Social media

I don’t know

Somewhere there is an answer to every question we could ever think to ask. This is incredibly useful as I certainly don’t know everything in this age of social media experts, specialists and gurus.

And that’s one of the wonders of social media: if you ask a question, often someone will come back with the answer or, at least, a helpful suggestion.

But it can also work the other way: anyone professing to know everything about a topic can be ‘found out’ if their knowledge is deficient. It’s a bit like Viv Stanshall’s character Reg Smeeton whose favourite question was “Did you know there is no proper name for the back of the knee?” Apparently, the term ‘popliteal fossa’ undermines Reg’s claim.

Rather than imposing our knowledge on other people, asking questions can help to develop social media relationships. Many people are willing to share their knowledge and will do so for someone not afraid to ask. A way to pay back this generosity is to answer other people’s questions on topics about which we are knowledgeable.

Will we look silly if we admit to a hole in our knowledge? I don’t think so. My experience is that when someone asks a question others are often glad because they also want to know the answer.


Think before engaging typing finger!

Today communication is instant: type and press enter to publish. Oops, did I really want to say that?

When you’re getting a brochure printed, you have time to chew over the words you use and edit them. Even when you’ve sent the finished design to your printer, you can stop the printing at any stage; you can even decide not to distribute your brochure if you change your mind (although it would be money wasted).

With blogging, email and the internet, it’s different: press enter after you’ve typed a tweet on twitter and it’s gone out into the world. Even though you can delete tweets, some people are still likely to see them. So it’s worth thinking about what you say online and your style of writing. Blogging and services like twitter and facebook can encourage a freer, more light-hearted tone, but at what point does banter start to damage your professional standing when you’re blogging for business?

Perhaps you work in an industry where it doesn’t matter, but some industries are more formal (some would say stuffier) than others. Use these services to build your reputation, not damage it.

That’s not to say that we can’t be original, witty, entertaining, acerbic or controversial. Being a bit different from the crowd helps us stand out, but we want to stand out for the right reasons.

After yesterday’s blog, have you thought about the business topics you can talk about?

z2zine on Monday: What can a press release do for me?

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Writing those first words

Many people put off writing because it worries them. This is understandable if you don’t feel you’re a natural writer, but there really is nothing to worry about. If you don’t like what you’ve written, you can tear up your sheet of paper or delete your word processing file: it can’t actually hurt you.

Even experienced writers sometimes find it difficult to write, while on other days they find the words flow easily.

If you do worry about writing, especially for business, remember that you don’t have to publish anything until you’re happy with it. This means you can write as many versions as you want and ask as many people as you like to check it and proofread it before your readers see it.

If you don’t like what you’ve written, ask yourself why you don’t like it and how you can change it. Read it to a colleague and ask for their opinion. It can be easy to be too critical of your own writing and other people sometimes have a more balanced view. When you’re reading material written by other people, think about what you like and what you don’t like about how they write.

What’s important is to make a start and put some words down on a blank sheet of paper or type something on to the screen so that you have text to work on and can start building your confidence.

After our last blog, do you know what and why you need to communicate?

z2zine tomorrow: Moving your plan forward

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It’s not what you want to hear

I started my career at British Airways in the days when it was the ‘world’s favourite airline’. I loved working there and loved talking about how great it was. How I must have bored people!

If we’re not careful, it can be the same with business. We love what we’re doing and want to tell people about it, but other people don’t always want to hear. Perhaps they have different interests and needs.

That’s why, when producing promotional material, it’s best to consider what customers find exciting rather than what interests us. Something which appears mundane to us, such as a way of reducing costs, could excite our customers considerably and that’s what we should focus on.

We can only find out what our customers are interested in by building relationships and developing conversations. We can do this through activities such as web site forums, printed and online newsletters, questionnaires, surveys and, of course, speaking directly on the phone or face-to-face.

Perhaps our interests are the same as our customers, perhaps not, but we have to find out. Once we know, we can tailor our communications to meet what they want.

After yesterday’s blog, have you started or reviewed  your communications plan?

z2zine next week: Finding your voice

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Starting conversations

So much can start with a conversation. In fact, no business can survive without conversations to communicate with its suppliers, employees and customers.

Communication is the basis of all business.

Whatever your business does, you have to communicate with banks or lenders to obtain finance, with staff to enable your business processes to operate smoothly and with customers so that they buy your product. A conversation ensures communication is two-way, enabling you to receive feedback from the other person, which can help you to improve what you do. One-way communication, when you tell people whatever you want, can risk deterring supporters and suppliers, upsetting staff and driving customers away.

z2zine today looks at a different aspect of communication every day to see what businesses can do to converse more effectively. Better communications can lead to better business, so there’s a big incentive for us all to develop and improve our conversations.

But where do we start?

Take André Preneur, an imaginary business owner, whose company is stagnating. He’s got a stationery cupboard full of brochures designed and printed six months ago, a web site that was launched two years ago and an order book that’s not very full. What can André do instead of sitting in his office with his door closed, worrying about how to get new orders to pay his suppliers’ invoice and his employees’ wages? He doesn’t have much of a marketing budget and he’s already placed adverts in local directories. What else is there?

The answer is: a lot.

And it doesn’t have to cost the earth.

Just updating the web site is a start. Is the information current? Are prices correct? And what about those brochures? Do they promote products or services new to customers? When was the last time customers were contacted? Could they be sent a brochure to jog their memories, excite their interest and continue the customer conversation?

Simple examples, perhaps, but there are many things that every business can do to keep conversations flowing.

And it’s not just with customers. Conversations with employees need to continue as well. When markets are challenging, businesses depend on their people more than ever before, so treating them well is important, especially if additional flexibility and co-operation are needed.

What can I do today?

Conversations require effort to develop over the long term, but there are also quick, easy actions we can take every day. One thing we can do straight away is to make sure everything is up to date. So how about looking over your web site, deleting expired offers and old events, checking prices and current offers? And how about your printed material and stationary? Are addresses, prices, offers all current? Do you have new products you’re not promoting, but need to promote? And if you have boxes of brochures doing nothing, how about distributing them, either by mail or by your sales people or customer service staff?

All these actions are a start. Once begun, it’s much easier to continue conversing.


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