WordPress Themes that are great for Search Engine Optimisation

WordPress Themes that are great for Search Engine Optimisation

Last year I changed my blog over to the Generate Theme on the ‘Genesis framework’ offered by the guys at StudioPress. A number of people have asked me why I chose it, so today I thought I’d explain my reasons. Its also worth me saying that the links in this article are aff links because having had personal success with this combination, I signed up to help promote the StudioPress option to others. It’s important to say that I wouldn’t be doing this if I weren’t getting value from this myself.

Firstly, a wordpress theme actually sits on top of a framework and having done a lot of research into companies offering good solutions for both, I decided to take the recommendation of Chris Brogan who at the time, also used this combo. I believe he’s on a custom theme on top of Genesis now.

SEO: One of the main reasons I chose this framework was for its optimisation (SEO) value. Here’s an excerpt from the studiopress website explaining why it’s so good.

“State of the art code and smart design architecture make it easy for search engines to see what you’ve got. With automatic updates to the Genesis Framework, you never have to think about it again. Your code will always be up to date and fully optimized.”

And boy is it…Having added this article to my blog today, it was almost certainly appear in Google within a couple of days, sometimes I’ve seen it enter their index the same day.

Design: Once you run the Genesis framework you can use a number of what they call ‘child themes’ on top of it which means that I can have a different look for my blog without the need for a designer or developer at a touch of a button.

Support: If you need support then the guys over at StudioPress are second to none. That’s worth paying for in my opinion.

Security: In terms of security, they’ve employed security experts to help with locking down the insecurities that wordpress can suffer from. Obviously nothing is totally infallible but they’ve down what they can to make this the best they can.

There are also a plethora of other custimisation/widget options which I won’t bore you with today.

If you’re looking for framework to go with then I can definitely recommend genesis or any of the studiopress products. For more info on the themes they offer, make sure you check out their great theme chooser.

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Using Social Media to Enhance Employability

I’m really excited as tomorrow I’m going to be spending the morning with students at Exeter University, talking about Social Media and how it can help their job prospects. We all know its a tough world out there right now and getting a job is a lot harder than when I left the same University, 12 years ago.

I’m excited because when I was there, I didn’t have any of the tools available to these guys to help my search for work. Those who want to give themselves a head start in life really do have a fantastic opportunity to do so.

So here are my top tips to any student looking to use Social Media to enhance their employability potential.

1). Without wanting to start on a negative note, the first place to start is understanding privacy settings and what employers these days use the web for – Googling your name. Have you Googled your name (that’s mine by the way) to see what turns up? Have you checked to see what information people can turn up on you on Facebook without being logged in, or through a profile that is not friends with yours? If not, I suggest you do, because rightly or wrongly prospective employers will be doing so.

2). Right lets get positive now. If I could give one piece of advice to a prospective employee it would be to start blogging. How many CV’s do you think every job you go for is going to attract? How many of them link to a blog which shows off their knowledge, thoughts & personality? Not many I bet you. So here’s your number 1 chance to stand out. With tools like WordPress so easy to use (and free), you can start a blog today, while you’re at Uni and demonstrate to future employers 1000 times more about you, than you can on your CV.

3). Start listening & learning. Use tools like Twitter to start searches for people tweeting in the area you’re looking to get work. Build up a picture of who is about and begin to engage with them. Getting to know a prospective employer before you’ve even applied for a job could just give you the edge you need when it comes to interview time.

4). More Learning. Really?!? Yup ‘fraid so. The workplace is very different to Uni life. Find industry experts and influencers in your field of choice and follow them on sites like Twitter. Learn from them, create your own posts about the things they say on your newly formed blog. Find the thought leaders out there and start to build up real world knowledge of what business is really going to be like.

As an aside, if you’re into Business & Marketing here are a few great people/companies to start with:

Chris Brogan
, Seth Godin
, UnMarketing
Mashable & Econsultancy

5). Make LinkedIn your corporate network. In the business world many of us use LinkedIn as our corporate network. We keep personal stuff to Facebook so that’s not much use to connect with us on. Twitter is more difficult to build close connections on quickly, it takes time. Start to add people you meet at job fairs/events/shows/out networking and build your numbers. Know people in the local business community (family/friends etc)? Add them too. Numbers lead to leverage in LinkedIn and as you take your profile wherever you go in your working life, you should start to see this as one of your most valuable assets.

6). Be Proactive – When I’m looking to recruit, I want someone that stands out. I want someone that makes the effort to go the extra mile. I want someone that doesn’t just send me in a CV and hope for the best. Recruitment is expensive for us company owners. You can not only save us money but show you’re different by finding me on LinkedIn and sending me your details. Ensure to tell me not just about your skill set, but why you want to work for me, what you can bring to my company and why you’re different. You’ll be ahead of 95% of other candidates already and if you’ve done everything else I’ve said above I may not even bother seeing anyone else!

Guys, if I were looking for a job now I’d be really enthused by all the ways I can make myself stand out. The question is….are you?

Now Your Thoughts

  • Have you got any more tips for the stars of the future?

The Secret to Great Customer Service

The Secret to Great Customer Service

Be where your customers are… Mind-blowing isn’t it. I hope I didn’t set your expectations too high with that title! :)

When I’m discussing social media communications with clients, one of the concerns they often have is that their customers may not be active in these spaces. It’s a valid point and one that is worth spending some time on. I was recently talking to a client of ours in the plant hire business. They weren’t sure if Twitter was going to be of use to them as a business. As we discussed this in their boardroom, a client of theirs pulled up outside in a van and walked into the hire showroom. This was clearly a ‘man and his van’ outfit. Lets call him Derek’s Diggers for the purpose of this post.

Derek and his small business are going through a tough time at the moment. Work is not easy to come by, there is an awful lot of competition and he needs as many ways of reaching his target audience as possible. You can bet he is probably networking, putting leaflets through doors, maybe cold calling and in this day and age if he isn’t active on sites like Twitter yet, you can bet he will be within a year or so. For the small to medium business without large marketing budgets, social media is seen as a relatively cost effective way of marketing. In the majority of cases these sites have free signup so Derek can start to build his following and create business opportunities in a tough market.

I asked my client if they had an email database of their clients? The answer was yes… I went onto explain that looking after clients in social media space provided another, excellent way of reaching out to these important people. By finding and following these companies/individuals on sites like Twitter, they could spend time understanding their prospects businesses, adding value to the relationship with them and ultimately build stronger and better relationships. The penny started to drop.

Your clients may or may not be on sites like Twitter and Facebook, Google + or LinkedIn, but before you discount any of them from your comms mix, make sure you spend time finding out. I truly believe its hard to put a value on retention of current clients, not to mention finding the new opportunities that lie within these exciting online platforms.

Why not spend some time today seeing who’s active locally on Twitter: https://twitter.com/search - Use the advanced options to play with your postcode settings. Try your clients names, both personal and company (I find searching for these in Google is often easier than Twitter itself). Once you’ve found your clients, put them into a list using a tool like Tweetdeck or Hootsuite and keep a close eye on what they are saying, so you can be the first to congratulate/help/just say hi occasionally. Do the same on LinkedIn, Facebook and G+ and I assure you, you’ll reap the rewards over the long haul.

Now Your Thoughts

•    Where do you find the majority of your clients hang out? Is one platform better than another for you?
•    Do you have any other tips for client retention?

5 ways to gain better Search Engine Listings

5 ways to gain better Search Engine Listings

Ladies and Gents, this post was originally written for my local paper – The Express and Echo. I felt the content was important to re-purpose for my blog.

I’m going to focus today on Search Engine Optimisation or SEO as it’s often referred to.

SEO is not a dark art. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. If you put the right things in place, you’ll start to see your rankings in major search engines improve. Where you might want additional help from your agency is when this is critical to your business and requires constant improvement to gain more and more rankings and therefore sales opportunities.

Here are five top tips you can do YOURSELF, today, to improve your rankings.

1). Add a blog to your site. Look at sites like www.wordpress.com which offer free blog software. You can download this and put it on your domain name (web address) and start to reap the benefits of blogging. A blog is given more respect from search engines due to the underlying software and fact that they are often updated regularly (Google loves fresh new content to sink it’s teeth into).

2). Ask for links. A link from someone else’s site to your own is seen as a vote for it. The more good quality links you have coming to your site, the better your rankings are likely to be. Ask yourself who you can approach for a link today – make a list and send them an email – now.

3). Create targeted content. You’ve installed your new blog so what do you write about now? Consider what you want to be found for in search engines. Is it XYZ product? In which case, you need to write about that product and give google and the others the chance to find multiple references of this product within your site. Try and provide value to the user – don’t just tell them why it’s great you’ve got this new product – sell the features and benefits of it for the user. Here’s a few suggestions for titles:

“Why the XYZ is so good in our opinion”
“5 great reasons you should consider buying the XYZ today”
“Review of the XYZ”

4). Page Titles. You see that blue bar at the top of your Internet Browser? That’s your page title. Every page can have and should have a different title. Lazy designers or those without the expertise will probably use the same title throughout your whole site. This is a huge waste and should be changed immediately. Consider again what you want to be listed for in the search engines and then try and make the title of that page match the content on the page as much as possible.

5). Google Product Feed. Ok so possibly not strictly SEO but as it’s part of Google I’ll include it here. If you’re selling products on your site and have a credit card system you can export these products into the Google shopping area. This takes some technical expertise but is well worth investing in, so ask your agency to look into this for you as soon as possible as it can lead to almost instant sales without huge investment. It’s also a great way to get a presence in Google if you’re struggling in the natural listings.

So there we have it folks, 5 lovely tips to take away and action today. I can pretty much guarantee you that if you start to implement these on your site today, you’ll start seeing the benefit very soon.

Image courtesy of Danard Vincente

Now Your Thoughts

  • Have you got any great success stories from your hard work optimising?
  • If you had a top 5 list, would you add something I’ve missed into it?

How to be found in Google

How to be found in Google

When you type your name into Google what comes up?

Are you the 1st result? Are you 2nd? Please tell me you’re on the first page right? No? Really?

When I go for a meeting with anyone, when I listen to someone speak, the first thing I do is Google their name and if they don’t appear at least once on the first page that’s a report card on them I’m afraid. If your job is such that you need to keep out of the public eye then I’d understand but for those of you trying to build businesses and get yourself out there you’re going to need to get yourself out there. Let’s look at a few ways you can do this today.

1). Get yourself a blog. Don’t just add it to a free wordpress or blogger hosting account. Shell out a few pennies and have it hosted properly on its own domain. Consider buying a domain with your own name if it’s still available. If it’s not, then write a great biography page with your name mentioned in it.

2). Get active on Twitter and LinkedIn. These two sites are huge and very well respected by the likes of Google. When you signup try and choose a name which is something to do with you if possible. If not then make sure you at least give the network your full name where it asks for it. Create a biography page/section that describes you, your location (because people will use that to search too) and your interests if possible. Now get active on these channels. Engage with people on Twitter, link people to things of interest that you find and connect with people on LinkedIn – be proactive, don’t just wait to accept peoples invites and wonder what to do then.

3). Get listed on your company website – Does your company site have a team page you can be added to? Does it have a blog you could write for? Ask the powers that be how you can be featured more online and if you are the powers that be, make this happen :)

4). Write for your local paper or at least get them to write about you! Local papers are also well respected in search engines due to the amount of fresh content they are churning out and size of their sites. A few stories every now and again could see you getting listed in Google more often. If your story is good enough the paper will want it. If you don’t ask, you don’t get after all!

So there you have it, a few ways to start improving your ‘googleability’ (not sure if I just made that up or not). If you’re looking for the edge over your competitors this point should really be up near the top of your to do list.

Image courtesy of Molly Stevens

Now Your Thoughts

  • Have you got any other suggestions for helping get listed in Google?
  • Have you used the search engine giant to do research yourself?

To Blog or Not to Blog – That is the Question

To Blog or Not to Blog – That is the Question

At Optix we regularly consult on Blogging and help people get setup on the right platforms. We give them tips and advice and away they go. So the question is, should you blog and what benefits will it give you?

If you’re a business owner/startup, a great blog can do a number of key things for you:

>> Position you as an authority in your industry
>> Show you are credible (if you keep it up and have great content)
>> Help you with the practice of ‘Inbound Marketing’ – I’ll explain this below
>> Allows you to build a follower/fan base/database of emails
>> Has huge benefits with the Search Engines – Google loves blogs

I just want to focus today on two of these points, that of Inbound Marketing and the Search Engines.

If you’re going to blog you might need to change your mindset in terms of it’s marketing worth. Blogging is not something that happens overnight. You need to be prepared to blog regularly (I try once a week but if I miss that people notice!) so make sure you can set aside time. Don’t expect to get something from every post, this is a long term strategy. You’re building a base, a home for your material. The concept of inbound marketing is quite simple, give away value to demonstrate you know what you’re talking about and people will come to you. When they respect you and see you as a trust agent you will find people want to use your service. You’ll also find that by increasing your authority, you’re able to increase your pricing. The better you are known and respected, the easier it will be for you to charge a premium.

But here’s my caveat – If you’re going to blog, you need to give it your all. Write every post with passion as it won’t take much for people to turn off…

My second point refers to that of the search engines. There was a time when we were telling clients that their sites will take weeks or months to get listed in search engines. Due to the way blogs work and are built, this time period has been shortened massively. There are still a number of things that stand in the way of your blog and the hallowed first page of Google but the time taken to index a new post can be days rather than weeks. Throw in a bit of search engine optimisation knowledge and away you go, on your journey to real results. :)

So the question for me is not really whether to blog or not to blog, it’s when are you going to start? Oh and by the way, the guys at Optix can help you with that – check out the details here (shameless plug)

So how are you getting on with blogging? Have you started? Is it helping your business? Are you scared of starting?

How to use video in your business

How to use video in your business

Video is changing the market. A few years ago it was too expensive to record things for small businesses. Professional cameras, capable of good enough quality were out of reach to Joe Public and bandwidth costs for hosting video on your website were outrageous. The game has now changed, you can get a flip camera for just over a hundred quid. These Internet friendly cameras allow you to point and shoot on one button, then via an inbuilt USB connector, upload direct to sites like YouTube or Vimeo or simply onto your computer to store for future use – oh and by the way that’s in HD too. They are quite simply the easiest pieces of technology ever!

At the time of writing this, Amazon actually have a sale on the HD version which is normally £160 and is now about £130. I’m not sure how long it’s on for so get yourself over there and get one quick – I promise you won’t regret it: http://amzn.to/cNBqGU (aff link)

So why and what should you be using Video for in your business?

Here’s a few ideas for you:

Here’s why it’s worth it:

The Optimisation Game - If you upload your video to YouTube you get two bites of the ‘optimisation cherry’ – Yes, Google own YouTube meaning they have dibs on two of the largest search engines in the world. More often than not you’ll see YouTube video’s shown in search engine results and guess what folks – those are free to get listed in (well apart from the time taken to video them of course) Doing a review of a product on video and uploading it to YouTube is likely to gain hundreds if not thousands of views. With a clever bit of manipulation and optimisation, you could be pulling in traffic you never thought possible.

Video adds credibility – A client of yours can speak more credibly about you than you can about yourself. You are bound to talk about your business with verve and vigour. Having a client talk about your service/product adds authenticity and credibility in bucket loads.

Video conveys more information – There are so many more dimensions on film. Mannerisms, passion and emotion can be seen and evoked with film.

Video shows personality - It can tell a story better than an flat image.

My online marketing business has it’s own YouTube channel over at: http://www.youtube.com/optixsolutions – check it out for a few ideas.

One thing I must say, is that however good flip cameras are, there are limits of what they can achieve for you and this is where I recommend working with a good video production company such as my friends over at KOR Communications who specialise in the production of high quality video and the services that surround that. Companies like KOR have a background in broadcast and can help you with media training (how to conduct yourself on film etc), they can write scripts and they can edit and brand – something you might not feel comfortable with yourself if you’re doing say a corporate video about your business – My experience tells me not to mess about with that kind of thing yourself – get the pros in  :)

So have you had success with video? What’s the feedback been like around what you’ve produced? Can you link us to any of your work?

Oh and don’t forget that deal at Amazon: http://amzn.to/cNBqGU (aff link)

What’s your social footprint like?

What’s your social footprint like?

I consult a lot of small to medium sized businesses on ‘Social Media/Communications’. I’m not a self professed ‘social media guru’, it’s certainly not everything I do, but it does form a lot of the marketing/customer service/networking activity that I carry out for my own businesses. This post is about something I call ‘your social footprint’. The concept of the social footprint relates directly to Google and how I’ve witnessed huge changes in their SERPS (Search Engine Result Pages) over the last couple of years.

Let’s go back a few years to 2006/7. Companies would come to us fascinated by search engine optimisation (SEO) and how important they considered being on the front page of Google for a few keyphrases, in fact, let me re-phrase that, they still come to us fascinated by search engine optimisation and being on the front page of Google BUT, and here’s the important thing, Google is a very different place to how it was two or three years ago. We now find ourselves explaining to clients that although search engine optimisation is very important still, it’s no longer the be all and end all.

A couple of years ago, searching on any key phrase gave you 10 ‘natural results’ that had been indexed by Google’s spiders, as well as the paid advertising (PPC) – many of the large SM sites had not been going that long so were not indexed that well. If you do the same search now, you’ll find that a huge proportion of the front page results are now social media sites, meaning if you want to compete in the SERPS and do not have a social footprint, then you’re going to find it very hard. Here are a couple of examples to demonstrate my point:

Here is my name ‘Googled’ – Alastair Banks – Here are the results (at the time of writing of course). I’ve highlighted the results that contain an element of ‘social’

No1 & 2 – My Blog (Social Media)
No 3 & 4 – Websites relating to other people with my name (Non Social Media)
No 5 – My LinkedIn account (Social Media)
No 6 – My Twitter Account (Social Media)
No 7 – My Company – Optix Solutions Blog (Social Media)
No 8 – Another person’s Facebook profile (Social Media)
No 9 & 10 – Non Social Media sites

So on that search term, 60% of the results were SM sites – The fact is that if I wasn’t so active on these sites, there is a good chance someone else would have taken those spots – you gotta be in it to win it J

Let’s look at another example – A client of mine deals in Sony camera equipment. Here is a new piece of equipment from the Sony camp – A Sony HXR-NX5E – Let’s take a look at the SERPS for that phrase (again highlighting SM sites):

No1 – Shopping Results (You could argue these are social for the ability to review & rate)
No 2 & 3 – Sony’s own site – you’d kind of expect that
No 4 & 5 – Video from YouTube and Vimeo (Social Media)
No 6 – Sales Site
No 7 – A blog (Social Media)
No 8 – A community site for filmmakers (Social Media)
No 9 – A sales site
No 10 – Sony make it back in here again but with a blog J (Social Media)

So in this very real example, again 60% of the results are ‘social sites’ – This is why you’ll see my client becoming very active in the social world from this point onwards.

Given further maturity of the main social sites over the next few years, I believe we’ll start seeing 60-70% of the top 10 results in Google displaying SM based websites regularly. If you add a powerful brand you’re trying to sell in there, (like Sony in the example above) that’s another position gone, so there are far fewer positions to fight over and why agencies which used to simply carry out SEO or PPC for clients are now having to adapt into the social world for their clients. If you’re new to business or starting up, don’t get too carried away with just SEO, it’s vital you consider your strategy for social media sites as well.

Is your social footprint good enough or do you need to work on it? Do these changes to the SERPs worry you or do you think it’s a good thing that Google is becoming more socially aware?

Bringing Social Media to the Masses in 2010

Bringing Social Media to the Masses in 2010

2009 saw an explosion in the social media world here in the UK. Yes, some early adopters were on a lot earlier than that but the majority of people that were still ahead of the curve, found their feet last year. Personally I found it very easy to get involved in everything going on and each new piece of technology, so much so that sometimes I think many of us (myself included) forgot about the masses of businesses out there looking in, on the social media world and wondering what it could do for them. A lot of these businesses were/are major sceptics and see social media as something only young people or ‘geeks’ take part in. I’ve decided to take stock in 2010 and remind myself of what I’m good at; coaching small, medium and large businesses on how to get the best out of these tools in their everyday business lives. I’m looking forward to talking to everyone from taxi companies in our local town to large nationals about social media and how they can use it to gain exposure and extra business.

I was asked to speak at a Best Of (Exeter) networking event about this topic last night. The audience ranged from people who didn’t know what Twitter was, to advocates of social media and its use in business. I decided to take them on a journey of tips which it made sense to share with you today. If you know SME’s that are aiming to get into social media then please pass on this post….I make no bones about this being basic, but let’s not get caught up in ourselves – the huge majority of people out there still need help from the very beginning.

What follows are Banksy’s 8 top tips for social media success:

1.  Learn about the subject – Don’t stick your head in the sand and hope it will go away – it won’t, social media is not a fad. It’s a fundamental shift in the way we think about marketing and will become part of the main marketing mix for many businesses this year. Find yourself a local course to go on in order to learn the difference between Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. If you’re reading this in Exeter then my good friend Dave Thomas at Bluegrass IT runs an excellent social media course which will get you upto speed.
Once you’ve done a course…..

2.  Create a strategy – Don’t just fall into the trap of setting up a Twitter account/Facebook page and hoping for the best – It’s important to create a strategy that outlines what your goals are, who your audience is and how you’re going to measure results – only then start using the sites we all hear so much about. Oh and by the way strategy creation and implementation are something Optix can help you with (shameless plug J)
OK, so you’ve gone on a course and put together your strategy now…..

3.  Download tools to help you manage your accounts – Possibly the number one question I get is – How do you have time to do this all? Well it’s about being clever with your time. There are numerous tools available to savvy social media users – one of the best being Tweetdeck – This allows me to post to Twitter/Facebook and LinkedIn at the same time. There is an iPhone app which allows me to post on the train, in the car waiting for meetings and sometimes even walking along :) It really doesn’t take that much time from your day, don’t use that as an excuse!

Right, you’ve got your tools downloaded and ready to go – now you need to build a following/fans…

4.  Network Locally – Setup local searches on Tweetdeck for the town you live in – I’ve met more people in the last year through social media than through any other method. Exeter (my town) has a vibrant community of 500+ members. If you start to follow people tweeting about your town and talking to these guys and adding value to them, just watch your number of followers and fans rise (don’t get too caught up in the numbers game – its far more about quality than quantity)

Now you’ve got a following – what can you do with it? Here is one tip…

5.  Use it for Research – People get caught up in the sales side of social media a lot – ‘Is it bringing in business?’ Well one of the main benefits in my opinion is the power of research. I needed a Hotel Booking System last year and tweeted about this to my following – within a few minutes I had 4 or 5 good quality recommendations for companies to use and people to speak to. Go back to the olden days (2008 and before :)) and I would have asked a search engine, got a lot of results I didn’t know anything about and hoped for the best. A change in the way we search is coming….

6.  A specific tip for LinkedIn – You can use LinkedIn to find people (This breaks down the barrier of the gatekeeper) It tells you if anyone in your network knows this person and gives you a way of asking to be introduced via your contact. The more savvy sales people among you will see this as a fantastic resource. I was reading about a local company that had gained investment the other day and as an entrepreneurial type, I figured that had potential for Optix – Invest means a change of website/online strategy I hoped. I typed the company name into LinkedIn and BAM – MD/FD/MarketingD profiles and one of them knew someone I knew! I asked for the connection and we are now speaking….that all took me about 5 mins by the way. Would you rather be cold calling or being clever with social media tools?

7.  Monitor – Even if you’re not convinced social media is for you, it’s happening out there – I monitor my name/my business name/my staff and terms including the services we provide. It may produce opportunities for me or at least tell me where I’m being discussed in a conversation and if I need to be involved.

8.  Create a staff policy – If your staff are out there on the Social Media platforms you need a policy to help them understand how you expect them to engage with others and how they can help your business. A cohesive team effort by staff on social networks such as Twitter works wonders and helps re-enforce your brand. At Optix we have about 6 of our staff all working together to promote each other and the business on the networks, we link to this from our company team page here: http://www.optixsolutions.co.uk/team-optix/

So that concluded my own tips but hey, this is social media so I wanted to do a little experiment to show the group that people were out there and ready to help. So last week I tweeted the following:

“Hi All, I’m running a talk on Social Media for SME’s this week and have had the idea of crowd sourcing  some advice. If you could give one tip for a company looking to get into Social Media, what would it be.”

All the post’s below show people from as far away as America taking their time to help me with this talk in Exeter – This was social media at work:

  • If small business: start with a commitment to listen and seek understanding above all else. No crass self-promotion. – Trey Pennington – Greenville in the states
  • Manage your time on it explicitly. It can be addictive! :)Martin Howitt (DCC)
  • Be yourself, communicate back and embrace – Matt Young – Heart FM
  • Social Media doesn’t exist in isolation. Make sure it’s consistent (tone / message) with your other communications – Jon Alder – Alder and Alder
  • Research & appreciate the difference between each SM channel b4 you jump in, consider your strategy for each. Be yourself. – Sarah Knight – Sarah West Recruitment
  • Do your research: Can SM help you to achieve your business objectives, is your audience using it, and if so, where are they – Gemma Went – Red Cube Marketing
  • Strategy & policies are very important. Be authentic. Ask your customers what THEY want from you :)Kristen Sousa – Optix Solutions
  • Don’t just imitate – lift restrictions for *your* audience, without overestimating participation levels – Scott Gould – Aaron & Gould
  • Keep it real and have a believable personality, it’s ‘social’ media at the end of the day, not just about business. – Mark Cotton – SW Head of Big Lottery Fund
  • My advice – understand how/why others use it, but do what feels right for you – Patrick Smith – Joshua PR

Although basic advice for many of you reading this I’m hoping to bring social media to the masses in 2010. If you’re someone looking for help in this area then please contact Optix to see what they can do for you – see you on Twitter :)

Scott Gould vs Alastair Banks – A Case Study

Ok – back to me again! I have to warn you I’m feeling a bit mischievous today, hence the title!

I realise that this blog will be read by people that don’t know either Scott or I so before I go on, I just want to give you a quick heads-up on who Scott is. He runs a relatively new (2008) ‘Experience Marketing Company’ in Exeter called Aaron & Gould. You don’t need to know us either – what underlies is an important message for new business owners or people trying to make a name for themselves.  That’s probably all you need to know. Let’s move on….

Did you know that most business owners (SMES) are more often than not, sales people? They have to be in order for their businesses to succeed. They normally can’t afford to pay someone to go out and sell for them so they have to sell themselves (this is why some of my networking/sales posts are so critical if you’re starting up). There is nothing wrong with this – it’s how I started and it forms the basis for my post – you see times have changed in business and it wasn’t until I met my new pal Scott Gould that I realised quite how much (Well I realised but this really brought it home).

When I started Optix Solutions I shamelessly gave out my business card to everyone I met – The way I saw it, the more people that knew about Optix the better. In certain circles I was known as the networking king – visiting every meeting I could, wherever it might be and giving away more and more business cards. In fact this got to the point where even my best friends, who didn’t know me through work circles, lovingly gave me the nickname of ‘business card’ :) Happy Days! To be honest, I still live by this mantra – you never know who someone might know, so what are you waiting for, exchange contact details and see where it goes. In fact, only last week I sat on the buffet service on the train back from London and met a senior partner from Deloitte, a guy from Reuters and a product designer. The guy from Deloitte asked for my card and the chap from Reuters and I exchanged details – all over a meal and a two hour train journey from London to Exeter – The point is, that might not go anywhere – but equally I may well have my biggest sale next month from it. If I hadn’t exchanged cards, it certainly wouldn’t have given me any chance at all.

Back in 1999, Social Media certainly wasn’t around – in fact, Google wasn’t even around (well, only just). Man, I’m starting to worry that I sound old writing this now. :) I should mention at this point that it took me years to become well known – even in a small town like Exeter. I would guess that it was a good 5 years before I was trusted on the networking circuit.

Now roll on 10 years and I meet this chap, Scott, through our mutual love of Social Media and especially Twitter – I think I’m right in saying that from one of my first tweets about Exeter he popped up with a friendly ‘hello’ and said if I needed any help that I could contact him’ – What a gent! We’ve since become friends and Scott and I have done some work together. Optix also sponsored the fantastic event that he put on a month or so ago – Like Minds.

I’m pretty sure that by his own admittance he would say that at the start of this year, his name was not very well known in Exeter. He was a true start-up, had a few clients and was looking around for work. Through use of social media sites like Facebook and Twitter he was able to connect with quite literally hundreds of people in the Exeter area in a very short space of time. I watched this process for months with great interest. He was essentially doing what I did when I started, but using new technologies and platforms to achieve it – and doing very well at it. For the first part of the year very few people had actually met Scott but many new his name – they’d connected on Twitter and other platforms, but slowly and surely people soon started to meet him at tweet ups and events and then of course he blew everyone away by organising Like Minds entirely using social media (read my article on that here). Now he’s known all over the town – in fact some might say it’s the Scott Gould show at the mo ;) (He will love that one!)

Scott has successfully used modern tools to network the area, gain trust and reputation and he now stands in a great place to capitalise on that and take Exeter, Devon and possibly the World by storm – All in less than a year. I take my hat off to him, I really do. What took me years to achieve, Scott has done in a far shorter period of time. I wish him well.

So to summarise, in case anyone missed the point of this post – Use social media to build your networks locally, gain trust and reputation. Make sure you network online and offline and as much as possible and you’ll reap the rewards in business. To help you along the way I’ve picked out a few of the tactics Scott would have used to achieve what he has – you too can use these, starting today:

  • Follow your local town/city name – Setup a search for the town/city in any of the major tools such as tweetdeck and actively engage with people mentioning the name  – There are also directories like twellow that you can use to find people and now twitter has its ‘lists’ feature, many people have setup local lists which make it really easy to find local ‘tweeps’ – For those of you in Exeter – Here is the search for Exeter on Twitter done for you already.
  • Use social media as an ‘Enabler and Extender’ – Try and take your contact through the following process – tweet/email/call/meetup – You may be lucky enough to do business as a direct result of SM but its more likely that you’ll need to meet up, so use the tools to gently take people more quickly through this processes which might have taken months or years in ‘olden days’ – circa <2007 ;)
  • Have a clear result – Who do you want to attract/connect with?  Have a strategy, even if  its as basic as ‘I want to talk to business leaders/influencers in my town’ – Filter out what you’re not interested in and have a strategy in place.

Scott and I have recently co-founded TAGS Tweetup in Exeter with Dave Thomas – If you’re interested in finding out more then please take a look at our new Tags blog for information about the next event.

Now go and put a brew on and come back ready to use your new found tactics to build your network and of course, as always, please let me know about your success.