Small Business News | Marketing tips for entrepreneurs

According to Growing Business, a new web portal and LinkedIn group have been launched to offer free advice for businesses on how to get the most from their online presence.

Created by the author, Ian Whiteling, the website om4biz.com contains blogs from web experts on how companies can promote themselves better over the internet. Alongside this is a social media discussion group, which features a panel of experts ready to answer the queries of businesses looking to develop their web presence.

By joining the groups one can then post up queries on anything from website design, implementation and content to search engine optimisation, email marketing, internet advertising and social media.

To find out more, please visit the Growing Business website.

Small Business Opinion | LinkedIn VS Facebook – What is best for Small Business?

Recently. I got posed a question following my blog post about the benefits of LinkedIn, “Can Facebook ever rival LinkedIn for small business use?” It’s an interesting point. Both sites excel in different ways.

Facebook – More than just Farmville

A well organised Facebook profile for a business is a hugely valuable tool. It’s fair to say that Facebook is becoming increasingly embedded in Internet users’ everyday lives and the site currently boats in the region of 400 million active users; over half of them log into the site daily.

A look at Facebook’s own demographics shows that 1.5 million local businesses have active fan pages and these have been ‘fanned’ by more than 5.3 billion people. Indeed, on an average day, 20 million users fan a page on Facebook. That’s a vast number, and a little shy of half the total users registered on LinkedIn. If you get Facebook right, the benefits are obvious.

LinkedIn – Not just a job board

LinkedIn as I’ve previously discussed has a largely professional audience, according to the sites own analytics, over 52% of Linkedin’s users would be considered business decision-makers, with an average annual income of $107,000.

That said, both sites have their obvious strengths, weaknesses and of course, similarities. You can create a personal profile, update a status, blog, join and form groups, and network with new people you may or may not have met yet. Another similarity of the platforms is the integration with Twitter, widely acknowledged as a leading traffic driver these days.

What is best for small business?

To work out which is best suited to your businesses need, first answer this question, “Who do I want to reach; Consumers or other businesses?” This simple question will largely dictate which platform is best for you.

If you are trying to reach a consumer audience, or perhaps you’re a not-for-profit organisation, Facebook would be your number one choice. Most people use the site as a way of connecting with friends and family, not to talk business, but don’t forget, these friends are potential customers too.

Since Facebook launched fan pages last year, its opened a whole new sphere of business interest. Fan pages allow you to build specific tabs to your own design with Facebook’s own take on HTML code, Facebook Markup Language (FBML) and most importantly, customize the URL for the page too. Additionally, you can integrate with Flickr and display galleries and photo streams of images, host polls, videos, documents and include any number of 75,000 other applications too. This post by Social Media Hound describes the benefits in more detail.

LinkedIn is a very different beast and if you’re looking to target key business decision makers, look no further than this site. Unlike Facebook, most people on LinkedIn are there for business reasons only. Indeed, gone is the relaxed and friendly attitude of Facebook; LinkedIn demands the same level of professionalism as the workplace. The purpose is to be able to network — to have access to your contacts’ contacts, and in that way further your professional outlook. You want to find a job? A new sales opportunity? Information about a client? Here’s a way to do that.

With over 55 million professionals on its books, LinkedIn really is THE address book for communicating with businesses. Neat features such as recommendation and groups allow you to offer thought and obtain feedback and opinion from peers, building you and your businesses brand.

That’s my twopenneth on the subject, but leave a comment and let me know what you think about these two platforms. Which would you choose for your business?

Small Business Advice | Online Brand Management

I don’t need to spell out the inexorable rise of Facebook and Twitter and other social media tools over the last five years or so. And, because of this we’re all aware that there’s never been a time when the voice of the world could be heard either so easily, or so audibly. Although it’s exciting to see that the thoughts and actions of millions can now be broadcast instantaneously around the globe, it can have major implications for business – particularly those organisations with a keen eye on managing everything from reputation through to customer service. Those firms that can get a grip on what others are saying about them and react to it in real time, stand a much greater chance of improving customer loyalty and developing a respected brand.

Despite some of the negativity surrounding social media, jumping aboard the social media train can be a really worthwhile pursuit.  There is little doubt that if done correctly, social media can be an invaluable tool that will bring you closer to your customers, colleagues and business partners, improving the overall running and future of your business. However, the trick is not to rush into it. Remember that you’re businesses reputation has never been so valuable, and that a heavy handed approach can leave your business quite vulnerable. Here are a few things that I’d suggest considering before you venture into the world of social media:

Know your brand and understand your audience – it’s crucial to have firm grasp on the image and brand of your business. Set aside some time to put together a definitive plan of the direction and tone of your company, and analyse the profile of your audience. Maintain audience engagement and trust by staying consistent. Use a tool like Radian 6 which provides a dashboard to monitor, review, and analyses your brand within the corresponding social networking community.

Be prepared for the positive and the negative – social media allows you to create a 3D personality for your company. It’s a chance to really reinforce your brand and interact with customers in real time. However, you must be prepared to accept that there may be criticisms and they will be public. A useful tool to help monitor this is Scoutlabs, which allows you to see posts or conversations, track word association and delivers an automated sentiment so you know whether the chatter online about you is good, bad or neutral.

Invest time in execution and evaluation – creating a profile on one of the social media channels isn’t a standalone solution; you need to invest time and effort. Friends, fans and followers will soon lose interest if your messages are sporadic or irrelevant. A team or individual dedicated to social media will not only aid you in getting your profile out there, but it will help to monitor responses and track trend changes. Sysomos provides a 360 view of social media conversations from all social channels including forums, video sites, blogs, social networks, and media.There are many tools and services designed to make your social media experience an easy and productive one, so don’t be afraid to use them. Don’t be intimidated by the scale of the market, just be brave and stay true to your brand.

David