Is Twitter the best place to market your business? Should it be Facebook? Or would LinkedIn be a better way of reaching your target customers?
In this episode
In this 30-minute episode of Essential Business Radio, first broadcast in 2012 but still relevant today, Jeremy Spiller, MD of White Hat Media and Ben Tresham of Boxharry* talk about using social media to build your business and your customer base. It’s no good putting all your time and effort into one platform if your customers are hanging about somewhere else. Listen to the show:
- The media sites and apps mentioned in this episode include: Facebook, YouTube, LinkedIn, Twitter, MySpace, Foursquare, Quora and HootSuite. Jeremy also mentions Hashable, but that app is now no longer available.
- Jeremy Spiller talks about Seth Godin and his book, Tribes. He also mentions the Dunbar Principle.
For more social media advice and other marketing ideas, sign up for our weekly Essential Business Nudges – quick tips to help you build your skills and build your business.
About today’s guests
Julie Stanford: Hello. I’m Julie Stanford, and welcome once again to Essential Business Radio. With me this time to discuss social media are Jeremy Spiller, the Managing Director of award winning SEO and marketing company, White Hat Media, and Ben Tresham, Business Development Manager of Brighton-based Boxharry. Ben, let’s start with you. Tell me a bit more about Boxharry, what you do and your role in the company.
Ben Tresham: Okay. Boxharry’s an online media and specialist company. We build in short, websites and applications, but we also help our customers integrate that within the social media sphere as it were. At Boxharry, I’m Business Development Manager, so I’m responsible for growing the business. One of our key strategies does actually sit within social media. It’s things we use for ourselves, not only for our customers, as well.
Julie Stanford: It’s something you know very well, because it’s in your company as well as in your client’s companies.
Ben Tresham: Indeed. We couldn’t very well advise someone to do something that we hadn’t tried ourselves.
Julie Stanford: No.
Ben Tresham: At least once.
Julie Stanford: Good point. Jeremy, over to you. Tell me a little bit about SEO and the social media aspect within White Hat Media.
Jeremy Spiller: Yeah. We help companies and organization increase their visibility online. We basically sit down, talk to them, find out what they’re trying to achieve, and then deploy whatever is necessary. It often and usually is some form of search engine optimization. We also do lots of social media, site design, site building, application development and so on. It’s all about increasing visibility, thus increasing their sales inquiries, subscribers or whatever it is that they want from their site.
Julie Stanford: That’s what business is about, Jeremy, isn’t it?
Jeremy Spiller: Absolutely.
Exactly what is social media?
Julie Stanford: Let’s think then. What would be great, really, I think, first of all, is to explain exactly what social media is. Jeremy, do you mind telling us what social media means, because not everyone will know.
Jeremy Spiller: It’s interesting. Social media has been around for a very long time. In fact, it’s been around on the web for a long time. It used to be called message boards. The growth of social media recently online has been from three different drivers. One, bigger bandwidth. We can now see, view, read things like videos much, much easier. The second thing is the fashion of it. Things like Facebook, YouTube, obviously have become very fashionable. The third thing, quite simply, is business. There are a lot of interests out there. Facebook and so on, who are businesses. They have huge valuations, and they need to generate returns. In order to do that, they have to deliver to their users. They’re constantly evolving, constantly changing. Thus, now social media is huge.
Julie Stanford: It’s funny, isn’t it. I hadn’t really thought about it from the perspective of their business needs.
Jeremy Spiller: Absolutely.
Julie Stanford: Which of course are going to drive the way things grow and change, aren’t they?
Jeremy Spiller: Facebook responds very quickly to things. For example, there’s a site called Foursquare, which is a location based social media site. What do Facebook do? They promote Facebook Places, which basically does the same thing as Foursquare. What the social media sites are doing at the moment is they’re each trying to sort of jockey for supremacy. Of course, Facebook, at the moment is the largest, the biggest and the most popular. There’s a lot of other organisations who are looking at that. Not least, of course, organisations like Google, who are looking at wanting some of that action, so to speak.
Julie Stanford: Okay. Ben Tresham, let’s think now. I’m coming to you. I’ve heard this phrase, social media. I’m a small business. I come to you and I say, “I want to get involved in this.” First of all, would you explain to me how it’s different from the personal use of social media? Something like MySpace or Facebook. How is it different for a business?
Ben Tresham: Well, that all depends what your business drivers are, and what you want to get out of interacting with people on social media. For example, we do some work with some major utility companies on how they actually interact with their customers on social media. For example, when people on Twitter would start tweeting that they were unhappy with this particular utility company, they can pick that up and then engage with those customers. That’s obviously the customer service element, is one way to engage with people. Other elements are if you have a product or service that you want to sell within the social media world. There are various different ways to do this. There is a thing that we call earned value within social media, which is you as a user would sometimes be a corporation, would actually interact with people and add value within the social media community. It’s almost like the person in your local shop, as it were. In a small village everybody knows them. That person has value within their community. It’s a very similar sort of experience. You need to earn that value in your community, so people can go to you and communicate with you.
Then there are various other paid options that you can go down when using social media, as well. You really have to, if you’re looking at sort of implementing any sort of social media strategies within your organization, there are several things that you have to consider. The first one being people. Do you have the right people on board within your organisation who are interested? Purpose. What are you trying to get out of it? You then have to look at the amount of time that you’re going to spend on it. It’s not something that you can just pick up and throw away another day. You actually have to invest quite a lot of time, effort and money behind actually making it work and making it work for you in the right ways. Then profits. There’s no point in spending an inordinate amount of time and money on developing a social media strategy for your company and developing your presence within the social media world if you’re not going to get some money back from it. At the end of the day, that’s what interaction with customers should be about.
Julie Stanford: I could imagine that it could be an enormous black hole where you pour money or time, which of course in effect is money in a small business, or in any business. Jeremy, if I came to White Hat Media and I said to you I want to be involved in social media, would you treat it as any other marketing tool? Would you be asking me to be clear that I’m finding the right people? It seems to me there’s no point tweeting, for instance, if your client isn’t on Twitter. Your target client. How would you deal with that planning side of it before you actually decide where you’re going to go?
Social media and your target customers
Jeremy Spiller: As Ben said, there’s a lot of aspects you have to plan before you start using it, so to speak. Certainly, Ben’s included many of those. Yeah. You do have to think very, very carefully about the purpose, and that sort of thing, before you engage with social media. The thing I think you’re referring to is what we call listening posts. It really depends on what you’re trying to sell and how you’re going to try to sell it. Social media can also be quite damaging if you do the wrong thing, so to speak. Especially if you overly promote your products and services, and don’t engage properly with people. That actually can work against you.
One of the things, as I said, is the listening post. Where are you going to talk about your products or your services, and how are you going to talk about them? People in online marketing really think, “What’s in it for me?” When they visit a web page, for example. When they read stuff, when they read blogs. It’s the, “What’s in it for me?” If you push things down people’s throats, the modern social media, if you like, can actually harm you in a sense that people will turn away from you. You’ve got to be very careful about how you engage. That again, interestingly, comes down to good content. You’ve got to have something that people want to listen to, or use, or watch or similar, to be able to get that traction in the first place. Of course, you’ve got to listen to the people you’re talking to, as well.
Julie Stanford: It’s a very delicate balance, by the sound of it. Isn’t it?
Jeremy Spiller: Yes.
Julie Stanford: You’re really having to think. And the immediacy of it, I would think, is slightly dangerous.
Jeremy Spiller: Ben, interestingly, touched on something called reputation management, which is tracking what people are saying about your business. Literally, your business name. Most of the social media platforms or systems have methods by which you can manage. It’s called reputation management or buzz monitoring. It’s what people are saying about your business, and where they’re saying it, as well. It moves very, very fast, but as well as tracking your brand name or your company name or your product name, you can also track your product name. If you’re in the business of coffee or something, you can find out where people are talking about coffee. If you’re in the business of professional services accounting, that sort of thing, you can find out where people are talking about that. This is the listening post. There’s a lot of activity goes on online.
The other danger people fall into, is to think that social media is all about making sales. It’s not. You can engage with journalists. You can engage with influences. You can engage with writers, broadcasters. You can do all of it online, all of which, of course, could help your business. One of the most useful things of social media is to get advice. You can go into forums. If you’re a small business, especially, you can go into lots of small business forums and say, “How do I … ?” You will get lots of very helpful and friendly people giving you answers. That has a value and it’s a very useful one.
Julie Stanford: All right. We’re going to touch in a little while on the places to go to have this social media presence, but Ben, at Boxharry, would you advise your clients to have a clear strategy, and would you work with them to put that plan together first? You just feel like an enormous responsibility, really, for that business.
Ben Tresham: Yes. We would work with our clients to have an extremely clear strategy on social media. Knowing exactly what you want to get out of it is one of the key and most important parts. Most companies fall down when the actually go into social media. I’ll use Twitter for example. Would use it as a broadcast medium to just broadcast exactly what they’re doing. Jeremy touched on some of the tools that you can use to sort of learn about what people are saying out there within social media.
Hootsuite is one of the tools that we actually use internally within Boxharry. It helps us listen for things that are going on within our industry. It also helps us listen for things that people might want. For example, people might tweet, “I’m looking for someone to build me a website.” A little while ago we were looking for some smartphone developers internally for Boxharry, so I tweeted that. Within a couple of hours, someone with a similar program had responded to my tweet and said, “We are smartphone developers based in Brighton.” Which is where we’re looking for. “Let’s get together and have a coffee.” There’s brilliant ways that you can engage with people and actually listen to what’s going on out there.
Julie Stanford: You touched on this, that it could be an enormous time-waster. For any employer, any business employer, I could see that without that clear strategy, without a plan of where the best place is to be, you could really waste a lot of time and effort and your staff could as well.
Jeremy Spiller: Yes. You could get very easily distracted, as well. You could go off into these social media things and end up lost and you could spend a lot of time. Of course, a lot of people do. In some senses that’s the point of it. In many ways, for some people. Yeah. You’ve got to be very focused and disciplined. You’ve got to have a clear plan about how much time you’re prepared to spend on it.
What happens if the staff who handle your social media accounts leave your business?
Jeremy Spiller: Another interesting point Ben touched on, I just wanted to add, was who in your organisation does the engagement with the social media. What can happen is that someone can build up a very large Twitter following personally, and get into positions of administering LinkedIn groups, or whatever, and then leave your company. What do you do then? They’ve built up 5,000 followers on your time, on your watch, while working for you. Then they take all those followers to a competitor. What’s your thinking going to be about that? Of course, there’s also a sort of tactical thing. How much are you going to allow people to say, or indeed not say? Recently there’s been some very notorious cases, especially in the US, of people saying things about either their employee or even about a client, recently, which wasn’t great. Of course, that could be quite damaging.
Ben Tresham: Interestingly enough, I went to a conference a few months ago now, up in London. It was regarding social media and contract law, even though it wasn’t the most riveting of subjects to sit there and listen to for four hours. It did bring up some very good points around some of the areas that Jeremy was saying. You know, what happens if you do have these people who’ve built these massive followings, and then they leave your company? One piece of advice that we could give to people out there is to start building clauses within employment contracts to actually start tying people down. You can put some pretty stringent measures against people, even so far as saying that they cannot use their LinkedIn that they have built all these followers with. They would be breaking their contract and you could quite rightly take them to court for breach of contract.
Julie Stanford: We’re realizing that people need to be careful and think this through carefully before starting out.
Jeremy Spiller: Well, also because you can so easily find out about people on social media, you can check someone out on LinkedIn, and to some degree Facebook and other platforms. What I always advise people is this is the public domain, so whatever you put onto the web is going to go into the public domain. If you don’t want people to see it, then don’t put it on the web in the first place.
Julie Stanford: This is a good point. You’re listening to Essential Business Radio. I’m Julie Stanford. With me today, Jeremy Spiller of White Hat Media and Ben Tresham of Boxharry. We’re talking about social media. Now, thinking about the actual places you go to be on social media … That sounds a bit clumsy, but you know what I mean. We’ve talked about LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter. What are they and which are the best for businesses? Jeremy, do you mind if you pick that up and let’s think about … Tell me a bit more about what they are and why they would be good.
Jeremy Spiller: Well, it depends what the business is. For example, if you’re in say, a business consumer … In other words you’re selling t-shirts, or something like that. One system might be better. Say, Facebook. Whereas if you’re in business-to-business, say you’re offering services, then LinkedIn might be better. You’ve got to think very carefully about which systems are going to be best for you. That, of course, is determined by what you’re selling, as I said, or what you’re into.
The amount of time that you spend on social media activity, of course, is important to any business owner, small business particularly, because of course, time is limited. It’s important to use the right sort of social media system, the one that’s going to basically deliver you the most value in terms of engagement marketing. That’s what it’s all about. There are four particularly big social media systems or platforms, as some people call them. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and YouTube. There’s also lots of other ones like Foursquare. There’s a couple of other ones called Quora and Hashable. They all work slightly differently. My advice to anybody who is considering using a social media site for business would be to get onboard with it and learn about it. Find out how it works and so on and so forth. It does come down to good content again, so if you’re going to engage with people in social media, if you’d like on behalf of your business or as a business, then it’s always going to be about good content. You’ve got to think about both those aspects.
Julie Stanford: Ben Tresham, at Boxharry, would you say to someone that they should spend time testing out one of the platforms, if that’s what we’re going to call them, before they actually start having their voice heard? I’m very aware that you could do a lot of damage to your business and your brand if you’re not really careful.
Getting your visitors’ attention
Ben Tresham: Yes, that’s very true. I would say yes. As Jeremy did touch on planning and actually looking at the different social media channels and which one you’re going to use, is one of the key parts of the whole process. Content is king here, as Jeremy did say. Having the right information is so important, so one of the things that we would sometimes suggest for people to do, for example, let’s take for a case study a DVD rental company. They would then sell their services through Facebook. One of the main ways they would use is the very targeted advertising you can do on Facebook. You can get really granular down to what someone’s likes and dislikes are, where they live, what gender they are. Different groups of people respond to different types of adverts. You can then start targeting them with very highly targeted pay-per-click advertising. Now, if you have your content right here, this is where you could start to earn the value from social media. The person clicks on the advert, after you’ve got their attention from having the right content on a very small advert, through to what they’re then seeing after they’ve clicked. That click has cost you money, and it could be anything from a few pennies to £5.00. For example, per click, you need to make sure that the content the people are looking at is relevant in the context of what you’re trying to sell.
Julie Stanford: We talked on another show, where we talked about websites about landing pages. I assume that’s what you mean by a landing page?
Ben Tresham: Yes.
Julie Stanford: When someone clicks on that advert, they land on your websites and you’ve got to grab them there and then. Haven’t you?
Ben Tresham: You have got to grab them. What I would suggest to people here is not to use their main website landing page. Not their front page for this. I would develop a separate web page specifically for that advertisement. When the person clicks on it, they go to a specific web page designed for that advertisement with the key messages that they want to tell people. Those have got to be at the top. What are the three key selling points of that product or service?
Julie Stanford: Now there is an explosion in the mentions of Twitter and the uses of Twitter. Many, many thousands of people are using it, Jeremy. If I were to come to White Hat Media and I said to you, “I’ve heard about Twitter. I want to get out there. I want to be part of it.” How would I go about doing that?
Jeremy Spiller: Well, it depends how much you want to do yourself. Most of the clients we work with have internal marketing people. There’s quite a lot of sort of training and working alongside them or with them to run these campaigns, basically. If you’re starting as a small business, then it’s clear that you’ve got to determine whether you want to do some of the things yourself or whether you’re going to outsource the whole lot to an agency. Of course, both carry again, advantages and disadvantages down to what people can say and what they can’t say, and that sort of thing. You may be best placed, certainly as a small business person, to talk about your own business. Therefore you might just want some training, some help, some advice in terms of setting things up or possible developing content like video or audio or things like that.
Julie Stanford: Yeah. I’ve heard, for instance, on Twitter that if you are not authentic and you’re not talking in your voice as well as your company’s voice, it’s very obvious.
Jeremy Spiller: Yes.
Julie Stanford: It puts people off and you would lose followers, because people can stop following you. Can’t they?
Jeremy Spiller: Yeah. I think people do understand that people work on behalf of people, but it as to be as transparent as possible. You cannot pretend that you’re a happy customer when actually in a matter of fact you are someone from that company or even their agency. That has happened and people have been caught out. It’s not pretty.
Julie Stanford: No, how embarrassing.
Jeremy Spiller: Indeed. You have to be … There’s even this whole thing about ghost writing. Now, of course, a lot of celebrities out there who are so-called tweeting, it’s not them tweeting. It’s people they’re paying to tweet on their behalf. It could be their PR people. People are beginning to accept that that’s okay, but as you say, the more validity, the more credibility, the more real you can be, and sincere, that’s very, very important. The better it’s going to be.
Julie Stanford: Ben Tresham, can I talk to you a bit about the other media outlets that we talked about really, which we touched on earlier, which is YouTube for video and audio content. How would someone integrate that into their marketing strategy? That seems like it could be a bottomless pit, really. Also difficult to get your voice heard above those hundreds of thousands of videos, for instance on YouTube.
Ben Tresham: Yeah. YouTube is a really useful tool. I’d normally say that most of our larger clients would set up what we would call a YouTube channel. It’s their own area within YouTube with videos about them. They would then normally link this through to their websites and utilise it with other social media as well. What you want to start doing is say if you put a video up on YouTube, you want to start using your Twitter and your Facebook and also your website in order to promote that YouTube video. That then gains value within the YouTube audience itself and pushes more people to go and see it.
Planning your social media strategy
Julie Stanford: What I’m hearing from both of you is that it should be integrated and it should be planned. The other thing I was interested that you touched on earlier in the show, Jeremy, is when you said about for the business owner … For instance on LinkedIn, how they could learn and grow their position in the business, but also their standing and their network, really. It’s an online network.
Jeremy Spiller: That’s right. Yeah. One of the concepts behind this, of course, is this whole concept of community or tribe. A very good book, written by Seth Godin, called Tribes that I’d recommend anyone who is considering social media should use. There’s another principle, albeit contentious, called the Dunbar Principle. That is, that all of us interact with 150 people. OK? Everybody interacts on a daily basis with the person who sells them their coffee, their colleagues, and so on and so forth. Of course, those people interact – all your 150 contacts – with 150 people. That means you’re one step, if you like, away from 22,500 people. It’s not just who you know, it’s who they know. That’s an important concept in social media.
In order for people to pass on your message, they must think it’s valuable to their contacts. That’s the key. That’s why you’ve got to be interesting and sincere. A lot of successful social media revolves around issues. Making the world a better place. This is making businesses re-look at themselves as to how they can help the local community, how they can help the community at large. Those are the sort of things now that are joining up the dots between people, if you like. A lot of things are about issues and improving people’s quality of living, improving poverty. There’s an alignment going on here that’s fascinating. A lot of businesses are looking very closely at things like corporate responsibility.
Jeremy Spiller: When I think of the smaller business, I often think of them toiling away at the coalface, with so much pressure. That pressure now is being piled on because of the speed with which they’re supposed to respond to this and to engage in. You have to be authentic, and you have to be tweeting frequently and you have to update your profile on LinkedIn and you need to do a nifty video on YouTube and you’ve got to do all of that and produce your product or your service. It feels sometimes as if there’s a lot of pressure on the average small business person.
Jeremy Spiller: This is because you’ve listed a whole bunch of things. I would recommend to any small business, certainly sole trader, not to try and do everything all at once. Do two or three things, and do them well. Many small business owners are experts in what they do. Most customers are looking for people who are experts in what they do. Talk about what you do as an expert. Write a blog. Keep a blog. On this integrated marketing thing we talked about earlier, people use something called a hub and spoke marketing strategy. That is, you have something that you want people to go to. That could just be a blog. You use your social media to get people to your blog. Sooner or later, if it’s a well-written blog, people will start telling each other about it, sharing information about it, and your traffic will grow. Of course your credibility will grow, and people will come and ask you for advice or help or ask you in the area of your expertise. That’s of course, what you want to achieve.
Julie Stanford: Now, when I’ve got you experts trapped in this studio, I love to say to you, “So what tips should we be giving to the hapless business owner who is thinking, ‘Social media, I have no idea where to start?’ “ Ben, what would you say to someone coming to you and asking that question?
What tips would you give?
Ben Tresham: I would say look at your products or service, and look at the best channel for you. For example, Facebook, as Jeremy said earlier, is better for your business consumer. LinkedIn is better for business-to-business. Twitter is a really good way to engage with people and also the worldwide sphere. Also look at the tools you want to use. I mentioned Hootsuite earlier as a really good tool, because you can line up all your social media in the same space, in the same area. You can link them all together, so when you say something on one, it can then pass that message across the others. Decide your corporate voice, how you’re going to say it. The final tip, I’d say, especially for a small business, your mobile is your friend. More people interact with social media on their mobiles then they do with the web these days. I mean, I personally, often tweet or update my Facebook or update my LinkedIn, when I’m walking down the road. When there’s not much else I could be doing apart from walking. I’m one of those people who is there with my Blackberry.
Julie Stanford: Bumping into everyone.
Ben Tresham: Bumping into everyone. Exactly. Yeah.
Julie Stanford: Jeremy, the other thing is, we have touched on this supporting the business owner. I know although there’s a business need for this, and there’s got to be return on that investment, it also is a great way of that business owner becoming more skilled, engaged, networked without having to get up at 6:00am and have breakfast with a room full of strangers.
Jeremy Spiller: Yes.
Julie Stanford: I’m leading your tips here, now, but just to really think …
Jeremy Spiller: Indeed. I think the thing to do is to get on board. Don’t be intimidated. There’s nothing to be intimidated by. Everybody had to start with every social media system or any social media platform, at some point. I completely endorse and agree with what Ben said. Get on board. Have a purpose. Think about why you’re doing it. Actually enjoy it, as well. Try and give more than you get, so to speak. Think about all the helpful advice you can give people in your sphere. If you do that, then people are going to come to you naturally anyway. That’s superb, and as Ben says, it comes down to good content. Again, think beyond the text. Go into audio, video and also don’t forget to measure it. Remember again, as we were talking earlier, make sure that you have your analytics on board so you can measure the results that you’re getting. Where you’re getting traffic from. You’ll see it rewards you very well. What we do to smaller businesses is basically advise them to dedicate a certain amount of time every day or a certain amount of time every week to do this. It’s very, very rewarding.
Julie Stanford: For every business owner, they shouldn’t be forgetting the social element of social media.
Jeremy Spiller: Absolutely.
Julie Stanford: It actually makes doing business more fun.
Jeremy Spiller: Yeah.
Julie Stanford: Business owners need that. Don’t they? I think it’s a good point to end on. Jeremy Spiller, Managing Director of White Hat Media and Ben Tresham, Business Development Manager at Boxharry, thank you both very much for joining me today on Essential Business Radio.
* Ben is no longer working with Box Harry. He is now Director at Customer Attuned.