The Benefits Of Blogging

A Guide To Social Media Marketing For SMEs (Part 3)

In parts 1 and 2, we have already looked at some practical applications of using tools such as Twitter and LinkedIn as part of an integrated social media marketing approach for your business and in this latest installment – we will take a look at why you should be using a blog as an additional tool to compliment your social media strategy.

What is blogging?
Quite simply for the purpose of this basic guide, a blog is a way in which you can communicate and share your personal thoughts and views on the web using a personalised blogging website to host all your content.

Blogging has become a very popular marketing and thought leadership tool over the last 5 years and is used quite heavily by leading industry experts to share their views on topical issues.

The Power Of Blogging…

Thought Leadership
Everyday, we are trying to demonstrate to our customers/prospects that we are experts, market leaders and the best at what we do, whether we are providing a product or service. Blogging is a fantastic vehicle which can allow you to cement this position as it can provide you with enormous online reach.

To become a thought leader, you can use your blog to share your expertise and experience by publishing your thoughts and commentary on a number of topics i.e. key industry issues, market trends, customer insight, product/service developments, topical news stories, best practice, industry events – the list goes on (you get the idea).

It is important however that you keep your blog up-to-date, interesting and relevant. If you have a great idea for a blog, make sure to get in contact with your industry media partners to share your thoughts as it common practice for some of these to be published on their own website or published as copy within their magazine (if it is a great blog/thought leadership article). This means that you get great copy for your website, your client newsletter to endorse your position as an expert in your industry and also gives you additional credibility for your blog which you can share with millions online.

Boost Your Web Traffic / Online Presence
A blog is another great way of bringing more traffic to your company website as it provides enormous online reach. Creating a topical or interesting blog post that is supported with relevant tags (keywords associated with your post) means that more people will be able to find your contribution quicker. To help bring more visitors to your company website, make sure to add lots of links within your blog post (adding your preferred landing page url) as this deliver more traffic and potential new clients to your website.

If you develop and effectively maintain your blog – delivering great content, adding relevant url links and ensuring your blog is supported with the correct tagging – you will make it easier for people to find you, your company and your content online and within the blogosphere.

To support your web traffic further, you can directly post your blog to your LinkedIn, Twitter and other social media sites. This is good practice in general and compliments your social media profile, whilst creating content that should be of interest for your customers and prospects.

Powerful Copy
Your website is a shop window not only for your existing clients, but also for potentially new ones. A blog is a great prop for your website and will give you an opportunity to generate more traffic as long as your content is thought-provoking, interesting and relevant. Giving people a reason to return to your website is always a good marketing tactic and sometimes a compelling blog which is updated each day/week can support this activity, as your visitors might be keen to read your latest entry.

Real Time Insights

The beauty about having a blog is that you do not need to be a website developer or designer and you certainly do not need to wait days to have your content published online. A blog provides real-time insight and commentary in an engaging way that allows people to get involved in the subject/topic.

Example…
You visited an industry seminar and were not able to contribute to the discussions that were taking place in which a number of interesting prospects were in attendance. A blog will give you the means to comment on anything that you agreed/disagreed with and also provide you with an opportunity to share your own views on a burning issue that you feel passionate about. Once you have created your blog post and added your tags and relevant url links to support the entry – you can share your post instantly using your various social media accounts (LinkedIn, Twitter etc) which will in addition to making your blog visible within the blogosphere, will also allow you to reach a further audience within the social media networks that you are registered with. Remember, sound out your local media partner as the post may be something they can use in their own magazine or online features section.

Get Started
There are quite a number of blogging sites available to get started and the below are just a few to point you in the right direction. Once you have decided which one you want to use, simply register and get started! At first, it will take some time to experiment, but once you become familiar with the blogging process – you will soon become an expert.

WordPress
TypePad
Blogger
Moveable Type
Xanga

In the next installment (Part 4) of my blog – A Guide To Social Media Marketing For SMEs I will be focusing on the benefits and applications of social bookmarking.

If you have found my blog interesting and helpful, please feel free to share this post with others via the below social bookmarks.

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Get Connected, Get LinkedIn

A Guide To Social Media Marketing (Part 2)

Launched in 2003 and with over 100m registered users worldwide, LinkedIn has become the fastest growing and most popular professional networking website around. LinkedIn is a tool that most professional marketers are aware of and using to great effect – and as a free resource (is a must for SMEs)!

In this blog, I will share with you some of the best practical applications of LinkedIn for SMEs and the key benefits it can deliver, however the first thing you need to do (right now) is to create an account on Linkedin.

Getting Started: The Basics
To get the most from LinkedIn, I recommend that you put time and effort into creating a strong profile. This will be the first thing that potential contacts will look at in deciding whether they wish to become a connection. I have seen a number of examples of very poor profiles on LinkedIn, where people have not filled in the most basic detail about their expertise/background or in taking the time needed to build a profile which looks credible. In my opinion, you will have little success with LinkedIn if you do not bother to work on developing a strong profile. The profile is your online CV – therefore, make it stand out!

Now you have an account, created a great profile – start using LinkedIn to find contacts for existing and former clients, colleagues, media partners, suppliers and off-course for identifying potential new contacts as part of developing your business development pipeline. Like anything, once you start using this site, it is important that your build it into your daily to-do-list as to really utilise the benefits it offers, you need to use it as a business support tool everyday.

Brand Communications: Maximising Your PR
What makes LinkedIn such a fantastic business tool for brand communications is its sheer ability to provide real-time communications with a market reach of over 100m. One of the most practical tools available on LinkedIn is the status bar on your profile – the status function should be used by all your employees (who have an account) to share company news/updates. As soon as you update your status, your connections will see it on their updates page and this is a great way of providing additional reach for your brand communications. The beauty about the status function is that you can add links to published articles, presentations, video clips and press releases that are either hosted on your own website or a media partner’s website. To get the most from LinkedIn as a PR tool – use the Groups available to also add your latest PR and thought leadership content. Doing this simple activity will ensure that your message reaches a targeted audience and in return help drive traffic to your website. Over the last 3 years, LinkedIn generated up-to 20% of all unique web visitors for my previous agency – and helped raise brand profile along the way.

Thought Leadership: Sharing Knowledge
If you have a presentation that was recently delivered at an industry conference, make sure to upload it on LinkedIn using the Google presentation application – this will provide another great way of enhancing your profile whilst offering a targeted/extended route for sharing your knowledge which will support your company’s brand position as an industry expert.

Get Prospecting: Lead Generation Development
As a social site that has over 100m registered accounts, LinkedIn provides marketers and business development professionals with a fantastic prospecting resource – you can use the people and company search functions to easily identify possible prospects. Now you have found a possible prospect/contact – you have a few options available i.e.invite them to become a connection or use the information that you now have at your disposal to create a foundation for the next stage of your prospecting/lead generation strategy. Another great benefit of LinkedIn is that you are able to view most of the contacts who view your profile, and again this is a powerful lead generation tool which should be acted upon!

The Power of Groups: Enhancing Your Industry Expertise
Using the groups directory and search function, make sure you are a member of all relevant groups for your business. This will allow you to follow key industry/group issues, track contact level activity, whilst providing you with a golden opportunity to get involved in on-going group discussions. It also provides another avenue for brand positioning and developing your company profile at group level – as most of your existing clients and key targets will already be members. There are many examples of clients finding suppliers using groups as handy industry resource. Don’t forget – you can also set-up your own group and this option will support your lead generation strategy as you will be able to monitor all leads who register to your group.

Better SEO: Letting Clients Find You
Creating a company profile on LinkedIn will ensure that potential clients and prospects will find you easily and this is becoming a popular search tool. Make sure you keep the company profile up-to-date and get all your employees to set-up their own accounts on LinkedIn – but make sure they develop their profile pages, so that they are as impactful as possible. The company page is something that a lot of people now browse to get a feel for your organisation and also to get an overview of your team and latest activity/updates. LinkedIn is similar in nature to Twitter and provides a follow option – therefore make sure to follow all companies that are relevant to your business as this will keep you up-to-date with their activity on LinkedIn i.e. new hires, employees, latest news etc.

Remember, the more content you add to your profile, the more groups you join, the more discussions you get involved in, the more connections you make – the better your SEO will be on LinkedIn (meaning more people will be able to find you).

Talent Management: Find Your Next Employee
If you are spending a lot of money on recruitment agencies to support your talent management strategy, then look no further than LinkedIn as your perfect HR partner. LinkedIn offers you the perfect free solution to filling that next vacancy. Simply using the advanced people/company search options – you can identify potential employees and make direct contact with them (cutting out the middle man).

Working Smarter: Handy Apps
There are a number of handy apps on LinkedIn which will help you work smarter and also provide yet more benefits for lead generation and marketing activities. Take the time to explore all the applications available and define the most appropriate for your business. To give you a head start on apps, here are a few which you should be using: Google Presentation, SlideShare, WordPress, Blog Link, Events and Company Buzz.

Summary
This blog has covered some of the most basic applications of how LinkedIn can help your business and if used effectively – it will deliver a cost-effective route to market. The benefits it will yield will depend on the time and effort you put into the resource (so make sure you use it on a daily basis and embed it into your marketing and business development strategy).

In part 3 of my “Guide To Social Media Marketing For SMEs”, I will be looking at Blogging, so keep an eye out for my next installment.

Twitter as an effective marketing weapon

A Guide To Social Media Marketing For SMEs (Part 1)

Twitter has been around since 2006 and today boasts over 200 million account registrations with over 65 million tweets being recorded every day – if used effectively, it can provide SME marketeers with a powerful brand, sales and communications touchpoint.

Whilst Twitter is something that millions use on a daily basis as a way of staying in touch, sharing knowledge and embracing technology – it can be quite a useful marketing vehicle (with an added bonus of providing something for free, in real-time, engaging and with fantastic marketing reach).

This blog is not intended to tell you in minute detail how to do things – it is simply to advise you how it can be used at a basic and yet practical level. You will have to invest a little time doing your own research into using Twitter for your business.

How you achieve maximum reach for your tweets will depend on a number of simple things (your account followers and how you use hashtags in your tweets). There is no point boasting over 1000 followers if indeed these people are in no way connected to your business; what is important is that you are marketing to the right people – therefore having 50-100 quality client/prospect followers is more important and effective). Make sure you check who your followers are and assess whether they are the type of people who you feel would add value to your Twitter approach. You can also boost your followers by inviting people to follow you (click here to find a few other ways for getting more followers on Twitter).

As a brand marketing professional who has spent the last 6 years working agency side, the below are just a few practical examples of how Twitter can be used in an SME environment.

Free PR
Twitter is a great way for sharing useful information with your target market. If you have a press release, published article, best practice feature, new product update, upcoming event or indeed anything that is interesting enough to shout about – use your Twitter account as an additional means of doing this. To gain more exposure on your tweets use relevant hashtags which will allow your tweets to be viewed by anyone following a specific trend/topic or subject matter. Click here to find out more about hashtags.

Keeping your Twitter account topical, interesting and up-to-date is important. Putting a little effort and time into this area is needed at the start, but once you are up and running – the rest will be easy enough and quite low maintenance.

Account Management

In my opinion, nothing beats face-to-face dialog and your business should always strive to achieve this at all costs via effective account management. Twitter should never replace your traditional account management but can and should be used as an integrated tool for staying up-to-date with your clients/prospects, industry news/media partners and the key movers and shakers within your industry.

Example:
If company (A) is a target for your business – then try following the official company twitter account for company (A). To complement this further – establish the key decision makers at company (A) and follow their own personal feeds as this can provide you with a real-time status on what they are tweeting about as this can also enhance your account intelligence for the next stage of your follow-up.

Industry/Competitor Intelligence

Twitter is a great way of staying abreast of key trends and updates within your marketplace – so make sure to follow your competitors and the key media/news partners (as this will develop your market awareness of what is happening now!). To make this easier, you can create bespoke lists on Twitter i.e. create a list for competitors and in one view – you can monitor all competitor activity in real-time.

Customer Insight
Twitter is a great source of real-time customer insight and with the trend/search settings available on the social media site.Simply monitor what is being said about your company, competitors or stay abreast of any comments on a topical industry issue by using the search or trend settings available. You can create a number of simple lists which will allow you to follow specific tweeters and/or you can save a trend which may be relevant to your company – saving this trend using the appropriate hashtag available i.e. #iPad (you will be able to track all comments across Twitter for any mention of iPad.

Promote your Twitter Account
There are a number of ways this can be achieved and the following are a few examples: promote your Twitter account on your website (make it easy for clients/prospects to follow you); add your Twitter icon on your company e-newsletter; add to your company email signature and have all your employees who are using LinkedIn promote your Twitter account (I will cover LinkedIn in my next blog).

The next installment in my blog on “A Guide To Social Media Marketing For SMEs” will look at how you can use LinkedIn as part of an integrated marketing approach for your business.

A Guide To Social Media Marketing For SMEs (Preview)

The current economic uncertainty means that sales and marketing professionals are under more pressure than before to deliver greater commercial results, whilst having to continually demonstrate the ROI effectiveness of their business development strategies.

Whilst traditional marketing tactics such as PR, direct marketing, trade events, brand sponsorship, experiential marketing, face-to-face meetings, list purchasing, telesales and advertising still have a role to play in many modern marketing plans – the rise of social media marketing means that a new powerful marketing weapon exists; one that can be quite cost-effective with the added benefits of real-time customer engagement and measurability.

This blog will consist of a series of 7 installments (each looking at a simple and yet practical social media marketing tool) which can be used cost effectively by SME marketing professionals.

The first installment to be published tomorrow will look at: “Twitter as an effective marketing weapon” and will offer practical examples of how it can be used within the SME marketplace to support brand awareness and lead generation.

Hope you enjoy my blog!

Developing An Effective Social Media Strategy (A Guide For Beginners)

Social media has developed into a powerful sales and marketing weapon. An estimated 200 million people use Facebook, 70 million use LinkedIn and 18 million use Twitter – reaching customers has never been easier.

Used well, social media tools can provide brands with a customer touchpoint that allows real-time communication in a cost effective way. But getting it wrong can be costly, so before embarking on any social media campaign, marketers and brand owners must plan their implementation strategy carefully.

What are you trying to achieve?

Common sense is not always common practice, and it is vital to start thinking about what you want to achieve before you begin. Are you simply aiming to communicate cost effectively with your customers? Or to looking to generate more web visits? Do you need to boost sales bookings? Or raise brand awareness? These are just a few of the many questions that must feed into your action plan. Once you have mapped out what you want to achieve from your social media strategy, you can move to the second stage of the process.

Research is everything…

Before you start developing a social media approach, find out which social media channels your customers are using. There is no point putting resources into a marketing campaign that will never reach your target audience. Gathering statistics and web user information about your existing customer base online, or by buying a specialist report on your market area. If you are thinking of carrying out market research, consider outsourcing to a specialist agency.

Have something worth shouting about…

Make sure you have content for your social network of choice that is going to serve the purpose. There is no point driving customers to copy that is not relevant, visually poor, out of date or that is not beneficial to your customers. Keeping your social media communications alive and fresh will help keep people interested in what you are saying. Use the content you generate to position your brand either as an expert in its field, an innovator, friendly to do business with or simply more cost effective than your competitors. Potential customers have not chosen to view your content to find out what you had for breakfast or what you did last weekend; make sure you are speaking in the language of your customers and that you demonstrate how your brand is different, and can benefit them. The best campaigns add a high level of engagement by using interactive elements such as video, polling, blogs, community forums and useful special reports.

Constantly Measure…

Once you have created your social media campaign, it is vital that you monitor and measure its effectiveness. There are a number of ways you can do this, but if your goal was to generate more web visitors, using free basic software such as Google Analytics allows you to track how many visitors your site is getting and where that traffic is coming from.

John McCambley is head of brand marketing and communications, McCallum Layton

Thinking Ahead

Kate Thompson, Partner and Head of B2B Research at McCallum Layton, explains how business brands can leverage market research in order to position themselves as thought leaders

Consumer-facing organisations and their PRs have been making use of market research to promote their clients’ interests for many years. It is rare that you can open a paper without seeing statistics from ‘a recent survey’ conducted on behalf of one company or another. Whatever we may think of the findings, the fact that the client has bothered to do it says something about their commitment to their market and willingness to invest in their profile.

The large accountancy practices picked up on this marketing technique years ago, and started commissioning research studies on topical themes such as up-coming fiscal or regulatory change, to demonstrate the expertise they could offer in the field in question. Other parts of the B2B sector, though, have been slow to recognise the potential value of this approach.

As part of the marketing toolkit, issue-based or thought leadership research can be one of the most powerful ways to show you have your finger on the pulse of your market and that you have the capacity and knowledge to support existing and potential customers.

The technique is simple – find a theme of topical and relevant interest to your market, commission a research study to collect information on how this affects customers, and use the results to demonstrate your understanding of market needs, showing that customers will be better off coming to you than to your competitors. Here are some pointers to taking best advantage of this potentially valuable idea.

1. First, take your theme …
This is actually the most difficult bit, but the end result can be well worth the time taken to define what issue you can capitalise on. The theme needs to be relevant to your target market and something to which you can add value.

Consult widely in-house and talk to existing customers about what issues are taxing them at the moment and what changes are on the horizon that will affect them, then whittle these thoughts down to a topic on which you can add commentary that will strengthen your market positioning. If it’s controversial, that’s even better (provided you can believe in the stance you are likely to take on the results) – the debate can run and run, quoting your name at every turn.

2. Check what you know already
Having settled on an issue, gather whatever intelligence you already have in-house. The research study will not come free, and there is no point spending money finding out what you already knew. Identify the gaps in your knowledge that you can use the research to fill.

3. Set some time aside
It’s important to make sure you allocate enough time to plan the programme properly. This might be a good ten weeks, depending on what you decide to do.

Care also needs to be taken over the design of the research itself, and there will need to be a well thought through, co-ordinated programme of follow-up communications.

4. Two’s company?
You may want to consider partnering up with another party to undertake the research, such as a trade body, key customer/supplier, the relevant trade press etc. This could bring added credibility to the study, although you may risk losing a degree of control.

5. Don’t cut corners
Ensure that the study methodology, sample size, selection, and wording of the questions etc. will all stand up to scrutiny when you publish the results. When you put your head above the parapet, don’t give competitors or the press an excuse to take shots at your leadership position on the grounds that your study is not robust enough.

6. Think ahead
Most research studies have a finite shelf-life, particularly those designed to address a topical issue. As soon as the results are in, you will need to hit the ground running with a co-ordinated programme of marketing activity to capitalise on what you have gained. Consider how the report itself will be produced, and gear up the most appropriate person/people to add expert commentary to the findings. Draw up a plan as to who you will want to provide the report to (include all respondents who took part in the research itself – this will generate goodwill among those who have taken the time to participate). Build publication of the report into a wider campaign, perhaps including customer seminars on the issues raised, speaking slots at conferences and one-to-one meetings with customers and targets to underline your commitment to them.

Consider releasing highlights to directly relevant media if applicable, but rather than just broadcasting a press release, consider offering exclusives to certain journalists, with briefings on the findings and perhaps case studies around respondents who are prepared to go on record. This can be one of the best ways to promote your business in your target market, but only if you get the message out there effectively.

Research In A Recession – How To Make Your Budget Go Further

This year at the 2009 Insight Show, we are delighted to be presenting 2 papers on the official conference programme:

Tuesday 30th June (12.15pm-1.00pm)
Bringing Segmentation To Life – A People Focused Approach

• Placing the customer at the heart of your approach
• Ensuring your segmentation has clear strategic applications
• Embracing segmentation to ensure a customer focused
strategy

Sarah Askew, Associate Director (McCallum Layton)
Matt Counsell, Partner and Head of Quantitative Research (McCallum Layton)
Mark Knight, Customer Insight Manager (Co-operative Pharmacy)

Wednesday 1st July (10.00am-10.45am)
Research In A Recession – How To Make Your Budget Go Further • Check list to optimise your research design
• Better ways to work with your agency in order to drive efficiency
• Cost saving methodologies and techniques

The session will provide some tips and hints for getting the most out of your insight budget in the current turbulent economic climate, and will suggest some cost-saving methodologies and techniques that you might not have thought of.

Julia Horlov, Partner and Head of Qualitative Research
Matt Counsell, Partner and Head of Qualitative Research

If you would like to find out more, please drop me an email on johnmccambley@mccallum-layton.co.uk or feel free to visit out stand on D141.

Thanks
John

Attitudes Towards The Recession

In October/November 2008, we carried out an in-depth piece of research which looked at how the current economic downturn is affecting purchasing behaviours and future buying intentions between consumers from differing generations (with a sample split between 18-29 year olds and 30+ year olds).

25% of 18-29 year olds believe their disposable income will increase in 2009…
44% of the combined sample will continue with their changes to spending habits (even after the current climate has improved)…
67% of 30+ year olds believe there will be an increase in crime as a result of the current climate…

To find out more about our results, findings and recommendations, please drop me an email at johnmccambley@mccallum-layton.co.uk

Click on the link “Attitudes Towards The Recession” to watch our short video clip.