Social Media tools and technologies have the potential to provide many benefits to SMEs. Actually using all of this potential when you have a business to run is another matter entirely.
Gareth Edwards, eMarketing Specialist at the National B2B Centre, provides some practical tips on using Social Media on a day to day basis.
What You Can Do
There are so many ways to use and benefit from Social Media tools and technologies – a term that includes everything from websites, blogs, bookmarking sites to video sharing. It is hard to know where to start and difficult to create an exhaustive list of benefits. Here’s a flavour of what you could get out of using the tools;
- Expand your network of contacts – Get referrals. Engage with experts
- Research your market – Ask questions. Get feedback.
- Collaborate – With colleagues, associates, suppliers & customers
- Customer service – Capture requests. Distribute solutions and FAQs.
- Project your profile – Show credibility, personality and expertise
- Improve your website optimisation – Inbound links. Increased traffic.
- Promote your business to target audiences – Locally, nationally & globally. Companies, groups, individuals.
This article focuses on the last 3 headings because they relate to winning new business. As you start to experiment then you’ll quickly find out whether the other attributes are of specific value to your business.
James Pennington, the National B2B Centre’s Lead IT Consultant, looks at some of criticisms that we hear from SMEs about their website developers and tries to provide an objective view on where the blame really lies.
Over the past 6 ½ years I’ve been with the National B2B Centre I have had a constant stream of complaints from clients who have had issues with their web design and development providers
- It’s taking ages to get the site completed
- The site has gone live but it doesn’t work properly. Don’t they ever test anything?
- It doesn’t look anything like what I expected
- It cost a lot more than they initially quoted
- They asked for £50 to change a line of text. I thought we could do that ourselves
It would be easy for us just to join in the blame game and side with our clients when they make these sorts of statements. As a poacher turned gamekeeper I can see both sides of the argument and, in truth, the situation is not as black and white as you’d think.
The complaints listed above are the consequence of quite a number of factors. My experience is that although there a few real cowboys out there most website designers and developers are out to do the best job they can.
So let’s examine some of the factors that are causing problems and how we can overcome them.
James Pennington, Lead IT Consultant with the National B2B Centre works with a wide variety of organisations to make their web sites more effective. In his view people are beginning to get the hang of making their websites more visible and more attractive to the likes of Google by using various aspects of Search Engine Optimisation (SEO). The focus now needs to be on turning traffic into real business.
Although I really want to focus on what happens when people actual reach one of your web pages there is a step in the process that needs some attention. Lots of people that I work with ignore the fact the page title and page description are vital promotional tools.
Google in particular uses them (or parts of them) in its display of search results so real people will be looking at them and using them as part of their decision whether to click through to your website. If you leave the page description meta tag blank then Google may simply find some text (any text) to fill in the space. You can treat the description like an advert and put in a compelling message or at least provide some relevant, descriptive information.
Interestingly the same sort of thing applies in Pay Per Click adverts too, where it is probably even more important to be compelling. This means that the advice in this article has the potential to get even more conversions from both organic and paid traffic.
So here are my 5 top tips to help convert traffic:
1. Make sure the page / website looks professional, nothing can be worse than convincing the client to click through to your website, then for him to land on a badly designed, poor looking web page. It takes a lot to convince the person to buy.
Ask your clients their honest opinion on your website, prepare yourself for some feedback, good and bad. Some B2B Centre clients have expressed surprise that when they went to an SEO specialist they were recommended they spend money bringing the site up to. Well they are probably right: they could have just taken the money and generated lots of traffic but without generating many conversions.
The current economic climate increases the probability that lots of people will lose their jobs. As a result there is likely to be an increase in the number of businesses starting-up and looking to sell or trade on-line.
If you have aspirations to be the new Next or Marks and Spencer’s, the internet provides an ideal opportunity to have a go and test the waters.
Hold on, you might be shouting at the screen, I’ve looked into this selling on-line stuff and it’s way too expensive! How can I give it ago, without spending lots of money?
Well, try this for size. It is possible to trade on-line without it costing the earth and I am going to show you how.
So, where do you start – how can you do thisâ€¦.
Plan to Succeed
First and foremost you must have a product to sell and a sound business model in which to operate.
Ask yourself the following simple questions:
1. Will people buy the product?
We have all seen some of the crazy things people have sold on eBay – these are usually one-offs. You probably want to choose products that appeal to a wider audience and will remain appealing for a reasonable period of time. Often the more expensive an item is the longer it will take to sell – this could have implications for cash-flow.
Remember that you have to persuade people to buy your product. This means thinking about the sales pitch that you are going to make (on-line or in person) and choosing ways to best promote your product and your eCommerce site.
Blogs have started to become an essential weapon in the SME eMarketing armoury. Yet many small and medium sized businesses are reticent about starting up their own blog. “It’s too difficult” and “We can’t afford it” being the most frequent excuses.
Mark Bonnett, E-Business Consultant at the National B2B Centre, provides some guidance to help you overcome the obstacles and get the benefits from having your own blog.
Get Started with Blogging
Blog as you well may know is a shortened form of the word “weblog” and it is essentially a type of website that involves posting regular content, which ranges from the latest news to thought provoking articles.
But why should you start a blog for your business?