5 tried and tested tools for managing your social media

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With so many apps, websites and recommendations out there for managing your social media these days, I’ve been meaning to blog about the top tools I use in my business. As with everything, it’s all about what works for you and with so many of these being free, it means you can have a play and if you don’t like it, try something else. Even still, start with one and as you grow or your needs change, move up and on to something else.

I’ve been working with social media as a comms, PR and marketing tool since 2011. Below are the top tools that I use and have found useful over the years:

Hootsuite 

If there’s one tool you’ve heard of, it’ll likely be Hootsuite. But what’s it good for? Hootsuite let’s you plug all your social channels into one place for ease of monitoring and posting. You can post the same content across multiple channels at the same time and you can programme content for the days ahead. It’s also got a nifty tool called ‘auto schedule’ which basically saves you the guess work and research about what time of day to post and will send them out at the optional time for your specific audience.

 

The basic version of Hootsuite is free and it comes in both desktop and app versions so you can manage it on the go. Not only that but you can access analytics and set up multiple search streams for social listening. This allows you to easily pick up mentions of your brand as well as industry relevant terms. You may even have your own hashtag, want to track who’s using it? Done! Hootsuite is truly at it’s best when used as a collaborative tool though. When there’s more than one person with access, more than one person monitoring and more than one person responding. There are great tools within the platform for making sure all tweets, questions and messages are picked up and responded to and you can also see who is posting what, and when. If you’ve got a junior member of staff you can even give them specific levels of access that allows them to draft content but not post it. Great for their induction period.

Canva

Having good quality graphic design and imagery across your social media is made possible thanks to Canva! A fantastic platform great for sourcing free images, designs and templates all of which have the preset specified sizes for social media channels (the cover image, the tweet, the Instagram post). You can upload your own images and your own brand colours to use too! Many, many, small businesses use this tool daily it’s that simple to understand and play with. One piece of advice – you can easily lose a lot of time scrolling through the designs and images! Don’t get lost in the possibilities!

Repost app 

On twitter we retweet, on Facebook and LinkedIn we share, on Instagram you #regram. To do this manually you would need to take a screen shot and go through the process of adding a picture to your account. Be sure to seek permission and to include their Instagram handle when sharing it with your audience. It’s also nice to explain why you’ve regrammed it. If that becomes a little too time consuming for you then that’s where the repost app comes in. It’s a really quick and easy way for you to share other Instagrammer’s photos with your audience. The repost app credits the owner automatically and includes the original text that was posted with it.

Wordswag

We should all have seen the memo by now that visuals are super important for all of your social media posts. Yep, all of them. However, if you feel you don’t have a hugely visual business, or struggle with what to share, perhaps you have lots of inspiring words, advice or testimonials? Word swag is worth looking up. It’s a free app so you can create your content on the go, seamlessly and very quickly. Choose your background, type in your inspiration, pick a style and away you go. It’s ready for you in your camera roll waiting to be shared with your followers on whatever platform you choose.

Hashtagify

Hashtags! A bone of contention and confusion amongst many many businesses and individuals I work with. What do I use? Why should I use them? How many do I use? As a quick heads up – two in a tweet is plenty and when posting on Instagram, it’s recommended not going much above 5. When it comes to finding out which ones to start using or testing then Hashtagify is your tool. Simply type your keyword in the search box and it will display, in a cool mind map, the hashtags which are being used the most alongside that word. Now you can pick which ones most resonate with you and what you’re posting about, or use the results to drop a few.

Do you have any other tools you can recommend? Comment below and let me know. I’d love to hear what you think…

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Social Media and Small Biz: 5 common mistakes

It’s a wonderful thing that so many businesses and individuals are becoming more aware and appreciative of the opportunities that social media brings in the digital era we live in. From customer service to industry news, free marketing and brand positioning. It’s all there for us to make the most of. For many it can be a minefield to get your head around, and at times an expensive one you can’t afford. So, when you’re very new to business so you have to find your way around it yourself. This blog post lists the most common 5 mistakes I come across working with (and indeed looking for) small businesses. I’ve included some advice for avoiding them too, so I hope they help you to get it right from the off.

1. Jumping on to Facebook or/and Twitter by default

Just because everyone talks about it and tells you ‘should be on Twitter and Facebook’ doesn’t mean you should do it. Establishing and maintaining a social media presence for your business is time consuming and a long term strategy. Your efforts are much better placed doing one thing well then expanding as you grow. What channel is best for you will depend on who you’re trying to connect with, what you want to talk about and how (including how often) you can talk about it.

2. Linking Facebook to Twitter (or Twitter to Facebook!)

So you’ve set up a Facebook page and a Twitter account. You’ve realised it’s time-consuming to keep them both up to date. You’re also struggling with learning how to use each platform correctly. Most of all, you’re constantly stuck for what to write on them. Someone tells you that you can connect your accounts so that every time you post to one it automatically posts to the other. SOLD! Well, as tempting as that sounds please don’t do it. Refer back to point 1! Having a Twitter account or Facebook page full of links, half sentences or hashtags that make no sense is far more damaging to your reputation then simply owning the fact you only have time for one. It negates the ‘social’ in social media too…subconsciously when you’re satisfied that 1 of 2 channels will automatically be populated you’ll forget to check it for engagement (should anyone want to engage with a robot!) and thus missed opportunities and bigger yet – more damage to your reputation. For more help, check out our top 7 Twitter tips for small businesses.

3. Not including social media icons on business cards

This is a biggie! I started this blog with the great news that more individuals accept the role that social plays in their success . But, sadly, the vast majority (like 85%+) of business cards I get handed have zero reference to their social media accounts. Their mobile number and email address are there, but I don’t know how to contact you on social. These aren’t just promotional tools, these are contact methods too…and many customers (millennials for example!) will prefer to get in touch with you online… so don’t do forget to get them added when you’re printing your next batch 😉

4. Lack of consistency

This ties in to points 1 and 2 and I always see a serious lack of consistency across business accounts. It happens for many reasons which I can appreciate. However, you need to assign some set time/s each week to attend to your social media accounts…even if you can only post three times a week. Manage your audience expectation by adding this detail to your biography or about sections.

5. Conversation (lack of)

Put simply, too many people forget that social media is about being ‘social’. They use their designated time to just broadcast information and sales pitches about themselves. A key part to your success on social media is in forging relationships with other users. Think of it like a party. You wouldn’t just walk in to a room, demand something from everyone then turn around and walk out again. You’d look for people to speak to, introduce yourself and say hello. Listen to what they have to say and hold conversation with them. Social media allows you to then meet these people time and time again. It’s up to you then build on that initial contact, keep listening and look for the right time to offer your help/product/services.

Now go forth! If you have any questions do pop them in the comments box below or ask me on Twitter.

Hosting a Twitter hour – the man behind #WiltsHour

It’s time for another guest blog post and this month, Jamie Tuck, the man behind the ever growing #WiltsHour took 5 minutes to tell us a bit more about himself and what it’s taken to make a success of this Wiltshire wide twitter hour.

Twitter hours are a fantastic way to build  your network, spread awareness about who you are, what you do and what you know. If you haven’t joined in a twitter hour before, all you need is your phone or laptop, a twitter account and a hashtag! Set yourself a reminder before it’s due to start, sit back and start tweeting. Just remember to engage with what others are saying as well as post your own udpates!

“Natalie recently asked me if I’d considered writing a blog about WiltsHour; to be honest it’s something I’ve been thinking about for some time, and as the community has grown there might be the odd person interested in how it started.

First off there’s me, Jamie Tuck – WiltsHour’s “Mr Wiltshire” if I can claim that title! I’m also Bulldog Websites’ Social Media man. I live in Swindon with my ever-patient wife and two children who’d give the Duracell bunny a run for his money. A pretty average guy but I go from zero to tech nut in the time it takes to unlock my iPhone – I’m crazy about technology, just ask my wife (see reference to ‘ever-patient’!).

Why did I set up WiltsHour?

After quietly working away in social media for a few years I became nosey. I’ve always taken an interest in the vast array of business genres in the local area, and I already ‘attended’ several Twitter business hours under my Bulldog Websites hat. But I noticed there wasn’t anything that brought together the Wiltshire business community.

In February 2016 WiltsHour was born. I set up the Twitter page, bought the domain name for a potential website, readied a logo and set about deciding on a day and time to fit in with modern life and any type of business joining us to promote themselves. I felt Monday night was perfect after a short break over the weekend and 8pm giving enough time for the commute to be done, tea made, kids in bed and pjs on, comfy on the sofa … or maybe that’s just me – it turns out some members join us from the gym, karate class, the train, and on holiday abroad – that’s commitment!

I went on to build a website to complement the purpose of the hour – a business directory to help promote Wiltshire businesses further.

When the hour went live who knew where it would go, if anyone would bother taking part. Working on my own to drum up interest and interact with everyone who joined in, it didn’t take long to spread the word about WiltsHour. Today we have over a thousand followers and 100 business listed on the website.

Why has WiltsHour Worked?

WiltsHour has worked and is continuing to grow because of the constant support of Wiltshire businesses and my persistent nosiness. I’m always intrigued to see what your business has to offer and to make sure everyone else knows about it too.

What have I learnt from WiltsHour?

Interaction is the key to make any project work on social media. No one wants an automated robot. People are sick of it. I’m sick of it.

I always aim to welcome new participants during the hour and chat to as many businesses as I can to make them feel comfortable with promoting their business, become my friend and find other local businesses to collaborate with, which is why I feel WiltsHour is such a great success today.

 Where can I see WiltsHour next Year?

Just seeing WiltsHour grow and helping small businesses broaden their advertising platform and attract new clients is always a massive achievement.

Please do keep supporting the hour and you never know what new services could be coming to WiltsHour soon.

Thank you Wiltshire!!

You can follow WiltsHour on twitter – @wiltshour  and remember to use the hashtag #WiltsHour”

Shape up your social in 2017

It doesn’t surprise me when so many start ups and business owners tell me their social media is non existent or they don’t have time for it. But what if I told you it is the single most cost-effective communications outlet you have at your disposal? Ok, some face to face networking sessions are free to attend – great, but travel is involved, business cards need printing, and you might not even have your networking strategy down! If you could dedicate even half of the total time spent attending just one of the networking events you go to each week or month to working on your social media you’ll soon come to understand that these free-to-use tools will not only save you time but will give you a platform in which to network with 50, 100, 2000 times as many people than your face to face groups. Social media, is word of mouth, on steroids.

With that in mind, here’s my top 3 tips to make 2017 the year your business goes social. Start 2017 as you mean to carry on and make sure your social media game is on point.

  1. Audit your profiles. Pages on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Linkedin because someone told you that’s what you needed? It’s likely that most of these are probably laying dormant, with out of date information and under utilised features. This is a good time for you to be honest about what you have time to do. Pick what you’re comfortable with currently and are having the most success with, then delete the others. There really is no benefit to you having inactive accounts everywhere. Then, spend a couple of hours updating your cover pictures & profile images, refreshing your pinned posts, completing your account descriptions & biographies and adding your website.
  2. Create a content calendar. Benefit from some quiet time after the festive period and plot the key events for the year ahead. Include local & national holidays relevant to your brand or business, industry events, awareness weeks or days, conferences & events you’re attending or offers you’re putting on. Entering this into a calendar and reviewing once a month is a great way to always be thinking about what you’ll be talking about on social media that month.
  3. Invest! If social media scares you or you don’t know your hashtag from your mention it will be more cost effective, and quicker in the long run if you seek professional support & training to bring you up to speed. You might not know where to start in terms of what channel to pick (and trust me – not every business needs to have a Facebook page!) and a professional should be able to make sure you get set up in the right places based on where your audience is, while at the same time understanding your resource pressures.
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Guest Blog: That Pedal Show – a YouTube success story

Since my social media career began I’ve always been hungry to seek out (and be involved with!) amazing examples of social media being used above and beyond simply tools for content distribution – i.e. more than just tweeting links to latest press releases or a place you can pump out messages about why you’re greater than competitors. Social media has the potential to be and gives us the opportunity to be, so much more than that and you truly reap the benefits when it is, which is why creativity is always at the top of my advice giving and speech making! When you push the boundaries, look at how your communities use social and ask how you can use these channels to provide value – amazing things happen. The purpose of my guest blogs have always been to showcase this, with a particular objective (for now) to showcase businesses and organisations based here in Wiltshire, so it’s with great pleasure and excitement that this month Daniel Steinhardt of The Gig Rig and That Pedal Show wrote a piece for me about the phenomenal success of his YouTube channel…Enjoy.

 

Hi, my name is Daniel Steinhardt, in my professional life I’m a guitarist, small business owner, and dare I say it, entrepreneur. To be honest I don’t attach any real meaning to that word other than I’m a terrible employee so I had to find a different way of making money.

As I write this I’m watching our YouTube subscriber’s numbers, and any minute now we’re going to hit 50,000.

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I’ve always been fascinated by the guitar, the physicality of it, the way it takes not one but two hands to create a note. Since the age of 5 I have been totally engrossed in the instrument, indeed far more than appropriate for my modicum of talent. The sound totally connected with me, and when I discovered that you could plug this thing into an amplifier and turn it up loud, well, that was pretty much the end of any other possible career for me.

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One aspect of the sound of the electric guitar that I loved was the effect pedal. A little box that you can plug between your guitar and amp, and when you step on it, it creates a totally different sound. Distortion, compression, delay, reverb, chorus, phasing, flanging, the list goes on and on. And when you combine these pedals you can find some truly amazing and inspirational sounds. The issue at the time was if you wanted to create combinations you looked more like a professional tap dancer than a guitarist, so I came up with a solution that allowed guitar players to plug in all their effect pedals and pre-program combinations of these things. I found a business partner with complimentary skills and a company was born called ‘TheGigRig’, however, the challenge was, as this was a new concept, we needed to educate the market first, before we could really sell in any significant numbers. So we started a YouTube channel, posting instructional and product demo videos.

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YouTube was great but we didn’t see any real significant numbers for a long time. The videos we’re fine, I spent ages trying to make them the best I could, but I really didn’t have any idea what I was doing. I just knew that seeing as our product was so niche, and only available direct online, not through retailers, a video presentation was the best chance my customers were to have to experience the unit without actually being in front of one. We carried on with meagre results for years, then we had our first incredible YouTube experience. I was asked to build a pedalboard for Ed O’Brien from Radiohead. I filmed the process and graciously Ed agreed that we could film him when he came to pick up the board. I really had no idea that people would like it but to date that particular video has had over 400,000 views. It was amazing, it gave the business a real boost, and I really thought ‘this is it, we’re on our way’. I thought surely all our new videos would get fantastic numbers. Improved, yes, but a long way from fantastic. I even did another video with Ed but it had barely a quarter views of the first. The head scratching continued.

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2 years ago I was at a trade show in L.A. with a very good friend of mine who happens to be an amazing content creator. I was after some tips on how we could improve our channel but our conversation very quickly shifted to talking about gear and effect pedals, what was new, what was great, what we loved, and what was questionable. It something we’re both really passionate about. Then we had the moment that we will always be able to look back at and attribute our success to. Mick says to me, “This is what we should be filming, this, our conversation!”. We had no great ambition with it, we just thought we could literally film our conversation, show examples, and the most important decision we made right from the start, we wouldn’t be sales men, we wouldn’t take any money off anyone to demo products, we would only show what we wanted to show. There are other very successful YouTube channels that get paid to demo products, and they’re great but we wanted to do something different, the opinions on the show would be our own, not paid for. We would need to find a different way to generate revenue but we would work out the details later. We made a start and filmed the first episode of That Pedal Show.

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After 10 months on TheGigRig channel we knew that That Pedal Show needed its own home. It took just 9 months from our first show on our new channel to hit, literally right now, 50k subscribers. With over 2.5 million views, That Pedal Show is now its own brand, and even though I’ve never sold any of the gear that my company makes on the show, it’s of course on there every week, and it’s had a very direct effect on our sales.

 I realize now why the initial Ed video was so popular, it was his honest enthusiastic reaction to the pedalboard I made him. That Pedal Show is a success precisely for the reason that we’re not selling anything, we’re just speaking about things that we’re genuinely passionate about. It’s the genuine passion that comes across and connects with people.

We were invited to meet someone from YouTube who pointed out to us that our average watch time per video is over 12 and a half minutes, while the average view time on YouTube is less than a minute. So my only advice is engage with your audience over something you are genuinely passionate about, that’s where you’ll truly make a connection with people who care about the same things you do.

*If you know any businesses or organisations in Wiltshire using social media creatively I’d love to hear about them! Please get in touch

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Guest blog: social media for small business

I’ve asked Natalie Sallis, who runs her own fitness and well-being business in my local town, to guest blog for me this month and before you read it I must confess that I do attend her fitness classes on a regular basis, and have done for a few years. My reason for asking her to guest blog though is because she genuinely runs a kick ass Facebook community and what I love most about it is that she didn’t even realise how awesome it was. She just does it. Totally naturally…

Her page, to me, reflects how small businesses can be (and should be) using social media – and also how some public sector orgs could be too! She takes class bookings via facebook, she offers advice and support, she responds within hours, she welcomes non members and gives them the same advice and she celebrates success. Not only that, but she’s always adapting to the changes that Facebook implements, understands what works for her audience (after all social media is all relative!) and as such, has a winning formula.

Here is what she had to say about being Naturally Social –

“My love of social media began like most people in 2007 with this funny website called Facebook. I scoured my digital camera for my best looking and thinnest picture and set up a profile. Initially I used it to play Pirate and to snoop on the boy I fancied at school and to gloat at the girl who used to bully me when I was younger but very soon the world realised that social media was a viable business commodity.

As a self employed personal trainer; social media is essential in my daily life. It ranks somewhere between the tooth brush and the kettle in how important it is in my daily routine. Social media allows me real time ️access to my colleagues, interaction with potential customers and a platform from which to shout the successes of my clients from. I can instantly create rapport, notify people of changes to class times and even share pictures of hippos planking.

Social media allows me to have 24 hour access to my customers.

They forget I can see what they are eating on a Saturday night 😉 I have access to them from my car (when I’m parked of course), my sofa and even the pub (if I went, which of course I don’t as I’m a most responsible personal trainer). Throughout the last 8 years and especially the last 5, Facebook has allowed me to create a network which, for want of a better word, is social. It keeps me on the periphery of people’s awareness which can help them make better health choices, facilitate a community where my clients support each other and help them feel that they are part of something special and unique. They feel like they are part of a team which they are able to pop in or out of.

Of course social media is not without its limitations and frustrations.

You’re open to ridicule, abuse, a bit of perving perhaps and peoples diet products from Russia. Pages are public, you can only block people once they comment and you’re never quite sure who’s watching and reading. Keeping your posts positive, regular, valuable and current are a sure way to increase organic traffic on your page. My most interactive posts are always those when I’m offering expert advice on common issues.

Here are my top tips when it comes to managing a successful Facebook business page:

1. Be true to you and your business. Know what your business offers, make sure your page reflects it and STICK  to it.
2. Use the insight function on your desktop. You’ll be able to see which posts are working for you.
3. Make your posts feel personal yet about other people. Talk about yourself MOSTLY on your private page.
4. Add photos to every post. They will help you stand out in a sea of content .
5. Ask questions to encourage interaction especially if it’s a little contentious. Conversation is healthy..

And finally ….

6. Use the schedule function. I often get told ‘you’re on Facebook all the time…’. Little do people know, 90% of my posts are planned. That way my ‘extra’ posts such as things that happened that day, have a completely natural feel to them because I’m not exerting pressure on myself to say something.

Social media is a great hand held marketing tool. It’s undoubtably made my business a success. I use it for bookings, sales, feedback, cancellations, cross promotion and advice. Best of all, I can enjoy having a personal profile which means I can keep mine and my families life’s private without being sold Russian diet products.”

Natalie is the owner and director at Natalie Sallis. Fitness, Health and Well-being based in Wiltshire.