The internet is probably the first place you turn to when you're looking for something. The internet can help you find people, learn more about your market and keep up to date with regulations affecting your business.
Understanding how to use search engines makes it easier to find what you want. It's also worth thinking about how you can check information can be trusted.
1. Recruitment and finding people
The internet can help you find new employees and make other useful connections.
There are many ways to recruit new staff online
Social media is a good way to stay in touch with people
You can use the internet to learn a lot about people
2. Customers, suppliers and competitors
The internet can give you access to a wealth of information about existing and potential customers and suppliers. It can also help you learn about your competitors.
You can get information about other businesses, like new clients or prospective partners
Searching online can give you a sense of what kind of company you're dealing with:
The web is the best place to start any competitor research:
3. Market research and trends
The internet can provide you with an enormous amount of helpful information when you are performing market research. Online services can help you understand and identify your target customers:
You can use the internet to analyse your market and identify opportunities
You can keep an eye on wider trends in society and technology.
4. Laws and regulations
Keep up-to-date with new laws and rules that may affect your business. There is a wealth of legal and regulatory information available online
Government websites will give you the official line on new initiatives, rules and regulations
5. Using search engines
Search engines are the main way people find information online. If you're having trouble homing in on the information you need, there are a number of techniques that can help. Using basic search operators can produce a more specific set of results:
Use the advanced search
Can you trust the internet?
Anyone can publish practically anything online, so it can be hard to verify the information that you find. When relying on data you've found on the internet, you must be confident that it can be trusted.
Get a second opinion: Ask colleagues or contacts what they think of the information you've found. Are they familiar with the source? Have they ever seen conflicting data?
Find the original source: Statistics often get repeated online without reference to the original source or piece of research. Use search engines to try and identify where a piece of information originated.Identify who's behind it
The internet is full of 'sponsored content' created by companies or individuals that have an agenda. This information is often reliable, but it's important you understand what motivations were behind its creation.
If you want to get inside your customers’ minds, you need to do qualitative research.
Face-to-face interviews and focus groups can provide valuable insights into your products, your market and your customers
Qualitative research is about finding out not just what people think, but why they think it. It’s about getting people to talk about their opinions so you can understand their motivations and feelings.
Face-to-face interviews and group discussions are the best way to get this kind of in-depth feedback. Qualitative research can be valuable when you are developing new products or coming up with new marketing initiatives and you want to test reactions and refine your approach.
Reasons to do market researchResearch is an important first step before you undertake many key marketing tasks including preparing a marketing plan, doing SWOT analysis, product development, branding and pricing. Market research should also inform your online marketing strategy - everything from the design of your website to email newsletters, SEO and social networking.
Market research can also help you develop your products and services and make sure they meet the needs of your target audience. For instance, if you run a restaurant and you want to introduce a new lunch menu, you could invite a small group of local people to come and taste the food and give you feedback on your dishes, service and proposed pricing. This kind of exercise would not cost you much but it could provide you with important feedback and increase your chances of success.
Before you go into production with a new line, it’s vital to get your product into the hands of some members of your target market. Is it easy to use, does it do what it's supposed to, is the design appealing? Does it look as if it will stand out next to competing products in-store? Is the packaging working? Is the price right? This type of customer research almost always throws up one or two important issues that can then be ironed out before you launch your product.
Running a research groupGetting clear results from qualitative research can be difficult, however. Some people may be positive just to be polite, while others may be overbearing and dominate the discussion. With focus groups, you are working with small samples of your target market, typically with four to eight people. Or you could conduct one-on-one interviews. By contrast, a survey (quantitative research) might be sent out to a large number of customers.
Choosing the right person to interview people or to moderate a group discussion is vital. Professional market researchers are the ideal choice and it’s certainly important that business owner/managers don’t run the sessions themselves. It’s vital to find an independent person to do the job - that way, they’ll remain unbiased and the people they are interviewing will feel they can speak honestly.
A good moderator will run the session in an unstructured, free-flowing way. Answers should be probed and proceedings should be recorded for analysing later. Body language and non-verbal responses are worth noticing and video is useful to remind the moderator how respondents looked as well as what they said in the interview.
What can qualitative research tell you?
Qualitative research is about getting people to expand on their answers so that you can get more insight into their attitudes and behaviour. It’s all about getting underneath people’s responses to find out what is driving their decisions.
Quantitative research means asking people for their opinions in a structured way so that you have facts and statistics to guide you. To get reliable results, it’s important to survey people in fairly large numbers and to make sure they are a representative sample of your target market
Quantitative research techniques, including surveys and customer questionnaires, can help small firms to improve their products and services by enabling them to make informed decisions based on hard data.
Why do I need market research?
Market research can give you insight into your market, your competitors, your products, your marketing and your customers. It is an important first step before you undertake many key marketing tasks including preparing a marketing plan, doing SWOT analysis, product development, branding and pricing.
Market research should also inform your online marketing strategy - everything from the design of your website to email newsletters, SEO and social networking.
How to carry out quantitative research
Quantitative market research typically includes customer surveys and questionnaires. These can be conducted face-to-face with a clipboard and pen, over the telephone, via post or email, online or via your website.
Survey questions have to be carefully considered so that the results provide meaningful data. Don’t just ask if people know about your business - ask how often they visit, what products they buy and where else they go to buy the same products and why.
Answers on a structured questionnaire are usually closed - in other words, they require respondents to choose from a specific selection of answers and do not allow for the respondent to qualify their answer or elaborate. So a garden centre owner might ask, “How often do you buy plants and gardening supplies?” and respondents would have to choose between five options:
By asking lots of people the same questions, it’s possible to build up a clearer picture of how customers behave. You can then use this quantitative data to guide your business decisions.
You can also use quantitative research methods to compare sub-groups of customers. For instance, if you run a local café or deli, you will probably find that you are catering to a range of different customers, all with different needs - from mums meeting for coffee to local workers popping in for a sandwich, to ethical shoppers that buy your Fairtrade products, to keen cooks looking for specialist ingredients.
It’s worth using surveys to find out about your customers so that you can analyse the results of each group. Make sure you speak to a good number of each type of customer so you get the clearest view.
If you repeat your surveys regularly, you can monitor how opinions are changing and how your new initiatives are being received. Try to keep some of the questions the same so you can make true comparisons with previous research.
Quantitative research techniques
Choosing how to conduct your survey is an important issue. Face-to-face works well if you need to explain anything or show a product to the respondent. Telephone surveying can also be very effective, but it can be hard to catch people when they have time to talk.
If you are sending out surveys by post and email, you may find you have to offer an incentive in order to persuade people to take the time to fill out the questionnaire.
A good time to ask a customer to fill in a questionnaire is when you have finished a job for them. A customer satisfaction survey gives customers the chance to point out any quibbles they might have and also to praise good work. It can be a good way to gather positive testimonials that you can use in your marketing.
At the same time, take the chance to gather contact details and add the customer to your mailing list so you can get in touch with them in the future (make sure you get their permission).
If you want to survey a large number of new prospects, you can contribute questions to an online omnibus survey. These are general surveys that are completed by large groups of pre-selected consumers online. By adding two or three questions of your own to the survey, you can get some useful feedback. This is ideal if you are thinking of going into a new market.
What can quantitative research tell me?
Quantitative market research can answer many business-critical questions, including:
Analysing the results of your quantitative research
Collecting data is just one part of the research task. You have to collate it and analyse it as well. With a complex survey, this can be a specialist task in order to extrapolate all the findings and drill down into the data to see how different groups have responded.
However, a simple survey can be very effective and highly revealing, and small firms can always benefit from asking their customers what they think.
Market research exists to guide your business decisions by giving you insight into your market, your competitors, your products, your marketing and your customers. By enabling you to make informed choices, market research will help you develop a successful marketing strategy.
Market research helps reduce risks by allowing you to get product, price and promotion right from the outset. It also helps you focus resources where they'll be most effective.
Market and marketing researchThere are two main types of market research - quantitative research and qualitative research. Quantitative research focuses on coming up with numbers: for example, what percentage of the population buys a particular product. It's gathered using surveys and questionnaires. You can do simple quantitative research yourself by talking to your customers. More in-depth quantitative research can be used to identify markets and understand customer profiles - vital if you're launching a new product.
Qualitative research gets behind the facts and figures to find out how people feel about products and what factors affect their buying decisions. Researchers use questionnaires and focus groups to gather this intelligence, while interpreting the results is a skilled job.
You can also do desk research with existing surveys and business reports. Much information is available online and from industry organisations, and some of it is free. This information provides data on market size, sales trends, customer profiles and competitor activity. Your customer records also provide a wealth of information, such as purchasing trends.
For forecasting, it can help you assess key trends to anticipate how the market may change. This is a vital step towards identifying new market segments, developing new products and choosing your target market.
Market research needs to be a regular planned part of your strategy. Even as an established business, you need to stay in touch with your customers' needs as well as market trends and your competitors. It measures the effectiveness of your own marketing, giving you information about attitudes to everything from packaging and advertising to brand awareness.
Planning your market researchEffective market research starts with knowing what you're trying to achieve and what information you need - whether you do your own research or brief a professional.
On a tight budget, you can take a do-it-yourself approach to market research. For example, if you're considering taking on a shop, you can check the levels of passing traffic at different times. Taking time to talk to your customers or potential customers is invaluable, too - this free market research can be very revealing.
However, to get the intelligence to make sound commercial decisions, you'll need a more sophisticated approach. For instance, if you carry out a market research survey, you'll need to plan the best way to conduct it and how to interpret the results. What customers tell you to your face may not be the unvarnished truth, while your ability to interpret results is likely to be compromised by your own feelings.
For a truly balanced approach, you should work with a professional market researcher, such as an agency or a freelance consultant. If you're looking for detailed quantitative work, you will probably need to work with a company. However, a freelance market researcher can be cost-effective for a survey or focus group. Professional market researchers are skilled in asking the right questions and interpreting the results, producing objective results that you can act on with confidence.
Marketing tools and opportunities are more accessible and more affordable than ever for small businesses. But any marketing activity takes time and for the cash-strapped small business owner, time is money.
There are so many ways to do-it-yourself when it comes to marketing your business today - from social media and pay-per-click advertising to e-newsletters and events. However, cost-effective marketing is about testing and fine-tuning; and getting a measurable return on the time and money you spend on marketing.
Take a disciplined approachIt's tempting, when you don't have a lot of budget for marketing, to simply try things on the basis that anything is better than nothing. But lack of budget is not an excuse for scattergun marketing. Anything you do can and should be planned and measured.
So-called “free” marketing methods - such as social media - must be approached with discipline. That means you need to set objectives, monitor time spent and measure results. Thanks to analytics software, this is easy to do.
Know your limitsThe dilemma for many business owners, though, is when the DIY approach is actually less cost-effective than getting outside help. A professional website design, proper branding, strategic use of search engine optimisation - all these are jobs that business owners frequently try themselves before realising they need more expertise.
Specialist freelancers, such as here at LjH Consluitng, often provide the most cost-effective solution here.
Every business is different. With a wealth of ways to reach your audience, it's up to you, the business owner, to investigate which marketing methods will work best and to make sure they are delivering results - so your spend isn't wasted.
Nine cheap (or free) ways to market your businessThe internet is your gateway to millions of potential customers if you know how to advertise your business online. If you don’t, there are a lot of online agencies and consultants trying to get into your pocket by offering services that will promote your business
But the good news is that you can do most of this marketing yourself very cheaply or even for free.
Building a websiteIt may seem obvious, but it needs to be said. Your business needs a website to be competitive online. Without a website you will be facing a constant uphill battle. It will only cost you a few pounds a year for hosting and a domain name; and with that you can generate customers and sales. The likes of Wix, WordPress and Go Daddy offer cheap or free website templates which can be used to build a simple website.
Search engine optimisationFree search engine traffic is tantamount to winning the lottery. If you are able to convince the search engines that your website is the most relevant site for your targeted keywords, you will experience a consistent stream of search engine traffic. With the right SEO strategy, this traffic can be converted into revenue. You can either do this optimisation yourself for free, or you can pay someone else to do it.
Content marketingA successful content marketing strategy will drive traffic to your website as well as help with search engine optimisation (SEO) - and it’s completely free. It can be labour-intensive to write regular blogs, articles and case studies; but all that work will bring rewards. A well-crafted content marketing campaign can significantly raise your ranking in search engines
Social networksWhatever business you are in, there's at least one social network for you. Increasingly, small firms are finding that image-based apps such as Snapchat, Pinterest and Instagram are helping to build their brand and attract new customers.
And Twitter and Facebook still have the power to deliver an army of fans and followers. Social media allows you to interact directly with your online customers and the only cost is your time. You can target specific audiences and engage with them interactively in order to build profitable long-term relationships.
Online video sharing sitesIf you are able to produce some interesting videos that are related to your business, posting them on sites like YouTube and Vimeo could send you a steady flow of website traffic. These sites are free to use and the potential traffic gain from them is astronomical. Make sure that you submit more than one video to maximise your exposure.
Online photo sharing sitesOnline photo sharing is like online video sharing. If you have some photos that are relevant to your business, don’t be afraid to share them on Flickr. This will increase your website visibility and send more targeted visitors to your site.
Pay-per-click advertisingYou may think that pay-per-click (PPC) advertising is an expensive tool but you can control your costs with PPC and drive high converting traffic to your site. But you have to find the balance between cost and revenue; otherwise it can be a drain on your budget. It might seem like a good idea to pay for the top spot on Google, but if you aren’t converting enough sales it’s not worth it. The trick is to make sure you are getting a good return in investment with every PPC campaign.
Email marketingEmail marketing has been given a bad name by spam. But the difference between a legitimate marketing campaign and spam is that people will actually request emails that are legitimate. So how can you make your email marketing campaign legit? All you need to do is create an email list of prospects and customers to send regular emails to. Creating that list is a little more difficult; you have to persuade people to agree to be added to your mailing list. Once you have created your list, you can begin email marketing but it is important to allow your recipients to remove themselves from your list if they want to.
Local business listingsIf you are promoting a bricks and mortar company, you should be taking advantage of local business listings online. This will place your website on the front page of search engine results with similar local services when someone does a search within your area. This can be a great way to get a fledgling business in front of the eyes of thousands of potential customers in your area.
There are many different ways to get your name out there and you should use all of them. For cheap, or even for free, you can drastically increase your customer base by making the most of online marketing.
The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) will come into effect on 25 May 2018. The GDPR constitutes the biggest change to the data protection regime in the EU since the 1995 Data Protection Directive.
What is the GDPR?
The EU's General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is the result of four years of work by the EU to bring data protection legislation into line with new, previously unforeseen ways that data is now used.
Currently, the UK relies on the Data Protection Act 1998, which was enacted following the 1995 EU Data Protection Directive, but this will be superseded by the new legislation. It introduces tougher fines for non-compliance and breaches, and gives people more say over what companies can do with their data. It also makes data protection rules more or less identical throughout the EU.
Why was the GDPR drafted?
The drivers behind the GDPR are twofold. Firstly, the EU wants to give people more control over how their personal data is used, bearing in mind that many companies like Facebook and Google swap access to people's data for use of their services. The current legislation was enacted before the internet and cloud technology created new ways of exploiting data, and the GDPR seeks to address that. By strengthening data protection legislation and introducing tougher enforcement measures, the EU hopes to improve trust in the emerging digital economy.
Secondly, the EU wants to give businesses a simpler, clearer legal environment in which to operate, making data protection law identical throughout the single market (the EU estimates this will save businesses a collective €2.3 billion a year).
When will the GDPR apply?
The GDPR will apply in all EU member states from 25 May 2018. Because GDPR is a regulation, not a directive, the UK does not need to draw up new legislation - instead, it will apply automatically.
So who does the GDPR apply to?
'Controllers' and 'processors' of data need to abide by the GDPR. A data controller states how and why personal data is processed, while a processor is the party doing the actual processing of the data. So the controller could be any organisation, from a profit-seeking company to a charity or government. A processor could be an IT firm doing the actual data processing.
Even if controllers and processors are based outside the EU, the GDPR will still apply to them so long as they're dealing with data belonging to EU residents.
It's the controller's responsibility to ensure their processor abides by data protection law and processors must themselves abide by rules to maintain records of their processing activities. If processors are involved in a data breach, they are far more liable under GDPR than they were under the Data Protection Act.
When can I process data under the GDPR?
Once the legislation comes into effect, controllers must ensure personal data is processed lawfully, transparently, and for a specific purpose. Once that purpose is fulfilled and the data is no longer required, it should be deleted.
What do you mean by 'lawful'?
'Lawfully' has a range of alternative meanings, not all of which need apply. Firstly, it could be lawful if the subject has consented to their data being processed. Alternatively, lawful can mean to comply with a contract or legal obligation; to protect an interest that is "essential for the life of" the subject; if processing the data is in the public interest; or if doing so is in the controller's legitimate interest - such as preventing fraud.
How do I get consent under the GDPR?
Consent must be an active, affirmative action by the data subject, rather than the passive acceptance under some current models that allow for pre-ticked boxes or opt-outs.
Controllers must keep a record of how and when an individual gave consent, and that individual may withdraw their consent whenever they want. If your current model for obtaining consent doesn't meet these new rules, you'll have to bring it up to scratch or stop collecting data under that model when the GDPR applies in 2018.
What counts as personal data under the GDPR?
The EU has substantially expanded the definition of personal data under the GDPR. To reflect the types of data organisations now collect about people, online identifiers such as IP addresses now qualify as personal data. Other data, like economic, cultural or mental health information, are also considered personally identifiable information.
Pseudonymised personal data may also be subject to GDPR rules, depending on how easy or hard it is to identify whose data it is.
Anything that counted as personal data under the Data Protection Act also qualifies as personal data under the GDPR.
When can people access the data we store on them?
People can ask for access at "reasonable intervals", and controllers must generally respond within one month. The GDPR requires that controllers and processors must be transparent about how they collect data, what they do with it, and how they process it and must be clear (using plain language) in explaining these things to people.
What's the 'right to be forgotten'?
Individuals also have the right to demand that their data is deleted if it's no longer necessary to the purpose for which it was collected. This is known as the 'right to be forgotten'. Under this rule, they can also demand that their data is erased if they've withdrawn their consent for their data to be collected, or object to the way it is being processed.
The controller is responsible for telling other organisations (for instance, Google) to delete any links to copies of that data, as well as the copies themselves.
What if they want to move their data elsewhere?
Controllers must now store people's information in commonly used formats (like CSV files), so that they can move a person's data to another organisation (free of charge) if the person requests it. Controllers must do this within one month.
What if we suffer a data breach?
It's your responsibility to inform your data protection authority of any data breach that risks people's rights and freedoms within 72 hours of your organisation becoming aware of it. The UK authority is the Information Commissioner's Office. Information commissioner Elizabeth Denham believes the authority needs more resources to cope with policing GDPR, and responding to organisations who notify it of breaches. In March 2017, she told the EU Home Affairs Sub-Committee that more funding was necessary to recruit and retain skilled people.
That deadline is tight enough to mean that you probably won't know every detail of a breach after discovering it. However, your initial contact with your data protection authority should outline the nature of the data that's affected, roughly how many people are impacted, what the consequences could mean for them, and what measures you've already actioned or plan to action in response.
But even before you call the data protection authority, you should tell the people affected by the data breach. Those who fail to meet the 72-hour deadline could face a penalty of up to 2% of their annual worldwide revenue, or €10 million, whichever is higher.
If you don't follow the basic principles for processing data, such as having a legal basis for doing so, ignore individuals' rights over their data, or transfer data to another country, the fines are even worse. Your data protection authority could issue a penalty of up to €20 million or 4% of your global annual turnover, whichever is greater.
If you take recently issued fines issued by the ICO - which can hand out a maximum penalty of £500,000 - and scale them up under GDPR, you can see how much tougher the penalties for getting data protection wrong could soon become.
So under GDPR, TalkTalk's record £400,000 fine would actually total £59 million - that's a pretty big chunk of the telco's third quarter 2016 revenue, which was £435 million. Meanwhile, the ICO's total issued fines for 2016, which amounted to £880,500, would become £69 million from 25 May 2018, according to risk mitigation firm NCC Group - 79 times higher.
However, it's important to note that while the maximum fines that can be issued will become much higher under GDPR, the legislation stipulates that they must remain "proportionate" to the breach. Also, if you can demonstrate that you work hard to ensure your organisation is compliant with GDPR, the ICO would likely not issue as high a fine in the event of a breach as it would otherwise.
But what about Brexit?
Yes, the UK is leaving the EU - but because the UK government only triggered Article 50 in March, which sets in motion the act of leaving the EU within a two-year timeframe (though it could take longer), means the GDPR will take effect before the legal consequences of the Brexit vote, meaning the UK must still comply for the time being.
Does your organisation comply with the new data protection rules?
Do we need a data protection officer?
Any public body carrying out data processing needs to employ a data protection officer, as do companies whose core activities involve data processing that requires they regularly monitor individuals "on a large scale", according to the GDPR legislation, though public bodies are at an advantage, in that several can share the same data protection officer. Organisations should give the contact details of this person to their data protection authority.
Alright, so how do we go about meeting the GDPR requirements?
The best advice is to start preparing for it as early as possible - 25 May 2018 might sound far away, but there's a lot to get right. Immediately, you should seek to employ a data protection officer if necessary, and check the current state of your data protection rules and policies, particularly consent.
If you work with any third-party suppliers who would count as processors, check what their data protection policies are and whether they comply - if they don't, it might be time to tender again.
It's also worth looking out for technology that will help you meet requirements around data deletion and data portability.
Every marketer knows social media is one of the most effective ways to expand your reach, connect with your target audience, and grow your business. However, along with everything else in inbound, social media is constantly changing. Just look at 2017, for example.
In the past year alone, Facebook seduced Snapchat users to Instagram with the addition of stories, the president of the United States took to Twitter to communicate official policy positions in 140 characters (now he has 280, but we’ll get to that), and Apple announced plans to alter the way we interact with our mobile devices.
As more and more brands expand their reach with social media, the competition on these channels is increasing and people’s attention spans are decreasing.
So, how should marketers adjust their social media marketing in 2018? They need to stay on top of the changes and be ready to pivot.
As we move into the next year, we are going to see an overall increased amount of time spent on social platforms, with big brands digging in and committing to a much larger investment in social media marketing. 2017 saw a 60% increase in social media budget over 2016, which is set to continue into 2018
You want to stay ahead of the curve and your competition, but you also don’t want to waste time and money on a something fleeting that won’t stick around. So how do you figure out what’s going to be worth your investment?
Well, we did the hard part for you and identified the hottest trends in the social media world for 2018, hopefully giving you enough time to get them implemented right after the new year.
Before we dig into it, however, here are some of the biggest challenges social media marketers are going to face in 2018.
Social Media Marketing Challenges in 2018
Less Organic Reach
As more and more businesses increase their presence on social media platforms, the organisations themselves have made big moves to combat spam. In most instances, this means marketers have to fight a decline in organic reach.
With less organic return, brands are likely to take a more selective approach to social media marketing. They will have to be very particular about where and what they post and invest more in paid ads to keep their numbers up.
Social Media Video Peaking
According to research done by Kenshoo, spending on social video advertising grew 130% this year, with no sign of stopping.
The problem with this is the market for social video is being saturated. Businesses are now going to be challenged with producing even more relevant video content and distributing it properly if they want to get noticed.
“New Tool” Fatigue
Hootsuite did some research and found a lot of their customers are fed up with the never-ending list of new tactics, tools, and formats for handling their social media marketing.
In 2018, there is going to be a shift back to the basics.
Marketers are going to have to try and prove the ROI of existing tactics. This means metric measurements will be more important than ever as brands try and identify what strategies are working and what isn’t.
Okay, so there are the challenges. So what can you do to overcome them? Onto the top social media marketing trends for 2018…
Social Media Trends for 2018
1. Instagram Stories
Yes, yes, Snapchat was first to let users share short videos that delete after 24 hours, but it worked! It worked so well Facebook decided to take a whack at it both on Instagram and in the app that bears its name.
With its huge audience, it should come as no surprise that within the first year of the Instagram story debut, it has surpassed Snapchat’s view count with 20 million views a day. At that same rate, nearly half of all Instagram users will be using Stories by the end of 2018.
This means brands trying to connect with their customers on Instagram must take the time to get on board with stories. Regardless of B2B or B2C, they are a great way to showcase your company culture or put your processes on display.
The stories are fun to use and to view, allowing you to add filters, tags, and text. One of the biggest brand benefits of Instagram stories is that they are discoverable, meaning that Instagram users can see your stories even if they are not your followers.
In addition, just like with any other post on the platform, you can hashtag relevant keywords to help users find you faster and easier. These tags are clickable, so brands can dive into their niche markets and target more effectively than ever. Brands are going to be trying new ways to engage with their story viewers by taking polls and asking questions with their posts. You can even tag your location
Now it’s definitely a long shot for most, but any account with 10,000 followers or more can also add links to their stories, which is a huge advantage considering Instagram doesn’t allow links in posts otherwise.
2. Social Media Influencers & Micro-Influencers
Not long ago, the fastest and easiest public relations tactic was hiring a celebrity to endorse or promote your brand or product, but that can come with a hefty price tag (and now Kyrie Irving is joining the flat-earthers).
Nowadays, a more reasonable solution is social media influencers (or micro-influencers), who are celebrities in their own circles.
Micro-influencers can have an incredible amount of reach, usually with followings in the hundreds of thousands or millions. Brands are shifting towards paying these influencers to promote their specific products because they deliver 11 times the ROI compared to traditional digital marketing, and 49% of people suggest that they depend on influencers for their purchase decisions.
This is not just a trend, but a billion-dollar emerging industry. Many of these influencers walk away with six-figure incomes, all from promoting brands to their massive followings. Take Ryan ToysReview for example. Ryan is an irresistible 6-year-old who is estimated by Forbes to have made $11 million this year through his YouTube channel. Ryan opens toys, plays with them and then offers his opinions. With 10 million subscribers, he is leading the charge for the social influencer industry for 2018.
Over 90% of marketers who employ an influencer marketing strategy believe it is successful. In 2017, brands struggled to connect with their audiences with traditional advertising tactics, so expect influencers to take off even more than they already have.
3. Augmented & Virtual Reality
While augmented reality’s initial impact will be on mobile gaming, it is likely that social media platforms will find more ways to incorporate the new technology as well.
Snapchat is already on board, teaming up with Bitmoji to allow users to project animated versions of themselves into the real world doing lots of random things. Not to mention Pokemon GO, which has let players catch the beloved pocket monsters in their real surroundings for a couple of years now.
Even the new iPhone 8 and Google’s Pixel 2 have incorporated augmented reality with talking emojis amongst other things.
Getting away from the novelty of it all, the potential of augmented reality for brands is immense. Companies will be able to showcase their products in brand new ways to customers, like seeing how a piece of clothing looks on them or how a certain chair would fit in their living room.
Implementing AR into your marketing efforts can take some significant time and budget, but we expect a more manageable solution to AR customisation to come out this year through social media.
In terms of Virtual Reality, most technologies have at least another year of development before they hit mainstream markets.
There is some hope for 2018, however.
Facebook, for example, has been working on a project called Spaces that is designed to allow friends to connect in VR. Since Facebook owns Oculus, a VR headset retailer and software company, it’s no surprise that they are making this jump and it’s an exciting move for marketers.
Facebook wants to release Spaces in 2018 and when they do, it is probably going to be the first VR social media experience. While still a way off, marketers should start strategising around this ground-breaking opportunity.
4. More Live Streaming is Coming
While Facebook Live and other live streaming have been around for a while now, the way people and brands are going to use them is changing.
We are going to see a lot more of it in 2018, and the people who do it well will be revelling in the organic reach it will generate. The significance of live streaming is not from it gaining popularity, but rather the technology we have to do it, is improving.
We get better phones with better hardware every year, meaning better and more accessible video recording and processing.
In 2018, more brands will begin to harness the power of live streaming and will incorporate it into their monthly content plans. And like Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and even LinkedIn even more social platforms are sure to follow as they try to capitalize on the trend.
5. Generation Z
What the heck is Generation Z? Gen Z are millennials’ little sibling, born in the late 90s / early 00s.
This generation is the first to grow up 100% online and their tech-savviness is unparalleled. According to RetailDive, Gen Z is 2-3 times more likely to be influenced by social media than they are by sales or discounts.
In other words, they value social media and what others are doing more than they do price itself. That’s a huge shift from the price conscious shoppers of the past.
Now, most marketers won’t worry about Gen Z for at least a few years, but the very first of them are about 22 years old now. A Gen Z workforce is on its way, and marketers should stay ahead of this curve on this one, especially B2B.
Goldman Sachs says that Gen Z is more valuable to marketers than millennials in 2018 because their buying power is only going to increase, and we need to shift social media strategies accordingly.
There will be a shift in social media investments to Gen Z-friendly platforms like Snapchat and Instagram, and away from those like Facebook.
6. Online Hangouts Become the Norm
Online hangouts are the perfect harmony between the live streaming trend and Gen Z. Houseparty, for example, is a free app where you can live video chat with multiple people that saw rapid growth last year and is starting to turn heads.
Because of this, yes, you guessed it, Facebook is reportedly investigating ways to create a similar functionality within their live streaming platform.
7. Twitter... is Still Here
And it probably doesn’t even know why. For most businesses, it might be better to invest more time and money in increasingly popular platforms like Facebook and Instagram next year.
Twitter has been struggling in the past few years, and it needs to make some big changes in order to stay relevant in 2018.
It was the slowest growing major social media platform in 2017, despite the viral coverage of President Trump’s statements on the platform. Many users are leaving Twitter due to unfair code of conduct enforcement with regards to the President.
With this in mind, expect them to hit the drawing board in 2018 with any and all attempts to switch things up. They have already increased their character limit to 280 characters and experts predict they will soon fully launch their subscription model for advertisers, among other things. The bottomline is: stay on the lookout. They aren’t done yet.
8. Stricter Conduct Policies
Along the same lines as Twitter’s code of conduct issue, many platforms are rethinking how they govern their users.
After a series of controversial issues during the 2016 presidential election, social media platforms have embraced a more involved approach.
Facebook, for instance, recently turned over a ton of ads that seem to be connected to Russian hacking, and has invested in new AI and human forms of monitoring.
In the wake of several graphic live streams, some resulting in death, Facebook also had to hire more staff just for content monitoring.
At this point, it seems more like damage control than a proactive solution, but we expect platforms to implement more preventative and long-lasting measures when it comes to content monitoring.
As a marketer, you need to know and understand these guidelines to ensure you don’t get penalized.
The 8 social media trends above will impact users and brands significantly in 2018. With these trends in mind, it’s time to reconsider your social media approach to maximize your ROI.
Get your plans underway now so that you can stay ahead of the curve with these latest trends.
If you expect a great event, you need good pre-event promotion. While different organisers participate in different activities, there is a plethora of activities you can get involved with to maximise your results before the event.
Check out the show guides: A review of your exhibitor manual will normally highlight opportunities available for your particular show, and is normally a good starting point. Show guides, catalogues and preview guides should all carry your news and company information. In the majority of instances these are non-chargeable and a good way to get your name out in advance of the show.
Send invites: Ask for invitations which you can sometimes customise with your logo and send some to valued contacts; give hard copies to your sales team/agents/distributors to pass out and keep more in your reception area. VIP tickets are often a valuable way to entice more visitors to your stand.
Run adverts: In terms of advertising, find out the schedule (discounts) and channels the organisers are using - dovetail any advertising for your business with the places where they are running previews and/or features on the show. Use flashes and banners across your ad - "See us on stand no: 66". Be creative. Why not amend your social media profiles with the same info - and your email signatures too?
Make contact with the press: Do the organisers use a PR agency? If so, use their services and pick their professional brains (and contacts). Get a press list of contacts and deadlines. If you have a company newsletter, milk the opportunity. Do mail shots and e-shots to key clients, existing, potential and past customers. Make sure as well that you have information on your website and that the show site links to yours.
Pre-book appointments: Finally, remember many events will set up a diary or appointment system. Pre-book as many appointments as possible so you can predict traffic and busy periods. Not all will be adhered to, but at least a plan subject to change is better than none at all!
There are some terrifying sets of figures floating about the industry suggesting 62% of leads are not followed up after an event.
The fact that any are neglected seems at best embarrassing and more poignantly, rather pointless. It is the equivalent of walking into shop, paying for your goods and walking out without your purchase.
Unsurprisingly, everyone I know says that they do follow up after an event. The question then perhaps should be, do they follow up effectively?
Think about your visitors and what they are used to. Would it be better to hire a light-pen and scan their badges or use a laptop to manually input their details? Many exhibitions now employ QR codes so that exhibitors and visitors can exchange details with people they meet as they go.
However, at some consumer shows visitors do not have badges or business cards, so a manual system may be best. Remember, the quicker and easier it is for you to capture their details, the smoother and more pleasant it will be for your visitor.
Record also any special details and timescales, who else they are considering and make a note of any buying cycles or budgets.
Amongst the best systems I have seen are those which additionally categorise their leads into some sort of urgency list - for example, hot, warm and cold. In this way when the leads are being followed up (and let's face it, often it is not the stand personnel who subsequently follow up) the salespeople know whom to contact first. A good tip is to ensure everyone involved understands and adheres to the same definitions of hot, warm or cold or a scale of one to ten.
When then should you follow up?
Smarter exhibitors, who are more on the ball than most, follow up their leads whilst the show is happening, rather than waiting until the dust settles afterwards.
All you need do is prepare a standard letter or email in advance of the event, which suits most enquiries, thanking them for visiting your stand that day and promising that a named individual will contact them within the agreed timescale. These could be sent out at the end of each day to all of your stand visitors. If you wish to do your bit for the environment, you can also use this opportunity to direct them to your website or email a PDF brochure in the appropriate format for them to look at rather than sort through their over-stuffed carrier bags for your literature.
Once the show is over, by all means copy, analyse and input your data, but you should also ensure a copy goes straight to the sales team. Some of the leads may be so hot that a more switched-on (or less analytic) competitor could steal a march on you whilst you are still debriefing and sorting your prizes. Most leads gathered will be hot and need to be followed up within three or four days of the event. Some can wait, but an acknowledgement or commitment to the next step should also be agreed within those post-event days.
Research suggests that we should be prepared to follow up six times before a lead converts - an email, a PDF, a phone call, an appointment and a follow-up call perhaps.
Whether you’re attending a networking event down the street, a trade show in Vegas, or a major industry convention in London, you need to have a focused post-event follow-up plan in place ahead of time. Here’s how to get started:
Clear space on your calendar for follow-up
The faster you follow up, the more likely people will remember you. Set aside time post-event to write emails or make phone calls. If you attend a local networking event, follow up within 24 hours. If you attend a large trade show or convention, follow up with 2-3 days of arriving home.
Choose a goal
What do you want to happen when you reach out to people in your follow-up? Do you want to set up meetings with potential clients? Schedule demos? Remind them to purchase your newly published book? Your goal will determine your message, which brings us to...
Write an attention-grabbing message
Whatever you write or say needs to grab their attention, so focus on them. How will your services or products make their lives easier/better? Why should they buy from you? What benefits will they get?
Keep the message short and to the point. If you’re sending out a mass email, spend a lot of time on the email subject line to ensure your email gets opened.
Make an ask
Based on your goal, make your ask very specific. Tell them what you want them to do, and make sure it’s easy for them to do it. If you include a link to the contact page on your website, make sure the link works!
Set up an automated email campaign
If you’re using email for follow-up after a large event, definitely set up an automated email campaign. Send them valuable information in each email, like a case study, ebook, infographic, or special offer, like a free consultation.
Holding your own event is a good way to show your product or service in a tailor-made setting without the distraction of other exhibitors. Holding a private exhibition often has an exclusivity that is appealing to your invited guests. With a custom event you control everything, from the venue to the timing. The good news is that you and your business are in the spotlight - but the bad news is, if you get things wrong, there's nowhere to hide.
Choosing to produce your custom event
A custom event can be anything from a shop opening to an art exhibition. You can host product demonstrations in a hotel suite or hold seminars in a meeting room. You can devise a roadshow or hold an open house at your premises. In short, you can create an event that exactly matches your needs and the needs of your target market.
Holding your own event enables you to reach prospective customers direct. This can be useful if your products are usually sold through a network of distributors. As well as showing off your wares, customers can meet the person behind the product, whether you're an artist, an inventor or an entrepreneur.
Tailor-made events are useful to demonstrate expertise. Law firms, accountancy firms and financial advisors, for example, can attract potential clients by holding seminars that explain issues and offer solutions.
It's a good idea to produce your own event if your customer base is predominantly local - they may not travel to established events that are further afield.
Set the tone of the event in advance. Some customers prefer an appointment-based event, giving them a chance to get a hands-on product demonstration and personal attention. Others prefer the buzz of a well-attended event where there are opportunities for networking.
Ensuring a good turn-out is one of the biggest challenges. Customers need a good reason to attend. One option is to take your event to them. If your audience are young people, for example, hold your event in a shopping centre on a Saturday afternoon. If they're parents, try a family-friendly weekend event in a local park or school playing field.
Planning your own event
Producing your own event isn't easy and requires forward planning. It's vital to decide what you want to achieve and who you want to attend. Be realistic about your objectives and set a budget - costs can quickly escalate.
You may be able to borrow good ideas from established exhibitions for your own event. If you need ideas or assistance, the International Confex exhibition is the place to meet experts and suppliers from the events industry.
It can be hard to attract visitors to a small event. You could run a joint event with a complementary partner to make a bigger impact and bring in more visitors. Alternatively, you may decide that it would be more effective to take your products to your customers rather than expecting them to come to you.
The success of your event certainly depends on getting the right people to attend. You need to make your event attractive and convenient for your target audience. Send personal invites and customised direct mail with compelling reasons to come along. Exclusivity is a good incentive and holding a private sales event or an invitation-only launch can be a good strategy.
Sending invitations should be part of your promotional strategy even if your event is open to all. You should send special invitations to key decision makers and local VIPs as well as loyal customers, new prospects and the media. Distribute a press release in advance to get coverage of the event.
Managing the event
The logistical challenges of running an event are considerable. You have to find the right venue and organise catering. Other important issues are signage, seating, audio visual facilities, lighting, display stands and promotional literature. You must establish whether you and your staff are capable of producing a successful event or whether it would be better to use an events company.
On the day, you need to be visible and make time to meet and greet. People often come to these events specifically to make contact with the person behind the product or service so you need to ensure you speak to all the key guests. Brief your staff so they can answer queries and be ambassadors for your business.
Goodwill gestures are often appropriate. You could give guests a free sample or a branded promotional item. Offering deals and discounts can be a good way to attract customers and make sales on the day.
Dos and don'ts when holding your own event or exhibition
Holding your own event allows you to communicate your message and demonstrate your product or service in front of a select audience of invited guests without competition from other exhibitors. Get it right and you can show your business in the best possible light, but if you get things wrong there's nowhere to hide
If you need assistance with any form of event planning or management then get in touch with us today, this is an area we excel at and can help organise any type of function from small to large.
Lisa Hunter is an experienced Marketing, Events and Project Manager. She has over 10 years’ experience working in the IT and marketing industry, delivering strategic marketing support and managing creative projects for a wide-range of clients. In this blog she shares her knowledge and experiences…we hope you enjoy it.