Today it was Edinburgh’s turn to host the New Media Breakfast Q&A session. Unfortunately the fatBuzz team couldn’t make it through the snow, so Belinda Roberts of Winning Entrepreneurs hosted the session whilst the faces on the panel were:
Santa Claus?! No, too early for him… the panel:
Tim Barlow, Attacat Internet Marketing.
The introductions from the panel cued the first question from the floor which asked what open source software is.
Dan described open source software as software which is available to anyone on the web through free downloads which can be customised by different developers.
What are the advantages and benefits of open source?
Dan explained that there are generally two different types of open source software; one which is built by a company then released to community, and the other is built by the community.
The biggest benefit of any open source software is that it is free and often very well supported (meaning it is easy to move developer). Disadvantages can include the fact that a source built by a company may not be put to best use by the community. Alternatively community-built software often takes longer to be updated.
How do I work out what my clients want to hear? What’s the best way to start to talk to them online?
Tim was quick to say “Listen!” and kicked off the tool suggestions with Twitter. He also suggested LinkedIn Groups and forums as good places to listen. On a different level, split testing & is useful to test different messaging on your website to see which messages work best for your customers. User testing and surveys (Survey Monkey is a free online survey tool) are also good for finding out what your customers want.
Colin agreed that Twitter is good for listening. He also suggested using Google Alerts (notifies you of any mention on the web of your selected ‘keywords’ e.g. company name) to be informed of any mentions on the web of your company/products/services.
Dan added that reading the comments on your own blog is important in listening to clients, whilst Tim agreed that competitors’ blog comments may also provide insight.
Colin thinks Social Mention (which is a live feed on social networks, similar to Google Alerts) is handy as it tells you what your sentiment is, whether what is being said online about your product or brand is positive or negative.
The discussion then moved on to deciding whether to use social media or not, with the following question being posed:
I dont know if my clients use Twitter or not. Is it a case of Twitter et al so that people will find me or will it actually reinforce sales?
Colin advised to use Twitter to listen rather than pushing messages constantly. It is OK to occasionally push messages through Twitter, but Colin personally uses it for monitoring.
Tim pointed out that social media is a way that clients and customers are choosing to engage. Although not in huge volumes yet, he is starting to see questions come through Twitter rather than by email.
Colin gave a good example of a company that uses Twitter as a helpdesk to answer customer questions by pointing people to pages on the web that will help them. This company actually has more than one person working on the account to answer the questions.
How could you manage more than one person on the same Twitter account?
Colin explained that it is simple, each person uses abbreviations at the end of each tweet so the customers know who is responding which is a clever use of Twitter.
What other reasons are there for using Twitter?
Tim mentioned that Twitter isn’t just about customers, it is also good to use it to interact with your peers, so networking with people within the same industry but overseas for example. He reckons you’d be amazed by how someone in New York will suddenly need to refer business to someone in Edinburgh and they are likely to recommend the Edinburgh-based person they have been engaging with in through Twitter.
Dan added an amazing experience where he had a problem with WordPress. He went onto Twitter explained his problem and what he was looking for. He addressed it to 4 certain people who he knows are high up in industry. Within 10 minutes he had a reply from one of those users who told him exactly what he needed to do.
Is it possible to create a custom landing page on Facebook yourself?
Tim said yes, it’s something that you can do yourself, but it will likely take you much longer than someone who knows what they’re doing.
Dan added that it’s about to become easier to do this as Facebook are allowing iFrames to make it easier for users. This has not arrived yet but was meant to be Q4 so expect it soon.
Various businesses, particularly local shops, are using a Facebook page as an alternative to a website, is that valid?
Colin is of the opinion that yes, it is valid, but you’re restricting your audience by doing so.
Tim explains the risks further by asking ‘what happens when Facebook does a Myspace and becomes unpopular? Facebook can be switched off at anytime. Tim believes that there are many risks and therefore prefers to always have a website, but no reason why Facebook can’t be a focus. He adds that it is important to make sure you collect email addresses as Facebook could actually change the way you are allowed to communicate with ‘fans’.
What is the best social media network to get interaction out of your clients?
Colin believes that all of the networks can be used, it depends on what your strategy is. If you are after corporate sponsors, LinkedIn would work.
Tim is a huge fan of Twitter and believes it is applicable to all.
Dan said statistics show that when you’ve connected with someone on LinkedIn, and then go to call them, they are 50% more likley to take the call.
I think corporate Edinburgh is a long way off Facebook for business, because so many companies have banned the use of Facebook et al, what are your thoughts?
Colin thinks this is an interesting discussion, similar to banning smoking breaks?
Tim also likens this to restricting email access, we are seeing the same arguments being used to restrict Facebook access that were put forward for not giving employees e-mail access 10-15 years ago.
Belinda added that so many people can access on phones now anyway with smart phones.
Tim pointed out that Valerie Surgenor, who couldn’t make it today, would have said that you must have a policy on employee use of Facebook and Twitter etc.
If you use social media and listen to customers, how do you measure how effective it is?
Tim explained that there are a lot of soft metrics to measure this, he likes “pound in, pound out” metrics but for social media, you could measure the number of brand searches on Google, which is something he does when running Facebook ads to work out whether the campaign has had impact.
Another useful way is to put a value on a ‘like’ in Facebook – how much do you think that ‘like’ is worth to you (they may be likely to spend X over a certain period). Tim adds that Gordon MacIntyre-Kemp likes using ‘the number of meetings it takes before closing a sale’ – if you can close a sale in 2 meetings rather than 6 for example. It’s all about warming up the client through social media first.
Is it important to get people to ‘like’ your Facebook page and comment in terms of SEO?
Tim explained that Google has recently confirmed that they are using social media signals for ranking purposes. His personal view is that this will become even more important but the issue is trying to stop people abusing this ranking factor.
So he advised that, for SEO – yes invest in your Facebook presence.
Colin added that not having a link to your own website on your Facebook page is a big error, you need to have this link prominent on your Facebook page, not just hidden away in the info box.
Dan points out that once you have 25 ‘likes’ on your Facebook page, you can log into a personal account which is an admin of that page and go to facebook.com/username to customise the URL of your Facebook page. You only have one shot to set this, you can’t change it afterwards.
Any more Questions?
I haven’t managed to write down everything that was said so if you were there, feel free to add any other thoughts that were covered in the discussion. Likewise if you couldn’t make it because of the snow, feel free to ask the question you would have asked.
Next Edinburgh #NMB
The next New Media Breakfast in Edinburgh will be held on the 13th of January – details for booking this will be published on the fatBuzz site very shortly.
Also you can read our blog post on Glasgow’s Q&A session which took place in September.