Charity

Help a local charity: become a trustee

Carefree Kids logoLocal charity Carefree Kids is looking for some additional trustees.

Here’s their ad below and you can find out more from their website: www.carefreekids.org.

Please pass this message on if you have any social media sites.
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Ward Forums, film and charity fair

WardForumsThis week sees ward forums with local councillors for Leytonstone, Cann Hall and Cathall wards.

There’s also a screening of The Soloist at Leytonstone Library on Wednesday.

And don’t forget the charity market on Wednesday at O’Neill’s.
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Free paint, paintings, charity market and lots more in Leytonstone this week

Graphic illustrating eventsForest Recycling are giving away free paint this Saturday, there’s live music, theatre, a new art exhibition and next week a charity market at O’Neills. And lots more going on in Leytonstone. Please pass the message on!

Until 13 April

Carne Griffiths at the Slate Gallery

An exhibition by local artist Carne Griffiths whose distinctive style uses brandy and tea for his paintings started this week at the Slate Gallery (the window space next to the Stone Space on Church Lane) and runs until 13 April.

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SMEs and charities not taking advantage of the web according to a new report

A blog I’ve written that has particular relevance to Leytonstone given the low level of usage of websites and social media by small and medium business in this area and the very limited amount of relevant training on offer to help them out: http://wp.me/p1SyXb-gk

The report was written by Booz and Company for a UK charity GO ON UK that aims to make the UK the most digitally capable nation in the world and end the digital divide.

You only have to try to find Leytonstone businesses on Facebook or their websites to know how relevant this report is to regeneration in this area. There are some quite sobering statistics:

  • 16 million people in the UK aged 15 and over still don’t have Basic Online Skills – yet 90% of all jobs will require ICT skills by 2015
  • Just 33% of small- to medium-sized UK companies have a digital presence and only 14% sell their products online
  • One-fifth of charities have little or no web presence and 50% need help with web design and social media.

One of my underlying goals in setting up http://www.leytonstonetoday.net was to try to help Leytonstone get online and not fall behind, so although this content goes wider than usual Leytonstone topics I would urge you to read the blog and the full report, especially if you are in a position of influence, and share it with others.

Leytonstone is an area with a lot going for it and it’s improving fast, but the digital divide could knock us back and undermine all the efforts of local groups, the council, the E11 BID and others to make this a really cohesive community where everyone can feel included.

Get Online Week Free Promotion

Get Online Week: Free promotion for Leytonstone businesses

Get Online Week Free PromotionThere are a number of ways you can promote your business online for free, depending on the type of products or services you offer.

Google

If you have premises, Google is the first place you should be. You should make sure you are on Google Maps where you can also add basic contact details and a link to your website if you’ve got one. It’s entirely free and these days not being there is the equivalent of not being in the phone book some years ago. Google+ is also a must. See this week’s post Get Online Week Social Media.

See if your business is there already, or not there.


Google also offers lots of other free facilities which you can use for your business, not just for promotion but also to find out what’s happening in your market place and let you keep an eye out for what your competition is doing online, plus free software. Google of course also offers paid advertising. Read more on the Google Retail advertising blog.

Business listings

You can get a free listing, or an enhanced paid listing in the following directories:

London

National/wider

Do you know any more?

There are lots more, just go to Google Search and search on UK free business listings. If you find any you would recommend, contact me and I’ll add them to this site.

Blog articles in this series

Get Online Week is a national initiative which I have adapted to be relevant for businesses in Leytonstone. I hope you’ve found these posts useful.

If you need help getting your business online, see my professional website and feel free to contact me.

Leigh Horton
LDH Marketing
www.ldhmarketing.co.uk

See also these new pages:

Get Online Week: Getting Strategic

Objectives Strategy graphic

Just as ignoring web and social media opportunities could be a serious mistake, rushing out and jumping into the first thing that presents itself could also be a big mistake.

You need to look at all stages of the strategic planning process and decide what your needs are and how potential solutions work for you. Not how they work for the shop down the road.

Your audience

Be clear about your target audiences:

  • Who they are
  • Where you can find them
  • Who influences them
  • Who they influence

Listen to what they are saying. Contribute to their conversations. Don’t just spam them with irrelevant messages. Communicate with them, don’t just talk at them.

Your brand

Your brand is more than just your logo and housestyle, it includes the very values that made you go into business and what you offer your customers and how you communicate with them. You need to be clear about your brand before you create a website or dip into social media.

Marketing mix

Don’t just think of online technology as promotion — it can affect, and may be able to leverage, all aspects of your marketing mix.

Here are some thoughts — just some thoughts. What could apply to your business?

Product

  • Are there new products/services you could deliver
    with the benefit of online technology?
  • Or deliver existing products and services in better
    ways?
  • For example, if you are a small retailer you may not
    be able to compete easily on price but could you perhaps offer post-sale support using email and Skype and stealing a march on your bigger competitors?

Price

  • Can you use IT led solutions to reduce marketing
    costs to make your product/service more competitive?

Promotion

  •  Are you paying for door drops, Yellow Pages and traditional media? Do they work for you? How do you know?
  • What do customers feel about your business if they
    try to find you online and you’re not there? Do they lose
    confidence/trust?

Place

  • Small businesses struggle to operate the long hours
    now expected in the retail sector. Your website is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and you don’t have to be there.
  • Online media also reach much further than just people
    walking past your front door. Could you be reaching out further for new business?  Are your competitors reaching into your traditional ‘territory’?

Processes

  • Online media can be invaluable for collecting data on
    your prospects and customers. What processes do you have/need to exploit this data to generate more sales and stay within the law?
  • How do you store, access and share your company information — are you aware of the many free ways you can create an ‘office on the move’?

People

  • How do you get training and keep your skills in
    online technologies and techniques up to date? If you are not up to date, will you be able to recruit and retain the best staff to give your business a future?

Physical evidence

  • Web and social media analytics can provide insights
    into who is looking for your business and what they want to find that you won’t get elsewhere

How many friends and likes do I need?

There’s a fallacy amongst some social media users that the aim of social media is to collect as many ‘friends’ on your profile and ‘likes’ on your page. It’s true that in search engine rankings high numbers can be a bonus. But having too many friends/likes can be a drawback too.

If you’re an international brand, numbers count. But, if you’re a shop in Leytonstone which realistically is never going to draw its customers from more than a few miles’ radius, suddenly collecting hundreds of followers from Australia and Greenland isn’t really going to prove very much. In fact, they’ll mess up your statistics as you try to monitor if you really are becoming more successful online. Worse still, if they start posting or emailing you they will take up time that you could have spent making money. So be wary of those who promote numbers: it’s quality not quantity that counts.

Leigh Horton
LDH Marketing
www.ldhmarketing.co.uk

Blog articles in this series

Look out for these blog articles which I will be producing during 15-21 October 2012.

Starting out with social media
Setting up your first website
E-publications and other ways to get online
Getting strategic
Some free ways for Leytonstone businesses to promote themselves

See also these new pages:

Enhanced by Zemanta
Get Online Week EPublications

Get Online Week: Other ways to get online

Get Online Week EPublications

E- publications and other ways to get online

In other posts I’ve discussed social media and websites, in this post I’m looking at two relatively new other ways of getting an online presence — ideally as supplements to your website/social media.

E-brochures

Publishing a document as a PDF file (portable document format) has been around for a long time, however in the last year or so more and more options have become available to make PDF documents easier and more attractive to read. You can now even add interactive elements including video and turn a document into a screenshow similar to PowerPoint.

A further trick is to add a menu with structured hyperlinks creating the feel of a website without having to be online to view the document. That can be a useful first step for a business not ready to set up a website, but it’s also a useful tool for sales staff and others who spend a lot of time on the road (or tube!), for events and exhibitions — where internet connections are sometimes expensive and often unreliable — or where you want your audience to stay focused on particular content and not stray onto checking the weather or train times home.

All you need to read a PDF file is Adobe Reader, which is usually provided pre-loaded on any new computer, though you can quickly download it for free if not.  PDFs are not so easy to read on a small screen, which needs to be considered for accessibility, which is why it’s best to use them in conjunction with a website, not instead of.

You can also host PDF e-brochures on sites such as http://www.Scribd.com and www.issuu.com. A basic presence on these sites is free plus they allow you to get a wider web presence as you can tag content for search engines to find. They also provide a very attractive viewing experience and you can allow viewers to download brochures, saving bulky email attachments.

Turn the pages using the Scribd toolbar under the image, not the arrow on the document itself.

To view the same document on http://www.issuu.com (below)

LDH Marketing IssuuNewsletter 1

PowerPoint on YouTube

Getting a presence on YouTube is useful for Google rankings (as Google own YouTube). Making a professional video is still quite expensive and your homemade version may not be what you want.  One easy option has become possible with the introduction of Microsoft Office 2010 which has the ability to save a PowerPoint show as a video. You can add music as you upload it to YouTube from their own — and therefore legal music collection — but for copyright reasons you can’t add the music to the video if it’s not hosted on YouTube itself. However, once on YouTube the video code can be embedded in your website or on Facebook.

These approaches won’t work for everyone but they are just two ideas that show how easy it is to get online these days at very little cost.

Leigh Horton
LDH Marketing
www.ldhmarketing.co.uk

Blog articles in this series

Look out for these blog articles which I will be producing during 15-21 October 2012.

Starting out with social media
Setting up your first website
E-publications and other ways to get online
Getting strategic
Some free ways for Leytonstone businesses to promote themselves

See also these new pages:

Get Online Week logo

Get Online Week: Your first website

Get Online Week Website banner

Setting up your first website

The lack of a website these days can send the wrong signals to customers: you don’t look serious, you are behind the times. Even if you still use Yellow Pages as an important part of your advertising, you can’t be at the end of the phone 24/7: your website is never closed.

Without a website you’re also missing out on numerous free opportunities to be noticed: through Google search, on Google Places/Google+ and free business listings in London.

However, the thought of setting up your first website can be daunting. There are many solutions on the market and many are very low cost or even free, but you do need to do some homework before jumping in too quickly.

In this article I’ll try to take you through some of the key considerations and terminology in plain English. Your website does need to be a solution designed for you, not a template imposed on you, but I hope this will provide a fairly comprehensive overview applicable to most people.

Getting started: what do you need?

Broadly a website can provide three types of facility:

  • Website: a collection of static pages, which will need updating but not too regularly
  • Blog: regular news and opinion articles (like this one) usually updated very frequently
  • E-commerce: selling and taking money directly through your website (as part of your website, or you may be able to use sites such as Etsy and Spotify).

This site, http://www.leytonstonetoday.net combines both a blog and ‘static’ website and this is increasingly a common format to use.

What you will need for any website

Platform (the software or content management system (CMS) you use): there are lots of options. Don’t just jump in and be technology led. You need to think about your marketing strategy and then select the right solution for you.

Hosting: the monthly cost of your website being stored and being made available to the worldwide web. Hosting typically costs £5-£10 month, though there are lots of special deals and WordPress.com is completely free.

A domain name: your ‘www’ address. You can run a website without a ‘www’ address but it will have less chance of being found by people searching and will have an ugly address starting ‘http://’, which people find difficult to remember and write down. A domain name typically costs £10-£20 per year.

Analytics: you will need some statistics to see how your site is performing. Most software/content management systems come with some analytics built-in, some allow you to connect to Google Analytics instead, which is free. How sophisticated you need the analytics to be is a key factor in deciding which platform you need.

Content: you can write the content yourself, but the way the content is written can heavily influence your chance of being found by the big search engines (eg Google, Bing and Yahoo).

Photos: you will need some photos and these will need to be sized to fit where they will be placed on the site and you need to add what is known as an ‘alt-tag’ to photos and graphics (a text description of what the photo shows). Your software/CMS may include basic photo-editing capabilities and there are a number of free software packages you can download, but make sure you know a bit about how to edit photos and what is the correct size and format for your site.

Graphics: you will need your logo, you will probably need a header banner to be created and you may need other graphic images. You can’t usually create graphics with your web software/CMS so you may need to have these made up for you.

Cookies and privacy policy: since May 2012 it has been a legal requirement to have a cookies and privacy policy displayed prominently on your site. Lots of sites still don’t comply but the Information Commissioner who is responsible for data protection and online privacy will be cracking down and eventually there will be some serious levels of fines for people who don’t comply.

Contact form: you may be satisfied with giving a simple email address as the method of contact (as well as a phone number, but never just a phone number, people who are online expect to be able to email!). Contact forms are sometimes quite easy to set up as they often come with the software/content management system, but you do need to think about how the data will be collected — will people expect an instant reply, will you need the data to go into an Excel spreadsheet or database automatically, how will you handle replies? There’s no point asking people to contact you if you can’t handle the response, it’s like putting a phone number and leaving the phone off the hook. You also need to make sure you collect data in a way that is compliant with the Data Protection Act and to structure the way the data is set out so that it is easy to use later for mailmerges or e-newsletters and to keep the data clean.

Some words of caution

I’m not going to knock any provider, but there are a few things you should be wary of from some of the cheaper, heavily promoted solutions:

  • Using other people’s photos: some sites provide stock photos for you to use. There’s no harm in this to some extent if they have full copyright/royalty clearance but you should clearly caption them as library shots. But do also be careful of not getting caught by ‘passing off’ legislation. If you show pictures which appear to make out your business is something it is not, not only is that dishonest and bad marketing, you may find yourself on a trading standards investigation and with a criminal record.
  • Using supplied text: again, this may be helpful as a guide, but if you sound like somebody you’re not your customers will soon rumble you. Text really does need to be personalised, and proofread, and the way text is written and the order it appears on the page influences your search rankings.
  • A fixed number of pages: some suppliers offer a fixed number of pages (I’ve seen as low as three) and then they charge more per page. As an absolutely bare minimum you need:
    • A home page
    • A cookies and privacy policy page
    • A contact details page
    • So if you only get three pages that doesn’t leave a lot to explain your business! In fact, you will almost certainly find you’ll need a lot more, even for the smallest business, and suddenly the cheap offer doesn’t look so cheap after all.
  • A fixed number of updates: some packages offer a fixed number of updates a month (again I’ve seen as low as two). Google likes sites to be updated regularly and, if you’re managing your site properly, you’re highly unlikely to be satisfied with only a few updates a month, so again you may find additional charges for updates soon making some cheap offers look not so attractive.
  • A guarantee that you’ll be top of Google’s search rankings: only Google knows exactly how it ranks websites on search criteria, and they don’t publish the criteria. They do also change their criteria regularly (some changes are almost daily). And they do state very clearly that nobody can guarantee rankings. They are some very clever specialist companies who can do a lot for what is called search engine optimisation (or ‘SEO’), though you can learn bit by bit to do a lot yourself — Google and Bing publish a lot of free guideline, though some are rather geeky. But do steer clear of ‘guarantees’. After all, one factor which affects your rankings is what your competitors are doing to optimise their site (and your ‘competitors’ to Google may be people on the other side of the world you don’t even know exist).
  • No HTML knowledge needed: HTML (hypertext mark-up language) is the code that runs web pages. Let’s be fair and say, it’s not pretty, But it’s not programming either and the basics aren’t that difficult to learn. Most software will create the HTML code for you and you will never need to go near it. But, like learning to drive a car, you will increasingly find that occasionally you might like to look under the bonnet to check the water and oil, and know how to change a tyre, rather than pay a garage for basic things like that. And you may find that there are a few more advanced things you’d like to do where cutting and pasting a bit of HTML code, without really knowing what it means, can be a benefit. Not having access to under the bonnet suddenly then becomes unattractive, and on some software you really don’t have access, the bonnet is locked and the key thrown away  to stop you tinkering. Will that be an advantage, or disadvantage (only you know, or will know that later)?
  • Mobile websites: more and more people are viewing websites on the move, whether on their phone or an iPad or similar device. A website has to adjust to different size screens and there are two basic ways to do this: have a website that is ‘responsive’ (ie automatically adjusts) or have a separate mobile website. Both solutions have their advantages and disadvantages — I can’t say what is best for you, but you need to consider both options before picking a solution.

Thinking strategic and longer-term

  • How does your website fit into your wider marketing strategy? More on this in a later post.
  • How might it fit in a year or two’s time — does it have the capability to grow with your business or will it become a constraint on growth?

How I host this website

This website (which, as I mentioned earlier, combines a blog and website), is currently run and hosted on WordPress.com. WordPress is one of the largest and most respected website platforms in the world. It comes in two versions:

WordPress.com: this provides the software (CMS), which is free and provides totally free hosting. They also take care of worrying about security and updates. Of course, there are some restrictions: you don’t have total flexibility to make changes to the design (though there is quite a lot you can do), you can’t accept paid advertising, and you can’t do some of the more advanced things, like e-commerce. However, you can later upgrade to WordPress.org if you need more advanced features.

WordPress.org: this is the more advanced version. The software/CMS is free, but you have to pay monthly hosting, and look after software updates and security patches yourself. You do however have a lot more choice over design and can install numerous ‘plug-ins’ to add on all sort so of extra functionality.

There are a number of sites in Leytonstone using WordPress, such as Leytonstone Museum, The Stone Space, Leytonstone Film Club and The Lion Heart Market. WordPress won’t suit everyone, but if cost is your reason for not having a website, you can’t get much cheaper than WordPress.com — it’s totally free!

If WordPress isn’t the right solution for you there are lots of other options too.

Leigh Horton
LDH Marketing
www.ldhmarketing.co.uk

Blog articles in this series

Look out for these blog articles which I will be producing during 15-21 October 2012.

Starting out with social media
Setting up your first website
E-publications and other ways to get online
Getting strategic
Some free ways for Leytonstone businesses to promote themselves

See also these new pages:

Enhanced by Zemanta
Get Online Week logo

Get Online Week Social Media

Get Online Week Social Media

Starting out with social media

The growth of social media has been phenomenal and it feels like hardly a week goes past when a new social media platform launches or an existing facility tries to add a ‘social’ element.

Facebook is the biggest and best known social media platform and this week Facebook announced it reached the 1 billion user level. It’s probably safe to assume that most large companies are on Facebook, but should small and medium companies be using Facebook or other social media?

Firstly you can’t be everywhere, you need your use of social media to be part of your wider marketing strategy and you need to be willing to experiment. But ignoring social media all together is probably not a wise move.

Facebook profiles versus Facebook pages

Many social media offer two products: a ‘profile’, which is aimed at individuals and a ‘page’ which is aimed at organisations (different names are sometimes used for these concepts but the principle is very similar). It’s important to know the difference.

Many schools, for example, avoid Facebook because they don’t appreciate the difference between a  profile — which is generally very problematic for schools — and a page which can be a useful tool and would help to educate students into how to use social media responsibly. (Schools might like to read my professional blog post Schools can like Facebook, just don’t be friends).

A profile is the original Facebook where you collect ‘friends’, you or they post embarrassing pictures and … well you know the rest. An advantage with a profile is people can more easily connect and interact with you, though Facebook doesn’t really want organisations to have profiles.

A page is more like a one page website. At the simplest level you can have complete control over the content that is posted (not just editing, others can’t post), you have ‘likes’ not ‘friends’, you get statistics about the type of people looking at your page and you can link it to paid advertising. At a more advanced level you can add methods of interaction such as competitions and polls.

Both a profile and page are free and quick to set up and pages don’t have to take a lot of managing. How you use them and how effective they are really comes down to your business and your marketing strategy.

Facebook also offers facilities for groups and events and lots more. A word of warning: Facebook allows others to create pages about your business and the content may not be what you want! So you should be checking Facebook regularly and you can contact Facebook to claim a page if you can justify that you should be the rightful owner.

Google+

Google+ (‘Google Plus’) is Google’s answer to Facebook and was introduced in 2011. It’s not so well known and well used. But there are important reasons why you should consider being on there.

Firstly Google is by far the largest search engine: it’s reckoned that over 85% of searches are through Google. Google also owns YouTube which is described as the second largest search engine.

Google has put Google+ at the heart of its products including integrating it with Google Places. That means if you have a physical presence — such as a shop or restaurant where customers can visit — you’re in danger of not being found on Google Maps if you aren’t on Google+.

Features on Google+ that are not on Facebook include ‘circles’ and ‘hangouts’. These allow you to group your contacts in the way you know them: friends, family, professional contacts, prospective clients or whatever you choose. You can restrict the content each circle sees so that it is only relevant to them, and you can arrange hangouts with your circles where you exchange information including, if you want to, a free web video conferencing facility.

Google also appears to be rewarding people on Google+ plus with better search rankings and Google has also introduced a TripAdvisor type service to comment on shops and restaurants. It seems clear that Google+ is not going away. You may wonder what you’re getting out of Google+ at the moment, but now is the time to experiment, and not being there could be damaging your business.

Twitter

Not many businesses in Leytonstone seem to use Twitter, but some who do use it very effectively, and a number of community groups, this site and your local councillors are on there. It’s good for short promotional messages though they need to be informative more than ‘sales’.

My Twitter account which I use for http://www.leytonstonetoday as well.

LinkedIn

LinkedIn has been described as the ‘Facebook for professionals’. A LinkedIn profile is more like an online CV and you’re supposed to connect only with people you really know through work relationships. Most facilities are free but you can pay for some premium features if you choose. As well as being useful for professionals it’s a must for jobseekers.

You can also have a free company page, though you’ll need an email linked to a web address (eg .co.uk) — they don’t allow your email to be Hotmail, Gmail etc.

I haven’t got a Leytonstone LinkedIn page as it’s not a company, but you can see my professional company page LDH Marketing which I recently set up. Have a search too, to see what other companies are doing.

Pinterest

Pinterest is one of the newer social media sites and has grown enormously during 2011 and 2012. Pinterest is an ‘electronic pinboard’. Visually it’s very attractive and has a strong following amongst arts, craft, catering and other creative areas, but seems to be a mainly USA and female audience so far. Again it’s free, so for some businesses it may be worth experimenting.

YouTube and Vimeo

YouTube is well known as a free video hosting site and I’ve already mentioned YouTube under Google+ above.  Vimeo is also a large and similar video hosting site, though less well known.

Making professional video content is still quite expensive, but a well-made amateur video can work on YouTube and I will also be talking in a later post about another easy way to get a quick YouTube presence that may suit some people.

There are a lot of videos about Leytonstone on YouTube, just go to www.youtube.com and search for ‘Leytonstone’.

Foursquare

Foursquare is both a social media site and a mobile phone application (app), which allows people to find out what is in their local area and where their friends recommend. It’s particularly relevant to cafés, restaurants and anybody organising drop-in events.

Take a look at Foursquare.com and try searching for Leytonstone.

… and more

This is a pick of some of the top social media sites but there are a huge number including numerous photo sharing sites such as Flickr, Picasa and others. You can’t and shouldn’t try to be on everything and I will be posting some thoughts later on this week about strategy, but ignoring them all is not a good idea either!

Leigh Horton
LDH Marketing
www.ldhmarketing.co.uk

Blog articles in this series

Look out for these blog articles which I will be producing during 15-21 October 2012.

Starting out with social media
Setting up your first website
E-publications and other ways to get online
Getting strategic
Some free ways for Leytonstone businesses to promote themselves

See also these new pages:

Get Online Week logo

Advertise your event for free

WhereCanWeGo.com logoIf you have an event to advertise you can add it to this site http://www.WhereCanWeGo.com. A basic entry is free, though there are paid premium options too. Find out more on the Calendar page.

I’ve added a link to the Calendar page on this site. If you click on this link it will pull up events in or near ‘E11’ that are advertised on WhereCanWeGo.com.

See the Calendar page for other ways you can advertise your local event for free using this site or associated social media sites.

I’ve also moved content from the Events page on this site (http://www.leytonstonetoday.net) to the Calendar page, so it’s easier to find everything now in the same place.

Thank you to Ros Kane from local charity Carefree Kids for supplying the WhereCanWeGo.com link!