At its IBM Connect 2013 social business event, IBM announced new software and cloud-based services to help transform organizations into social businesses.
The new social software offerings are meant to help companies gain deeper insights into big data generated through the use of social networks. Organizations applying analytics to their data for competitive advantage are more likely to substantially outperform their industry peers, is the IBM line on this. Apparently, 61 percent of the Fortune 100, are licensed to use IBM’s social business technologies.
IBM’s new software and cloud-based services include a new Web-based social networking environment that provides HR leaders with a better way to recruit and bring new employees onboard, while giving employees access to digital media and data in real time, enabling faster decision making.
IBM also announced software to help marketing teams design sophisticated advertising campaigns and quickly publish those campaigns to leading social networks, resulting in a consistent customer experience through every online channel.
And, finally, IBM announced the next release of its social networking platform will further enable users to access and analyse big data from inside and outside the organization, including through Facebook, Twitter, audio and video. IBM also plans to release the industry’s first truly social e-mail client, incorporating file sharing, activity streams, and a simplified user interface. This will be a major release of Notes and Domino.
But if you’re just starting out as a very small business, you probably can’t even afford to pay for a domain name and a Web site let alone class software like IBM’s. So here are some suggestions about how to be found by clients on the Internet – starting very small and building on that.
Your first foot in the door to tell people about you and what you can do with your business, is to sign up for a free page at https://about.me/. You end up with a page address such as http://about.me/t_eddolls. You just need a large photo (1680 by 1050 pixels) or a logo, or whatever your creative instincts tell you. You will need some text but you can update it whenever you want. And you can be found on Google – so you could attract more clients.
If you don’t mind not having a unique domain name to start with, you can get free Web hosting at zxq.net and similar companies. You can use yourname.zxq.net. Later you can pay for a domain name and hosting (see below).
If you think you know a bit about writing Web pages – HTML (HyperText Mark-up Language) and CSS (Cascading Style Sheets), go to https://thimble.webmaker.org. Mozilla (the Firefox people) Thimble makes it very easy to create your own Web pages. Write and edit HTML and CSS in your browser and preview your work. You can then host and share your finished pages.
Get a Twitter account by going to http://twitter.com and signing up. Call yourself by your business name – there is a limit on the number of characters. And you can link the account to your Facebook page. Use hashtags (putting a ‘#’ in front of a noun) to link to things. Comment on news and developments in your industry and you area – you can build relationships with local organizations. Tweet positive messages – whatever feels right for you. And local businesses can tweet about you and hashtag your business name – helping you get more business.
In addition to your usual Facebook account, you need to set up a ‘page’ for your business. I’d use the same name you did for your Twitter account. Facebook pages can be found on Google – which means that your business can be found in searches and you’ll get more clients. You can put photos of your staff, offices, happy clients. You can put links to interesting news stories. You tell people about interesting or relevant news items. You can post similar information to Twitter – or you can link the two and post only once. You can find details of how to create a page by searching on Google. One useful page is at http://www.squidoo.com/facebookpage.
Join LinkedIn (http://www.linkedin.com/). You’ll then be able to connect to lots of other similar business and join groups. You could even start your own group. You can add your company to the company pages and post information about your company. You may get clients, but, importantly, you’ll make connections. And organizations and individuals who think they do business with you, may start to follow your business on LinkedIn.
And as you find you’ve got more to say about your business, you may want to start blogging. A short article of around 500 words is about the right size. It’s quick to read and you can convey some good information. If you have a Google account, then sign up with Blogger (www.blogger.com). Your blog will be called yourcompanyname.blogspot.com. Otherwise, Wordpress (wordpress.com) also provides free blogs. And once you’ve written a blog, you can link to it from Facebook and Twitter – which will increase the number of hits on your blog and generally make you easier to find by potential clients.
Once your business is looks like it will succeed and not wither on the vine, you can buy a domain name – your-business-name.com (or a local variant, eg .co.uk). You can pay to have it hosted somewhere. You’ll need a conversation with someone who understands SEO (Search Engine Optimization). They will get you onto the first page of Google.
If you own your own domain name, you’ll probably have your own e-mail address – eg firstname.lastname@example.org. If you haven’t, then use a free e-mail like Gmail or Yahoo. If you have a hotmail or msn e-mail address, get a new one!
Lastly, get a modern-looking signature for your e-mail. Something like:
CEO MyCompany Ltd
P: 01249 443256 | M: 07901 505 609 | E-mail | Web site | Twitter | Facebook | G+ | LinkedIn
Now there’s a trick to this! Create the address in Word, select a word (eg Web site), and press the ctrl and k keys at the same time. You’ll be able to link the word to a Web address. In this case the address of your Web site. You’ll also see a button called ‘ScreenTip’. Click on that and write something about the link, eg MyCompany’s Web site. Copy and paste it into an e-mail. That way, when you send an e-mail, all your contact information is included in an attractive and short few lines. When people move their mouse over one of your new links, the ScreenTip will appear, so they can see something about the link – helping them decide whether to click on it. And they can forward it to more potential clients.
Nowadays, most people search the Internet rather than look through phone books. So it becomes very important to be ‘found’ by potential clients. And when your company is big enough, you can start to use IBM’s products.