There are many opinions of social media which can vary from either end of the spectrum. For me it is already proving invaluable in making new contacts and bringing me business but like any marketing tool you need to have a clear plan and focus for it to be effective.
Firstly do you use a variety of platforms or concentrate primarily on 1 or 2? The answer I would say is what tools are your prospective customers using and where are they most likely to find you?For a visual business Instagram is worth considering but for a business where photographs are not easily generated this would not be the most relevant platform.
LinkedIn is still the most widely used professional social media tool but don't just put up a profile accept connection requests and sit back and wait. Like any social media it must be used interactively and proactively. Add connections from networking events, join relevant groups and engage in the discussions on these. Posting articles regularly will also raise your profile and standing but make them interesting and not a sales pitch.
Twitter is proving most effective for my business at the moment but it is fast moving and engaging in conversations is a must. Be friendly and let your personality come across after all people buy people. Tweets including pictures are far more noticeable. Many areas have a dedicated hour for business chat once a week and it is well worth participating in these for example hampshire Hour and Torbay Hour. Don't forget to retweet, like and comment on other people's posts too.
Hashtags are absolutely vital - unless someone is constantly watching a feed your posts can go unnoticed. Use relevant phrases, locations and events. Piggy back on national days that are relevant to you. For example if you are a vet then anything relating to animals using the national hashtag will be seen.
Photographs - my pet hate is going to a social media profile and finding a photo of the person's dog/cat/baby. This is your online CV and must show people who you are. Many recruiters use LinkedIn and other social sites to headhunt and as a previous employer I would always vet the social media feeds for potential staff before interviewing so just stop and think about not only what you post but also what you share as the content is deemed to be condoned by you so a piece full of profanities is probably not what you want a prospective client to judge you on.
Social media can become addictive so set out some dedicated time to manage your feeds and use scheduling tools such as Hootsuite to send tweets when you want without needing to be glued to your tablet or phone 24/7. Try to have a balance between real time engagement and planned posts and measure your success against the time spent on it.
Finally should you consider outsourcing your social media? In some cases this can work extremely well but choose the supplier carefully. There are so many out there who claim to be able to manage your feed but when you look at their own social media platforms they are sparsely populated, don't use hashtags, have very few followers etc. if they cannot manage their own feeds then they are probably not the best fit to manage your business messages either!
So in conclusion social media can be a very good business tool generating profile, leads and business but make sure you have a plan and stick to it to reap the maximum benefit from the time you spend on it.
To discuss any issues relating to social media you can call Maureen on 07717 130226 for a no obligation chat
Having attended many exhibitions as well as running some during my time at the Chamber of Commerce I thought I would share some thoughts on getting the most out of them.
Next week Astrality Business Services will be exhibiting for the first time at the Torbay Business Growth Festival. That's easy I hear you say just book a stand and turn up.
However to get the maximum benefit out of the experience requires careful thought and planning.
Before the event
Firstly carefully pick which event you exhibit at. Some questions to ask:
Once you have decided the event is for you have a think about the impression your stand will give - after all first impressions always count so make sure you have a table that looks tidy, inviting and interesting.
The objective is to be able to follow up conversations so running business card draw is well worthwhile. We will be doing this as well as having some of our photography on display with a caption competition. A basket of sweets may be a good draw too! Don't assume your table will come dressed so always have a tablecloth with you just in case.
Remember people will want to take away information so make sure you have plenty of brochures/flyers and business cards available. They will be gathering a multitude of information so need to be able to digest it at leisure and be able to contact you later.
Banner stands - pull up banners are easy to transport and put up but be aware that depending on space sometimes the bottom section is hidden behind a table so always put the most important information at the top. Remember a picture speaks a thousand words - you are trying to attract visitors from across a room so don't waste too much space on words as these can be put on other materials on your table.
Ask the organisers if there are social media hashtags or the event so that you can share to help attract more visitors.
At the event
Turn up early and make sure you are all set up well before the first visitors arrive. Scrabbling around when the show has already opened doesn't say much about your ability to meet deadlines.
Be friendly and approachable but don't pounce on visitors before they have had a chance to see what your stand is about. I always find sitting down is less intimidating and encourages conversation rather than standing up. It can be a long day so do take breaks and bring back drinks but don't allow your stand to look like the used coffee table in the cafe - keep things behind the table and out of sight.
If there are two or more of you at the event take it in turns to benefit from any seminars - it can give you a talking point with later visitors to your stand as well as being informative for your business. You will also find that you often do business with fellow exhibitors so don't forget to allow time to have a look round the exhibition yourself.
After the event
Follow up the contact details you have obtained with an email or phone call - if they have given you a business card you are entitled to do this providing they are given the opportunity to opt out of any further contact from you.
If they have entered a prize draw or competition on your stand share who won the prize so that they know it was genuine and ask if there is anything you can help them with.
Thank the organisers and, if not given one on the day, ask if it is possible to have an attendance and exhibitors list.
Review what leads and business you have gained from the event and whether it has worked for you as this will help you to decide on future events.
After nearly 22 years I am today embarking on an exciting new journey as a small business owner. From Chamber CEO to Chamber member it will be interesting to see what the experience is like from the other side of the fence.
So what can I share about my journey into self employment so far? Well choosing a name was one of the first challenges so having remembered some of the marketing courses I have been on picking a name at the beginning of the alphabet always helps in a directory listing situation.
Next was where to go for a new logo. It is always a balance between quality and cost but I have been impressed with the freelogoservices.com website which is competitively priced and certainly does the job at the start. Next lesson - when choosing my logo it would have been useful to note that Facebook and Twitter now use a circle format for profile pictures so my nice square doesn't fit oops!
Setting aside a marketing budget is a must. You can have the best service ever but if nobody knows you are there it means nothing. There are a number of things you can do free such as social media, free networking events etc but that does not always put you in front of your target audience.
Basics such as Business Cards, leaflets to hand out and website all need to be paid for and used to develop and enhance your brand.
If you are looking to meet larger company owners/directors you are unlikely to find them at a free networking event. Think customer first and arrange to go to the places your potential clients are likely to be. Join a business organisation such as a Chamber or FSB. It isn't just about networking they can help with a multitude of things including free legal advice, raising profile. supply chain etc.
Now for the official stuff - whether to be a sole trader or limited company. VAT registered or not, what security measures do you need to consider for your IT systems, should you register for national insurance stamps, what insurance do you need.
Record keeping from day one is a must. Make sure you log all business start up expenses as these can be counted against your taxable earning at the end of the year. I would suggest keeping a spreadsheet to start with if your business will build gradually or if you think you will have lots of transactions look at an accounting package such as Sage or even consult a local book keeper as sometimes doing everything yourself is a false economy.
So day one on my journey has been writing the copy for this website and setting up my business social media profiles. Now working from home can be a blessing or a curse too. I am luckily quite disciplined so can focus and not get too distracted but I would recommend having a separate room you can use at home. Oh and if you get any strange emails from me it is likely to be due to the office cat Smokey who has the habit of walking across my keyboard when I leave the laptop unguarded but we have found an app to keep him occupied! https://bit.ly/2lA2hGC
Maureen Frost has spent the last 21 years working within Chambers of Commerce helping businesses of all shapes and sizes. Now taking the opportunity to branch out into self employment and recently moved to Devon with her partner.