2013: A Content Odyssey

If 2012 has left you slightly baffled about your marketing strategy and how social media fits in, then you’re not alone. Many small businesses will need to take stock and look at how they move forward in 2013 and where their time and efforts are best spent. However scary the modern marketing world may seem, if you break it down, these new elements are all simply channels through which you can, more easily than ever before, reach your target customers. Email was new once, remember? The difficult bit is creating the right content to put through these channels which will engage your targets and ultimately get them to spend their money with you.

For websites, content is always important and with developments in search engine technologies, such as Google Panda which lowers the rank of both low-quality sites and big user-contributed sites (e.g. eHow.com), quality content is a top priority. Job roles that didn’t exist two years ago will become commonplace, such as Content Developers/Editors, Web Copywriters, Community Managers and Brand Journalists. Small businesses should look to engage these skills from the creative services community to help them ride this next wave of marketing activity. There’s no need to employ an entire agency when one great freelancer will do.

Going mobile is also proving its worth as a business model. Whether this means optimising your current website and applications for mobile devices; enabling your workforce to work from anywhere; or indeed if your business model could work in its entirety as a mobile operation, is worth pondering over a pint. Perhaps a mobile application itself offers a better opportunity to expand your reach, either through app development, sponsorship or purchase. Consumers are app-crazy, downloading everything from apps that let users play games or read the news to those that enable mobile shopping or access to how-to advice. The key is to build apps consumers would be interested in or find enjoyable and market them appropriately. The existing and forecast statistics about mobile application downloads, revenue and developer take home figures make for eye-opening reading. So, where will 2013 and beyond take you and your company’s marketing strategy?

Most popular tweet ever: The Obama Hug-o-Rama

Yes that’s right people, as of 8:20 GMT this morning, politicians are officially more popular that popstars. According to The Telegraph, newly re-elected US President Barack Obama’s tweet (pictured below) had 507,745 retweets and had been favourited 173,028 times, making it the most popular tweet ever, topping a message from singer Justin Bieber (who?). As you can see when I captured the image, these numbers have increased again. My questions are: How high will these numbers get? Will social media be credited as winning the entire presidential campaign for Obama? If more people voted in this election, will this be put down to the accessibility and persuasive nature of social media? I don’t have the answers, but I bet I will have them in about 48 hours! Gotta love the speed!

mo and bo

The Obama Hug-o-Rama

Wooaaahhhhhh Bodyform…

It’s a fine line between getting social media right and oh so terribly wrong. I think that Bodyform’s marketing team got the tone, approach and medium absolutely spot on with it’s response to a disillusioned male Facebooker. Bodyform could’ve responded in writing, but to get the humourous tone across in exactly the right way so as not to appear negative or nasty, it had to be done with video (and a good actress). With 135,000 plus views in just one day and a joke that will stand the test of time, I’m pretty sure Bodyform will more get more than a penny’s worth from this social media triumph.

Fastest Formula One Tweet Removed

This weekend’s Spa Grand Prix saw some awesome racing as well as huge frustration, penalties and pain. Against the backdrop of Jensen Button’s immense pole lap and race winning pace, McLaren team mate Lewis Hamilton seems to have swept the headlines with his Twitter antics again.

Lewis got into hot water after tweeting confidential information with a picture of his team’s telemetry data from qualifying. Cue the media frenzy, speculation about Lewis’ employability as he’s yet to sign a contract for next year, and McLaren’s PR machine hitting overdrive. The tweeted pic was quickly taken down by Lewis under instruction from McLaren, but he also adjusted some earlier tweets that were a little beyond the corporate barrier with reference to bad language and team issues.

As a motor racer’s daughter, I understand how important telemetry data is and, even at club racing level, we keep a good veil of mystery in the pits and paddock to ensure fun and fair competition. I cannot condone Lewis’ actions in sharing team data with the world, but I can understand his ‘human’ side and wanting to be honest and share his feelings with his fans and followers: he is, before anything else, a racing driver. I appreciate people who are passionate about their jobs. Surely we’d all like to be like that?

Any brand worth their salt will have a strong Social Media Policy in place and will work hard to ensure all staff adhere to it to maintain and improve the company’s reputation. On the flip side, Twitter works because it’s about being human and engaging with others. Therein lies the rub. If you’re representing a brand or corporate identity where big monies are at stake, then you need to tow the line with what you can and cannot say. Don’t you…?

 

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?

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?