The Middle East region is a hive of opportunity and many entrepreneurial types are enticed to set up their own small and medium sized enterprise. Most are excited at the opportunities that social media provides as a way of reaching out to customers and cheaply promoting their operation.
But soon enough, the burden of maintaining the company Facebook Page and keeping it populated with interesting comment starts to drain the manager’s enthusiasm. With only a dozen or so ‘Likes’ and limited interactions, it becomes more a monologue than a marketing activity and the site becomes dormant – a ghost page.
That doesn’t mean the idea was wrong. Only the implementation. Here’s my advice for some useful free web services that will aid a budding online entrepreneur!
1. About Me (https://about.me/)
Who needs a Website? Absolutely no-one if you are using About.me.
This services offers a professional landing page which includes just enough information to be useful, and important links to your social media portfolio. Put a great picture as a center piece, add a small description on you or your company and voila – instant homepage.
It requires minimum maintenance and also offers some statistics on who visited you. Check out mine at http://about.me/stephenking2012.
2. WordPress (http://wordpress.com)
Now WordPress can be a bit daunting, but if you ask someone to show you how to use it, then it’s extremely valuable. Again, this is another ‘Website’ replacement tool.
You can select an appropriate design, then use the ‘Pages’ option to add relevant static content (i.e. corporate information that won’t change often.
It aligns with other services including About.Me, Flickr, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIN and Tumbler very nicely. And if you build it carefully, the ‘blogg’ section will become your ‘news and events’ section.
Customers can subscribe to this and send you their email addresses for further marketing, and the site analytic information is to die for.
When you are ready, buy the vanity url and host the account yourself – it’s only a pittance.
3. Hootsuite (http://hootsuite.com/)
If you are going to invest time in being a social marketer, then you need to be confident that you can manage these assets effectively. Hootsuite is a ‘free’ service that allows you to manage the content that you post on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIN and many other social media networks.
With one site you can schedule and propagate key announcements around the world!
Again, the analytical information is excellent, but the most useful thing I found was the Hootsuite University as it showed you exactly how to use the service in simple bite sized videos.
4. LinkedIN (www.linkedin.com)
I don’t know why, but many of the companies and individuals that I deal with don’t like LinkedIN. It’s too serious maybe? It’s not pretty.
But actually, in many cases this is exactly the site they should be spending their time on – not Facebook!
There are three ways of using LinkedIN effectively.
- Create your own LinkedIN Company page (Which is free!) – yes, every Tom, Dick and Harry can have their own LinkedIN page. You simply follow some very easy instructions and hey, it’s there and you are ready to begin communicating to all your potential customers.
- Create your own Sponsored Group – effectively you pay LinkedIN to create a Group and invite potential prospects to be a part of it. This is a one-off payment, but then you have to ensure that content is updated – which is easier if you are using Hootsuite! See my earlier article on LinkedIN groups for more on this.
- Use Hootsuite to schedule your messages to infiltrate other relevant groups. Probably the tactic with highest ROI, until the moderator boots you!
5. Ubersocial & Twitter (http://www.ubersocial.com/)
I’ve combined two services here as I think they come hand-in-hand for the corporate marketer. There’s no point in being on the Twittersphere if you don’t have a tool in your pocket to help you to monitor and respond in real time to situations/communications in action.
Ubersocial is a mobile application that helps you track Facebook, LinkedIN and Twitter posts, as well as DMs and #hashtags.
Twitter is an essential marketing tool for the start-up SME. Used correctly, it’s a powerful Direct Mail medium and will help boost the following of your Website (WordPress hosted) and your LinkedIN Groups.
And that’s it, my top five. Notice I haven’t included Facebook in this list. That’s because Facebook isn’t an effective customer acquisition tool. You can find out why in my earlier post which includes a video from Facebook itself.
Facebook is for the maintenance of your existing client base and building a sense of community. That is when you will start feeling rewarded for your efforts.
I also haven’t mentioned Google+, which is just because I’m not a fan of the service. Which is a subjective point of view, and you should take it with a pinch of salt. If you like it, use it in the same way as Facebook. In terms of time allocation, I would usually recommend the following:
40% on WordPress (content creation)
30% on Hootsuite (monitoring the buzz, scheduling and managing contributions to Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIN Groups)
15% on Twitter/Ubersocial (contributing and interacting with interested and interesting people)
10% on Facebook or Google+ (uploading pictures and generally interacting with your existing customer base)
5% on LinkedIN and About.me (managing the company/profile page)