The Appletree Blog has moved!

If you’re looking for our latest blog – we’ve moved! We have finally launched our brand new website and our blog is now integrated into that site. We’re still posting two to three times a week and bringing you lots of useful advice and ideas.

Just go to www.Appletreeuk.com/Blog and you’ll find our most recent blogs – and any others you’ve missed, since we moved over there at the beginning of February.

See you there!

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The case in the defence of Twitter

A client recently remarked “let me know when you get a sale from Twitter”.  In other words, “I bet I’ll never see the day we get a sale as a result of Twitter!”

A statement said many a time I would wager.  My answer, said smiling: “No, you probably won’t if you just use Twitter on its own, but use it as part of an integrated marketing plan and yes, you probably WILL see sales as a result of it.”

A great deal of our time as a marketing consultancy is spent working with clients on their marketing planning, and crucially the implementation of those plans.  We ensure all marketing activity is tied together with a common message.  We write blogs, newsletters, press articles, tweets, website copy – all focused on key marketing messages unique to our clients.  It’s the combination of all these activities, carried out regularly, timely but regularly, which is enabling our clients to become seen as experts in each of their fields.

Crucially, the information they are imparting on their target audience is being seen in a variety of areas.  Websites are great as long as people are getting to them, LinkedIn is great for networking and discussions, and Google+ is growing and will be great.

What Twitter does is allow you to ‘speak’ to a huge number of people, at no cost, and with little time.  Just make sure you apply a bit of thought to ensure your message is ‘on plan’ and you create a call to action (eg website links) and you have an effective marketing tool.

In a recent statistic I read (I know stats are what you want them to be but…) ‘80% of business decision makers now prefer to get company information in a series of articles versus an advertisement.’  By using the platforms social media provides, your company information can be seen this way.  Social media writing can easily be incorporated with Facebook, Twitter and other outlets, driving valuable inbound links for SEO.

I feel privileged to be involved in providing intelligent content marketing to clients who recognise what marketing actually should be, which consistent, ongoing, valuable information to customers is.  With the right marketing planning and delivery, customers will ultimately reward with their business and loyalty.

Yes, marketing is still what it always was – creating messages, identifying prospective customers and trying to influence their behaviour.  These days, it’s just being delivered in a different, I would say smarter way, and across different platforms, even Twitter.

Contact Appletree  (debbie@appletreeuk.com) and let us know if you have or haven’t seen sales from your social media plan – and yes, that does include Twitter!

A five step plan for social media

Chantal Cornelius, Appletree MarketingMy thanks go to Graham Jones, Internet Psychologist, for the inspiration for this blog. I heard Graham speak at a Ladies and Gentlemen That Lunch networking meeting earlier this year, when he shared with us his five step plan for social media, which looks something like this.

  1. Plan – have a strategy, decide exactly what you want to achieve, set targets and goals. For instance, do you want to use social media to find new contacts, or build your reputation?  Are you using it primarily to keep abreast of industry news, or to share your advice with other people? How many contacts do you want to connect with?
  2. Blog – adding content should be your primary activity and the more the better. At the time of writing this blog, we’re posting on it twice a week. We’ll be going back up to three posts each week in the New Year. If you’re just starting out with a blog, aim to post once a week and build up from there.
  3. Integrate – connect your blog to every social media outlet important to your market, but especially Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. Each time we publish a post on this blog, a tweet goes out automatically; we keep tweeting that tweet until another blog is posted. Our blogs also go onto our Facebook page.
  4. Monitor – constantly be aware of your readership and what they are doing with your content. We use Tweet Deck to see who is talking about us on Twitter and who is retweeting us. Tools like Google Alerts will also tell you who is talking about you.
  5. Respond – reply to the engagement you receive and use that to help develop your future plans. Reply to direct messages through Twitter and get into conversations with your followers – it can lead to work and ideas for new products and services. Respond to comments on your blog, LinkedIn and Facebook for the same reasons.

Many people start using social media without really thinking about where they’re going with it. That’s a bit like starting out on a journey without actually knowing where you’re going. Without a destination to head to, you’ll just end up driving round and round in circles, wasting your time. Follow Graham’s five step plan and you’ll save yourself lots of time and effort, while making the most of this active marketing tool.

You can read more of Graham’s words of wisdom at www.GrahamJones.co.uk.

Facebook – Is it really the modern day business necessity?

When you first started your business, print media was probably your main marketing concern. Not very long ago, it wasn’t entirely unusual for a business not to be online. To interact with your customers, the internet wasn’t your only option. But now, things have changed. Not only is the internet everywhere, we’re expected to always be connected. Social media is getting bigger, and wise businesses are using it to their advantage.

The average Facebook user spends 23 minutes each visit, and 70% of local businesses use Facebook for marketing. How can you communicate with your target market? Facebook is modern-day equivalent of the telephone book. It holds so much personal information that you can quite specifically get in touch with your market, right down to gender, location and age range. Facebook isn’t just a place for adverts, there are many uses for it – and it’s a brilliant way you can build a relationship with your consumers. You can use a Facebook page to promote and test new products, and you can use it to sell products or content directly using Facebook credits. Marketing is about selling yourself, a personality; not just a product. Facebook is one of the best ways to communicate that, as a business you can find yourself getting the same access to an individual as their friends or family.

There are many examples of people using Facebook third party for their businesses, and utilising the platform partnerships e.g. the business creating the advertisement or application, and Facebook selling the space or the ‘platform’ necessary to promote and effectively use it. For a lot of service providers, it’s another platform – just one with potential access to thousands of people. There are 600million users on Facebook as of January 2011. It’s illogical not to be a part of it. Facebook has been around for years, and immortalised in film. It’s not just a passing fad, the words “Find Us On Facebook!” are everywhere. You see it on a twitter page, on a website, on a blog, on email signatures and even print media and leaflets. It’s quite possibly the most effective and accessible call to action for this generation. Not being on Facebook is like saying your business doesn’t have a phone, but you can still get in touch via your pager.

The internet isn’t everything, and only focussing your marketing online would be a mistake. Good businesses have a presence in more than one forum. What about those people who don’t go online? The people who still don’t understand what the words ‘social media’ mean? If all of your customers are technophobes, then perhaps heavy investment into your Facebook page may not be the way to go. In that case, understandably, you’d focus your marketing elsewhere. But even in your print media, you’d want to make a reference to your online social media, because you never know who is going to see it.

Facebook isn’t a business necessity, but most definitely is a modern day necessity.

15 Ways to Give your Business an Unfair Advantage – Part Two

 Here are some great tips I read recently in Real Business Magazine. Click here to read part one; part three to follow soon!

6. Put social media at the heart of your business

“Social media isn’t just about marketing – you have to try and develop your entire business culture around it, “Explains Andrew Gerrard, a social and digital media consultant at Exeter-based Like Minds. Social media should become a part of everything that you do: your business strategy, objectives, customers, growth plan. “Develop yourself as a social business rather than an organisation that does ‘a bit of social media marketing’. This will leave you in a better position to engage with your customers, and it will drive your business forward and the profits up.”

7. Get ready for the cloud revolution

“In the future, all of your devices will exist in the cloud,” predicts Dan Dobley, marketing director at Google. “If you lose your notebook computer, you’ll just be able to pick up a new one and start where you left off, instantly.” The cloud computing market is still in its infancy, and opportunities for entrepreneurs are vast in this space. IDC predicts that spending on public IT cloud services will hit £46bn in 2015 (up from £13.4bn in 2010). Microsoft, Amazon, Google, Apple – they’re all at it. Make sure you’re there too.

8. Don’t hid away in your ivory tower

“Every year, Specsavers holds 95 retail communication meetings to update our partners on the latest strategies and to hear what’s happening in the stores,” says Dame Mary Perkins, founder of Specsavers. If things aren’t as they should be, she makes sure they’re dealt with as a priority. Keeping lines of communication open with all 1,600 stores has had remarkable results: Specsavers has never had to close a single shop and the company is entirely debt free.

9. When exporting, ask for your money upfront

“If you have a good enough product, someone will pay for it upfront – just make sure they do,” says Lara Morgan, the founder of Pacific Direct, the toiletries business she sold for £20m in 2008 . Getting your money upfront will make it easier for you to grow your international business. “There’s no excuse not to export. People put up unnecessary barriers, and that’s a waste of time. Just get on a plane!”

10. Future-proof your business plan

When starting a business or launching a project, remember to factor in how long it will take to get there. “Technology will move on significantly, and users will move with it,” explains Google’s Dobley. “Design your business plan for the future that will exist when you launch it. It will leave you in a much better position to delight your users and win.” Google believes the future is mobile, so it now builds all of its apps on mobile first, before porting them to other platforms afterwards.

How do you use Twitter?

Alice

In marketing terms, people view using Twitter in different ways. Some see it as a somewhere to make friends and listen to lots of gossip. Others use it for fact finding and a method for free and easy research. Others regard it as a voyeur’s haven, watching what others are saying and gleaning the latest news before it breaks. And then there are others who treat it merely as a place to feed your blog into and share expertise and tips.

 
So which scenario do you fit into?
 
Do you use your name in your Twitter username? Are you interacting freely with your followers? Do you start and partake in conversations? Do you write your tweets yourself? Are they spontaneous or composed beforehand? Do you keep an eye on Twitter throughout the day?
 
Do you use your business as your Twitter username? Are you representing a corporate identity? Do you only tweet what you’ve been told to say? Are you given free rein to reply? Do you find you’re repeating the usual mantra without any personal context?

Are you representing a brand on Twitter? Do you monitor the Twittersphere to see what others are saying about your brand? Do you intervene only to correct misconceptions? Do you promote facts and figures in order to spread awareness to a larger audience?

Are you using Twitter to spread your expertise through blog feeds and top tips? Do you use an automated service to carefully space out your tweets throughout the day? Is this to give the impression of a constant presence, or to capture different people in different time zones?

Remember, using social media should be a sociable affair, to create relationships with others in order to find out more about each other, with an aim towards long-term associations, referrals and recommendations, and maybe (or ultimately) business.

This mechanism for creating two-way, even multiple-way, communications with any like-minded person should not be abused by the never-ending desire to sell and make money, for cheap and easy research, or to crow about how wonderful you are.

Using Twitter means sharing resources and ideas, problems and answers, tips and expertise without a hint of selling, gossip and laughter, making connections and above all, friendship.