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The latest Business Link survey into business communication preferences showed that over three quarters of respondents recognised the importance of managing their business’s reputation online, combined with economic concerns limiting the potential of more traditional paid-for marketing methods, Cambs’ businesses can’t afford to be shy of the online world.

For those currently taking a back seat, what better time than Social Media Week (1st - 5th February) to take the digital the plunge for your business? And, as always, Business Link in the East of England is on hand to provide some top tips on using social media to give your business the edge.

A recent survey by Business Link into preferred methods of receiving business information revealed that digital communications topped the polls with 81%. With email and websites leading the way, 10% favoured face-to-face conversation and the more traditional telephone trailed behind at 2%.

Despite this widespread digital preference for receiving information, and with most respondents recognising the importance of a business’s online reputation, East of England SMEs are still divided in their use of social media as a marketing and networking tool. Just over half of respondents currently take advantage of online communities for a business purpose, with LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter as the top 3 choices.

Pat Smith, Chief Executive of Business Link in the East of England, said: “Many businesses tell us that they feel they should be using social media to engage with customers, but that they are unsure what sites to use and how to make them work to best effect.

“That’s why we’re encouraging businesses to get online during Social Media Week and simply give it a go. I’d urge those that need help deciding which networks to join, or want online etiquette tips explained, to visit the Business Link website – www.businesslink.gov.uk/east - where tips, tools and guides can be found.”

Business Link’s top tips for using social media can help Cambs’ more inexperienced or apprehensive social media converts take advantage of the business prospects that online communities and communication portals present.

In addition, Business Link in the East of England has set up its own social media portal, Shareful - www.shareful.org - which brings together ideas and advice on starting up or growing successful enterprises. Business Link’s Top Tips for Using Social Media:

  1. Research existing social media outlets to assess which are best for your business. Consider your objectives: if you want to improve your contact base to find jobs, people and business opportunities, then you might want to try LinkedIn for business orientated professional networking; if you want to target a customer base, then Facebook might be a better outlet; updates on Twitter could keep customers informed about relevant news and products/services; YouTube can be used to upload any video (from a visual how-to to a documentation of a recent company event) and can be linked back to your own website.

  2. Integrate social media into your existing marketing plan. Despite the fact that much social media functions as a free marketing tool, it still needs to be on strategy and managed in the same way other communication platforms would be.

  3. Don’t neglect your more traditional marketing methods – use social media as an extension of these. Consider customer behaviour: transferring communication completely to the web would, for example, alienate those customers who prefer to be contacted by phone or post.

  4. Make sure to keep time management in mind when approaching social media. Make time to save time – one of the benefits of using social media is that it allows real-time communication and releases information quickly into the public domain. Allocate specific and regular times to check for things like customer feedback to make sure all issues that may arise are addressed.

  5. Set targets: social media is highly measurable, and targets, for example aiming to increase monthly traffic to your company website, help keep track of the efficiency of your social media campaign.

  6. Be patient: a hugely successful immediate social media impact is rare and it may take time to see results in your marketing strategy.

  7. Once you find the right social media channel, avoid being aggressive or too persistent: running competitions and offering special deals and discounts to social media followers is much more likely to appeal than plain sales messages.

  8. Remember that social media is a form of communication between your business and its target markets, but also between customers and the business. Providing a platform for customer feedback in this way, and being seen to act upon it, establishes your business as service-led.

Any small business looking for help and advice can contact Business Link on 08457 17 16 15 or visit www.businesslink.gov.uk/east.

About Business Link in the East of England:

  • Business Link provides information, practical advice and support to help people to start, run or grow their businesses

  • Our clients fall in to two main categories:
    - Those running or working in established small and medium sized businesses
    - Those who want to start their own business

  • Both client groups can access independent, impartial and, in most instances, free help and support from Business Link in the form of:
    - Free one-to-one help from an experienced Business Adviser (established businesses) or Enterprise Awareness Manager (start-ups)
    - Workshops and briefings on a range of business subjects such as business planning, sales and marketing, legislation, developing people
    - Telephone and online support through our Regional Information and Intelligence centre

  • Business Link in the East of England works with businesses and entrepreneurs in the 6 counties in the East of England: Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire, Essex Hertfordshire, Norfolk and Suffolk

  • Business Link is a government initiative to promote enterprise, funded in the East of England by the East of England Development Agency  

December 2009 - Peterborough UK Community Website

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