Online Communication for Small Businesses

March 6, 2013 in Online Marketing, Small Business Advice, Social Media by lizbygrave

Lynne Truss, author of Eats, Shoots and Leaves, isn’t the only one who despairs at the damage texting is doing to our grasp of grammar and punctuation. C U Wed is pretty easy to understand, but what do you do when faced with something like PT t brg X bz?*

Writing to friends doesn’t have to be formal, but when text-speak spills over into business communication, you are looking at a completely different ballgame. Be honest: would you want to do business with someone who could not communicate clearly? Would you want to hire someone who couldn’t write a proper sentence?

But text-speak isn’t the only problem small business owners face. With the growth of email, web sites and social media, we are under increasing pressure to join the cyber race – and that means Tweets, Facebook messages, blogs, and so on. For those lacking natural writing skills, the prospect of turning out Internet copy can be daunting, whatever form it takes. Can I use text-speak in a Tweet? How personal should I be? Do I have to use proper English, proper grammar?  Can’t I be much less formal when I write for the Internet than when producing printed documents?

Yes, the Internet is less formal  – but writing Tweets and blogs carry their own rules. Tweets have to be short, of course, so you need to understand how to get the message across in just 140 characters. No padding there, then. What is it you want to tell people? Say you are promoting a special offer. No point in using the term special offer: it wastes 13 characters. Instead, just put the offer in the Tweet, e.g.: Reiki sessions three for price of two, XX Healing Today (or whatever your business is called) – just 54 characters – and/or your web site.

Facebook page? Keep that short, too, but as there are no length restrictions, you can get a little more descriptive, such as: Reiki transfers universal energy through the healer’s palms to create a state of equilibrium. Ideal for the stressed out modern world Try three taster sessions for the price of two at XX Healing Today.

Blogs can be any length, but the shorter the better. If it’s too long, unless you are another Danielle Steele or Lee Child, readers won’t make it to the end. Don’t ramble. Decide what you want to say before you start, and make sure there’s a beginning, a middle and an end. If you’re not sure how to do that, look at this one and try to determine which is the beginning – and why; how it moves into the middle (the main message); and how it finishes up.

Blogs are not actually that different from printed material. You’ve got room to play around, room to include more information, thoughts, ideas, advice. But make sure you actually do have information, thoughts, ideas, advice; don’t waffle.

Whatever you write, avoid superlatives: you are probably not the only whatever you do in north London, and possibly not the best, either; if you say you are, you had better be able to prove it. Be concrete. Everything you put out there should be easy to read and understand – and that means an ability to explain things clearly, a reasonable grasp of grammar and punctuation – and no text speak, ever.

*Party tomorrow, bring extra booze.

Blogging Tips For Small Businesses

November 22, 2012 in Online Marketing, Search Engine Optimisation, seo, Small Business, Small Business Advice by lizbygrave

by Marcia MacLeod

I’m doing what many of you do: writing a blog. Those who don’t already put fingers to keyboard are probably thinking about it, because everywhere you look, blogs seem to be the fashionable way to tell people what you’re thinking and to put you and your business in the public eye. In fact, many marketing gurus insist that blogs are the best way for small business owners to create greater awareness of the products and services they offer.

But with such a huge proliferation of blogs over the past 12 months or so – and growing with every click of the mouse – does anyone have time to read them? Who? When? What do you have to do to make your blog stand out from the hundreds of thousands of other blogs floating in cyberspace? How often should you add a new blog to your web site? Should you write blogs for anyone else? And what do you have to put in a blog to ensure that it benefits your small business, rather than put people off?

There are so many variables when it comes to writing a blog that it is hard to be specific about what works and what doesn’t. But every small business owner should think about a few basics. For a start, make it interesting – and often the best way to guarantee that is to write what you’d want to read. A customer or potential customer is likely to be interested in the same things you are, by the very fact they buy, or are thinking of buying, the product or service on offer. An alternative therapist should, therefore, be writing blogs relating to alternative therapy, or at least trying to make a blog relevant to alternative therapy. So they could write about the latest food fashion, but only in as much as it impacts on health. A web designer should write about web sites, but could consider some aspect of journalism or writing in general.

Blogs shouldn’t be too long, since small business owners have enough to do to try to run their businesses without wishing to spend too much time glued to the Internet. I reckon around 500 words is long enough. Don’t add new blogs to your site too often, either. A daily blog can become a most tedious object, both because the reader gets tired of hearing from the same person every day and because the writer runs out of things to say, so the blogs become boring – and even more tedious.

And while most small business people want their blogs on their own web sites, you can often do better by contributing to someone else’s site. Sticking with the alternative therapist, if the therapist wrote a blog for, say, a personal trainer’s web site, or a foodie web site, and linked fitness or diet to their therapy, think of the number of new readers, and hence new potential customers, that could  be reached.

Blogs can certainly attract traffic to any small business web site, but there is one final thing to remember: if you aren’t good at writing, don’t try. It’s better not to have a blog at all than one which is so excruciatingly bad that no one wants to visit your site again.

Small Business Network Muswell Hill Meeting Report September 2012

October 10, 2012 in Business Networking, Facebook, Marketing, Meetings, Muswell Hill Meetings, Online Marketing, Small Business Networking, Social Media by lizbygrave

Business coaching and business management services emerged as a key theme to this month’s Small Business Network meeting held on 17 September at the usual venue of the lovely Sable D’Or in London’s Muswell Hill.

Lara Ogunbawo and Bidemi Alabi, both work for Business Excel UK, a business management consultancy which helps small businesses break into new markets, develop pricing strategies and profit forecasts, write business plans and obtain funding for your small business. Lara started two other small businesses this year with the help of Business Excel, so she is now promoting this company to other small business networking contacts.

Danielle Monro, attending just her second Small Business Network meeting, can also help small businesses obtain finance through her company Ashley Business Cash. Loans are based on credit and debit card takings.

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Small Business Network – Muswell Hill Meeting Report May 2012

June 5, 2012 in Muswell Hill Meetings, Online Marketing, Social Media, Twitter by lizbygrave

21 attendees: 15 SBN members, 6 visitors

Here is a small sampling of who was at the meeting:

Firstly, a warm welcome to new member Nicky Grace of Vintage Fabric And Gorgeous Things. Nicky holds open weekends every couple of months in her Muswell Hill home. I went the other week and her house is as gorgeous and deliciously retro as her fabrics. When you add to that all the beautiful things you can buy there,  I would definitely put the next date in your calendar – 14th and 15th July – and pop along – you’ll have a lovely time! It’s literally just off Muswell Hill Broadway on Tetherdown, so you can combine it with the shopping. Talking of shopping – Nicky’s online shop has just launched – perfect for gifts!

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Small Business Network Muswell Hill Meeting Report April 2012

April 23, 2012 in Business Networking, Meetings, Muswell Hill Meetings, Online Marketing, Search Engine Optimisation, seo, Small Business Advice, Social Media by lizbygrave

With just over 20 people at this meeting there was more of a mellow vibe than usual, which offered the chance to soak up the lovely community feel of SBN. As I am one of the many small business owners who works at home on my own, this monthly chance to engage with a great bunch of people is always welcome, and I so often find that it enhances my mood and refreshes my motivation for my work.

A couple of people were displaying products at this month’s meeting: Sarah Montgomery of Forever Living products was giving away samples of aloe vera juice and Vicky Williams of Jewels of Distinction had a table showing her beautiful jewellery, which I personally love (and am busy saving up for!)

Chocolatier Paul Eagles from Kokoa Collection, also brought along some samples – delicious Madagascan fine chocolate buttons. I was lucky enough to get a whole bag which lasted till about five minutes after I got home…

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Small Business Network West Hampstead Meeting Report March 2012

March 8, 2012 in g+, Google+, Online Marketing, Search Engine Optimisation, seo, Uncategorized, West Hampstead Meetings by lizbygrave

There were eight of us at this meeting, so it was a small, but very enjoyable and productive, event.

Some potentially very productive connections were made, for instance between SBN member Eileen MacCallum, a copywriter who specialises in writing/editing web content (amongst other things) and Ciaran Ryan who does Website MOTs for £99.00.

Also present were Melanie Oakley who provides virtual support, Katharine Locke – herbalist and iridologist, accountant Michael Gainey, Marcia MacLeod, copywriter and owner/creator of Your Allotment magazine, Paul Melnick, a representative from Barclays Bank, and yours truly, Liz Bygrave, my other hat (aside from SBN) being raw chocolate.

Our themed discussion, How To Drive More Traffic To Your Website, was really lively and interesting although naturally, we were barely able to scratch the surface of this vast subject in just 30 minutes! It was great to have Ciaran there as SEO is his area of expertise and he was able to give us some fab tips on the topics we did manage to cover: whether it’s still worth doing ‘reciprocal links’; google (how could one have a discussion about seo and not talk about google?!); and how blogging can help to drive more traffic to your site, including how to set up a blog site that will actually help the seo of your website (more on this at the April Muswell Hill meeting – see below).

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Report on the West Hampstead November 2011 Meeting

November 2, 2011 in Facebook, Meetings, Online Marketing, West Hampstead Meetings by lizbygrave

We had 12 attendees, 4 new visitors, and a very useful and interesting masterclass with the delightful Alicia Cowan, who made marketing your business with Facebook sound like a cinch!

It was obvious that quite a few people had made a special effort to come to this meeting because they are struggling with Facebook, or even with the idea of setting up a business Facebook page. Alicia deconstructed the mystery that is Facebook, and succintly described the exact set up process, also giving some tips on what to call your page: ‘Your Name – Your Business Description’ is a good combination.

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Tamsin Fox-Davies – Marketing Mentor Extraordinaire!

October 13, 2011 in Finsbury Park Meetings, Marketing, Meetings, Online Marketing by lizbygrave

I suddenly felt inspired to write an impromptu blog about  Marketing Mentor Tamsin Fox Davies in order to sing her praises.

Why?

Well, we spoke earlier today about her talk at our evening Christmas bash on 30 November, and our conversation really brought home to me how brilliant at marketing she actually is.

All Tamsin did was make a couple of off-the-cuff marketing suggestions for SBN that hadn’t occurred to me before, but nevertheless made perfect sense once she’d shared them.

And it also goes to show how generous she is!

Tamsin has various levels of help on offer, from freebies to your very own bespoke marketing. For instance, why not try her very affordable ‘Your Marketing Strategy Made Easy’ workshops for just £35.00? And if you like her Facebook page you get exclusive free content. Plus her weekly newsletters ALWAYS contain a really useful marketing tip.

And of course, don’t forget to come to the SBN Xmas event on Wednesday 30 November. We haven’t finalised the content yet, but it’s sure to be good. Those of you who attended the two talks on Email Marketing and Social Media that Tamsin gave for SBN earlier this year will be able to attest to that I know.

Looking forward to seeing you there!

More about…SBN Christmas Meeting in Finsbury Park 30 November 2011

www.tamsinfoxdavies.com

Report on the 28 Sept 2011 Finsbury Park Meeting

September 29, 2011 in Finsbury Park Meetings, Marketing, Meetings, Online Marketing, Social Media, Websites by liz_bygrave

This was one of our smaller meetings (and accompanied by background cheers whenever Arsenal scored a goal in the main part of The Old Dairy). As with all our small meetings, this enabled some great indepth networking to take place – I noticed for instance that most people left with promises to be in touch with at least one other person at the meeting soon.

Keren Lerner of Top Left Design gave a very interesting and practical talk on various ways to boost your online presence, including:

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