Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Your Reputation Online. Watch It

You Want A Bright Shiny Reputation Online (and Offline)
Whether you're using social media, want to use social media in your business, or believe you can ignore social media in your business.  Social media questions are becoming more and more the topic that emerges in my discussions with clients and business owners. The amount of bad information out there, on TV on radio in the newspapers and still many business owners who are either oblivious or misinformed about online matters and how to make good decisions about what to do online.

It still remains that many small business owners think that they don't need to be online, or that their lack of interest in computers in some way is significant to their customers!  Nope. Whether you use a computer for anything more than checking the weather, other people (people with money who are and who could be customers for your business) are using their computers for many, many things. Notably, for researching future purchase options, for one example.

Yes you need to be online.
No it doesn't need to cost a fortune.

Just because someone offers you a "deal" - if you don't understand what you are getting for your money and how to determine if this is value - or a rort - then find out before you start.

A Cost of Doing Business
Yes it will cost something.
Getting a website is the beginning - not the end.
Guess what - online people are offline too! Bring them together.
Get to know people who understand social media, the internet and business.

Professional Resume - Linkedin
 Now  don't tell me - someone has invited you to Linkedin but you're not sure if you have a profile on Linkedin or if you do, you don't know what it says or how to connect with anyone. Or even what to do with that invitation.

Is it important to complete your Linkedin profile? Yes it is. This is where you can establish your credentials online and people who are looking you up on Google can see if you have roots to the community (not a fly-by-night type). And yes people look you up on Google to check you out. You should Google yourself. No information is no better than bad information.

Reputation Management. 
Go through and clean up any items that you would rather not show online and set about getting good quality information on the record about you and your business.

Learn how to monitor and manage your online reputation this is crucial  whether you are young and looking for a first job, experienced in the workforce, or manage or own your own business.

Honest reviews online important for business

Monday, July 30, 2012

Augmented Reality Looks Like This

One of the areas that is opening up with technology and will be a game changer for retail and tourism going forward is the use of mobile technology including augmented reality. What is that? Take a look at this video to see.

Destination NSW invites you to get away and meet the locals of regional NSW Australia. In an Australian Tourism first, head to participating Westfield shopping centres and interact with Regional NSW wildlife virtually through augmented reality!

You can pat a kangaroo, feed a Pelican, swim with dolphins or even splash around with a Humpback whale!

 "What’s the future of retail, and how far away is it? Turns out that in the next couple of years, customers will be able to try on clothes and products at home with no shipping required. Technology will allow shoppers to virtually wear garments — smelling, hearing and feeling the fabric as if it were real.
Sound crazy? It’s not, when you look deeply into the world of augmented reality (AR). Augmented reality technology typically overlays the virtual world on top of the real-world environment through a device, such as a mobile phone or a tablet. But certain companies are redefining the bounds of virtual reality experiences by home-growing their own unique AR technologies and platforms."

See more on how augmented reality is changing what is possible in retail in this article from Mashable. 

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Google Secrets Revealed

 A new index status feature has been added to Google's Webmaster Tools.

What does this mean? The Googlebot travels the web and collects the new data as it is posted online. This is the critical element that sniffs out and finds your information (you hope!) and makes it possible for your site to come up when there is a search for what you want to be found on. 

This from the site:

 Since Googlebot was born, webmasters around the world have been asking one question: Google, oh, Google, are my pages in the index? Now is the time to answer that question using the new Index Status feature in Webmaster Tools. Whether one or one million, Index Status will show you how many pages from your site have been included in Google’s index.

Index Status is under the Health menu. After clicking on it you’ll see a graph like the following:

There are many free tools that are available to use for webmasters and site owners so make sure you are using everything you can to give you the critical information you need to track  your performance  online and make the most of the opportunity to get your business found online. 

Read the full release here.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Accounting Firms and Social Media

"Accounting firms have no business being on social media" 

So ran the advice in this article in the Financial Review  No doubt this was meant to be provocative though it is possible that this is just another article by someone happy to offer an opinion without any knowledge of the subject.

The article does go on to say

"LinkedIn is emerging as another exception. It lets people harness the power of connections." 

In fact Linkedin has been doing this for years. It isn't emerging, it has been doing this for a long time, the only emergence, is that more people are coming out of the dark and  beginning to twig that the invitation to connect on Linkedin that they accepted and then never bothered to complete their profile or learn to use, is now pretty important.

Better late than never, perhaps.

 Another opinion in the article "You need something interesting and relevant to say, and there are only so many tweets on international financial reporting standards you can make interesting." shows clearly that the writer has fallen into the trap of thinking of Twitter and social media generally as being "all about me" and broadcasting a narrow range of self promotional pieces. The test for relevance is not about what is your core product it is about what the community that you are building online will find of interest.

Now it could be that the writer equates "Accountant" with big corporate firms. Yet most businesses will be using a suburban accountant who is a part of the local community and engaged in different ways with the people in their locale. This is where accountants have scope to do more for clients than just pass the work to junior staff and gouge clients with extortionate fees for a so-so service.

So how can an accounting firm or a single accountant use social media in a way that is effective?

Like any business it begins with understanding what purpose you want the social media to perform. Let me suggest that at the outset, by far the biggest advantage of this is to assist the accountant to be more visible, more credible and more aware of the world in which their clients operate too.

We are in a time of incredible change. Reports are on the news daily of more businesses closing and there has never been more need for business owners to be able to be flexible and adapt to compete in the new marketplace. Those who can are doing well, even now. Those who can't will fail. The evidence that there are skills they need to learn to adapt and change are often observed  by the accountant in the first instance.  That is, the accountant is in the prime position to see that, but they need to be paying attention and have the client's interests in mind. Business owners, rightly or wrongly, look to the accountant as the person who will give them a sign if there is something they need to know.  To remain in the dark about the changes that are happening across the marketplace that relate to social media and extend into changes in consumer spending habits, purchasing decisions, operational and customer service issues and more , is no service to your clients.

No Time

Now it may be true to say that many (probably most) accountants, just like their customers, are time poor and not tuned in to the new technology, and like many things that don't get done, if you don't know how to do it, it can be easier to just pretend that it isn't important. Marketing is something else that is often treated this way. Doing nothing is not going to make things go back the way they were. The marketplace has changed and this is the environment that now exists. Getting in touch with that and understanding it is crucial.
What strategy you adopt to deal with it, is another matter and one that needs to be considered after being fully informed and gaining some real understanding of the issues, the opportunities and the traps.

Get Active

How do you tell if your client is deep in need of help in this area? They are sending out newsletters by .pdf ... that's one simple but great indicator!

So let me say this another way. Accountants have no business being on social media without knowing what they are doing.

And you can learn. More easily than you might have thought.

 Lindy Asimus
0403 365 855

See also 
Part One: Your Business Blog
Part Three: Blogging For Business: Ideas
Part Two: How Do I Start Blogging For Business?

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Sydney And Google Maps Deal

News out that Sydney, Australia joins London and other major cities in getting with it as Google Maps adds Sydney public transport to their offering. According to Lifehacker Australia 

"Search for directions between two Sydney addresses and you’ll also be offered public transport directions where available, including the times of relevant services. The system will default to choosing the fastest trip, but you can click the ‘More options’ link and specify if you want train, bus, ferry or light rail. The search isn’t rock-solid — it didn’t always spot ferry trips in my early tests — but even in an imperfect form, this is a long-overdue addition. (Sydney has had directions for the light rail since 2009, but that’s only a tiny part of the system.)

Sydney joins Adelaide (which has had the option since 2008), Perth (ditto), Canberra (2009) and Cairns (also 2009) in offering full public transport directions via Google Maps."

Over on  Smarthouse  they had this to say...

"The NSW Government has cut a deal with Google that allows commuters on public transport to get access to information via Google Maps.
Minister for Transport Gladys Berejiklian said during a visit to Google headquarters that commuters searching for directions on Google Maps traditionally have the choice to drive, walk or cycle, but from today users in NSW will see another option providing a comprehensive summary of convenient public transport journeys to their destinations.

The service  means that Sydney now joins global cities including London, New York and Hong Kong that also have public transport on Google Maps, Ms Berejiklian said.

"We are listening to customers, and more people are turning to the internet and mobile phones to help them plan journeys, and it doesn't get much easier than using Google Maps," she said.

""We also see this as an opportunity to attract new customers as it's estimated Google receives nearly one million location related searches in NSW each day. So we expect the tool to encourage people who don't normally use public transport to give it a try."

Now when do we get Newcastle 'on the map'?

Perhaps IT Wire have it right with their comment "Most other places in Australia only have one bus, so it's probably not that important (joking!)." - They must mean @The100Bus ;-)

Of course a recent expedition to a local winery in Rothbury had me following directions from Google Maps that sent me to the worst possible route. Now why is there no element on Google Maps that accounts for weather and road conditions? May be that's something to look at in future iterations.

 See - technology is not going away. Expect more convenience and new ways of doing old stuff.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Wine Industry Blogging

The international wine industry is getting behind wineries and opening the competition for best wine blog.

Now this is interesting because it reveals that somebody in this industry is taking notice of the importance of getting your wine online and producing not just great wine but fantastic entertaining and informative content on the web about the wineries and the wines they produce and all the stories that relate to the industry.

Kudos to the wine industry for recognizing this important aspect of social marketing, and the people who are making an effort to do it well.

You can find their list of wine blogs here 
Wolf Blas has made the finalist list I understand.
Here are the categories:
  • Best Original Photography or Video on a Wine Blog
  • Best Single Subject Wine Blog
  • Best Industry/Business Wine Blog
  • Best Wine Reviews on a Wine Blog
  •  Best Writing On a Wine Blog
  •  Best New Wine Blog
  •  Best Overall Wine Blog
So why might you blog?

Here is a comment from the site that might give you some insight..

"I am a 59 yr old married female living in So. CA. who believe it or not is new to the wine scene. I decided to visit my local wine store with the idea to try a new wine each week. It didn"t take long to realize that I was in over my head. Going home empty handed, I knew that I needed to go on line for help. While surfing different sites and blogs I came across a most delightful and informative blog, quitWINEing.com At first I was drawn to the photos and Courtney's quirky sence of humor. After following her blog for months I realized she takes wine seriously and really knows her stuff. I am never dissappointed when buying the various wines she suggests in her blog..."

What's your favourite Australian - and Hunter Valley wine blog?

Maybe you will write it. 

 The wine industry is just one example of blogging for your business. Look at your industry and think how you could be doing this too.

When will you start sharing your stories on your blog?

Need help? Call me.

Lindy Asimus
0403 365 855


Part 1 Your Business Blog
Part Two: How To Start Blogging For Business
Part 3 Blogging For Business: Ideas

Monday, July 16, 2012

Integrated Marketing Blends Web With Main Street

I keep seeing businesses with a Facebook Page but no sign anywhere in their ads, in their shop, on their cars to show customers how to find them online.

Your social media presence is part of your marketing and can help you bring people to your business and to your website. Not necessarily in that order.  So make sure that they can find you. In the street, or on Facebook, or anywhere online when they go looking for someone who does what you do.

Make that a goal every week, to encourage even just another 10 customers to your Facebook page.  They add up!

Lindy Asimus
0403 365 855

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Renovating Apps Bring Building Online

Any business can be using social media and smartphone Apps to help buyers and add real value for customers.

This SMH article showcases some apps for renovating. I have been using Houzz for some time now and it excellent for helping renovators picture the look they are after and the details they like, sort through what they don't like and slowly get their thoughts clear on how to define their project down to the last detail.
 Take a look 

If you are in the building industry you really need to jump in and learn about this stuff.

Your customers are.

Need help?

Call Lindy Asimus on 0403 365 855

Citrus Farmers Turn To The Internet For Sales

 Farmers, tired of being squeezed by supermarkets are looking for other ways to keep their farms producing income.

Sadly  it seems that innovation is a "last resort" option. What could Hunter businesses be doing to be productive and sell in new ways? If a farmer can do it, others can too.

The ABC reports

"ELIZABETH JACKSON: Citrus growers in South Australia are using the internet to open up new markets.

The producers are connecting with their customers online, instead of receiving poor returns on the conventional market.

It's an example of much needed innovation, as many citrus growers face low prices and high costs.

Rural and regional affairs reporter, Sally Sara with this report.

SALLY SARA: Tim and Ryan Arnold pick oranges on their family fruit block near Loxton in South Australia.

Every piece of fruit has already been ordered by a customer online.

Ryan Arnold says the idea of cyber citrus, or selling their fruit directly to customers, came during a morning tea break on the property.

RYAN ARNOLD: We just thought about what would be a quicker way to get our fruit to the customers.

SALLY SARA: On Monday mornings, the Ryan family's in the packing shed, preparing the consignments.

(sound of machinery)

SALLY SARA: The citrus is picked, packed and posted within 24 hours.
Click her for the full story

Citrus growers in South Australia are using the internet to open up new markets and attract premium prices for fresh produce.

The producers are connecting with their customers online instead of receiving poor returns on the conventional market.

It is an example of much-needed innovation, as many citrus growers face low prices and high costs.
Tim and Ryan Arnold pick oranges on their family fruit block, near Loxton in South Australia, and every piece of fruit has already been ordered by a customer online.

The idea of cyber citrus - selling fruit directly to consumers - came during a morning tea break on the property.

"We just thought about what would be a quicker way to get our fruit to the customers," Ryan said.
"We found that overseas in the USA, in California and their fruit growing areas, that they were doing a similar thing to what we are now doing, sending fruit online straight to the customers."
It is only a small part of the family's citrus operation, but it has attracted new customers.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Blogging For Business: Ideas

This is part three on my Blogging For Business series and follows on from  Part Two - How do I start blogging for business?

In this post I'm going to cover off on how you can approach presenting content for your business that focuses content on your industry.  In many professions it is not permitted to be offering advice online and this is with good reason. Financial planners and those in the financial sector generally, are required to give very specific advice only after they have met with the client and undertaken a thorough review of the circumstances for that individual. The same is true for legal advisors, and others in sensitive industries.

"I'm Not Allowed To Blog!"
When it comes to social media and in particular blogging, that can lead to people struggling to understand how they can post to their blog without getting into trouble.

The good news is that people on social networks are looking to learn, to be entertained, to find things they like, to get to know who is expert... there are many reasons they are using online resources and they are not looking to be served up advertisements. That means that the thing we can be most afraid of - is also the last thing we should be doing anyway.

So how does this play out?

What can I write about?
Think of your blog as your  place to show your expertise in your understanding of your profession and  your topic. What are the things that clients and customers are having problems with that they would like to fix? What are the issues around that which learning about can help them get better results? Let's look at an example.

Let's say Joe Smart is a lawyer. He works in family law and is involved in disputes with couples who are divorcing. Joe sees people come to him all the time with different stories and yet the themes are the same. What are some things that Joe might post about on his blog? And why would he want to do that, anyway?

Writing articles is a great way to showcase your expertise. With your own blog you can start collating a series of articles that cover the issues that you see every day and educate you readers on how they can best prepare, and what to expect when they are in this situation.

This collection of artcles - posts - is the basis of a bank of knowledge that you own and can use not just on your blog - but in other ways too.  If the local radio station is looking to talk to an expert in the field, you have presence online and a showcase of your writing to set you up as the Go-To person in your area. These articles help you gain better prominence in search online and they allow you to be visible and to be identified as an expert in your field.  If you are interested in public speaking then this is another way to help you move down that track.  While you may not have considered this until now, this too may be a good way to promote your business locally or even more widely.

Educating Your Customers
We can complain that customers don't always do themselves a favour when it comes to seeking advice or to work with a new advisor. With a bank of articles we can let new customers know how we work and how they are best served when approaching an advisor in our area of expertise.

Blog posts, once written, can also be used as information sheets in printed form or collated into downloadable reports to educate on a topic.

Blogs Are For Professionals
So Joe Smart writes a series of posts for his blog and covers such things as:

  1. understanding your rights in family law. 
  2. local services that are available to help in cases of domestic abuse. 
  3. what to bring when you first see your lawyer about divorce 
  4. what to look for when you are moving out and need new accomodation
  5. what the family court attitude is to custody issues 
  6. articles on improving relationships (these could be also by a Guest blogger)
  7. how to plan for change
  8. things never to do when you are in the middle of a case
  9. attitude to cultivate when you are going through separation
  10. how to deal with shared custody in a way that is helpful to best outcomes for the children.
  11. interviews with local identities involved around family matters generally
  12. other areas of law that families should know about  - wills, trusts, powers of attorney, guardianship
The list goes on and on. When you start to work out a plan for your blog you will uncover topics that are general but very important for clients who will be going through these issues. Joe is also  a good networker and so he can easily send a link to his latest blog to those people he knows who may have a friend that could use the article and post it to the business chamber newsletter or Linkedin group. His link can be sent to his contacts on Twitter and on Facebook (not necessarily at the same time).  Because of the general nature of the articles, they can be used any time and resent from time to time to new people or to the social platforms. In this case it is valuable to write articles that are not time sensitive and so don't go out of date.  Importantly they must serve some function and impart something useful to the reader.

What Happens Next?
So Joe Smart now has a blog. He is adding to his articles each week. Perhaps he will be asked to write an article for someone on a current topic that is in the news, or be a guest on a panel discussion or radio program. He may use the blog as a way to gain more visitors to his website and meet more friends-of-friends via the local networks of people he knows in the social platforms. His name is seen more often. He may start to run some information sessions that people can attend and slowly he builds his profile and his credibility in the public arena as the authority on family law matters.

But Joe is a bit of a big shot. He's a lawyer, wears a suit and not at all like Gary the mechanic. So how would Gary the mechanic use a blog?

Just the same way.

Blogs Are For Blue Collar Businesses Too
Gary could post a blog that educates his customers - people with cars - so they know who he is and feel good about using his service as they know he knows about his topic.

Gary writes about:

  • What happens when you get a service and why 
  • How to get good economy in your car
  • What petrol should I use in my car and does it matter?
  • How often should I change my tyres?
  • What's the best way to clean the car and keep it looking good 
  • What to do when the doors don't work
  • What to look for when buying a second hand car
  • How to get the best price for your car when you sell it 
  • What to listen for when your car is 'not quite right'
  • Car maintenance for women and un-handy men
And just like Joe Smart, Gary is a member of the local Chamber of Commerce, his business gets improved prominence on Google for people searching for a mechanic in the area.  Of course Gary could also be posting photos of great cars that come in, news of cars that his customers want to sell, or buy, and general items about collector cars, vintage cars, hot rods, car shows and just funny cars that he sees and photographs to post on the blog.

Let's Get Started
Work out a plan for your blog as you should be doing for your marketing plan. This gives you a schedule to follow and think about those 5 Top Things you want your customers to know about you and how you do business that sets your business apart from everyone else. At the very least prepare these to go onto your new blog.

Looking at our own business in this way is a bit hard at first. If you need help to get the ideas flowing, then get the help you need.

But do get on to your blogging. There's no time to start like the present and the sooner you begin the sooner the articles on your blog can begin to be useful for your business and for your customers. You can't get back the headstart you have given away. You can make sure you don't lose any more time.

Lindy Asimus

0403 365 855
Part One : Your Business Blog
Part Two: How To Start Blogging For Business