Where have I been?

Well, to tell you the truth, nowhere. Apart from setting up new business TigerNash Ltd, with my old buddy Mel Kanarek; running two houses, two girls under three and a husband; volunteering for Riders for Health; helping my sister to set up her new venture, Seriously Connected, and my parents to work out how to sell their established garage business; and becoming chairman of charity, Kaleidoscope Community Music, I’ve really been twiddling my thumbs working out what to blog about 😉

Anyway, I plan to be back here regularly talking about things that are going on with me, my work, and interesting stuff in marketing and social media. Now, where’s the coffee and cake…

Anxiety Reducers – Video Marketing

How often do you pick up your phone and shoot video without even thinking about it? Well, if you have young kids, you probably do it several times a weekend. Video is superb for many things (including keeping the grandparents happy), so why aren’t all small businesses taking advantage of this anxiety reducing medium?

Making videos used to mean big bucks, but not anymore. Here’s a few pieces of advice and links to help you make your first marketing video. This list is by no means exhaustive (I haven’t even touched on editing software for example), merely a taster to see that video is affordable, accessible and works.

  1. Making video is relatively easy and cost effective especially with the amazing technology in our smartphones, but sound quality is paramount for the end result to be watchable. Here the guys at Social Saturday Strategy show you a great way to get around the sound issue.
  2. Statistics show that adding video can significantly increase conversion rates and customer loyalty. (In case you need convincing!)
  3. Content can range from customer testimonials, product demonstrations, dialogues or monologues, but make sure the message is right and supportive of your marketing strategy. Have a look at these ‘how to’ guides for help with structure and objectives.
  4. Finally (for now), how do you get your video out to people once it’s made? Well, make sure it works on your website (homepage or landing pages, depending on your strategy) and, again from Social Saturday Strategy, get your video viewed.

I’d love to hear from you about your video dos and don’ts or examples of where it has really worked for your business, so leave your comments below.

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…

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?

Inbound Marketing – You Oughta Know…

I’ve just come across this video from HubSpot and loved it. I felt it summed up outbound and inbound marketing in a fantastically creative way, which should bring a smile to your face and also go some way to illustrate the changing dynamic of marketing today and the different strategies we need to adopt to stay afloat. Enjoy…

Should I run my business through Google?

Whilst researching webhosting options and working on another WordPress site, my thoughts turn to Google. Can I…? Should I…? Who else does…? …Run a business through Google?

When I say run a business, I mean my online presence and communications. Well for £3.30 per user per month it appears I can have my cake and eat it. Google Apps for Business seem to do everything a small business could want. Email, websites, calendars, video chat, groups, documents, mobile sync and more. You can even start with the free version if you don’t need it all and have under 10 users (which is more likely for me for now).

I’ve had my gmail account for a few years and have never had a problem accessing or using email. Now with Google+ and other things I’m running through it, such as adwords, reader etc, I genuinely believe that as Google works so well, then why not use it for business? Now, I’ve just got to convince the others and I’ll let you know how it goes!

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!

Most writing sucks – 5 ways to stop it

I’ve just read Elmore Leonard’s 10 Rules of Writing. It didn’t take long. It’s certainly more a novelty gift than a book, so don’t get your hopes up for anything revolutionary and read the reviews before parting with your money.

Why am I telling you this? Well, whether it’s a novel, a magazine article, or a company website, a lot of writing I read today sucks. It’s often carelessly written with a lack of understanding of audience engagement. So, I want to share a few basic things I’ve learnt over the years of writing press releases, case studies, websites and tweets, in the hope that it prevents silly mistakes and sloppy writing slipping into small business:

1. Spell check everything (just make sure what country your spell check is set to if you’re not sure when it should be a z or an s).

2. Grammar and punctuation still matter even in tweets, blogs and websites. Don’t fall into the trap of text speak – it’s not becoming of a professional business.

3. As much as possible, use active rather than passive language. For example: ‘I write’ rather than ‘I am writing’. An easy way to look for this is to check words ending in _ing and replace them with the more active form of the word. It may mean adjusting the sentence structure, however this is almost always beneficial to the flow of the copy.

4. Read your copy out loud. Always. See where you stumble and rewrite as necessary.

5. Avoid jargon and buzzwords. Read it to your gran or your ten year old. If they don’t get it, it may be poorly written. Complex concepts can be explained in plain English for anyone to understand with the right wording.

That’s it for now. I’m sure I’ll think up some more and let you know in due course.

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?