Tuesday, 1 April 2014

Social media – UK businesses finally get it!

A survey by the PR & social media agency Zoodikers, has found that 95% of businesses now completely understand how to use the likes of Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

The study asked a sample of 250 UK businesses about their take-up and knowledge of social media, compared to the same period 12 months ago.

Highlights include the following:

·      CEOs are keener than ever to become thought-leaders on Twitter
·      LinkedIn has been totally embraced as a fully-fledged CRM system and networking tool by all the companies sampled
·      Facebook advertising is now seen as the no-nonsense, cost effective way to drive sales leads and raise brand awareness by the majority of customer-facing businesses
·      83% of management teams, Boards and Partnerships have properly thought-through social media strategies linked with their business goals and vision for their organisations
·      46% of creative industries found that Pinterest drove more organic traffic to their websites than any other marketing channel

Pesce D’Aprile, who compiled the report for Zoodikers, says: “We were amazed at how much progress businesses have made in the last year.

“We’ve gone from a situation where the bulk of companies were completely in the dark as to what social media could do for their bottom line, to one where most now have a clear understanding of its benefits.”

The agency sampled a range of organisations including hotels, facilities management companies, law firms, accountants and healthcare businesses.

Adds Pesce: “We are scratching our heads about what may have precipitated such a change in attitude to social media.

“For years we’ve been banging our heads against a brick wall, trying to convince companies of the benefits of using social media. Perhaps the sunny weather has helped.”

If you are still unsure about the benefits of social media, need specialist training or want a creative agency to help you create the sort of content needed in today’s digital age, then contact us on 01892 520123.

Friday, 21 March 2014

Designing the modern ‘social’ business?

David Taylor, Head of Social Business, Zoodikers Consultancy Ltd. and co-author of The Business of Being Social

Many people incorrectly assume that social media is all about marketing and therefore should be the preserve of your marketing department.

However there are so many areas of business that are also impacted upon by the social media channels. Sales, human resources, PR, IT, recruitment, customer relations, internal communications, corporate governance and even supply chain management can all be affected in some way.

The most progressive organisations now understand this and are restructuring both their business models and their corporate culture to meet the challenges and opportunities offered by the likes of LinkedIn, Facebook, YouTube and Twitter.

So how do you go about designing a truly ‘social’ business, thereby ensuring the enduring success of your company.

The diagram below shows a five-step program to achieving this.

As with any business, the first step is to have some form of strategy. As I explained earlier, this is not simply a marketing plan but more of an overriding blueprint for the future direction of your company.

Within this strategy you need to revisit your overall business objectives, the vision for your company, your target market(s), key messages, the performance of your sales & marketing activities, corporate culture, internal communication channels, recruitment policies, HR guidelines and quality of customer relations.

Getting all the information you need to create the strategy is no easy feat and may involve robust internal discussions and soul-searching. But once you have reached a consensus, it will then offer you a clear direction ahead for the next one, two, five or ten years.

At the same time, as well as informing your marketing, it will also dictate which social media channels you plan to use and decide which business objectives will be met through using them.

Once you know which sites you intend to use to meet your business objectives, the next step is to think about the content you are going create to post on these channels.

We are in an age of content marketing. This means coming up with a steady supply of interesting, engaging, relevant and targeted content. Whether they are blogs, videos, infographics, tweets, Facebook updates or Pinterest pins, they need to be high quality.

You need to think more like a newspaper or magazine editor. It’s great that there are all these wonderful online channels, but you have a duty of care to ensure they are constantly (in some cases 24/7) filled with great content. If you know you can’t, you may need to revisit your strategy and work out how to allocate the necessary resources.

This is where outside agencies can help. Advertising companies, graphic designers, PR consultancies, video producers and marketing agencies can all help you create the sort of content you need to fill your channels.

However, content creation is just one element of social media. Posting content is fine but companies need to be prepared to listen, respond, engage, analyse and report. It may seem like common sense, but companies actually have to be social, not just say they are.

As a result, the fastest growing sector in media globally is now community management. People are employed by companies just to manage social media accounts. In fact some larger organisations will even have been whole community management departments.

And sometimes, this work has to be done around the clock, especially in customer-facing industries where people can post comments, complaints and suggestions whenever it suits them. We’re in the age of the mobile self-publisher and companies need to be ready to respond quickly to anything these people may write.

At the same time, analysing what is being said online, so-called Big Data, is also becoming vital to businesses. There is a wide array of software that can help track sentiment, customer feedback, trends, product reviews and competitors.

The fourth step is understanding the role of paid-for advertising on social media. All the key social media sites now offer ways to promote your brand, website or content.

Facebook offers a variety of advertising methods, Twitter has recently introduced promoted tweets and accounts, LinkedIn has both pay-per-click advertising and promoted Company updates while YouTube has video AdWords which are closely linked to Google.

In many cases, the only way to achieve strategic business objectives is by paying to reach either wider or more targeted audiences. As with any form of advertising, to ensure maximum ROI on your marketing you need to plan carefully, have the correct content, some form of budget, the right target audience(s) and measure performance on both a short term and long term basis.

The final phase is in some way the most problematic – establishing a social ‘culture’ within organisations. This can involve major upheaval and even restructuring in order to achieve the correct balance.

At the very least, there must be comprehensive social media guidelines in place for staff outlining what they can or cannot do online and explaining how they fit into the overall strategy on social media.

Clearly, having a defined strategy will make the job of communicating this to staff much easier and is a world away from applying draconian measures like banning employees from accessing any social networks whilst at work.

One aspect I touched on earlier in the article was getting engagement at the very top of the organisation. This is even more important when cascading your strategy down through the managerial levels. If the CEO doesn’t get social media, how can you expect anyone else to do so.

Another vital component is effective internal communications. If a company operates with a silo mentality, rarely exchanges ideas and is out of touch with its employees, how can you expect it to be ‘social’ with its customers?

Good internal communications should be the cornerstone for any successful business. And I would argue that any company that communicates well internally would naturally be effective on social media.

Good social media guidelines combined with specific objectives for social, a top-down understanding of the benefits plus good internal communications will all contribute to another key benefit of being a social business – a proactive approach to providing ideas for content.

The more employees can contribute blogs, photos, tips, images and ideas, the easier it will be for the content creator and community manager to post. In effect, you are creating an internal newsroom (read more on this here).

To recap then, here are my top tips for preparing your business to be social:

1.    Identify what business objectives will be met through social media
2.    Prepare a proper social media strategy
3.    Identify the channels you are going to use and create the correct content
4.    Appoint someone to ‘community manage’ your social media sites
5.    Create a social culture within your organisation
6.    Revisit your strategy

Monday, 10 March 2014

Top 10 tips to ensure your online content is easily found

Did you know that over 80% of your customers are likely to have searched online before they made their purchase?  What they find there has a direct influence on whether they buy from you - or your competitors.  So you can see why it’s vitally important that your customers can find you online and when they do, are interested in what you have to say.

If you’re not posting fresh, optimised and engaging content just think how many customers you might be missing out on.  Click here for top tips on how to ensure your online content is searchable, engaging your audiences and influencing your sales.

Monday, 3 February 2014

Facebook – a decade of innovation and revolution

by David Taylor, Head of Social Business

Ten years ago tomorrow (3rd February), Mark Zuckerberg along with fellow Harvard University students, started a website which has grown into an $8 billion business.

From modest beginnings as an online version of high school yearbooks, Facebook has morphed into a highly sophisticated, highly monetised competitor to the internet itself.

With over 1.18 billion users globally – representing 46% of the world’s online population – and 24 million daily users in the UK alone, this social network has revolutionised the way that people, brands, groups, companies and charities interact with the outside world.

And this online world is very much a mobile one.  83% of Facebook users in the UK now access the site from their phone or tablet device.

In many ways, Facebook represents the natural evolution of the newspaper. People can tailor what information they see from their chosen friends, groups or brands while at the same time receiving targeted adverts – all within their personalised news feed.

But it is so much more than this. In an age where we no longer print off photographs, where we think nothing of ‘checking in’ to places we visit and where we plan our lives online, Facebook has become something like a cross between a photo album and a personal diary.

As a result, the notion of ‘social capital’ means that people’s Profiles and companies’ Pages have an inherent value. Timelines will provide a meaningful record of our daily lives, whether we are individuals or companies.

For the over 25s  - and by that I include people who are well into their 70s or 80s – Facebook has been embraced in the same way as the radio, television, email and the internet. It is now very much a way of life.

At the same time, there has been a lot of comment about how the under 25s have been leaving the site in their droves. This is partly true for the very reason why Facebook is now turning a healthy profit – advertising.

Back in 2005 when membership was widened out to students at universities, many youngsters embraced the site as a thoroughly cool hangout which totally tapped into the zeitgeist.

Over time though, as social media has become more mainstream, naturally the sheen of novelty has worn off – especially when parents start ‘friending’ their offspring!

Coupled with the appearance of adverts post the float in 2012 and the increased commercialism associated with the brand, the so-called Millennials have turned to sites like Twitter and Tumblr or increasingly social messaging sites such as Snapchat, WhatsApp and Blackberry Messenger.

However, while many of the under 25s will no longer be accessing Facebook every day – unlike the 30 and 40-somethings who now make up the majority of regular users – they are not deleting their accounts.

There is a simple reason - the social capital aspect I mentioned earlier. While social messaging services offer instant communication, they don’t offer the photo album/diary functionality that Facebook does.

And I would assert that many of the late teens/early 20s who have maybe fallen out of love with the site, will return once they reach a stage in their lives when they no longer get to see their community of friends on a face-to-face basis.

So where do I see Facebook in ten years time? I think that they will look to take over new tech start-ups, just as they did with Instagram and tried to with Snapchat. Their financial might and high capitalisation means that rather than take on their competition, they will simply take them over and integrate them.

I see much more advertising on the site – whether it be via promoted content, apps, games, competitions or check-ins. Their ability to combine ‘in-feed’ adverts with mobile versions of the site is one reason why they are starting to make significant profits.

Mobile is now key to the success of Facebook. Starting with phones and tablets, it is now already available in many car entertainment systems. With recent developments of voice recognition software such as Siri, expect to see more voice activated Facebook integration.

Finally there is video. Cisco Systems estimates that by 2015, 86% of all content viewed online will be video based. Facebook, more than anyone, understands this so expect to see more video functionality within the site including video editing, creation of folders and video messaging.

Whatever happens, I truly believe that Facebook will not go the same way as MySpace in the 90s and early Noughties. Why? It has the same critical mass that Google had when it became the pre-eminent search engine.

If you would like to understand more about how Facebook could be integrated into your business and marketing strategy, then contact us on 01892 520123. Or message us via Facebook on www.facebook.com/zoodikers

Thursday, 30 January 2014

Building a social business

Katie King, Managing Director of Zoodikers Consulting Ltd.

It has become a common misconception that using a plethora of social platforms with the aim of reaching a wide audience is the best way to approach utilising social media for business. Business owners feel pressured to adopt social media, but it is often ineffective to attempt to maintain a presence on multiple platforms.

This year will bring new developments in the way businesses use social media, and it has been termed the ‘social business’. It is, in a way, the next generation of social media marketing. The two-way conversation has been established by many businesses, but further changes are necessary for social media to become a true driver of quantifiable business value ranging from sales to product development.  

The location-sharing app Foursquare recently discussed how it collects data from a social community of 40 million people, who have generated more than five billion check-ins. This is data on a huge scale, and Foursquare is using it to recommend nearby places for users to visit. It requires a vast amount of data mining, but the principle is applicable to many businesses.

Each interaction on social platforms contains a nugget of data, and contextualising this data provides very useful information. There is a tactical advantage to be gained from understanding the insight that social interactions provide.

There are lots of exciting developments and opportunities that can be unearthed on social media by businesses. It is certainly a good reason to be using social media, but before you engage, decide what business goals you are aiming to achieve with your activity and remember why you decided to venture onto social media.