Is Social Media Suitable for My Business?

Having a business presence on the Internet has become essential. However, the very nature of the online world means that it is constantly evolving, offering new avenues of communication and interaction. Pressure is placed on us to be part of these new platforms both socially and at a business level, but how do you know whether they are really beneficial to your business and how do you get the most out of them?

Firstly, it is worth noting that there is not a definitive answer to this question and businesses should not blindly sign up to Twitter or Facebook just because it is the ‘in’ thing. There are three key questions that should be asked to establish whether to consider the social media route:

1. Do you understand the social media platform that you are considering using?

2. Is it appropriate for your particular business?

3. Do you have the time and manpower to administer it or keep it up to date?

Only when you can answer ‘yes’ to all three of these questions can you confidently set your business up on the platform in question.

Do you understand the social media platform that you are considering using?

This question is definitely the most important, yet many businesses embark on their social media journey without really tackling it. Each individual business should do their own research as well as looking at how their competitors are using social media, in order to ensure a good understanding of the social media platform they are considering. There are multiple platforms on the market, but here is an overview of two key players in the social media world:

What is Facebook?

Facebook is the most successful social network on the planet with over 500 million active users across the world. They have a large, dedicated development team that is constantly finding ways to push it forward in order to make it a more powerful tool for businesses.

The primary aim of Facebook is to allow friends to update each other with their daily lives, like a message board with snippets of news, photos and links. It also encourages communities within itself; like-minded people, clubs and friendship groups can join private areas where they can communicate with each other to share their passions and interests. This is where the business aspect comes in. A business can start a fan page where they then encourage people to join by clicking the ‘like’ button. This then allows the business to post messages that the user (and their friends) can see in their personal news feeds. The fan page itself should be used to encourage interaction and discussion between its members.

Should my business use Facebook?

Is your business the type that people will get passionate about? Do your customers have common ground that would allow a community to form? A good example of this might be Ben and Jerry’s ice-cream; their brand has a fun personality which customers like to associate themselves with. They use Facebook to announce competitions, launch new flavours and encourage customer feedback. Another good example is outdoor clothing company North Face; their customers share a love of the outdoors and their fan page is a mixture of posts from North Face about the latest outdoor challenges as well as from users enthusing about their outdoor lifestyles. If you can see your customers connecting with you and each other in this way then this could be a good platform for you.

What is Twitter?

Twitter is similar to Facebook in that it is designed for social interaction, but in a much simpler, quicker and more transient fashion. The best way to think of it is like a radio station; you get your own station to broadcast short messages (tweets) to people who choose to tune in to you. These messages should be fun, interesting or informative. If someone really likes your message, they may choose to broadcast it to their own followers (re-tweet) therefore giving you more exposure. People can also message you directly and their message and your response will be viewable by everyone.

It is important to note that unlike Facebook, Twitter is absolutely public, so even non-Twitter users can view any tweets you make or that others make about you.

Should my business use Twitter?

There are two advantages of using Twitter for your business: the first is that you can build up a brand personality – especially if are you fun, an expert in your field or a source of interesting or useful information? All of your tweets build up a picture of who you are. Secondly, the more tweets you make, the more you are reminding potential customers that you are there, which essentially is free advertising for you.

Do you have the time and manpower to administer it or keep it up to date?

For both of these platforms this question is very important. To get something out of a social media website you need to be prepared to put a lot of effort in. There must be someone in your organisation that is willing to update, add to and administer your page to keep people interested and engaged. Otherwise you generate no positive interaction by using it, and it is possible that you may look unpopular or appear to have nothing of interest to say. It is also of the upmost importance to keep it current (either newsworthy or topical) and up to date. If you can’t keep up with it, don’t do it!

Be prepared to take the positive and the negative

Using social networks in business relies on tapping in to the likes and dislikes of your audience; it functions in the same manner as ‘word of mouth’ and if you get your messages right you can successfully use this to your advantage. However, don’t forget that word of mouth can be both positive and negative. If you are a cake shop and nine people post a message or tweet that they love your cakes but one says they hate them – are you prepared to take the rough with the smooth? Many companies believe this shows an openness and willingness to listen and respond to customers that can be very beneficial, where others prefer not to open themselves up to criticism and public debate.

All these issues mean choosing whether to use a social network for business does not have a simple answer. What is clear, however, is that you need to understand them, they need to be right for your particular business and you need someone to nurture them into life as they won’t look after themselves. Are you willing to invest business time and energy into getting sociable? The choice is entirely yours to make.

An Internet Business Allows You To Earn More!

An Internet business allows you to earn more, work less, and enjoy the internet lifestyle. You will also have more time for family and manage your life better. Internet has served as a blessing for businesses that are able to reach millions of people worldwide totally free of cost. No more calls and fax expenses simply build a website and start earning! The traditional brick-and-mortar businesses face a lot of problems and moving to an online set up is always beneficial.

If you look at Internet business as a business model it is indeed phenomenal due to its location independence and the global reach. The modern Web 2.0 technologies make it easier to collaborate with prospects in the market with the use of social networking platforms. Google PPC and Facebook PPC campaigns allow businesses to reach a focused audience in a cost effective manner. Online businesses are so profitable that many companies now build several businesses just for resale purposes.

While choosing an online business there are certain aspects that you will need to look into, such as the demand in the market and your cost of putting the business online.

First-time buyers are at a risk of buying the wrong online business and overpaying for it. It is good to make a thorough research before spending money. Spend time locating good brokers and evaluate the business model. Consult your family and friends and they will help you screen the business for viability.

Most online businesses are faced with the following problems:

No Sale For 3 Months: If your products do not sell in three months, look for something new. At the most, wait for six months before you make a transition to a new product line.

Cyber Fraud: The people you buy the business from may not be reliable. Always check their licensing before buying. Scam artists run huge campaigns and make millions of dollars cheating people online. So, be careful!

Drop Shipments: A typical case with businesses is that when you get the goods drop shipped to your buyers they get to know you are a secondary entity in the sale process. Both your principal and the buyer may get you out of the way and deal directly with each other. Your principal will also save your customer data for marketing purposes and you will be at a risk of losing a buyer.

Obsolete Online Marketing Strategy: Many companies market their products by adding too much glamour. The proper way is to communicate features and benefits of the product or service and let prospects decide in their own time. Bulk mails are considered “push” marketing and are most hated and obsolete. The use of social media platforms allows companies to use “pull” marketing that has proven to be most effective.

Tips for success:

· Remove data gathering forms from the website. Customers do not feel safe giving email ID’s and personal contact details online.

· Use special offers each week. These offers help attract repeat customers and build branding.

· Add success stories and testimonials. Consumers feel more connected to other buyers and encouraged to take action after reading positive input from the market.

Mitigating Risk

Choose products with few suppliers so you can share the market with them without spending a lot of marketing dollars. Keep your full time job and do not invest more than 8% of your money in one go. Grow your ideas slowly but steadily while keeping multiple streams of income. Keep a little stock of goods and learn more about the refund policy of the principal company. Get a partner for some motivation and sharing business risk. Always price your products with the applicable taxes and shipping cost.

Do not fall a victim to spammy affiliate programs. If you want to sell other people’s products choose ClickBank and eJunkie. These are great for selling digital products and all you will need is good online marketing to boost sales. Never respond to fake business opportunities in your email boxes, and never pay to work from home. Check the business programs with The Better Business Bureau, The Federal Trade Commission, National Fraud Information Center and Scambusters.org to ensure they are not spam.

Planning and the Entrepreneur

Planning and the Entrepreneur

So, what do we mean by ‘planning’ in the business sense. Well we can define four separate aspects of the business planning process.

  1. The business plan itself, a process, usually formalised, considering all aspects of your proposed business and designed to:
    • Clarify your own objectives;
    • Impress would-be investors or funders
    • Focus the minds of the principals as an on-going process.
  2. The marketing plan, establishing that a market exists for your products, that it is accessible and deep enough to keep your business afloat.
  3. A budget and cash flow forecast showing that the business can be profitable, and predicting the depth and duration of the inevitable cash-flow hole as your business rises off the launch pad
  4. A project plan showing
    • The sequence and duration of the activities associated with your start up
    • Predicting the dates at which the various milestones in the start-up process will be achieved
    • Identifying the ‘critical path’ activities where your activity and resources need to be focussed.

    You note that we talk of the business planning process rather than the business plan as a document.

    It is inevitably better to have a document to refer to, and your bankers and backers will want to see documents, but it is the process that is important to you.

Though we talk of the four plans as if they are separate things, they are in fact inter-dependent. Your marketing plan could almost be considered as a chapter in your business plan and your project plan will be key to your cash flow projections.

Think of them as four stones cast in a square pattern into a still pond. As the waves radiate out from the spots where the stones hit, the water will only be disturbed by the ripples from the nearest. At this point each plan is separate and distinct, but soon as the ripples spread, the water will be disturbed by two, then three, then eventually four sets of ripples merge.

As you start your plans you will soon find that each needs input from one, then two and eventually all of the others.

Here lies both the strength and the danger of the process.

The interaction between the plans means that each plan is improved by the existence of the others, whilst the temptation to constantly revisit each plan can lead to paralysis.

There is a truism about medical record keeping, it can often tell us why the patient died rather than how to keep the patient alive.

So how much time should an entrepreneur invest in the planning process?

Years ago I worked in the Emirates. They had a Souk there selling counterfeit designer clothes. The advertisements over the stalls said ‘one size fits all’. I was, and am, of medium height and stocky buid: my companion over six foot three and slight.

One size most definitely does not fit all

Perhaps you are asking the wrong question. Why not try:

  • Did my last reworking result in significant changes to my start-up project?
  • Did it expose important issues I had not considered before
  • Will another reworking result in a significantly different plan?

If the answer to all three is ‘no’, then for you initial planning phase is finished.