…LinkedIn, Plaxo, YouTube, Myspace and a plethora of other digital media are available for us to use in both our personal and professional lives. As busy ‘non-IT’ business people, it is one heck of a challenge to work out which of them could make a difference to your ability to make more of the right people aware of your company’s products and services.
So, here is a quick lexicon of some of the more important digital media options that you may want to explore further to help improve the impact of your company’s online presence.
The basic definition is a web log (i.e. an online diary). The value of a business blog, associated with your website, is that it enables you to provide a topical and personal perspective on topics of your choosing – both business and personal. A blog also encourages visitors to your website to interact with you on any topic.
The challenge with a blog is the need to deliver fresh content regularly and to get it picked up by the web search engines.
The benefit, as K&H have found, is that you can put a personal perspective on otherwise dry but essential topics such as tax legislation and impart useful information to clients in an entertaining, individual manner that may not sit comfortably on a typical corporate web page.
You may wonder why a global social networking site has been included here. Although Facebook started as an online year book for college students it has mushroomed to be one of the largest personal communication networks on the Internet. Ask anyone under the age of 25 if they could live without Facebook and, in the majority of cases, the answer will be a very firm NO accompanied by an expression of horror at the prospect of life without Facebook.
Facebook is increasingly being used in a professional capacity for business networking and community groups. The best place to start is by exploring Facebook for ‘like-minded’ business community groups to join and see what value you can get from the connections you establish. Don’t, as many college students have found to their employment costs, post anything to a Facebook site that you would not want a prospective employer or customer to see.
This is an online network of experienced professionals from around the world, representing 170 industries in 200 countries. Fortunately you can narrow your horizons to more manageable geographic and industry sectors via your profile on LinkedIn.
With the current economic recession there has been an explosion of ‘network requests’ across the small business and self-employed communities as people try to network with professional contacts from throughout their working life to identify potential business opportunities.
LinkedIn is a powerful tool for finding potential expertise that you may need full-time or on a contract basis for your organisation. However, proceed with caution when sending out your profile updates via LinkedIn to ensure that it only goes to the contacts you want to send it to and not to every Tom, Dick and Harry that is in your list of online contacts (see Plaxo below for a tool to help maintain accurate address book information). See also, Andrew Gray’s LinkedIn page here.
This is almost a hybrid Facebook/LinkedIn solution. Its original aim was to ensure that your network of email contacts is always accurate and up-to-date by providing a secure online facility for users to inform their network of any online contact information changes and, just as importantly, to receive updated contact information automatically in your online address book from other contacts within your network.
Virtually every radio programme now offers a podcast version for download to your MP3 player – iPod in most cases. Podcasts are also very useful content for your website. Short podcasts (5-10 minutes long) on business topics are an asset to most company websites as, like blogs, they enable you to establish the personality and expertise of your people in the minds of your customers.
This is the newest and currently most fashionable of the interactive media currently available. It is probably best not to aspire to outdo the ‘King of Twitters’ in the shape of Stephen Fry who has garnered almost 1,000,000 followers for his pithy comments on life, the universe and the totally mundane and trivial.
Each Tweet has a maximum length of 140 characters, so the aim is to be concise, pertinent and frequent. A Twitter account is a useful method of ‘seeding’ information about other sources of information, opinion and expertise that you may want to bring to the attention of your followers.
Our lexicon is certainly not exhaustive as digital media is constantly evolving and innovating. As is the case with all good business practice, you know you cannot chase every opportunity in the hope of winning new business. Focus on the media that can help you most effectively get your company’s proposition to your target buyers and potential new customers.
Your customers are online. You are online. The challenge is how you become better digitally-connected to your customers to build the value of your brand and your proposition.
Ian McKenzie is a director of Marketing by Results – a marketing consultancy specialising in IT, which provides services to clients such as Microsoft and a range of mid-size ICT solutions providers and resellers in the South East.