Wednesday, 20 July 2011

So what is Google+ and how will it help my business?

Is it just another social network?
In a word, yes, but as Google have a habit of doing well online, we think its certainly worth paying attention to. Despite their success in the search market, Google has made previously unsuccessful attempts to enter the social market with Google Wave and Google Buzz. Google+ appears to be a product of the lessons they've learned over the years and following an impressive launch they have amassed over 10 million users in the first 3 weeks. Still in its infancy, Google+ may be a new concept but its one that we reckon has huge potential, particularly for online businesses. 

Watch this space...
Google doesn't currently accept applications for company profiles on Google+. But keep an eye out as a selection of business tools will be opening up to everyone later this year, and in the meantime a selection of companies will be invited to take part in a pilot test of the features. We'll keep you posted!

Despite this, there are several useful tools that mean Google+ is good for business:

Hangouts is a group video chat facility. By making yourself available to "hangout" you can start a video chat with up to ten of your contacts who are also online. Ideal for video conferencing, Hangouts recognizes who is talking and the main video feed will focus on that person, making it feel like a real conversation. You can also share things during a hangout such as a web page, article or a youtube video which everyone can view simultaneously. 

Circles give you the ability to sort all of your contacts into separate groups based on the nature of your relationship. You can then select one or more circles you want to be included when you share something on Google+. For example, you could have a circle for your immediate colleagues where you share working documents, while keeping a different circle for your business contacts or clients for marketing purposes. By sorting your contacts in this way, the information you share can be much more targeted, and in turn, more relevant and effective for the people you're sharing with.

Sparks is a feature that recommends content for you based on your general interests, online activity, and preferences, customising your web experience. Sparks also provides the ability to share things you find to the circles of your choice without ever leaving Google+, creating an ideal marketing tool for your business. 

Open to All:
Google+ enables users to allow other people to contact them via email, regardless of whether they are members of each others circles. While many will choose to disable this feature in favour of remaining anonymous, for those that do it will open a great avenue for new business contacts.

Professional Edge
Whilst many of us are weary of sharing our Facebook profiles in the business world for fear of exposing our weekend shenanigans, the professional vibe put forward on Google+ and the ability to easily separate friends from professional contacts using circles is a huge benefit.

Google+ seems to cherry pick the best bits of Facebook and marry it with the professional edge and discussion topic types of LinkedIn. To top it off, Google+ functions a bit like Twitter too, in that you can follow someone's updates regardless of whether they are following you or not. 

Competition Time:
For the same reasons that Google+ is a powerful professional networking tool, it can also be useful when it comes to keeping an eye on your competition. Google+ allows you to follow anyone with a Google+ profile regardless of whether the connection is reciprocated. Of course, users can specify whether or not specific content is shared with public circles, but for content that is public, Google+ can be a great way to stay up-to-date on news and announcements in your competitive space.

Thursday, 7 July 2011

Branding Your Business

A great brand is vital to any business. Your brand must do more than capture attention, it needs to connect with your audience and bring your business to life. A strong brand will give your business the ability to stand out from the crowd, particularly in the ever expanding online market where staying ahead of your competitors has never been more important.

Businesses often rush into creating their branding without looking at the bigger picture... How do I want my business to be perceived? Does my branding reflect the core business values? Where do I see the business in five or ten years time? Time is normally of the essence and as time is money mistakes can through hasty decisions. The following is food for thought designed to save you time and money...

Do your homework

Make sure you choose the right designer with the ability to bring your business aspirations to life. Take your time and have a look at different agencies, their work will vary significantly and its important you choose a designer that you like.

Discuss your options, what looks good to you may not look good to others, so getting the opinions of others is a wise move before choosing your agency. Have a browse through an agency's portfolio, anyone worth their salt will be keen to showcase their talents.

Manage your money

Be realistic about your budget, great design does not have to cost the earth but you will almost always find you get what you pay for and saving a few pounds in the short term may cost you much more further down the line.

If your budget is tight, look at your options, you might want to phase the project over a number of months to allow you to afford your chosen agency without the threat of large upfront costs. Look for an agency who is willing to work with you and your budget and help you plan your marketing successfully.

Check out the competition

Chances are, some of your competitors are getting it right, have a look at who is successful and try and pinpoint what is working for them and how you can emulate this within your own business.

It is important that your branding fits into your industry and works with your ethos and products or services but it is also important, to find a balance and make sure that you stand out in the crowd. A good agency will inherently understand this balance and ensure you make the right impression.

Give it time

If your chosen agency isn't busy with other clients, alarm bells should be ringing. Good designers are hard to find and will be in demand so be patient. The design process involves a lengthy stretch of research, design, revision and refinement before anything is even put in front of you. Getting it right is definitely worth waiting for as you are building a brand that should see you and your business well into the future, don't rush your decision.

Get Involved

We don't expect you to start sketching out ideas or trawling through font libraries, but building a close working relationship with your designer is so important. No one knows your business better or has more passion for it than you do, working with your designer to ensure that your brand is reflective of your business goals and ambitions will add huge value to your finished product and leave you with a brand that will see you through the years to come whilst you concentrate on making the business a real success.