Twitter to show a measure of trust in businesses?

Twitter may soon be wearing a business hat. Some will argue it has been for a while, but I’m talking about an official doffing of the cap towards businesses, with services specific to their needs. And critically, arguably the most important thing to emerge might be an indicator of Twitter’s trust in you and your business.
Twitter, the global social network

Putting the social into social media marketing

So there I was last night, working my way through the Answers forum on LinkedIn and up came the question: How are you generating leads using social media? To which I replied:

“Essentially, it’s all about what the offer is and how it fits your target audience. So many people get sucked into the Facebook-Twitter thing, thinking they just need to get a ton of friends / followers and then post links to their stuff. Wrong.

The same rules apply to social media as in real life — you build relationships around common interests, and this takes time and a degree of sincerity.

I recently published an ebook about WordPress for businesses. That being my proposition, my network of friends and followers on Facebook and Twitter did the rest. But that would not have happened had I not assisted in helping them promote their own content.”

So the leads come as a result a number of factors:

  1. the trust in you by those in your network
  2. the quality of your network (those with the same approach as you)
  3. the value of your offer to those in your network

And at its core, that’s life, and social media is not so special that anyone could make a case for its sudden departure from those simple rules. Yes, there’s more to this than a simple 1-2-3 guide to life, social media and everything in between, but that’s as good a place to start as any.

Twitter’s take on trust

This morning, my curated news source that is Twitter unearthed an interesting headline that caught my eye. By the looks of things, Twitter are readying new business features:

“After close to five months of beta testing, Twitter is preparing to launch a suite of business features tied to a central Twitter Business Center.”

So, it looks like Twitter are finally getting their act together and offering some of the features we’ve grown accustom to with CoTweet and HootSuite. But in amongst the brief overview of this proposed new direction by Twitter was mention of something that’s almost throw-away, but could have far reaching and profound consequences for businesses on Twitter:

“Other new capabilities include customization of business profile pages, verified account badges for corporations and organizations (not just people)…”

A verified account on Twitter is a much sought after prize. Why? Because it’s an indicator of trust in you as an individual and a brand by Twitter. That might not be the reason for a verified account (it’s typically used by famous people to show it’s them and not someone masquerading as them), but the value is there for all to see.

Reputation, recognition and Ra Ra skirts

For businesses, the criteria would need to be different. Yes, there’s still going to be people trying to pass themselves off as the Sony’s and the PayPal’s of this world, but for the legitimate businesses like Octane, this really is all about trust and the enormous value that brings along. However, it does all depend on what criteria they choose to use. As I pointed out in a LinkedIn Answers topic last night:

“Getting a profile verified is like knitting fog — almost impossible. Sorry, that’s not entirely correct. If you’re an almost unknown yet gorgeous US female presenter on some bizarre cable channel aimed at guys, then yes, you’re guaranteed.”

A brand new social media metric

Done right and Twitter could have a brand new metric on their hands — up there with Google’s PageRank, the much maligned but still much used Alexa rank and the very real possibility of a PeopleRank, should Facebook get their way — one used by others as an indictor of trust and to help determine the value of a business.

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ASA serious about social media. Are you?

If ever proof was needed that social media was a legitimate marketing channel, the Advertising Standards Authority just delivered. Their intention is to regulate social media.

This is big news, because not only does this justify the efforts of many businesses like Octane that are banging the big social media drum, but it also helps clarify what is and what is not acceptable, in terms of a marketing messages and adverts. What the ASA is proposing is simply an extension of existing regulations:

“The proposed amendment to the Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) Code — expected to be in force by September — will extend the regulatory framework currently in place for paid online ads to all other online marketing communications. As a result, claims from marketers on their own Web sites and third-party sites like social networks will now be subject to ASA scrutiny, as they are in TV, print, and other forms of online advertising.”

However, the introduction of any new legislation brings with it the specter of ambiguity; do we comply? To some, this will be a challenge, while to others, this will be an opportunity. As a business that sells information, a lot of what I and Octane do is educate people as to the possibilities and the potential of their business on the web.

As a pre-qualifier, if I feel that a prospective client has questionable intentions, I make my polite excuses and leave. I have no intention of ruining my hard-earned 10 year old reputation for a project I’m not happy with.

So how do these planned regulatory powers affect businesses using social media marketing?

Dispelling the social media myth — size isn’t everything

The biggest problem I have when explaining social media to someone is the very thing that makes it such a compelling channel to promote a business — it’s size. Because social media marketing is so relatively new — certainly for the vast majority of businesses out there — the prospect of a free way of marketing their business is just too tempting to pass up on.

There’s so many ways to use social media, and so many different ways to enter it, it can be overwhelming. The myth that social media is mostly free doesn’t help, either. Yes, most of the tools and websites out there are free to use and join, but it’s still your time spent learning these things, which is where the cost comes in. And it’s often an unrecoverable loss of time (and ultimately money) if you can’t make good of your efforts.

Avoid anti-social networking

So if you now overlay social media with the extended laws, enactable by the ASA, and then add in the aforementioned ambiguity of compliance amongst those businesses new to social media who have probably never done any advertising or marketing before, there’s a potential for inadvertent illegality.

Because the web is such an open venue, your business has the potential of reaching out to far more people than any regular marketing channel, such as mail shot, or a telesales campaign. Many of these people will not be native to Britain. So that tongue-in-cheek joke on your home page or a recent blog article could be hugely offensive to some.

I don’t want this to sound like a scare story, or to look like a cattle prod to marshal you, the reader, towards Octane. I just hope that, between now and September, the government and the Advertising Standards Authority do a good enough job of educating businesses.

Limiting your liability

There is always risk. That’s life. As a business owner, I create risk every time I engage in a client project. If I can limit the liability of a client in some way, averting an advertising snafu, or a marketing mishap, that’s a job well done.

Caught on camera

So you want an example? Photography. This is one of the most misunderstood areas in design. Photography can be a machine-like process, such a product photography. But it can also be an art form. It is often in the case of the latter that a photograph is used without permission and without a royalty payment to the copyright owner.

It’s a huge problem, but it’s so huge, people often feel it’s not like breaking a real law. And because it’s such a huge problem, it’s only those who make the mistake of infringing copyright in huge way (like in a TV or magazine advert, a poster campaign, or from September, if in a social media marketing campaign) that get caught.

The advise I give to my clients is simple; buy the photograph that you like. Once they do that, we’re all covered.

Demonstrate your difference

James Good, a design and illustrator uses the slogan: demonstrate your difference. It’s as succinct a question anyone could ask of a business. In this sense, it’s perfectly applicable, because it demands that we demonstrate not just how good we are, but how much trust our clients have in our abilities.

By working within the remit of legislation, and making this clear to my clients, I would be demonstrating a level of knowledge that instills a sense of trust — I would be, in effect, protecting my client (and myself) from possible prosecution.

Of course, I’ve yet to encounter a situation where I was asked to do anything that was offensive or misleading. But a knowledge of the law hints at a greater understanding.

So what do we take away from this new regulatory extension? First of all, we work within those regulations. Secondly, we use our knowledge of not just advertising standards but of any other law that our clients would benefit from. And thirdly, we keep on teaching as good as we learn.

Creating a Landing Page for Twitter, Facebook

Congratulations! You and your staff are on Facebook and Twitter. Now what? Chances are, there are people out there who want to know a little more about who you guys are and what you do. But, as part of a corporate entity, it’s not just the individuals they’re interested in, it’s your company, too. So what do you do?

Twitter, the global social networkAssuming your staff’s Twitter / Facebook profiles are company owned, you could just point all their visitors from Twitter and Facebook to your very corporate “About Us” page, but that’s often a little staid and obvious. This is about social networking, and each person you designate as customer facing is just that — a person.

Facebook, the global social networkSo rather than have a catch-all web page or blog article that just lumps everyone together into an amorphous blog of “we” and “us” business speak, why not let those people write something of their own in an article of their own? Why not let them talk about themselves, what they do, their interests, why they’re on Facebook, Twitter etc (here’s where corporate guidelines will need to be observed, to ensure some degree of consistency) and what their follow policy is?

If the social web is about the conversation, then what’s the conversation worth if we don’t talk to people? As I’ve said for years, people must first buy into people before they buy from people.

Taking things a step further, I’d recommend letting your team add photos of themselves, to give that personal touch, so that those in their social network can see the person they’re communicating with. Then add links to those personalized web pages into Facebook and Twitter, and voila! Everyone has their very own ‘landing page’.

What should a landing page include?

  1. Start with something about you and your role in the business.
  2. Then follow with something about you and your own interests, either within or outside the business.
  3. Talk about why you’re on Twitter / Facebook and what you intend to get out of being their.
  4. Discuss your follow policy — how and why you choose to follow certain people, and whether you reciprocate their following you.
  5. The advantages of having landing pages

There are possible other advantages here, too. For example:

  • If you choose to have each landing page as a blog article, then you have a collection of articles enriched with information about key members of staff, which will greatly increase the chances of your website being found. Let’s say you have a very active social networker on your team, having their name more visibly attached to your business increases your search visibility and helps with the smooth transition of trust between both you and your staff.
  • If you have a socially active team, active in different social networks, your business stands a much greater chance of being exposed to a far wider and deeper audience, of not just prospective clients / customers, but of suppliers, industry leaders and possible future employees, or perhaps investors.

In creating landing pages for Twitter, Facebook et al, you’re people first and business second. And since business is all about people, coming second never looked so good.

Wayne Smallman and Octane on Twitter

So you’ve found me, Wayne Smallman, on Twitter and became curious about myself, Octane Interactive and wanted to know more.

So who’s Wayne Smallman and what does Octane do?

Wayne Smallman is many things, but he is mostly known for his writing, his designing and his web development.

Wayne Smallman, managing director and owner of Octane InteractiveTo pay the bills, Octane is a provider of web design & development and internet marketing services to a variety businesses of all shapes and sizes, scattered hither & yonder around the British isles, of which case studies are available for your perusal.

As for the writing, I, Wayne Smallman am the man behind the Blah, Blah! Technology blog — a mixture of science, technology and social media commentary and how-to guides (amongst many other things), all wrapped in my own unique style of opinion, observation, dark humour, all underpinned by an unbending faith in the soul of humanity.

I also write business support and advice articles right here on Octane, via my blog — less so the inimitable commentary and more a series of practical guides to help you steer your business through calmer waters, based upon my own years of experience, beginning in 1999, which is the year when Octane was founded.

In addition, I write for a growing number of publications (both printed and electronic), sharing the aforementioned knowledge and experience further afield.

I’m also the author of the popular ebook, The Beginner’s Guide to Social Media, which has been downloaded many hundreds of times by an eclectic mix of people from all over the world, eager to learn more about social media, and how it may benefit their businesses.

What’s your Twitter follow policy?

Twitter, the global social networkThe question itself might be a little misleading if you’re new to Twitter. When you follow someone — or at least when I do — I don’t expect those people to automatically follow me back.

As in life, we don’t always find that we have that much in common with the people we meet, or we feel that the person that just followed us isn’t adding the right kind of ideas, thoughts and observations to our stream of Twitter updates.

As an example, if you’re an up-and-coming singer / songwriter and you were to buy the latest album of a famous singer, would you expect them to return the gesture? Of course not, because that’s not how it works.

I’m neither famous, nor am I singer. But the fact of the matter is, we are all different and to reciprocate for the sake of reciprocation is disingenuous.

So I might not follow you back if you follow me. And of course, the opposite holds true, too. Obviously, some people feel very differently about this, but this is my Twitter follow policy, and I’ve at least demonstrated my honesty on the subject, if nothing else.

Ideally, we’ll have many things in common, so here are a few things I look for before I follow anyone, or follow back:

  1. A profile bio that tells me something about you, what you do and what you’re interested in.
  2. A link to a website or blog that tells me more about you what you do.
  3. Plenty of updates, so I know you’re an active Twitterer.
  4. We both speak the same language, i.e.: English.

So is Twitter the place to be?

That really depends on what you want from Twitter. I could go into all kinds of detail, but ultimately, you need to know what you want from a thing before you invest time & effort in it — which, incidentally, is where my social media ebook might prove useful, if you’re in any doubt.

Facebook is another social network which you could also join, but it is a quite different venue to Twitter, in the sense that it isn’t public; your network of friends is closed to external sources.

Twitter commands a huge audience, so your efforts are as well spent there. So if you’re hoping to form allegiances, find friends and allies, or you simply wish to learn from those in your industry, Twitter is the place for you.

What now?

That’s as open ended a question as you could ever hope to ask! If you haven’t already, you could follow me on Twitter and join the conversation. And finally, thank you for your time. Always a pleasure.

New social media ebook pre-announcement

In lieu of the launch of my new ebook, entitled: “The Beginner’s Guide to Social Media — An introduction to social media from a business perspective”, I’d like to just explain a little about why I decided to write such a book in the first place.

I’ve been writing about social media from a business point of view quite some time. Back in June, I posted an article explaining in brief what social media is, which came out of some ideas I was playing around with at the time.

When I look around the business community, I see a lot of people talking about social media, but having little idea what it entails, or how social media can properly benefit their business.

There’s a lot to know about social media — certainly from a business point of view — which is hard to capture and commit to memory, just from catching conversations and the odd blog article here & there.

Writing a book about social media for business

With that as a backdrop, I decided to write, what was at the time, a simple presentation. After giving it some more thought, I realized a presentation just wasn’t enough to do the subject the kind of justice it deserved, or to give business people a real taste for / of social media. So I decided to flesh the presentation out into a full-blown book.

The book is broken down into 4 main parts, which are:

  1. What is social media?
  2. What does social media do?
  3. How can social media impact on your business?
  4. Optimizing for social media

To some extent, I’ve been fortunate enough to have written about many of the key themes and elements of the book on the Blah, Blah! Technology blog, such as Social Media & Social Networking and SMO (Social Media Optimization) & SMM (Social Media Marketing), over the last couple of years.

I’m really, really pleased with the book so far. And the feedback I’ve had from those who’ve been kind enough to proof read my book has been fantastic. Over the next month or so, I’ll be building a social media marketing campaign of my own around my ebook, to promote it as far and as wide as possible.

I’m still not sure whether I want to sell the book, or offer it for free. However, most people seem to think I should charge something, so that seems to be the direction I’m leaning towards for the time being.

Rather than give an exact launch date, I’m just going to keep working on the book until I’m 100% happy with it, and then take it from there. But writing a book is a very different proposition to then launching and publicizing it, which is something I’ve never done before. So it’s going to be a lot learning!

So stay tuned and watch out for my brand new social media book, coming soon…