Thursday, 13 September 2012

Operations File: Connections for business and other things

A while ago I promised an article on further social media tools that people can use for business, but it's useful for all manner of things from research to new connections. There is a huge difference between using these tools for personal use and professionally. Always remember that children may have access as well as unsavoury types. This is a follow-up from one of my first blogs 'Connecting you'.

Inbetween I confess to having got in a huff as I found myself thwarted from all sides from the very systems that were supposed to help all and concerns over family welfare and health. The result? I closed my accounts to put my family's needs (and mine) as my top priority. The break from social networking was rather refreshing as it gave me time for living, breathing people in person. It reminded me that people do function without social networking tools. They might be unlikely to be highly successful in the world of business perhaps, but not necessarily. Usage comes down to a matter of personal choice i.e. is it the right tool for you to use? Other questions begin to arise from that one including: Can you be consist, have you time, money etc

There is, I feel much to be said for face to face contact and the old fashion methods of communication to do business. After all emails have not made the need for postal systems redundant, nor eradicated hard copies on paper; many would argue that computers have increased such things. The computer age is also arguably responsible for an increase of stress and pressure for while computers can process information at the click of a button, we mortals need more time to do so - computers are still not capable of independent thought, I think it would be frightening if they were.

The point is that these marvels of the modern age are supposed to tools and aids that we command. We should never let ourselves be driven to becoming little more than plug-in devices for the any device or system. I recommend that everyone remembers that if they wish to avoid burning out due to stress and pressure of what would otherwise become unrealistic and unattainable deadlines. Far better to take more time to get administrative records right than risk batting something out to a deadline only to find your time is later taken up with weeks or months to rectify a mistake missed. It is not cost effective in any sense to adopt any other approach. Get it right in the first place and you immediately free up time to do more things in the long run.

Six examples of Social Media tools
Here are a few more social media tools I have come across and used myself that I have found useful.

1. Googledocs - I'd be surprised if other search engines don't do something similar (or will do), but whichever you use, they are a way of sharing documents via the internet to the world at large or just to your own customers/clients.

2. Facebook - If you are promoting a service for or an event it can be an excellent tool. I am considering it for promoting a few creative products. I personally can't see the merit or sense of using it to promote insurance or banking products aside from via adverts that sponsor and finance Facebook so that it can be free to all. To me it is more ideally suited for things such as sport, games or the arts as it is pre-dominantly something people use in their free-time to enjoy themselves, away from work and chores. It is also extremely powerful for community concerns and to help families round the world connected when there is a crisis. In my opinion, any leisure service including holidays and such things as cycle repairs, recycling goods or balloon rides should be perfectly suited to using Facebook for business purposes. There are less savoury uses of Facebook which I'd rather not go into, but you can use it for business to keep people updated on offers and information for all manner of things.

3.  Pinterest - A relatively new kid of the block, but it seems to be taking off. I use it for inspiration for my own creative work, I am less keen to share that work there unless and until I can ensure things like photographs won't just be stolen and palmed off as someone else's work. I don't happen to like having the word 'copyright' over images and there sadly always a few naughty people who spoil such things for the many so be careful. What is great about Pinterest is very much about sharing images, ideas and their source (originator). Great for shops to promote their wares and possibly it will expand into the manufacturing industry given time if it hasn't already.

4. Vistaprint, Blurb, Snapfish etc - Too many of these to name and they do vary enormously, mainly in price but also in products offered. From publishing photobooks to offering publishing and a sales service for your own books and all things written, there is a wide choice of options available for the small business person. However, hard copies over 1000 I would recommend using a local printing service as the price is likely to be better and you will have more control over the finish that way. On-line printing services are ideal if you are less certain of how many people will purchase your product or if you have a very small budget and want a only a few copies in a hurry. I'm currently test driving a few of these. You might also consider using these for targetting selected clients by way of a thank-you 'special offer' or for any organisation offering membership services. There is of course Kindle and photo sites that you can not only source materials from but sell them to as well but don't expect to get much profit from these unless you happen to be a larger enterprise.

5. YouTube - most of us are used to using YouTube for our entertainment, relatively few small enterprises think about using it for their own promotional video which could then be imported into their blogsites etc. If you choose to use it this way, do your best to get the best video made for this. Quality of sound and image will always help. I've not yet used YouTube myself... but I have plans to do so.

6. Spreaker etc - Fancy a live radio show of your own? Well here's one option complete with catch-up facilities. Again quality will aid uptake so plan content and rehearse it beforehand and it can aid other promotional tools.

Keeping informed
Here are just a few sites that may help you build your profile on the web too. - If using Twitter (mentioned in Connecting You) this site will keep you informed on what the latest buzz is. This can help you time or word your own marketing, enter discussions or promote training services etc. and - these helps identify what people are looking for on the internet by location, subject and over time etc. Type in any subject e.g. Performing Arts and see what comes up! In effect it can help you to see what the demand is.

If you don't have time for much analysis of what's happening minute by minute (who does?), just focus on one or two things to watch out for.  and can help aid manage your social media, but be careful not to be too tempted too soon to automate things, there are many pitfalls to avoid.

For further information on using Social Media for personal or professional reasons, your best bet by far is to enrol in a short course to guide you through it. Sadly, despite appeals I only have a few such course deliverers following me on twitter, but hey, that's not bad considering I am a beginner. You really would profit from their guidance and advice... I did!

Apologies to all the other enterprises who provide social media products, there are just too many of you the mention in a blog. To readers and followers I suggest you go and explore to find those that suit your needs best, feel free to leave a comment on which you like and why.

Big business
The range of social media tools available is vast and the larger your business the more complex it gets. So my final suggestions for sources of information is specifically for the big boys. - should help guide you on (as it's name suggests) Return on Investment. which leads me to something I stumbled upon while exploring... - On this site you will find a book advertised on the subject of ROI as it's referred to. I have no idea if it's good, bad or indifferent on the subject as it is way above my league and not my top priority to investigate further at the moment. So I end with a warning...

Don't run before you can walk. The information is ever changing so my advice is go at your own pace to acquire only what you are ready learn. Better to learn properly than quickly and risk missing something vital I feel. Bit of a challenge for me!

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