Why Planning helps and how to do it!

Planning…what a word

 

I’ve always been a bit of an organised freak. Don’t get me wrong I’m not like Monica Geller levels but I do like to have things tidy, organised and feel like I’m together. I won’t lie, that all kind of went out the window a bit when I had our daughter and the things I used to love being in control of so much sort of fell by the way side. It happens though, I wasn’t crushed by it to be honest I actually found it forced me to relax a little bit and let things go.

When I became a business owner however I realised once again how having my “stuff” together meant I had a better day. I felt more on top of things, less overwhelmed and like I was going to achieve. So why does having a plan help so much and how can you start doing it?

Starting small

 

I think when it comes to planning the best thing to do is to start small. Start by creating a To Day list so don’t think of all the things you need to do in the world for your business, you know that huge every growing to-do list you look at, cry at and then go to Instagram to escape from. I’m talking about your To Day list – what are you wanting to achieve today, just today, however many hours you choose to work.

 

Be Realistic

 

The key when planning your To Day list and with any planning is to be realistic. If you are only working 5 hours a day because you are juggling your childcare or even another job what can you realistic achieve in that time that’s going to work for you. Don’t think everything, think something. Because that some thing you achieve that day is one thing more off the larger to-do list – it’s achievement. If you don’t be real with yourself and what you can do that’s when this creeps in…

 

 

Overwhelm

 

Oooh it’s like a dirty word isn’t it, but it’s everywhere. I don’t think I go through one day on Instagram where I don’t see a post about the dreaded overwhelm. If I was to visual it I think it would look like that stuff in the Netflix’s show Stranger Things, you know the black stuff that engulfs everything – that’s overwhelm to me and I don’t like. I don’t like feeling like it and it breaks my heart to see others feel like it too.

via GIPHY

We can help combat overwhelm with planning. I always love to grab a bit piece of paper and draw out the month, then I plot down all the things I know are coming up – events, offers, new services, new opts in etc. If you’re a product based business this could be new lines, new stock, promotions, your newsletter etc. Get them all down and scribbled. Then think about where you are going to promote all these things. You’re starting to form a plan.

Help is always at hand

 

As business owners there are fabulous communities online to help us through the fog we often find ourselves in – isn’t it fab? You maybe working alone at home but you have a ton of virtual colleagues around you. If you’re feeling the overwhelm reach out, shout out, ask for help because it’s out there and trust me we all need a helping hand sometimes.

I specialise in helping businesses get clear and out of this fog by having a plan in place, so if you want to chat about how I can help you let’s hop on a FREE call and talk about it. It’s what I’m here for.

 

WordPress.com vs WordPress.org

wordpress.com vs wordpress.org

Having a website is such an exciting thing isn’t it? After the business planning, getting your branding, logo and identity sorted you really want to get stuck in and get a website up and running. Now, there are so many options out there of how to create your own website, so many platforms to use and if you are getting started and having trouble with what to consider and think about you can check in with my Websites: Where Do I Start post as this one is going to focus on two platform choices in particular – WordPress.com and WordPress.org.

Now you might be thinking already “they’re the same Maxine, they’re both WordPress”, well hang on to your mittens kittens because actually they are two very different platforms and provide very different things.

Let’s dive in.

 

WordPress.com

 

This is a hosting service created by the co-founder of WordPress. So because it uses the word “WordPress” it’s easy to see why you can get confused and think they’re both the same platform, but WordPress.com is essentially a free platform and if you are looking to have a blog site then this is perfect for that, because your words are what people are wanting to read and they’re not coming to see an all singing all dancing design.

Using WordPress.com means you are letting WordPress host your website for you, now this is what I mean by host:

It’s where you website is stored on a server so that it can be accessed over the tinterwebs.

It’s because of this that WordPress.com has a lot of appeal because it is FREE and they take care of the hosting for you. There are other packages that you can go for which will enable more features because generally the free version can be very limiting. It does however give you up to 3GB of free space so if you are a blogger who blogs maybe 2/3 times a month this could potentially last you a while. I’m now going to look at some of the other benefits for WordPress.com.

The Good

Back Up’s & Updates
Every website should be backed up and if you’re using another platform then do check how they backup your website and keep it safe. With WordPress.com they take care of any backups and any platform updates for you, they will happen automatically – no worry, no stress (YES!).

Themes
If you are wanting a service based business website or a store then I wouldn’t recommend using WordPress.com because you will need more than what it provides, but for a blogger who needs a nice template with very small customisations – possibly colours of text, fonts choices etc then you have a range of free and paid templates that you can choice from. So if you’re someone who doesn’t want to get their hands dirty with design then this is perfect.

The Ugly

Themes
“How can this be a benefit and a con? Are you conning me?” Nope, I am not and while the free templates and themes provide great basis for very simple sites with little to no customisation as I said above on the Free version you are very limited to what you can change – you might choose a theme that has a very nasty colour background for when your mouse hovers over something and can’t change it and if it puts you off chances are it will put your audience off too so keep this in mind when looking at this platform and what you want your website to do.

 Ads
Ads are placed on all free sites, so if you want a professional looking blog that’s Ad free you will need to upgrade to get rid of this mess. The upgrade to remove these is $36 per year – not too bad really.

Also it is worth noting that even though WordPress place Ad’s on your site you cannot place Ad’s there. So if you are a family blogger looking to get into affiliate marketing with some of the brands and businesses you mention or work with and want to start earning from your audience clicking their ads you will need to apply for their advertising programs called WordAds and you will share the revenue with them. If you are on their upgraded platforms like Business or Premium use can use this function from the get go.

Plugins
I’ll be talking a bit about Plugins when I get on the WordPress.org side of things because that platform relies heavily on the use of plugins where as WordPress.com free version does not. It will not let you upload plugins. What do I mean by a plugin you ask:

It’s a bit of software that can enhance the functions within your website

Plugins are amazing because they can really open up your site, give you more function and help your site look and feel how you want it to. On WordPress.com the Business package lets you install compatible ones and then the big boy VIP lets you install plugins at a $5000 per month – Holy Moly!

Google Analytics
If you want to really know what your websites users are doing you should have Google Analytics installed and WordPress.com doesn’t let you use it on their free version. You are totally reliant on their stats that they collect, again higher packages it will let you.

What’s the other bits it can’t or won’t do?

Hmmm quite a few other things:

  • If they think at anytime your website is violating their T&C’s then it is a goner, they will delete it no questions asked and your site is like that toy in the reject bin, it’s never coming back.
  • Obviously WordPress.com are doing all the “work” in terms of hosting, what it looks like etc so naturally they are going to have their name at the bottom of your website.
  • If you want an online shop this is not the platform for you, you cannot create one on here.
  • If you want to have a membership site and sell courses, again not the platform for you.

 

So there we are the run down on WordPress.com.

The main reason people like it is because it’s free and cost’s less than having a “hosted” site – however the restrictions in capability and functions means to get what you want you’ll actually be paying out more in the long run than if you went hosted and got it designed by a professional. It’s always worth looking at the long term cost not short term gain when it comes to websites.

So now, the contender…

 

 

WordPress.org

You are reading this blog on a WordPress.org website. It is one that I designed and then built myself. I love WordPress.org I think it is a great platform, don’t get me wrong it frustrates me sometimes, as any website would do so I can see how if your website design knowledge is limited or even non existent how it would seem a super scary choice to look at.

This version of WordPress is where you would need to host it yourself, even on a server at home or pay a company to host the site. There are some wonderful sites out there like Siteground, however again do your research before just choosing one as some are pretty shocking. Now here’s the thing…

WordPress.org is absolutely FREE to use. The platform itself costs you nothing, all you are paying for is to have it hosting with a hosting provider ( and your website domain of course, again can be purchased through a provider).

Loads of people get confused and think WordPress.org will cost them thousands, nope, simply not true. The cost comes in like I said with:

  • Hosting Platform – generally about £120 per year
  • Domain – generally anything from £5 -£12 per year

The other cost would be if you decided to employ a website designer to design and build your site for you. But again this is a one off cost and then it’s done, you are only paying for the above, so actually it works out cheaper than some other website platforms with their monthly subscriptions (for life).

The Good

Flexibility & Control
Unlike WordPress.com this baby is all yours, you have full control, you can build a website completely from scratch using a framework theme or again find a free or paid for theme.You will be able to make it yours with better customisation options – YES!

Another huge point is that you own all the data on your website, unlike WordPress.com it won’t be turned off if you do something you shouldn’t be but you wouldn’t be doing that anyway, will you?

Plugins
You can add free, paid and custom Plugins to the website. These will enable you to enhance the features for you and for your audience, a brilliant one alone is Yoast SEO which enables you to take control of the SEO for your website pages and improve your visibility in Google and other search engines. Plugins can be anything from an Instagram, feed, a contact form, a newsletter sign up – the world is your oyster.

Themes
As said above there is a whole world of WordPress.org themes to choose from, paid and free and you can customise all the elements you want to so you have a site that is yours and not like a million other businesses who choose the same template.

If you do go down the route of designing and building the site yourself you can use a theme framework to enable you to do that, these are generally blank themes ready for you to get creative.

Analytics
There are so many Plugins that you could add to give you a wealth of analytics for your site, but also the main thing is that you can connect Google Analytics which is fantastic, the mother of all data hubs.

Integrations
You will find a lot more software programmes can integrate with WordPress.org i.e. Mailchimp for example. A lot clients I work with use Mailchimp because it is also free so this is perfect for pairing the two together.

Store & Memberships
Using Plugins like Woo-commerce you can turn your website into a fully functioning online store – hooray!! That’s right taking payments and everything – woop woop!

Also the same with if you are a coach for mums who want to start their own businesses and you want to sell online courses, you can create a membership site using WordPress.org and a plugin.There are loads of great ones out there to choose from, ones that will also let you customise making your site look seamless.

The Ugly

Updates
One of the biggest things that can put people off WordPress.org is the updates and it’s true you are responsible for making sure the updates to your theme, plugins and even WordPress itself happen otherwise you could find parts of your site not working how it should, but it is okay and there isn’t anything to be scared of because…

Back Ups
You are responsible for making your own back ups of the site so as long as you make regular back ups and do a back up before you do any updates, you should be okay.

It’s really easy to make back ups of your site because again there are Plugin’s for that. I personally use Updraft Plus and found them to be really good. I can connect the back up to go to my Dropbox account once a month.

 

So there it is, a run down of the two WordPress platforms and what makes them different. See, they have the same name but actually offer very different functions and capabilities. The important thing to remember whenever you are embarking on creating a website is to research the platform that will be right for you long term, don’t just think about upfront savings or quickness, you want something you can build on and that will last.

 

GDPR and your Email Marketing

GDPR and your email marketing

For this final instalment I am going to be focusing on how GDPR affects your email marketing. I know many of you use email marketing to reach your audience and GDPR is going to make you look at how you are currently doing this as there will be changes afoot. The big one is consent. As I said, many of you will be doing email marketing and most likely use Mailchimp – who by the way also have some blog posts and advice on GDPR. Looking at your email lists ask yourself this question – how did you obtain this data? Was it by them signing up to your newsletter via your website? Did you meet them at an exhibition and took their business card? Are they people who expressed interest in your collection/product/service?

Mixing Paint Colours

What? We can’t just mix it all up – oh no

Signing up via the website

If you have a sign up form on your site you need to express clearly in easy to understand plain language what a person is signing up for. So just having “Sign Up Here” Will not be enough, you need to start thinking about adding in: Sign up to join our newsletter We will be contacting you once a month with details of our new product launches, tips and ideas for wearing our range and exclusive offers just for you. If you no longer wish to receive our emails you can opt-out at any time by clicking the unsubscribe link which features on the bottom of all our emails. Your emails should always feature an Unsubscribe link – Mailchimp does put this in automatically on its email so never remove this feature.

Meeting them at an exhibition

You did an event and had a lovely chat, took their card and thought you’d add them to your mailing list – this now needs to change. You need to ask them and have recorded proof that they want to be added to your mailing list. This is why in the great days of tech being in our finger-tips it’s worth having a form, similar to your sign up form, on a tablet where the person can complete their details and “tick” if they want to sign up to your mailing list. If they don’t tick you don’t add them. You can follow up their interest by contacting them personally after the event via your business email but do not add them to your mailing list if they didn’t ask to be added.

Customers

Now, Customers are people who have done business with you, but again they might not want to be part of your mailing list, don’t think you can automatically email them because they bought from you, again you need to ask, you need to get consent. This could be a tick box to your mailing list in the e-receipt or e-invoice that then links to your list. Also, more and more consumers are expressing their “right to be forgotten”. Now, what’s this you might be thinking. This is where any individual has the right to ask for their data to be removed where there is no reason for it to be continually used. The ICO have more information on this and how you customers might exercise this right, but also you may want to with companies you deal with as well. A email sign up may not use the unsubscribe link but email you directly and ask to be taken off the list – keep a record of this request and then remove them from your list immediately. Do not add it to the to-do list because if you forget and an email goes out and that person is still on your list they could raise a complaint against you. I would strongly advise if you use a site like Shopify or Squarespace, Wix or WordPress with any data collection functions, be it email sign ups or ecommerce records that you contact these sites and check what their own compliance will be with GDPR. You need to know you are using websites that are following the new rules. The same with Mailchimp and any other email service provider. Mailchimp do go into detail about how they will be doing their own compliance in this document.

baby on the computer sorting out his email marketing lists for GDPR

“Hang on, I’ve got some business admin to do. Put my milk on hold for a minute.”

Current Email Lists

You are going to need to do some email list admin, especially if you have lists which you’ve created using some of those methods I said above i.e. the adding them to the list with no proof of consent from the individual. Look at your current lists, make a note of where you got the data from,  if you do not have written or logged proof anywhere from that individual that they wanted to be on your mailing list and receive your emails you can do 1 of 2 things:

  1. Re-consent
  2. Delete this data and do not contact these people.

Robin Adams, who runs email consultancy Perfect Blend and Chimp Answers has brilliant advice. He also runs a Facebook Group and have been doing lots of webinars on GDPR and has great advice for businesses so I definitely recommend having a look at this page and group. He has also done a lot on Re-consent as well which is worth looking at. If any individual in your lists gave consent and you have record of it and it abides by the current rules you are fine with those individuals, if it doesn’t then this is where you need to make one of those two choices with this data.

AND FINALLY…The Disclaimer once again.

I really want to add again that I am in no way an “expert” on this, there are people in this field that have trained in GDPR specifically because it is that HUGE. In these posts I have just tried to collate together what I have seen, read and heard over the last two years and my understanding of all this. So please, do read up on this yourselves, consult a legal profession or the ICO directly – they will be able to help you as remember every business will be affected by the changes in GDPR so you are not alone. Saying that, don’t think that the ICO will have their hands full and so you can go under the radar “no one will know about my little business” – do not take the risk. As a business you do have a responsibility – this isn’t just something you can pay someone to come in and magically sort out all your GDPR needs, they can help you understand and help with some preparation perhaps but you need to know as a business how to be compliant going forward and stand by that compliance. I hope these three posts have helped. It does seem rather scary and a bit intimidating I know but try to think logically about it, follow the steps in the guides you find, take the time out to get ready and do the admin because it will be better further down the line when this all comes into affect. You want to be prepared, you want to be compliant, you want to still have your business, don’t let GDPR trip you up.

baby hiding under really snazzy hat

“So if I just hide under my really snazzy hat, GDPR won’t find me right?”

Getting prepared for GDPR

Well it works for the Boy Scouts so it can work for GDPR. This post is covering how you can prepare for GDPR.

Again, get a tea, grab a notebook and let’s get comfy.

 

Get organised for GDPR

Okay, I’ve got my notebook I’m ready!

Get organised

Now is the time to look at all the data you hold and where it is. Make a data audit for your business – use Excel, Word, whatever works but make sure it’s something you can access easily and add to when needed – also password protect this shizzle because this is vital information and you want to keep it safe. Go through all the areas where you collect data, what data you have, how you store it, how you got it and who you share it with.

Centralise

Once you have this audit think about centralising all your vital data, so anything that is super important to the running of your business. Excel is good for this as again, you need to start introducing Password Protection into your life. I have read that they are making people think carefully about choosing any cloud based platforms to do this because they can be hacked.

Create a Privacy Policy & Terms and Conditions pages for your website

If you don’t have these already you NEED to get them on your website. The ICO have some great tips on writing a brilliant Privacy Policy page and you can find a number of resources online for Terms and Conditions too. If you are a member of any fab Facebook groups you may even find a legal super whizz that can give your pages a look to make sure you’re covering everything you need too.

Everyone has rights

Every person that interacts with your business has rights. Think about their rights and how you ensure these are protected. This can be included in the Privacy Policy where you say how you will use their data. Another example is on a sign up form on a website, make it clear how you will store their data and how you will contact them when they “opt in” – I am going to be delving more into Email marketing specifically in the third instalment.

They might want to know stuff

All businesses will be affected by GDPR

Alright, if everyone is taking this GDPR business seriously then I better follow them.

 

Anyone has the right to ask you what information you hold on them, so think about how you would handle this, what would you provide and how long would it take for you to supply the information they need. You need to have a procedure in place to handle this type of request.

Age is just a number

It’s really important to think about the user behind the screen and you should make sure you have systems in place to verify people’s ages and if it requires for you to get parental or guardian consent for any data. I bet CBeebies will be looking at this very strongely because of the apps that they have.

There’s been a breach

Plan in advance how you would handle a data breach i.e. maybe you email someone accidentally who had “opted out” of your list, or maybe they didn’t actually give you consent for you to sign them up in the first place, you just met at an exhibition one day, took their business card and added them on (naughty).  Maybe you data list wasn’t password protected and you’ve been hacked at home and their data could be at risk – think about how you would handle this IF it happened.

It is really important that you read up on the ICO’s code of practice and become familiar with their guidelines and advice.

Don't get fined with GDPR

“There’s been a breach? Where’s my legal department”

 

 

The next post is all about GDPR, email marketing and the changes to “consent”.

What is GDPR?

what is gdpr

Some big changes are coming on the 28th May and it’s called GDPR.

Now you may be thinking “What on earth is that?” and “that doesn’t affect me” but if you collect data in anyway from your customers you need to know what this is and how it will affect your business.

Before we start I am going to say that I am by no means a GDPR expert, I have been reading about it for the last two years in my old job and since launching DBB and there is a lot of information out there about it. So my posts will be a culmination of what I have read and understood, but it is developing all the time as they get closer to it coming into force so if you are unsure in anyway about GDPR and how to be compliant, please do contact the ICO directly for guidance.

Now, in the first of a series of blog posts I am going to be talking about what is it. Maybe grab a tea, some biscuits and a notebook because this is going to be heavy.

What is GDPR

Hang on someone just said the words “GDPR” – I’m phoning people in the know now. They said it’s going to be HUGE….

What is GDPR?

GDPR stands for General Data Protection Regulation and it’s the result of four years work by the EU to bring data protection legislation into line with the new ways that data is now used.

Think about it, when Data Protection Laws were created in 1998 we collected and used data very differently to how we do now. The revolution of the internet alone has changed how we interact massively and now we need to look at this and get in line with the times. So the EU have been working to do just that.

What does it actually mean though?

It means A LOT and brings a whole new world of things for you to know as a business owner. Let’s take a look.

GDPR will apply to what they call “Controllers” and “Processors” of data, for example as a business if you have a sign up form on your website and you are collecting data from other people whether it’s name, email address, interests etc. You are a controller. A processor is someone doing the actual data processing – which in a small business will also be you and also if you are using a system to send your emails like Mailchimp, this can also be classed as a processor. Both roles are required to follow the legislation as you will be held accountable for any breaches.

By breaches I mean fines and they can be BIG. The ICO can fine up to £500,000 alone but GDPR will allow fines of up to £20 million or four percent of your annual turnover – whichever they feel is higher.

Okay, you’re probably thinking “Yikes” right now, but please don’t worry, there are plenty of steps you can take to be compliant for GDPR and if in any doubt at anytime there is a whole host of resources online with the ICO and their support.

Little Girl thinking about GDPR

“Hmmmm, I don’t think I do anything with data. Maybe if I just ignore it it will go away.”

So what do I mean by “data”?

GDPR applies to “personal data” to any of those examples I gave above. If you collect any information that relates to an individual that can be used to directly or indirectly identify them, this is personal data – think of your customers and what data you collect from them when they make a purchase or sign up to receive your newsletter.

Here’s a little list of just some of the data.

– Name

– Address

-Email Address

– Date of Birth

-Bank Details

– Their IP address – this is numbers that are used to identify your computer when you access the internet.

Also think about the suppliers you use in your business and the data you hold on them.

I know this can seem very overwhelming and somewhat scary, but every business in the world is in the same boat so take comfort that every one will need to be compliant, you are not alone.

Join me for the next post on Weds where I will be covering how you can prepare for GDPR.

The Future of Facebook

the future of Facebook

A lot of businesses will know where they were when they saw the Facebook news hit screens everywhere last Thursday – that’s how important Social Media has become to us. It’s crazy to think that a Facebook news feed algorithm update would make BBC News but that’s how much of a stir it has caused.

If you haven’t seen anything about it yet, Facebook creator Mark Zuckerberg has released that the changes they will be making to the new algorithm “will give priority to content from friends, family and groups”.

That’s right – you read that correctly – Facebook is going back to it’s roots. As a personal user to Facebook I can completely understand this change. I very rarely see anything from my friends or family now when I log into the platform and my feed is usually filled with activity from groups I am in or Ad’s. So I think the changes they are going to do will actually make the personal use of Facebook a much better place.

As Zuckerberg says:

“[We have] a responsibility to make sure our services aren’t just fun to use, but also good for people’s well-being…”

This is their justification for the change and like I said I welcome it in fact. However where does that now leave me as a business owner? What does this Facebook change mean for us?

Zuckerberg has admited that businesses are now going to have to work even harder than to gain attention from their customers or potential customers. The push for us to advertise and boost is going to be even stronger as we all see a descrease in organic reach on the platform. I’m a business and understand the need to make revenue – the whole reason why Facebook opened it’s platform to businesses in the first place with it’s Ad spots, but not all us businesses have massive budgets to get the reach we need and even when we dip our toes in, it’s never really clear whether we’ve reached the right people or not. So what can we do in the face of this uncertain 2018 as far as Facebook is concerned?

For this part I have teamed up with two ladies, both who are absolute powerhouses in the digital field and who I have a HUGE respect for, and we are all going to share our ideas and insights into what we can do to overcome this new algorithm change.

Pippa Akram – Social Pip

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Think personal

Right now consumers want to connect with businesses on a much more intimate level. They want to feel a part of, as well as see, the human side of a business and in a more meaningful way than ever before and this is where small business owners have a big advantage over their larger companions. Building an authentic, personal brand is so much easier to achieve when it is literally you or just a small team. Start by thinking about what you and your business would like to be known for and then live those real moments, connect over real issues, let your customers into aspects of your work and non-work life, share with them the ups and downs and build those relationships.

Get some support

If you haven’t thought about using brand ambassadors before, now might be the time. A brand ambassador could be a valued customer, a great client, a supplier you’re on good terms with. as well as trusted friends; basically anyone who will speak in a positive light about you and your business at the right time. You’ll need to devise some guidelines as there is an etiquette to promoting someone else’s brand and think about financial or non-financial rewards. If this sounds too daunting then you might want to consider reaching out to complementary businesses and work out a way to team up and support each other on Facebook. For instance an upholstery company might team up with a local fabric supplier and run a joint Facebook live video or competition or to simply offer those valuable tips we all crave.

Amy White – Social Butterflies

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Visit Amy’s Website

When social media networks like Facebook launched back in 2004 the emphasis was very much on the ‘social’ and it was a great way to keep in touch with friends. However the tide has really turned – our newsfeeds are increasingly cluttered with adverts and the Brexit/Trump era of fake news has made consumers very cynical (and rightly so). A lot of people have now turned to Instagram as a refreshing alternative to seek out interesting businesses and individuals to follow. As a small business owner Instagram provides a unique opportunity to reach existing and potential customers through its emphemeral Stories video feature. It has become a hugely popular way to communicate with customers in an informal way. The feature allows you to post pre-recorded (and live) video clips (they only last for 24hrs), add text, stickers, polls, sound, filters and generally play around with new features as it continually evolves. A recent addition has been the introduction of ‘highlights’, which allows you to save your best clips and post them on your account page – a great way to showcase what your business is up to.

Stories 

These are a perfect way to showcase alternative content alongside your main curated feed. You can add personality, demonstrate your products or just chat to your customers. Think of this feature as a ‘behind the scenes’ look at your business – an opportunity to allow your authentic business voice a chance to stand out and be individual. If you have over 10k followers you will benefit from the ‘swipe-up’ feature, which allows you to add a clickable URL within your story. But do consider the way people enjoy viewing these stories – they like the spontaneous, funny, insightful and discursive types of content: don’t script it or be too serious in tone. This is a place to be relaxed and show some personality behind your brand without doing the hard sell. If you want to take your communications to the next level then I would highly recommend using Stories alongside posting photo/video content. As consumers become more fatigued with the commerciality of social networks Stories either on Instagram offer a great way to ask questions, showcase your knowledge and engage with your customers in a fun, friendly way.

Tips for getting started on Stories:

1) SHOWCASE: Product or service? It doesn’t matter. If you sell stuff then demonstrate it and talk about why you sell it, how you can use etc (give extra information but don’t hard sell). If you offer a service then offer your tips – give potential customers a taster of what you can offer.

2) BE CREATIVE: Play around with the features to make your videos stand-out. Don’t be afraid to use filters, intersperse video/photo content with text. Make it visually interesting and don’t be afraid to try different things.

3) ENGAGE: with your customers by asking questions – use the Poll feature to get feedback on products/services. Check your DMs – you’ll be amazed how simple topics can generate conversations.

4) AUTHENTICITY: If you’re talking to camera be natural – do not over rehearse. It’s supposed to be informal! Imagine you’re having a FaceTime video chat with your best friend. There’s nothing worse than watching someone who looks like they’re not enjoying the experience.

5) ENJOY: Have fun. If you’re not enjoying it then you’re not doing it right. Find what works for you and your business – don’t be afraid to get inspiration from people who do it well (nothing wrong with learning from others – but don’t plagiarise!).

Now over to me:

Groups

So Zuckerberg has already said that priority will be given to friends, family and groups. This is something to pay attention to because groups have already increased massively in the last year and if you’re a business owner you’re probably a member of a few groups either for business advice, parent support etc. So as a user you already know the power of them and how important they are in engagement.

But before we all jump and start a group think about whether this is the right move for your business. Does it work for what you’re about, what you want to achieve and who you want to reach? – Does having a group make sense for your business.

Starting a group is no different to starting on social media in the first place, you need to have a plan of what you want to do, because otherwise you will find that suddenly your workload has increased and it will become a burden and not an enjoyable task for your business. Anyone who does social media for their business will know how much time goes into planning and curating content for your channels, a group is ACTIVE…always and that’s the difference, you are encouraging people to engage and get involved much more proactively in a group than on a page and your group members will often lead discussions that you will need to keep an eye on and monitor group behaviour.

So while they are up and coming and a great way to drive that more personal engagement with your customers, don’t just jump into groups lightly, think about it.

Messaging Apps

Customers are communicating with us as business on a more personal level and through messaging more than email and phone calls (I hope actual talking doesn’t disappear entirely). I know myself when I haven’t been able to get an answer for something whether it’s a question or a complaint I have taken to social media to get an answer and it always works.

For small businesses customers like being able to talk to you and engage in a more personal way and this is a good thing. More often than not a person is buying into the business owner and what they stand for as well as the product they’re getting.

Facebook Messager can now be integrated as a chat on your website so you can talk to browsers in real time. As we know business profiles on Instagram have an easy to use message button so customers can DM you in one click and Whatsapp is developing a business app for users.

This is definitely an area to keep your eye on because as the increase in messaging app users increases it makes sense for us as businesses to get involved and communicate with our customers.

I hope you’ve found this blog useful. Lots of changes coming for 2018 – it’s going to be an interesting ride.