At-a-Glance Business Guide to the 2014 Social Landscape

Social media … it ain’t what it used to be.

As more platforms emerge, it’s good to reassess the sites in which we’re investing our time to ensure they’re likely to yield positive results for our business.

Here’s a useful infographic that helps define the strengths and weaknesses of the eight leading social networking sites … (click on the image to enlarge)

by johnmnelson.
Explore more visuals like this one on the web’s largest information design community – Visually.


Accept it, You’re not Beyoncé – Social Media for Small Businesses

Social Media for Small Business

Big brands and even bigger personalities … they have it all, don’t they?

The slick, well-designed Facebook pages, the ultra cool ‘n’ creative Instagram posts, the brilliant short, sweet tweets that get shared around the world in a heartbeat.

They’ve got every conceivable base covered brilliantly on every platform, emerging or otherwise. And the public can’t get enough of them.

It’s easy to see why many a small business owner has looked at the activities of super social globals and inwardly sighed with downbeat resignation.

It’s the Beyoncé factor. We all want to walk in her shoes and have a little taste of everything we touch turning to a spangly shade of gold.

Or the Audi affect. Super-sexy, well-designed posts that purr with sublime style as they  cruise across your screen. It’s vorsprung durch deflating.

When we see how the big boys and girls do it, there’s no wonder that our zest and drive suddenly splurts to a splurty halt.

But you’re not comparing apples for apples, as my sales manager used to say.

When you make a conscious decision to celebrate, embrace and ignite all that is fabulous about being the whirlwind of a small business that is YOU, the social arena looks very different indeed.

Here’s a peak at how to get started.

Get Personal

Beyoncé, Coca Cola … They’re not going to form strong, unique and individual connections with their followers on a daily basis. And the truth is most small businesses won’t either … but you can. I call it the Ultra Social Factor (actually I just made that up, but I like it …) When anyone tweets me and includes my name, from that moment on we have context. The ice is broken for me, purely because they’ve used my name. It’s really that simple, so start right there.

Beware the Big O

I know all about ‘Overwhelm’; most of us do. It comes from pining for a dream so huge that you can’t see a practical route to achieving it, such is the shadow the dream casts over you. Try this simple daily step for starters: make one truly engaged connection every day, one where you take the time to learn just a little more about the other party. It’s about being interested and when it gathers momentum you’ll be amazed at where it will take you.

Loosen Up!

When I read about the need to always be ‘on message’ a little part of me falls asleep. I’m pretty sure I’d rather scoop my eyeballs out with a teaspoon than read a stream that was constantly ‘on message’. Even Beyoncé posts photos of herself first thing in the morning without a scrap of make-up, which tells me she’s not so much ‘on message’ as ‘a real person’. Boom.

Learn to Swap ‘Creative’ for ‘Supportive’

In my humble experience the one thing that is sure to kill any chance of me feeling creative is worrying about not feeling very creative. Just hand me the duvet, a packet of digestives and move along … there’s nothing to see here. But in all seriousness, on the days when I can’t summon up a masterpiece, or even a minorpiece for that matter, I’ll set about looking for ways to help others. That’s not me looking for plaudits and praise, I promise. It’s just a good use of my time and I know that it makes a difference.

Mix It Up

You know what I think is the hardest aspect of any longterm relationship, be it a marriage or the one we have with our customer? The need to keep it fresh and interesting. Consistency and repetition are important, but don’t let your posts or messages ever become reruns of what you said twelve months ago. Zing it up a bit. The chances are that as your confidence grows you’ll see new ways to say the same thing in a more compelling way … So think less “How to Clean Your Car in Thirty Minutes” and more “Give Your Car Some Sassy Showroom Sparkle This Weekend!”

In short, learn to concentrate on what you are, and less on what you’re not.

I’m never going to be Beyoncé. But then neither is she ever going to be the England Rugby Team’s most enthusiastic mummy fan.

Some you win, some you lose.

Sorry, Bey.

Grrrr … Give Me Back My Email Address!

email lists

There are many, many marketers out there who will tell you the secret to untold success and fortune is a huge email subscription list, and to be fair there is some merit in that theory.

It does seem however that a few too many now adopt the ‘get email address at all costs and hang the consequences’ approach, and I have to tell you that such tactics cause me to want to digitally hunt them down and put them under cyber arrest for gross violation of my trust.

Let me paint the picture.

Last week I decided to reassess a few webinar platform options for a series of forthcoming social media training seminars. What I discovered was that my previous supplier is now quite expensive, and that a few pretenders to the crown have seemingly caught them up in terms of favourable reviews, feedback and dependability.

So I pinged them an online enquiry asking them to get in touch so that we might discuss the matter further.

The next day I received an email from a customer service representative asking what time she should call me, to which I duly replied with a specific time slot.

No call.

But have no fear … they have kept in touch! With a series of unwanted email newsletters telling me how to transform myself into a webinar superstar of epic proportions.

I didn’t want their emails. I wanted them to call me back. You know the thing where people pick up a phone and you both have an actual conversation?

This is exasperating on so many levels, because it tells me that organisations still have no concept of personal service or of the need to take ownership of an enquiry and handle it in such a way that the customer feels they’re one step closer to making the right choice.

Now I simply think this webinar outfit were more interested in my email address than my business.

And that’s more than a little bit crazy.

Yet again I return to Kevin Spacey’s words of wisdom … “give the people what they want, when they want it, in the form they want it in …


Red Alert! These Social Media Myths Could Derail Your Potential


A new project, initiative or concept inevitably comes with the odd preconceived notion or two as to what to expect. We listen to what other people are saying, we get the mainstream media’s view and we may even refer back to previous experience to gain some sort of familiar gauge.

And whenever a new business takes its first steps on social media they’ll usually be baby, tentative steps. Why? Because very few of us really know what we’re doing when we start out. But almost certainly that business will have gained some sort of an idea of what to expect, which could well tint their whole campaign with a lacklustre shade of ‘average’ unless they’re very careful.

Let me be more specific …

“It’s just another name for marketing, isn’t it?”

Given that the online definition of marketing is “the action or business of promoting and selling products or services” you can appreciate why so many businesses still use their online platforms purely to pump out their own promotional material. But for the most part this will be wasted effort because unless they’re creating content that is massively compelling, different and eye-catching, it will be ignored. This is the part they’re so far failing to recognise. Don’t believe me? Go to a user’s page on the web and click on ‘expand’ beneath their tweets – this will reveal the retweets or replies they’ve had. If it’s consistently low, the vital signs are not good. The key to social media success is to learn how to engage your audience, and “what we’ve done since forever” isn’t going to do the trick.

“Our customers aren’t using it, so we don’t need to.”

It’s true. Not everybody uses social media, and do you know what? Not everybody will. But here’s the point if you’re using this as an excuse to not get started: people talk online and offline. My circle of friends and family include huge numbers of social media ‘non-believers’, but I often will make recommendations to them based on a connection I’ve made online. The conversation never stops, and assuming it ends when you hit the ‘log off’ button is a big mistake.

“Buying followers is a great way to get started”

Let’s be straight about this … When anyone buys ‘followers’ they’re actually buying a pile of fake accounts. They’re not actual people with DNA and smartphones, so you won’t receive any interaction, sharing of content or increased brand awareness from them. Yes, there will be an initial boost to your follower numbers but once the accounts are identified as fake and are subsequently deleted, your count will thump back down to where it was before. It’s the social media equivalent of covering your back garden in tarmac because you don’t like mowing the lawn. Swinging the hover-mower around every week might be a pain but we all love to feel the grass beneath our feet, don’t we?

“Automation saves time”

You really do need to be present. That doesn’t need to be every hour of every day, but automating everything will be like sending a cardboard cut-out of yourself to a party. If you want to experience the essence of what makes social media such a powerful tool then you need to roll your sleeves up and build relationships through dialogue.

“A social media presence is all you need”

Just as building a house doesn’t immediately make it a welcoming family home, neither will creating an online profile be enough to tick the ‘social media’ box. Yes, it’s the first step but it’s a stake in the ground. It’s your foundation to build on.

“You should never sell on social media”

The sales person in me always squirms at this one, and that’s because I know so many people see ‘selling’ purely as nothing more than a clumsy ‘buy this’ message. The truth is that sales processes begin with understanding your customer, what motivates him, building context and fashioning your proposal around what he’s told you wants …. because that’s what he wants, strangely enough. Social media works in exactly the same way. You may not close the deal online, but you’ll be getting to know your future market, building trust and as such gaining a clearer picture of what they’re looking for. It used to be called “prospecting” but I’m pretty sure it’ll now have a sexier title, maybe along the lines of “digital market intelligence”.

Everyone’s potential will vary when it comes to social media; calculating it on the basis of hearsay will never be a true representation, so kick those misconceptions to the kerb and dip that toe in the digital ocean, baby ;)


Photo courtesy of Anders Jildén

Eight Human Traits You Need to Drop on Social Media

social media errors

Having a sales background has taught me many things, the least of which is that if you want to appeal to as many people as possible then you don’t give them a reason to dislike you.

But when it comes to social media, it’s difficult when we have a strong opinion or something we need to get off our chest, right?

Of course it is. But the reality is that if you’re using social networks for business reasons then you need to reach as far and as wide as you can. And that means one thing: you need to button it.

Unfortunately there are many human traits that we can slip unwittingly into that cause others to view us in a less than amenable light. Is this unfair? Very possibly, but it’s their view, their light and their rules – not yours.

Here are a few very common habits that ultimately won’t do you any favours if you’re doing this social media thing for business purposes:

Tweeting without thinking. We all fall prey to this one from time to time, but before you’re tempted to post online how absolutely ridiculous karaoke is, consider that maybe, just maybe, one of your customers has just organised a singalong extravaganza for her husband’s fortieth surprise birthday party. I’m not sure that she was going to invite you anyway, so you can stick with your plans for reality TV and a takeaway on that night. Oh, and that’ll be no repeat business from her.

Impatience. I’m chuckling to myself as I type this, because if you knew me, you’d know how terribly impatient I can be. But I tell you this, my friends … no-one ever achieved anything on social media overnight unless they were caught leaving a night club at 4am in the morning with Prince Harry. I’ve published blog posts that bombed on first entry, but then sparked into life on re-posting a couple of weeks later. Why? I have no idea. The ways of social media, they are the enemy of impatience …

Straying onto “no-go” topics. You know the ones I mean … politics and religion are the most obvious. Whether we should bring back the death penalty is another. Even if you couch it in what seems to you to be a neutral way in order to initiate debate, it’s unlikely you’ll be seen as entirely neutral. So don’t go there.

Obstinacy. A strongly held belief that your way is the right way is a good thing … right up to the point when people start to lose interest because of your lack of flexibility. Uphold your standards by all means, but don’t refuse to budge an inch if there’s a chance you’ll be seen as unhelpful or unaccommodating.

Limiting thoughts. This is a tricky one, because often we have no idea we’re in the grip of them. To make inroads on social media you need to be regarded as the person with the answers as to why people can, not why they can’t. Dump the negativity and look to catch the positive habit as soon as possible.

Sarcasm. Had this been an Olympic sport, I would have been a triple gold medal winner at the very least. But these days I make it a strictly offline activity, because it may get you a few quick laughs but it won’t make you the darling of the majority. Whilst neutrality may be seen as boring by the sarcastic crew, it tends to weather the storm far better.

Being tempted to copy. Easier than conjuring up an original, isn’t it? Yes, but who wants to be a copy when there are already so many out there? Go unique, or go home.

Not listening. Ever noticed how you plan what to say next as the other person is talking? We all have a tendency to do it, which is a shame because it suggests that we’ve dismissed what they’re saying as being less important than what we’ve got to add to the equation. Call me a cynic, but I don’t think that tends to go down too well.

Somebody asked me recently what they should do if they simply couldn’t adopt the right persona to attract the attention they wanted on social media, but really that’s like asking how can you run a marathon without doing any training.

Nobody is asking you to fundamentally change the person you are, just make sure you change when you’re interacting on social platforms, just as you only need to train for your marathon for a few hours very week- not all week.

Social media is essentially a stage, so make sure you’re playing the right part. [Tweet this!]