Business Answers
Business Answers is a place where HP in the UK can engage with owner-managers in small and medium-sized companies. It embraces this blog, a vibrant LinkedIn group, Twitter and YouTube videos. We hope you find this useful and that you will share your thoughts with us by leaving comments and sharing articles you like with your colleagues.

Business netiquette

528iA59CD0B059AF2436Netiquette varies depending on where you are. If you are thinking of getting into social media for your business, lurk - anonymously observe - before you leap. For more information about social media marketing, check out the articles on HP’s Business Answers site.

 

  1. Have respect for others when you are online. Never forget that the person reading your mail or posting is a person, with feelings that can be hurt.
  2. People cannot tell what mood you are in by the way you type. Typing in CAPS is akin to SHOUTING.
  3. Keep emails short and sweet, use descriptive subject lines and think twice before copying someone into an email unnecessarily.
  4. Don’t use a business Twitter account for chatting or personal conversation use direct messages or e-mail or instead.
  5. Don’t tweet too much and avoid writing messages that are more than one tweet long. Tweets should favour quality over quantity.
  6. Try not to follow more profiles than you have followers as users may think you are a spammer.
  7. Create user-friendly profiles. An online profile is your virtual business card - it needs to be informative, honest and professional.
  8. Invite friends and acquaintances to connect, but do not add strangers. You do not have to accept friend requests or event invitations.
  9. Think before you post. Pictures, comments, blog entries can all be saved and forwarded on to others. Don’t post anything private or unprofessional in a public medium – it may come back to haunt you.
  10. If you’re a publisher or blogger, you need to pay attention to usage rights for photographs. If you want to use a particular image and it’s not licensed to allow usage, just contact the photographer or buy images from a reputable image library like iStockPhoto.

What your competitors are doing online

Intel has just published a fascinating post with hard data about UK business’s use of social media – tools like Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, YouTube etc.

The research shows that more than 50% of enterprises surveyed in the UK are using social media in the workplace and 95% believe social media offers business an opportunity to improve communication with both internal and external audiences. A total of 43% confirmed business drivers for using social media are its direct and personal route of contact with customers and partners.

For advice and help with your own social media campaigns, visit HP Business Answers advice site: Web 2.0 for business.

Ten Twitter tips to promote your business

410i585E7768D2CBD1B7Twitter is a popular online service that lets you share information and updates with other readers. Check out our Beginner’s guide to Twitter for more information. You can also follow our HP Business Answers Twitter feed: @HPBizAnswers. Here are some tips that will help you get started and get the most out of it to promote your business.

 

  1. Create a user name that people will associate with your business. If your business name is unique and memorable then use it.
  2. Your page. You want your Twitter page to stand out, but you also need it to represent your business.
  3. Follow other users who share your interests. Replying to questions or comments and re-tweeting interesting posts will help you connect with people who could become prospects for your business.
  4. Research your competitors. Using a Twitter application that supports lists can help track down competitors and innovators in your field.
  5. Identify your audience. The beauty of Twitter is that you can potentially reach anyone in the world but business users often forget to narrow their scope. Targeting niche audiences with Promoted Tweets could be a powerful way to use Twitter for business.
  6. Make the most of your tweets. Each tweet is an opportunity to connect with your followers. Ask questions, provide answers, promote your blog and/or Web site and retweet interesting posts.
  7. Utilise Twitter tools and mobile applications. Mobile applications let you post and read tweets from your mobile phone and tools such as TweetLater schedules tweets in advance.
  8. Use Twitter to generate feedback. Even a small business can use Twitter to get immediate feedback and offer assistance. You just need to devote time to monitoring Twitter on a regular basis.
  9. Track your re-tweets. Another measure of Twitter's effectiveness is not the number of followers you have, but the degree to which your information is re-tweeted and shared across Twitter.
  10. Don’t make it all about business. Too much self-promotion can be off-putting and impersonal. Twitter is more than just a promotional tool; it is a fantastic way to connect and build relationships with people and businesses in your field.

Get your business noticed online – without spending a penny

Forget flashy PR agencies and marketing consultants. All it takes to get your business noticed online is some imagination and a bit of spare time.

 

Be the expert


A sure-fire way to build your profile online is to be seen as an industry expert. Aim to get your company’s name on a variety of relevant websites:

 

  • Help people out. Join online forums that are relevant to your business, and then answer questions there whenever you can. You’re usually allowed to include a link to your website at the foot of messages, though you should avoid more overt promotion.
  • Offer free content. Use Google to find blogs about your industry. Think up an interesting subject, then offer to write a guest blog post for one of these sites. Many will be happy to plug your business in exchange for interesting, free content.
  • Get known on social networks. At a basic level, social networks are just people talking to each other. Search for discussions about your industry, then join in. To get started, find out how to use Twitter or LinkedIn - and read this guide to getting results from social networks.

Raising your profile on forums and social networks works best when you contribute frequently. It’s a good way to fill dead time, so bookmark relevant sites on your notebook or smartphone, then log on when you’re out and have a spare moment.

 

Get creative


Looking to make a big splash online? If you don’t want to spend on advertising, you’ll need some imagination:

 

  • Offer a killer deal. It’s hard to do this cheaply, but a great offer will get noticed by sites like HotUKDeals, seriously boosting your profile. For instance, this hotel’s £1 room sales get lots of online attention – and as the rooms would probably be otherwise empty, they don’t lose out.
  • Run a zany story. Travelodge have mastered this, getting exposure on high profile sites like the BBC and Telegraph. Brainstorm a story (running a survey is a good way to find an angle), then compile the results and get the details out to some relevant websites.  

That last point is a reminder that traditional PR methods can help too. Write your own press release (you can use a Microsoft Word template as a starting point), distribute it through services like PR Newswire and use the mail merge option in Microsoft Outlook to send it to your contacts. You might be surprised at how much coverage you pick up.

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About the Author(s)
  • Matthew Stibbe is CEO at Articulate Marketing and TurbineHQ. He is an HP fanboy.