Why are you a small business and not on LinkedIn?

Now an established go-to business community online, LinkedIn has become an essential place to be for many businesses. Not only can you use it as a method for recruitment – but you can also link up with other like-minded business people in your area – or across the globe. It’s also a great place to publish your blogs, and share your thoughts in conversation.

If you’re a small business and not on LinkedIn –you are missing out BIG time!

Building connections

When you’ve set up your profile on LinkedIn, be sure to get connecting with people. Importing your email contacts is a super easy way to get started. Once you have connected with people, LinkedIn will point you at people you may know and you can easily get broadening your contacts.

Be sure to connect with everyone you’ve done business with or have worked with – these people are familiar with your skill-set and could potentially provide a recommendation for you. It’s also nice to keep in touch with your clients and customers, Facebook can be too informal, and you may find many clients will accept a LinkedIn connection offer over other social media requests.

If you’re looking for freelancing opportunities, tenders, or even recruiting for your small business, don’t be afraid to connect with recruiters in your industry or follow senior people in a business you’re interested in working with.

Share

Any blogs you like, why not share it with your network? You can also like or comment on other people’s content too join in the conversation.

Be sure to publish your own content too, to contribute to your community – it might also help you get noticed by that person you want to do business with.

If you share content across other platforms, why not include LinkedIn in your strategy? Simply interlink the content to post on various accounts to create a strong brand and relevance to your business.

Faux pas

LinkedIn although a ‘social network’, is where people go to seek business contacts and professional opinions. Common LinkedIn faux pas include sharing inappropriate content, unprofessional profile pictures, odd posts or ‘trolling’ messages on other people’s content, spamming your contacts with personal messages to advertise or neurotically looking up your office crush or competitor’s profile.

What your brand says about who you want to work with

Your brand is your reputation. That’s becoming more and more obvious to us all in an increasingly digital world.

But what does your brand say about who would want to work with you?

How you’re seen, should be a reflection of your core values. If your colours, logos and tone don’t reflect these – then you may end up working with clients whose values just don’t match yours – and that will only make for bad business in the long term!

So, when thinking about a re-brand or even if you haven’t got an identity yet and you’re just starting out, consider who you ideally want to work with and decide what they look for, and how they present themselves on and off line too.

Why not ask friends, or colleagues to use one word to describe you, to get a sense of how you are seen by others? You may well be surprised by the perception others have of you. It could be very different to your ideas of what your brand could look like –  and what messages you will end up projecting. Ultimately, what will your business be known for?

For example, if you’re a softer and more sensitive kind of person and want to work with those who think along the same lines as you do, place yourself within a particular market or attract those who do business as you do – don’t project a super sharp, macho brand, which would likely only attract others with that mentality.

Come up with something that truly represents you – and you will find those with similar values drawn to you. Think about it….Would you be proud to have certain companies and brands associated with your business?

You want to attract the right clients for you – otherwise there is no or little fun in taking that bold step in starting your own business, or going for that re-brand.

Why you should think before you post

So, you’re a small business and you need to be online to be visible to the world. You’ve chosen which platforms best suit your business and hopefully the audience you want to connect with.

Now you have to consider your credibility and your reach:

  • Make sure what you’re posting is thoughtful, relevant to your company and engaging.
  • Don’t set it up and then forget about it – social media is a long term investment. It is a slow process to build your audience and establish a clear voice for your brand – but it brings so much value if you do it right!
  • Even if you don’t have something to say every day – do still get into the habit of checking what’s going on… Has someone retweeted or liked your posts? Have you got new followers or fans? Are there any comments or questions you should be responding to?If someone has taken the time to get in touch, then you should be there to talk to them! Even if it’s bad news or a bad review; at least you can take steps to keep your reputation well rounded and pointing in the right direction, by listening and interacting.
  • Traditional print marketing or advertising can be hugely costly to a small business. Social media marketing in truth, is pretty low-cost and gives you a direct channel to talk to your customers or potential clients. However, social media platforms constantly change the way they play the game – sometimes you will need to cost in a budget to get your posts seen by your audience. Facebook for example, is now on the most part, a ‘paid for platform’. Sure, you can set up a page for free and mostly – all it costs you is time to be on there. But the game has changed. To be seen you have to be aware of the algorithms Facebook has in place. It determines what people see in their news feed. Just because you’ve posted something – will people see it? What can you do to make sure they do? A strategy and having some understanding of how platforms work will help.

Having a strategy of some kind in place will help you to shape your reputation and brand both on and offline too.  If you find it’s not working – don’t be afraid to mix things up and change, to keep up with the ever changing landscape of the ‘digital’ world. But do think before you post and have a basic idea of what you’re going to be doing and saying to the world each and every day.

Why it’s important to interact with followers and fans

In order to have an effective relationship with customers or fans on social media businesses need to have a well-thought-plan: what to say; what the messages are; how it’s said – and when.

Social media, PR and general promotion of a business or service takes time and it’s natural to want a return on this investment. For the strategy to have a chance of being a success, aims and intentions must be set out first, along with a realistic budget and time allocation is a must to do it properly.

Without commitment, care and attention there’s little chance in fulfilling a viable media strategy.  As well as pumping out material – businesses also need to be there to respond when people take interest in what’s being put out there. It’s all too easy to end up having a one-way conversation, and eventually people will cease to connect if no one talks back.

One key aspect to fully engaging fans or followers is ensuring that the social media strategy is fully set out. When you post something, already have a plan in mind of how to respond to positive or negative feedback. It’s important to take note of how successful certain content or campaigns are and who is engaging with these key messages. Analyse social media data, such as the number or type of comments on Facebook, replies or retweets on Twitter and likes on Instagram. This will enable a greater understanding of who the audience actually is and feed in to an on-going strategy.

As well as planning, flexibility is needed to adapt to trends, events and other news going on in the world. Think about the audience; consider content that will enable people to get involved to feel part of a brand.

For example:

  • Hold regular competitions
  • Ask direct questions
  • Organise a Q&A session so fans can get to know a product or service better
  • Have giveaways
  • Produce useful podcasts or videos

Always remember the audience, and create content that’s easy to digest, and is interesting or fun. By seeing a page or account from the eyes of the online community, it’s possible to customise content which will maintain interest and keep connections fresh and relevant for both sides of the conversation.

Our work – Business Festival ‘Discuss & Do’

In 2012 Rebecca was approached to organise a six-month Business Festival ‘Discuss & Do’.

discuss-and-do-support-for-small-bizThe series of events supported small businesses and start-ups. Each month saw a topic related to small business. Up to 3 events would take place in the month, a main workshop, in which attendees would learn the basis of something – and subsequent spin off workshops.

We were fortunate to have some incredibly talented speakers, ranging from TED speaker, businesswoman and writer Margaret Heffernan, Bryony Thomas, author of Watertight Marketing and expert marketing consultant, along with Grant Lang, founder of Mozzo coffee and the Artic Farm, young entrepreneurs behind a frozen yogurt brand. As well as Claire Sully, Director of Tickbox Marketing and the founder of the Shepton Digital Arts Festival, Andrew Denham, founder of the Bicycle Academy and Gavin Eddy, Angel investor and the man behind workhub operator Forward Space.

discuss-and-do-2Local businesses got a huge amount out of each workshop. Discuss & Do has now transformed itself into a monthly discussion event, where businesses give peer-to-peer support in the community of Frome.

Our work – Old school Start-ups

Old School Start-ups pop-up business festival.

old-school-logo1

We orchestrated a week long business festival for small businesses and startups.

The launch night was a medley of ‘speed dating’ style advice clinics, where local businesses could pop in and seek advice from more established business owners.

Alongside the night, was wine tasting with local wine firm Yapp Brothers Wine Merchants. And an incredible pop-up exhibition of local artists. The evening was buzzing pop_ad-copy2and over 200 people attended the first night. Following on from the launch evening, the gallery was open to the public during office hours and evenings when other workshops throughout the business festival took place.

pop2timesThe week saw 10 workshops, all of which were aimed at SMEs and fledging companies.

Speakers ranged from brand agencies, to finance directors, authors and illustrators.

Why profiling your business online is important

Using the Internet is for most of us, as important and ingrained in our day-to-day lives as much as food and water.

Social media has grown into more than just keeping in touch with friends and family. It’s for many, a go-to for advice, recommendations for traders or businesses and a host which showcases our lives and livelihoods.

Marketing a business – of any size online, isn’t something new.  Yet, for many having an online presence can be a daunting task and can be a mind-muddle to understand. However, it’s okay to feel that way!

Social or digital marketing, is time consuming, does require a plan and lots of thought into how you reach people  – and how you can stand out amongst the chorus of others. After all, there is a lot of noise out there.

So, here’s why profiling your business online is important:

  • It’s the quickest and easiest way to tell others about your new product, service or news. A Tweet or Facebook post share, can go rival within minutes and this message is spread around the world faster than traditional TV or news media
  • There are millions of people who use social media – so you know where your customers hang out and tell each other about good stuff they’ve seen.  Being there too means you can become part of that conversation.
  • There is a huge choice of social media platforms – you don’t have to be on all of them. Use the ones you like, or the ones where most of your customers or the customers you want to attract hang out.