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Promote your business online: Getting started with social media

Social media is everywhere these days – you can’t even listen to a radio show for five minutes without hearing somebody’s tweets – and increasingly you’ll see businesses big and small using the likes of Facebook and LinkedIn to sell you their wares.

You might be asking yourself whether you really need to get involved with social media to promote your business, but given that it’ll take very little of your time and cost you no money to get going, then there really is no excuse not to.

I’ll assume you already use Facebook, so we’ll start there – apologies if you are one of those that understandably abstains. The first thing you should do is get a Facebook Page for your business. This is similar to your personal page, but what you put on there will be available to all.

It is simple to get started, you just need to add some basic details about your business, making sure you include your website address and how people can get hold of you, and you’re on your way.

Your page will look a little dull without further content, however, so upload some pictures of your work or other photos and maybe write a little more about what you do. You then want to announce your news regularly via status updates – so tell people if you have launched a new product or that you are going to an event, anything that your potential customers might be interested in.

Of course, if you want to promote your business you need to tell people about it. The first step is to invite all your friends to ‘Like’ your page. This means your updates will show up on their news feeds and with any luck they will share your updates with their friends who will hopefully Like your page too and so on.

It is also worth adding a link to your Facebook page on your website and maybe even on your email signature. In fact, the more places you mention it the more likely people are to visit.

Now, creating a Facebook page isn’t going revolutionise your business overnight. Progress might well be very slow at first, but gradually you will build up more likes and more people will see what you have to say. You don’t have to post things every day (that might actually be annoying), but the more regular your updates, the more likely that people will notice you. Try to lead people back to your site, to take up a special offer or read your latest blog post for example. Ultimately you want them to get in touch with you and hand over some cash.

One of the most important visitors you’ll get is Google. Getting a decent search engine ranking is largely about getting strong links to back to your website, so links on a ‘quality’ site like Facebook could give you a significant boost.

For more tips on Facebook marketing, take a look at Facebook Timeline: 9 Best Practices for Brands and 10 Facebook Marketing Mistakes to Avoid on Mashable.

Once you are done with Facebook, pop along to LinkedIn. The process is similar – you can set up a company profile and post updates that will be seen by people that follow your business – but there is much more you can do with your personal profile too.

LinkedIn has a more professional focus and your connections are just as likely to be colleagues than friends. People connect to you because they are interested in what you do and how you can help them, rather than because they want to hear all the latest gossip.

Build up your connections with whoever you can – you’ll find that most people will accept, even if they barely know you – and then post updates regularly so they are reminded who you are.  If you connect to customers that are happy with your work, encourage them to give you a ‘Recommendation’ that will appear on your profile – this is a great way to impress potential clients.

You should also join some groups and post comments there – you’ll find dozens of local business networks and groups focussed on whatever industry you are in. If people are interested in what you have to say, it’ll boost your credibility and they’ll hopefully drop you a line.

There is much more you can do – see 4 Pillars Of LinkedIn Marketing For Businesses for some ideas

Then there is Twitter. Personally, I’m not a great fan of Twitter, but I recognise that it is a necessary evil that can be a powerful marketing tool. It is certainly worth getting an account and you should at least Tweet all things you have posted on your Facebook and LinkedIn profiles – there are apps that will do this automatically so you don’t have to keep doing the same thing in several places.

Twitter can be hard work because you really have to be pretty active for it to be effective. But if you build up your followers – which is largely done by following others, who will often return the compliment – and write useful, well-targeted snippets with links back to your website, then the rewards can be significant.

For more Twitter tips, take a look at How to Get More Twitter Followers (The Ultimate Twitter Tips Guide).

There are plenty of companies that will manage all your social media campaigns for you, but if you are on a tight budget and are prepared to put in the time, then it is worth thinking about how you can develop your online presence further. Social media is no miracle cure but like all marketing, if you get it right then success will follow.

Lost in translation? Multi-language websites the easy way

If you are trying to reach out to a global audience, then you often need to speak to them in their own language. Trouble is, getting all your content professionally translated doesn’t come cheap. You also don’t want the burden of managing multiple versions of your website for each language.

Thankfully, there is an easier way. You might have noticed that some web browsers – like Google Chrome – offer to translate the page if it thinks it’s in a different language to your own. That’s great, but the option isn’t always available and it would be nicer to show your potential clients that you are already thinking about them by integrating the translation into your website.

You can use the same automated translation services – like Google Translate – by adding some code to your site and there are the plug-ins available for most content management systems. They will usually add a selection box or the relevant flags somewhere on your site where users can select the language they would prefer and voila! The page is translated in a jiffy.

These automated services aren’t without their problems, however. The translations are not always perfect – for example, Home will probably be translated into Maison in French. But if it is referring to the home page you’d probably rather it say Page d’accueil. This might be a minor issue, but some translations could be confusing and even embarrassing.

What you really want is the best of both worlds – automated translation, but with the ability to edit the translation should you need to. This is where a great WordPress plug-in called Transposh comes in – it is simple to manage and you can edit text directly on your web page if you are logged in. It’ll remember your amendments for the next time someone translates your page. Transposh will even create new Google-friendly URLs for all your translated pages, without the need to duplicate and maintain different content.

We’ve used Transposh on a website for Mirabelle Gites, which shows off some fantastic holiday cottages in France. They only wanted English, French and Dutch translations for now, as that is where most of the guests come from, but more could be easily added.

Editing the translation on Mirabelle Gites

Mirabelle hope to get some friendly locals to check all the translated content so that it all makes sense, but if you don’t have that luxury and are prepared to pay for translations then Transposh now offers integration with I’ve not used it, but it looks like a simple and cost-effective way to get professional translation with very little effort.

So, no need to stress about offering multi-language support, it’s as easy as un-deux-trois...

Writing for the Web

Writing for the web is different to writing for print. Most of us have a very short attention span when it comes to reading on screen and we usually scan the page rather than read it word for word. We might look at the first paragraph, but only glance at the rest of the page for headings and words that might be interesting.

As a rule of thumb, you should use about half as many words on web page than you would in print.  Your main heading and first paragraph are the most important text and it needs to concisely describe what the page is about and why it might be interesting to the reader.

You also need to break the page up with short paragraphs and sub-headings. Each paragraph should contain just one or two statements. Don’t try to be clever with headings – keep them clear and to the point. Use bulleted lists to show a number of points concisely and highlight keywords and phrases, adding hyperlinks where appropriate.

Avoid too much marketing speak, because people will switch-off very quickly. Focus on the facts and use objective language where possible. Even taglines should be obvious – ‘Quality wooden toys and an affordable price’ is better than something a little more abstract like ‘your child’s happiness doesn’t have to cost the earth’, for example.

When writing headlines, make sure the first couple of words include what the subject of the article is about. Eye-tracking studies have shown that people will scan down the left-hand side of text for keywords and might therefore miss them if they are left until the end of the heading.

Remember that some people will give up pretty quickly when looking at a webpage, maybe not even making the effort to scroll down, so keep your key text at the top of the page where it will be more likely to be noticed.

Your text should focus on what you think your target audience would most want to know, but bear in mind that there could be a vast range of people coming your site. Where possible, keep the language simple and avoid too many technical terms, especially on the home page.

There are, of course, occasions when you can break the rules. People might be coming to your website to hear your opinion or be entertained by your wit, and so you should write accordingly. This is particularly the case with blogs and reviews, but even then you need to grab people with a clear headline and punchy opening.

It goes without saying that all your content should be spell-checked and make grammatical sense. Errors can be jarring for the reader and can take the shine off what is otherwise a very professional website, so get someone else to read it all through as soon as it goes live.

Remember that content is king and that what you write can have a significant impact on whether someone is impressed enough to drop you a line.