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Facebook is a personal network

First and foremost, Facebook is the most personal of all the social networks. It’s a place where mums, dads, friends and colleagues share their news, photos, interests and life stories. Currently boasting over 600 million daily users, Facebook has established itself as THE social network. But despite the company’s attempts to convince brands that this is the medium through which to directly market to their consumers, a survey in 2011 showed that users did NOT want to engage with brands through Facebook. Corporate-style posts were highly unpopular as consumers become more savvy about advertising. That’s not to say that it’s not possible to make Facebook work for your brand or business. Brands have finally caught on and posts are now more engaging, innovative and light-hearted than before. Indeed, more than 42 million business currently have a Facebook page, which is encouraging, but are they really all effective?

Lets say you have 100 people who ‘like’ your page. That’s 100 followers who, you assume, will see every single post you will ever create. It’s a nice idea, and one that Facebook are keen to make you believe, but the reality is that Facebook monitors the effectiveness and popularity of each of your posts. If, for instance, your last post wasn’t at all successful, and didn’t reach that many people, you are given a rating, of sorts, and that rating dictates how many people see your next post in their News Feed. It’s called “Edgerank”. It means that only 16% of your followers are ever likely to see your posts. A frightening thought if you believed everyone saw every post, especially if you use Facebook for direct marketing. Make your entries more exciting and engaging, however, and your supporters are more likely to share it, thereby extending your reach. Edgerank will see this and increase the visibility of your next post. Continue to create exciting content and your audience could grow a long way beyond the number of people who ‘like’ you. By far the most successful posts are photos. In this example, the post was shared 375 times and it achieved 2,759 likes!

Photo of Talisker Whisky set against a background of snowy mountains

A superb photo is sure to be shared among your fans

According to this blog post, it’s best to use what you say to subtly deliver brand messages. Rather than posting updates about your latest deals, instead post information/photos/news which could be useful or interesting to your fans. Be the expert. Remember, it’s about who you are, what you do and why you are the best. Identify ways to share your knowledge and expertise with your customers and your brand image will benefit as a result.

The Golden Rule

Businesses can use Facebook to nurture relationships with their customers. The goal is not to achieve thousands of likes but to make sure the likes you do achieve are engaged at all times and committed to supporting your activities. Establish which friends have the most friends and work on building a relationship with them. reward them for sharing your content and show your appreciation is whatever way you can. If you can’t give away prizes, a simple and enthusiastic ‘thank you’ will suffice. Understand your audience and make sure your content is RELEVANT to them. Above all…. Listen!

For further tips see this blog post.

Facebook is an excellent tool for increasing brand awareness, since you have your logo, company name and brand colours all over your profile page. It allows you to showcase your brand’s personality (see “4 Unique Ways to Use Facebook for Your Business“) and introduce people to your history, your strengths, your particular area of expertise. Your timeline is a really useful way to present your story in a creative way. According to Social Media Examiner, business timelines are blooming all over Facebook. So, make the most of any product releases, charity days, events and so on by posting lots of photos and interesting content.

Screen shot of the Bells Food Group community page on the website

Provide a link to key pages on your website

Facebook as an SEO tool

When writing content for your page, remember to occasionally include some reference to your company website. Something they can download, some news piece, your company values or your community page. Increased traffic to your website creates fresh activity, which will improve your Google ratings. Provide a clickable link to key pages and put it straight into your status update. Our own Bells Food Group Facebook page has evolved as we have grown more confident in using it, and as a result, traffic to our company website has increased more than 500% in a like-for-like four week period earlier this year. We can always do better. We constantly listen to our friends and monitor which posts do better than others. Most of all, we don’t stop learning.

A picture of two zebra finches sitting on a branch

There’s no point tweeting if no one is listening

What exactly do I say?

For those who’ve never used Twitter before, it might seem like a strange place where people talk incessantly about themselves, and words like ‘hashtag’ and ‘tweet’ make you more confused than ever. You may even have asked yourself,  “Could Twitter actually benefit my business?”. So you’ve given into the pressure and set up your account, but once you’ve found your way round the many buttons and screens, you then ask yourself, “What exactly do I say?

Before you start tweeting, establish your key message. Who are you, what do you do and why are you the best?

If you have a website you should already know what it is that makes you special. The same applies to Twitter. Your biography text (at the top of your profile) is key in setting out your stall from the start. It’s not enough to just say who you are. Think carefully about the words you use and make sure those who don’t know you, know exactly what you’re about. If it’s information you’re giving, make it clear you’re there to help. Be friendly and be succinct.

How does it work?

Think of  Twitter merely as a sociable space; a house party, a networking event or a conference. Lots of people meeting in one room and starting a conversation. Individuals interact with one another and conversation flows freely. That’s Twitter. The trick is in finding out what conversations you want to be part of and how those could help your business.

Build your following

There’s no point tweeting if no one is listening. Unless you have followers, or someone stumbles over your tweet, no one is reading what you have to say. A good place to start is by following others in your local area, charities you support, businesses in your industry, your suppliers, your customers and so on. The objective is always to connect with people who already have lots of followers.  If they follow you back, then each time they reply to you or share one of your tweets, their followers will see it. In other words, connect with someone who has 1000 followers and you are creating an opportunity to connect with 1000 people. The chances are those 1000 people may be interested in what you’re offering and choose to follow you, too. Don’t overdo it, though, it’s better to build relationships than to make lots of  instant friends.

See for more great advice on good etiquette.

Another excellent way to build your following and generate leads for your business is by honing in on conversations which are relevant to you. For instance, if someone is on Twitter, talking about their search for a hairdresser in their area, and your business is hairdressing, you can ‘butt’  into that conversation and offer your services.

A picture of a PC screen showing a twitter search result

Find people who need your service or product

You can even limit your search to within a set distance of your business. Get to know them if you can, and don’t be too pushy. (as Fivefifty demonstrates well, this can go wrong if you’re not careful). If your intervention is welcomed, invite the person to visit your website, call your mobile or pop in. No need to be too pushy, after all they don’t know you. If they are reassured and they like what you’re offering, they will get in touch.

The easiest way to do find people like this is by using the search box at the top of the screen. Type in a few words then search. Once in the search results, go to ‘Advanced Search’ and key in words you feel are relevant to your business. Crucially, use words that are likely to appear in conversation. There’s no point searching for “financial advice” when “pension” is more likely to be used in a tweet. Hashtags are used to mark a topic of conversation. For example, yesterday I searched for everyone talking about the snow we’d had in our area. Hashtag Snow (#snow) was used over and over again by people talking about the problems they were having getting around, asking whether the local school was closed, telling customers which roads will be gritted that evening, and so on. I decided to join in on the conversation to see what happened.

A screengrab of a re-tweeted comment

Re-tweeted comment shared by the local press

As you can see above, our local press retweeted my request for gritters to do our road. Also, local people shared their stories with us, and we showed how much we are a part of our community. It may seem an obscure way to reach potential followers, but it illustrates the casual nature of of tweets.

There are other useful aspects to being connected on Twitter.

It’s an excellent way to engage with others in your industry and, as Chris Brogan explains in his Blog, promoting others in your industry is very community spirited. A great example of this is this tweet from a food writer;

Picture of Sally Bee tweet saying how delicious Albert Bartlett potatoes are

Supportive tweeting is quite common

Twitter is also an excellent promotional tool. However, take care, because pleading for business looks cheap and demeans your brand.

Arisaig restaurant saying "Anyone joining us today?"

A flat, desperate attempt to get customers doesn’t help your business

Much better to make your tweet engaging, memorable or exciting, if you can. A call to action is most effective.

Tweet by The Stand Comedy Club about a man and his talking cock

A persuasive and attention-grabbing tweet

One final tip from Susan Gunelius on warns against he danger of tweeting too much. Wait until you have something interesting and useful to say, and try not to lose momentum.

Regular, compelling, charismatic tweets will have much more impact.

selection of motivational imagesFor those new to the idea of blogging, here’s my simple guide to how they work and why they could be beneficial to your business.

Many people see blogging as something  for the geeky teenagers and stay-at-home mums who use the internet to share their thoughts and interests with the world. Where that was certainly true of the classic blogger when they first made an appearance in the late nineties, now we see blogs being used much more widely and not only for personal use.

The term blog came from the word “Weblog”, which evidently proves that a blog is quite simply a website. In that respect it can be a stand-alone website, or form part of your current company website. It can be used in all manner of ways to network with others in your industry, provide information for your customers, give help and advice about your particular industry or, more interestingly, provide your company with a vehicle to enhance your brand and give your business a new dimension. If used properly and managed effectively it is also a powerful tool for maximising Search Engine Optimisation.

What is SEO?

Every day Google, and other search engines, sweep the internet for new content. The more fresh, up-to-date content it finds relating to your company, the better ranking you will be given. A good ranking means you will appear high on the results list (see illustration below). A good blog, updated regularly will maintain this high ranking and make sure potential new customers find you before they find your competitors.

A picture of a PC screen showing a Google search with a high ranking result

A good Google ranking will provide a high level result

Where do I start?

To create a good commercial blog you must first establish what your key message is. What is it that makes YOU special? We all have our own niche or specialism, even if you’re in a crowded industry, find that one thing that sets you apart from your competitors. Ask yourself  “What is it that we do best?”. Now you have your message, you have to find your voice.

It’s crucial that you decide on the right tone for your blog.

According to YouMoz, posted by SEOmoz ( the most successful blog posts are always conversational, even if they are commercial in content. A good example is Chris Brogan. His subject is matters of business, but his approach is a personal one. He takes you on a journey and offers informed advice based on his own experiences.

A screengrab of the heading for the Scottish Mum blog

Quirky, engaging blogs do best

Case Studies

An excellent starting point is to read other blogs. You can’t read too many. The more you see what others are doing, the more effective your posts will become. Research your competitors, other similar industries, or indeed businesses local to you. See what works best and decide what form your blog should take. The landscape is forever changing, too, so it’s important that you are aware of trends and new developments.

A handful of good blogs to look out for are;        (thoughts and ideas from the home)       (helpful, friendly advice and guidance)         (views and reviews on the music scene)      (Scottish food blog, recipes and life in Scotland)

Make your blog as engaging, original and well informed as you can.

A blog featuring a variety of images makes for a much more interesting and enjoyable read. Use your own images if you can, or source them free from the internet, though be sure to credit the source of the image. Original images, however, are always preferable and needn’t take much time or training to achieve. Have a go and get creative. Use good lighting and interesting angles, if you can, for a modern, professional look.

Posting to your blog

Once you have begun blogging, there are some good practices that you should adopt. Most important of all is to UPDATE REGULARLY!  Every day is great, but every week or every month will still provide the exposure you need and your readers will come to expect regular articles. Some blogs are more regular than others, but is a good example of one which is always current and up to date. Remember, the blog is there to provide fresh content for your website which will reflect well on your business, so there is little point in having a one if you don’t think you can provide new material on a regular basis.

The title of each post is the most important element in your blog. Firstly, a good title should be arresting, attention grabbing or even controversial. For example, “Are Financial Advisors Hazardous To Your Wealth?” is both witty and captivating. Titles should always be be unique and clearly reflect the subject of the article. Keep it brief, too – five to ten words should be enough. Use the same keywords you have used in your website. The more the content relates to your business, the better SEO you will achieve. Finally,  position your keywords at the beginning of the title. The first three words are vital in maximising your SEO, so take the time to consider the best possible arrangement of the words in your title. For example “Owning vs. Loaning – How Will You Invest In The Market?” is far more effective than “How Will You Invest In The Market – Owning vs Loaning” because the first three words have to be your most relevant keywords which relate to your business.  As time goes on you will get better at this until it becomes second nature.

Finally, when you have built up a following use it to your advantage. Acknowledge those who comment on your blog and return the favour by following their blog. Use images from other websites (credit them of course ) and use links to other blogs, or websites which will in turn boost traffic to your website in return. The more connections you make, the more your content can be shared among all social media platforms and therefore, the more exposure you achieve. Once you have created a sizeable audience, start building an email newsletter list to give your readers exclusive access to promotions, special offers or personalised advice.

In no time at all, you too could become a seasoned blogger.

Just start writing….. and keep writing!!