How infographics can be weaved into your social strategy

A guest post from @adriasaracino

A social media marketing strategy is integral to how you promote your business (or your clients’ businesses) online. After the meteoric rise in the popularity of the infographic, it’s worth considering how you can best weave this kind of content into your strategy.

A fresh source of quality content
A good social strategy always involves bucket-loads of high quality content, whether you’re creating it yourself or finding it online to share. This can sometimes be challenging, particularly if your business isn’t the most engaging of industries.

The infographic creates many opportunities for fresh content, even for less immediately exciting subject areas. Because the heart of the infographic comes from presenting complex information or data in a simple and accessible way, it means as long as you have access to data and some creativity, you’ll be able to find something interesting to say.

In fact, some of the most successful infographics around comes from companies who analyze their own data – such as the online dating website, OKCupid. This is because, if you’re the only one with the numbers, you’ll be creating something truly unique – a hard feat in today’s blogosphere.

Innately shareable
Your social strategy probably revolves around conversations and sharing. The infographic perfectly suits the latter of these activities and doing something as simple as adding interactive share features makes it easier than ever to watch your content spread like wildfire online. For example, Simply Business created this interactive productivity guide series that allows readers to socially share the piece directly off the graphic. Think carefully about where you position these kind of features on the infographic, as you don’t want to seem overly pushy, nor do you want them to be overlooked.

The very nature of infographics also makes them ideal for sharing. They’re visually appealing, load on a single page and can usually be digested in a very short time. If you think about how short a time you have to make an impression on a visitor, this last feature is a really important benefit. In fact, it means that infographics are often a better way to present certain bits of information than, for example, a traditional blog post.

They can be quick and easy to create
Although many infographics involve lots of crunched data and careful design, it doesn’t have to be this way. Sometimes, the simplest designs are the best, particularly if they play off well-known or trending memes. For example, take a look
at this one created by South African Hotels that takes a look at foods South African expats miss the most. Meme-based
infographics tend to share well and are easy to create, so this can be an extra incentive to keeping things simple!

Some stock photography websites also offer great vector images for infographics that can be crafted into something suitable for your business. The beauty of this approach is that, by using vectors, you can scale your infographics for whatever purpose you want – from presentations to merchandise!

These three points just go to show how accessible and worthwhile infographics are to anybody’s social strategy. And, with those stock vectors ready for you to use straight away, there’s no excuse not to get creating some fresh, irresistibly shareable content for your business.

Adria Saracino is a marketer and blogger. When not consulting on business’ content strategy, you can find her writing about style on her personal fashion blog, The Emerald Closet.

Practical Technology for the Growing Small Business

A guest post from @hfitzy34

Today’s small businesses can’t afford to overlook the tools and opportunities created by tech and Web advancements. More than ever before, new technology is making it easier for small businesses to compete with larger companies through software and services that reduce overhead while making business operations more efficient. A host of tools and applications can be used by a small business to drive various business functions, including payroll, contact management, and human resources work.

Of equal importance are the marketing opportunities provided trough social media. With social media profiles, businesses can engage both local and non-local consumer bases, expand their audience, build brand trust and loyalty, and gather consumer data that can guide the company’s marketing efforts — all at a cost much lower than what would have been the standard a decade ago.

To put it simply, small businesses now have access to a virtual buffet of practical technology tools and solutions designed to help their business flourish and grow. By identifying your business’s most-pressing needs, you can target the technology solutions providing the most value to your company, increasing profits as you cut out the fat and become more efficient.

Tech Products & Services

Most small businesses can’t afford to employ full-time human resources staff. But the services provided by this department are vital to any business. Fortunately, newly developed software tools like applicant tracking and staff management systems enable you to track and organize a variety of functions. Exact Hire is one of a growing sprawl of companies catering to the massive growth of online job seekers with software designed to streamline the application process for both the employer and the to-be-employed. Through software products like these, you can convert numerous business functions to paperless organization, helping you track applications,interviews, employee onboarding, training, and assessments for all of your employees and position candidates, saving time and resources while doing all the organizing for you.

Other contact management and customer relationship software and services, such as Microsoft Outlook, can help you track your customer interactions, sales histories and contacts with ease.

Harness the Power of Social Media

Cloud computing services are rapidly gaining popularity in business circles. The ability to purchase computing work as a service stored virtually through a shared network known as the “cloud” has created a bevy of opportunities for businesses. But perhaps the greatest benefit of cloud computing are the applications and services provided through the cloud that allow businesses to gather unprecedented amounts of information from various social media profiles. Small businesses can use cloud-based products and services to manage social media profiles, evaluate the efficacy of those profiles, gather data and analyze that data to learn more about consumers and their satisfaction with your business. Information has never been more available, nor more valuable, to businesses than it is now, and a smart small business owner will take advantage of the tools and applications created to process this information.

Where to Find Solutions

Product and services claiming to be essential to your business’s success can be found in every direction. But the margin of error in small businesses is so small that investing in sub-standard services and products can be a dramatic setback. Stick to companies with a proven track record and a strong reputation from past clients. If certain functions of your business reside outside of your strengths or comfort areas, you can also consider outsourcing some of these functions — such as payroll services and social media management — to third-party companies that specialize in these services.

Ultimately, today’s small businesses are poised to benefit in numerous ways from the abundance of technology at their disposal. Position your company on the inside track by investing in these new technologies and getting the jump on your competitors.

Henry Fitzgerald is a technology consultant based in Seattle. When not geeking out over the latest tech gadgets, he spends his time cooking, playing soccer, and sailing. Check out his tech blog here or follow him on twitter:@hfitzy34

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Cloud Computing Strategy for Small Businesses

A guest post by @hfitzy34

Cloud computing can be an incredible tool for a small business, or a business of any size, really, but let’s pause a moment to consider what this tool really does for you. The cloud can increase storage space and provide backup and support for your company, but if you don’t have a plan, then what’s it worth?

Developing a strategy is necessary to make the most of your cloud computing options. Here are a few ideas to develop a working cloud strategy:

Determine Your Reason for Moving to the Cloud

What is the primary reason you decided to get into cloud computing for your business? Was it the convenience of having everyone working on the same system? Was it the lower cost of installing the software on only a single license? Did it free up your IT staff to work on more important issues? Cloud computing can really increase what your business is able to do and production without requiring you to purchase new infrastructure to keep up with all the changes.

Whatever end goal you had in mind when you began using the cloud, this is going to help determine what sort of strategy you apply to making the most of it.

Prioritize Your Needs

The second step is, of course, prioritizing your needs. Stay focused and keep in mind why you really started using the cloud. If, for instance, you wanted the extra storage space, then clearly, a top priority is going to be getting more storage space and improving efficiency around the workplace, getting rid of bloat, deleting those ancient backups that you’re never going to need ever again, and so on. Using the cloud is the main thrust of your strategy, but changing behavior and tactics around the office will help you towards your ultimate end goal, whatever that may be.

Use the Cloud to Make the Most of the Cloud

Part of the appeal of the cloud is that you really don’t know how much it’s going to change when you first begin using it. You may have begun using the cloud so that you could improve communication around the office, but the added mobility, the fact that your employees can access the cloud from their phones and other connected devices, means that communication is even easier than you thought it would be.

Nobody has to send somebody an explanation of the new software interface, they can just show them the interface right on the cloud. In order to make the most of the cloud, explore it, play with it and encourage your employees to do the same so that you can all have a firm grasp of what the technology is and what it can do for you.

Developing a strategy around your cloud computing capabilities isn’t difficult—it’s really just a matter of using the technology as intended whenever you need it, and playing with it and exploring its features and possibilities when you don’t.

Henry Fitzgerald is a technology consultant based in Seattle. When not geeking out over the latest tech gadgets, he spends his time cooking, playing soccer, and sailing. Check out his tech blog here or follow him on twitter:@hfitzy34

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Networking for women in Margate Kent

This is a blog post for a training excercise I am running today 🙂

Do you run a business in Margate or Kent?

Are you a woman?

Are you looking for women’s networking groups in Margate?

Then you need 1230 TWC!

If you need more business, more contacts, support, a cheery face, advice, expertise and to connect with other savvy business women – you’re in the right place!

The 1230 TWC Margate meetings are on the 4th Thursday of each month.  Please share this information with all your contacts, even if they’re not in Margate – you never know who knows who!

1230 TWC is an effective, dynamic network of meetings and events where like-minded business women meet to inspire, share experiences, strengthen and grow their businesses through building trusted business relationships.

If you would like to network and market your business with other like-minded business women……

  • Learn new networking skills and make contacts to help your business grow……..
  • Discover the secrets of business success from other entrepreneurs……
  • When you join 1230, you will become a member of the whole organisation with far reaching networking opportunities.
  • Have your 1 minute talk prepared (please ask if you’d like a copy of the 1230 TWC 1 minute talk guideline).
  • Let your business colleagues and friends know about 1230 The Women’s Company, that way not only do you broaden their networking circle but yours too and remember it is not just the person you meet and speak to at a meeting – it is also who is in their network.
  • If you are already a 1230 TWC member and would like to give a presentation to the group or display your products or literature, please contact us in advance so that we can arrange a suitable date for you.

The lunch-time meetings are relaxed, informal and productive with the 1230 TWC Host Lindsay Panteli updating those present with news; everyone has the opportunity to deliver a one-minute presentation on their business.

Meetings always include a delicious lunch!

If you’d like to come along as a guest, drop me a line to – I look forwardto meeting you there!

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Do you own a Facebook Business Page? Here’s what you should do now!

The new Facebook Timeline layout is coming to Business Pages on March 30th, whether we like it or not (I do, actually, but I know lots of people aren’t happy about it. I say, as always, Facebook costs us nothing and allows us to promote our businesses – their rules 🙂 ).
If you’re wondering how it will affect you, here are a few tips.
Get yourself a timeline picture
The new layout makes a feature of one big image at the top of the page. The optimal size for this is 850×315 pixels, so have a look through your promotional images and see if you have one that is either that size or can be resized. As a last resort you can use a different sized pic, but you’ll have to crop it and it may not look as good.
Ideally, have a timeline picture created featuring your feaures and benefits, services and products, you get the picture 🙂
Change your profile picture
The profile picture on Business Pages has changed too, so if you were making the most of the size allowed before the change, it probably won’t look as good now. You need to rethink I’m afraid.
Profile pictures can be 200 pixels wide, but the thumbnail will appear as a 125×125 image, so bear that in mind. If your profile picture is a pic of you, you’ll probably be OK, but if it’s a logo or a specially designed picture, chances are you’ll have to redo it for it to look good – mine looked awful when I moved to the new timeline layout!
Don’t panic about your custom tabs
Your custom tabs are still there, they’re just shown in a different way. I know lots of people are saying that Facebook Timeline has ruined custom tabs (I linked to such an article last week) but to be honest, it’s not that big of a deal.   Bearing in mind that an overwhelming majority of your ‘Likers’ never even saw your tabs and read your updates in their news stream, it’s not a great loss for most businesses.
Keep posting great content
The one thing you can do to keep your Facebook page in people’s minds is keep on posting great content. Vary your content between statements, questions, polls, videos, external links and more – remember not to be just ‘me, me, me’ and post things that are of interest to your target audience. Encourage your readers to interact with your page and share your items – the more people comment and share, the more potential new visitors you get.
A lot of people are panicking about the new Timeline payout, and a lot of ‘experts’ are jumping on the ‘you need our £500 service to revamp your page’ line of sales. You don’t.
The most you may need is a timeline sized cover picture, and if you can’t do that yourself, you can ask your graphic or web designer, or take advantage of today’s special offer for just £30.
Most importantly of all DON’T PANIC! Your Facebook Business page isn’t going to die a death because of the new layout, and within a few weeks we’ll all have forgotten what it looked like before… until the next change of course 😉
Happy Facebooking
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So Pinterest is all about housewives pinning recipes is it? Err.. no…

When my online friend Lilach Bullock told me she was appearing on Radio 5 Live to talk about social media and in particular Pinterest, I was obviously looking forward to hearing what would be said.

Tuning in, I was surprised to hear the presenters talking about how Pinterest is ‘women focused’, and ‘full of crafters’ and not giving Lilach a chance to refute that.

See, it’s just not true.

I know that Pinterest has a bit of a reputation for being populated by women posting pictures of kittens, motivational quotes, recipes and not much else, but it’s evolved beyond that, especially in the UK.

There’s a great infographic over at Web Analytics World that compares Pinterest use in the UK and the US, and if you’re looking at Pinterest from a business point of view it makes really interesting reading. Pop over and have a look, but I’ve summarised some of the points below:

  • UK users of Pinterest earn more than US users, with 29% of them in the highest esrners bracket compared with just 3% of users in the US.
  • Pinterest in the UK is frequented more by men than women. 56% of UK users are male, compared with just 17% in the US.
  • UK audiences are posting more business pins. Topics such as SEO and Marketing, Blogging, Venture Capital, Design and stats top the bill. In the US it’s very definitely dominated by crafts, gifts, interior design and home ideas, fashion and hobbies.

It sounds to me as if rather than do their research, Radio 5 lived tapped into the stereotype of US Pinterest users.

Of course, I wasn’t expecting an in depth discussion on the business use of Pinterest, but neither was I expecting to hear the same old same old spouted, and Pinterest sidelined as ‘addictive and fun’ rather than ‘useful and money generating’.

Lilach’s time was cut short as the programme was over-running, but I do question why 5 Live bothered inviting a Social Media Marketing Expert onto their program when they’d quite clearly categorised Pinterest as fluffy and not worth much interest beforehand.

I would have liked to hear them being told that if they want to see fluffy things then they can follow fluffy boards, but the power in Pinterest is with the follower, and you only see things on the boards you choose to follow. By following the right boards you can find all sorts of things that are most definitely NOT fluffy, very much business focused and definitely not just pictures of kittens; maybe 5 Live should have been following some of the right Pinterest boards, they’d have found some real UK stats.

In closing, I’ll remind everyone that radio presenters were saying similar things about Twitter just 4 or so years ago, and we all know what happened there…

Want to find out what Pinterest can do for you? See our Pinterest set up and management package!

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Are you ready for the new Facebook Timeline for Business Pages

facebook business

facebook business (Photo credit: Sean MacEntee)

If there’s one thing we can rely on, it’s that Facebook will change things regularly whether we like it or not.

And let’s be fair,  that’s their prerogative – they give us a platform we can use for nothing to promote our businesses – it amazes me how many people forget that!
So, new timeline is coming for Facebook pages, in one fell swoop wiping out the good work that’s been done with landing pages, changing the game yet again – are you ready for it?
In good news you can use that fab cover photo to promote more of your services; that can’t be bad, right?
In other not so good news now there’s no real incentive for people to ‘Like’ your page as you can’t encourage them as easily as you could with landing tabs.
I’ll be interested to see how this one plays out if I’m honest.
If you want to make the most of your Facebook Business Page, then the following blog posts are worth a read:
  • The death of the default landing tab
    As I’ve said, default landing pages will be of no use anymore, but this blog post has some good points about why you shouldn’t really worry about that. The upshot is that most of your traffic comes from your items in people’s news streams, so concentrate on great content and you should be fine.
  • Facebook EdgeRank – what is it?
    Have you ever wondered what makes your Facebook posts show up where they do? Or how you compare to your competitors on Facebook? This article will shed some light and give you something to play with.
Facebook can be great for business, and it’s well worth giving it a go if you’ve poo-pooed it before now – check out our 30 Day Facebook Challenge if you need a bit of help!
Happy Facebooking!

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Can Pinterest become a Small Businesses new Best Friend?

Guest poster Ed Beardsell talks to us about his thoughts on Pinterest

English: Red Pinterest logo

Image via Wikipedia

What is Pinterest?

The latest rising star on the social networking scene is the site Pinterest. While it doesn’t yet touch on anywhere near the number of users that can be found on sites such as Facebook or Twitter, an increasing number of businesses are starting to consider what benefits it could provide for them. Pinterest is basically an online pinboard where users share images of items they find beautiful, stylish or interesting. People utilise it in various different and exciting ways whether it be planning how to decorate their home, save recipe inspirations, plan weddings, or share products. Images can either be uploaded from websites or from users’ computers and they can also re-pin images they find and appreciate enough to highlight it for the community whilst browsing the Pinterest site. The site has been growing rapidly and was reportedly the social site which reached ten million users more quickly than any other site in history and, here’s where it gets interesting; the majority of its users are women.

How can Pinterest help my Business?

Whilst it is still a relatively small site, Pinterest is averaging over three million unique visitors per month all of whom could potentially be looking at your business’s products. The site may be especially beneficial for businesses focused around creative or design services, or those businesses that appeal specifically to women, as it gives you a great opportunity to present your products to this specific segment of the market.

While Pinterest currently does not support online sales, you can add prices to your items and redirect browsers to your online shop. In fact, some early reports hint that Pinterest is better at generating traffic to your website than Facebook. If you do add a price to any of your products, then the image will automatically be listed in the gifts section of the website, as well as on your board, for browsers who are interested in shopping. By including links from your board back to your business’s website you will also of course be boosting the number of inbound link to your website as well as social interaction, a increasingly powerful metric taken in to account by search engines.

How to Use Pinterest Succesfully

To have a successful Pinterest account requires more than just posting images of what products you have for sale. Including a space where you can interact with users or provide additional content can increase your popularity on the site. For example, if you sell interior design products you could include a section on design inspirations that you have found, or you can create a space allowing customers to pin pictures of themselves with their favourite product of yours.

Another popular way of boosting interest in your products is running contests which encourage users to repin images of your products. This increases the overall total exposure that your products gather and can have the added bonus of collecting feedback from your customers about your collection. An additional way you can try to engage with your customers is to include images from your shop or office which can help customers feel the brand is much more personal helping to build a sense of brand loyalty and community.

Will Pinterest Last?

Pinterest has already been snapped up for use by some major brands including Kodak, Gap, The Wall Street Journal and Betty Crocker amongst others suggesting that Pinterest is going to be providing a platform even big business to monetise their pinning efforts in the foreseeable future. This popularity has also been galvanised by software developments allowing users to display their pins on their Facebook wall once again boosting the reach of such interaction.

Pinterest may not be and ideal tool for every business to try and utilise but for a sizeable number it holds the potential for brands to increase awareness as well as sales whether directly or indirectly. However as with the vast majority of social media sites, if a business wants to benefit from utilising it as a platform to talk and engage with its potential customers it must spend time cultivating its presence in this community through interacting and creating relevant and unique content.

Bio –
Hi I’m Ed, and I work in the exciting, fast paced and ever-changing world of business equipment and services. I’ll be trying my best to keep you abreast give you a wide smorgasbord of handy hints, tips and advice to get the squeeze the best out of your business.

Like this post? Don’t forget to check out the 30 Day Pinterest Challenge, and kickstart your Pinterest use in just 30 days!

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Your Small Business: Level Up

A guest post by @hfitzy34

English: MBA Master Business Administration

Image via Wikipedia

There are an awful lot of people out there, business owners or otherwise, who spend way too much time moaning about how their lack of education is keeping them from achieving their dreams.

Whether this dilemma applies to you, or someone you know, it’s the kind of incessant whining that might warrant a good slap in the face or kick in the pants. To make matters even more frustrating, many of these moaners are the very same people who can be found sitting in front of their computers after a long hard day at work chatting up old friends on Facebook and re-tweeting their favorite celebrity news on Twitter.

What’s missing from this picture can be summed up in a single word: potential.

Potential, as in the framed undergrad degree hanging on the wall in the background, or the wasted, unproductive hours spent on social media. Now is the time to put your potential into motion and display the satisfied glow of accomplishment that’s shared by all people who return to school later in life to complete their education.

And, these days, it’s easier than ever to tap into your potential by taking advantage of online education opportunities. If there’s time left over for Facebooking after a twelve-hour day spent running your small business, there’s time to enroll in an online MBA program and learn how to make those Facebook hours count for your business’ growth.

Need some more reasons thrown at you as to why fulfilling your educational potential through online learning is probably the best idea ever? Here, catch.

Gain the edge over your competition. How many of your direct competitors are MBA graduates? If you equip yourself with the additional skills and knowledge that come with earning your MBA, you’ll blow the competition out of the water. Figuratively speaking,
of course.

Keep your noodle sharp. Let’s face it; it’s easy to let your brain fall into a rut. And even though that may suit some people, if you’re running a business with dreams of actually succeeding long term, you have to train yourself to think outside the box. Continuing your education through online learning is a lot like sharpening your brain or doing mental pushups. It can only help.

Get caught up with new methods and technologies. If the last time you were in a classroom there was a guy named Carter in the White House, it’s highly probable that you’ll benefit greatly by completing your education. Doing so will go far in catching you up to modern practices in your specific business and could open up doors of opportunity you never even knew existed.

Take advantage of convenience. All other benefits aside, the primary factor that’s driven a lot of people to gravitate toward online learning opportunities is the convenience of not having to go to a physical campus to get their studying done. Nowadays, anyone with a computer and a reasonably fast Internet connection can earn their degree online.

Using What You’ve Learned 

Just don’t make the mistake of quitting your Facebook and Twitter practices once you’ve leveled up by getting your MBA. Studies show that knowing your way around the various social media platforms is critical to growing your business and building a community of followers who will come to you instead of that aforementioned, dastardly competition the next time they need your services.

Social media is proving to be incredibly powerful marketing tool, and it’s not a fad that’s planning on going away anytime soon. So keep those Tweeting skills sharp. Combine your newly honed mind along with your ever-increasing social media skills. As long as you can stay away from wasting precious time playing Farmville and Mafia Wars, you’ll be fine.

Henry Fitzgerald is a technology consultant based in Seattle. When not geeking out over the latest tech gadgets, he spends his time cooking, playing soccer, and sailing. Check out his tech blog here or follow him on twitter: @hfitzy34

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PR – the art and science of manipulating the media?

Public relations, the dark art of spin, snake charming – call it what you like, it has traditionally been seen as the art and science of manipulating the media – or perhaps inspiring them. Either way it was all about grabbing the headlines and dominating the airwaves and more recently cyberspace.

However high profile PR was, make no mistake it was the glamorous servant of the marketing department… But the internet has changed everything and the rules are now very, very different.

The advent of social media now means you can engage directly with clients and prospects and no longer have to rely upon the headlines to reach an audience. Indeed the converse it true, that audience no longer relies on the traditional media for news or to make known if they are unhappy with a service.

In a nutshell, now everything is PR – every interaction with the public, online or offline has the potential to impact on your image, so it is all now public relations!

This new 30 Day PR Challenge will help you through the minefield of PR and aid you in getting the exposure your company deserves!

Written by Nigel Morgan @nigel_morgan of Morgan PR, it’s an essential challenge for any business.

Prebuy your copy today for just £4 – tomorrow it will double in price!

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