaging with strangers with common interests – and listening out for business opportunities.

I say ‘listening’ because for small businesses this is how you start on Twitter and how you effectively engage with Twitter users. Before you begin to tweet yourself (writing updates in 140 characters or less), use the search function, put in your keywords, competitor names, your name, follow trends (#) etc, and get a feel for what’s being said in your industry or locality. Just like when we first started using the internet for search, you’ll be amazed at what you’ll find on Twitter. I’ve learnt a huge amount about my local area by following businesses and local folk and found activities for the kids which I probably never would’ve seen before. It’s all there in my Twitter feed, easy to read and instant. Fantastic.

The below video is from Yell and features BusinessZone.co.uk‘s editor Dan Martin explaining how to use Twitter to promote your business. It’s concise and useful, so have a look. If you’d like to have a look at my top tips too, that’d be great!

*data from comScore

Where am I with Google+?

Good question. I have an account. I have some circles. I have some friends in them I think. I have done some +1s. I’m still none the wiser with it to be honest.

Then I read this http://thinkdifferently.ca/differently/google-has-the-holy-grail-of-social-apps-and-is-waiting-for-users-to-realize/#comment-5. And it made me feel better.

So, I will be spending some time with my Google+ account and I plan to put into practice what I learnt back in February on the BTEC for Social Media. Now…where are my notes?

Top Tips for Tentative Tweeters

I’ve been on Twitter since 2008. I’m not the greatest Twitterer and, as with all things evolving and social, I’m always learning. But in my time on the tweet scene and rubbing shoulders with those in the know, here are my top tips which should help you engage the blue birdy world effectively:

1. At first, just listen. Follow others in your industry, including competitors and suppliers. Search and follow keywords and trends relevant to your business and locality.

2. When you’re ready, join in the conversation. Be engaging; ask and answer questions; create a dialogue that provides added value to your followers. People buy from people – personality is good.

3. Your followers should eventually become your target customers. Find them by following steps 1 and 2.

4. Twitter is public and searchable. Be nice. Don’t swear, stalk or argue.

5. Keep it up! As with all things social and shampoo, it will only be effective with regular use. (Let’s see how many read that bit!)

One of my favourite websites, Marketing Donut has this helpful guide to Get started on Twitter. Also have a look at the Marketing Professor for more on tweet strategy.

Doug Richard’s School for Startups

Yesterday I met ex-Dragon Doug Richard and he gave me some straight forward, extremely useful feedback on a branding question I had. I jumped at the chance to ask him during a break at the Web Fuelled Business bootcamp at Sheffield’s Megacentre. He basically told me what I already knew, but to have it confirmed was music to my ears and ego.

The bootcamp was a superb event – and free! Doug and ex-Amazon executive James Dening conveyed an astonishing amount of information on all things web from SEO, SEM, SMM, E-commerce, Exporting, Adwords, Adsense, Remarketing and more!

Some of the bootcamp info reinforced my recent BTEC in Social Media for Business and some elements were completely new – how exciting: new stuff! Remarketing was especially relevant as I’ve just started an Adwords campaign. Remarketing basically drops cookies onto the computer of people who’ve previously visited your website and so when they next fire up a browser and visit a relevant site, your remarketing-targeted ad will, as if by magic, appear to them. This will keep happening until such times as you decide to switch it off. Well worth knowing about, don’t you think?