East Anglia’s digital businesses need to get on @TechCityUK’s #TechNation map to give our tech community a national voice.

Tech City UK is a government-funded body tasked with promoting the UK’s digital and technology capabilities to the world. Its mission includes understanding the support tech clusters in the UK need to thrive. It is currently researching the digital sector for its #TechNation report and is encouraging all digital businesses to complete a short survey to ensure their community is represented.

This survey (which is supported by Duedil, MTM London and AngelList) is only open to digital businesses, so no biotech, clean tech or aerospace companies. However, one of the early questions explains the criteria clearly. Simply answer the questions accurately to see if you qualify – but do it today because the survey closes on 28 September 2014.

Why does this survey matter?

This is a nationwide survey and policy makers are likely to use the resulting #TechNation report to shape future strategy. It is vital that East Anglia is properly represented if we are going to secure the government investment we need to grow our digital economy. It is also a great way of highlighting the digital expertise that already exists here to potential private investors and employers.

Individual clusters (such as Norwich, Bury St Edmunds or Ipswich) will only have a separate profile in the final report if enough companies complete the survey. Tech City UK currently estimates that at least 30 companies from a cluster would need to complete the survey for that to happen. That’s why it is so important we get as many local digital companies as possible to complete the survey.

What’s in it for me?

If you complete the survey by 28 September, Tech City UK will enter your name in a draw for the chance to win:

  1. One of 10 iPad mini 3s,
  2. Tickets to the NOAH Conference on 13/14 November 2014
  3. Most importantly, an individual profile of your company in the final #TechNation report.

You can take the survey here: http://bit.ly/technationsurvey. Please share the link today with your digital business contacts in East Anglia, to ensure the #TechNation report reflects the scale of our local digital communities. If you have any difficulties or questions please email technationsurvey@techcityuk.com.

UPDATE 20 November 2014

Since writing this blog we’ve had the pleasure of meeting with various members of the local tech community to discuss how we could collectively help build the region’s tech and digital reputation. This blog (on our Business Writers Limited site) explains what happened next: Supporting East Anglia’s #tech community. Please read and share.

We’re blogging for charity

We are using our blogs to raise awareness of an excellent local charity called Nelson’s Journey. If you enjoyed this post, please help a grieving child by donating £1 (or more if you can spare it) to Nelson’s Journey today. Thank you.

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Thank you for reading

This is one in an occasional series of posts about business, social media and communications. If you find them interesting or useful, please give them a star or five and share with others. 

Please join the conversation by adding your views below or contacting me on twitter or Google+

Kind regards

Huw 

@HuwSayer / @Business_Write

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“But what do I say?” – How your business can use social media to engage audiences.

Thank you to all who have listened to my Social Media talk at various events over the last year. That includes The Mill Breakfast Club on 4 September 2014 and various BOLD Group Business Network breakfasts and workshops around Norfolk. It was a pleasure to meet you and I hope you found the discussions interesting and useful.

This post is based on those talks. However, I have expanded it to look at how effective engagement can help you communicate your corporate social responsibility (CSR) strategy. Please join the conversation by commenting below.

How to use social media to support your community and build your brand

The following idea, on how you can use social media to build your reputation as a good corporate citizen, applies to every business no matter what its size (here corporate doesn’t just mean big). At the same time, it will give you something interesting and useful to say on social media – rather than saying nothing (or worse yet, saying something boring). This idea encapsulates my belief that engaging conversations build strong communities by uniting people around shared values and interests.

Huw Sayer - social media advisor.

Norfolk Magazine – January 2013 @HuwSayer – “A great Norfolk online ambassador.”

Social media is a huge subject but I want to focus on what to say and how to engage your audiences, which is what really matters. However, before I start, I am going to make three assumptions about you and your business:

  1. You use social media for business to find and engage with your audiences
  2. You want to be seen to be socially responsible (not irresponsible or indifferent)
  3. You understand you have a brand (even as a sole trader) and that building its credibility (familiarity and favourability) with your audiences takes time and care.

A quick aside:

Your social responsibility might be your next big opportunity

With those assumptions in mind, I just want to say a brief word about what I mean by good CSR. Being socially responsible doesn’t simply mean complying with laws governing the social aspects of businesses, such as working conditions, health and safety, or waste disposal. A good CSR strategy goes beyond compliance and looks for ways to turn each socially desirable action into a competitive advantage – one that creates marketing or, better still, real business opportunities.

For instance (purely hypothetical), you have a legal responsibility to comply with the WEEE Directive on the disposal of electronic goods. A marketing opportunity might involve reconditioning old computers and donating them to local schools. A business opportunity might involve developing a low margin, high volume line of cheap recycled computers for sale to individuals and communities.

Listening is the key to understanding

To know what those marketing and business opportunities might be, it pays to know your audiences both internal and external extremely well. Social media platforms not only can help you engage but also can help you listen to those audiences. Good listening is the key to productive conversations.
End of aside.

What do you say after you say hello?

There are plenty of good resources explaining the why and how of setting up and managing social media accounts for business. However, they tend to deal with the mechanics: what to say in your profile, how to analyse your RTs, when’s the best time to post, how best to use lists. Few really get down to the essential ‘What’ of social media, which is to engage and influence by listening, responding, reciprocating and sharing.

The three most important things to remember about social media:

  1. The clue to using social media is in the name – it is social (and sociable) not broadcast – and good social discourse (particularly in the public domain) thrives on engaging conversations
  2. People value authenticity and relevance both in others and in their conversations – they want a mix of interesting, useful, entertaining and shareable information – and they prefer to get it from people who share their values
  3. Constantly selling yourself (or your service) is boring – some might even say it is arrogant or vain – either way, it is a one-sided conversation that turns people off and undermines your brand’s credibility.

So how do you turn these three guiding principles into good conversations? My advice is to remember the 80/20 rule of social media:

  • Avoid the mistake of point 3 by making sure no more than 20% of what you say is directly sales related (and even then it needs to be subtle – we might deal with that in a later post).
  • Use the remaining 80% of your posts to build brand familiarity and favourability by giving your audiences what they value (see point 2) – authentic conversations.

Even if you don’t buy into this idea of using social media for CSR activity, the 80/20 rule can still help you create an effective social media strategy. However, since you are spending time on social media, you may as well use it wisely to do some good and build brand favourability in the process.  If you can’t be a financial philanthropist, you can at least be a time philanthropist by dedicating much of your 80% activity to supporting your local community or promoting socially responsible activities.

What socially responsible activities might resonate with your audience?

I’d suggest the same things that resonate with most people: things that benefit them, their families, their friends, their businesses and their communities. And to understand what those things are, you have to think local – by which I mean local to your audiences (and to understand what your audience thinks of as ‘local’ or ‘community’ you will need to listen to them – see my earlier point).

Using your 80% wisely

Here are four suggestions for what you might talk about or even champion for 80% of your social media time – think of these as themes and look for specifics within your own business.

  1. Things your team does to make your audience’s community better, safer, cleaner, happier, friendlier or more prosperous. Particularly if it involves working collaboratively with the community – since people tend to like team players. For instance, organising a mass litter pick, learning first aid (life skills that save lives), or fund raising for a local school or charity.
  2. Social or cultural events going on in the community – charity runs, free events at public libraries, new exhibitions at local public galleries and museums, village fêtes, county-wide public consultations.
  3. Things you have done in your business or personal life to become environmentally friendly – such as reducing waste, increasing recycling, planting wild flowers, planting trees to offset carbon emissions, or supporting a cycle to work scheme.
  4. Social causes that matter to both you and your audience (remember, this has to be authentic – so choose carefully don’t just leap on a bandwagon and hope it makes you look good). These could range from committing to buy local and fair trade products and services, to taking on apprentices, offering flexible working, paying a living wage rather than just the minimum wage, or supporting diversity and opportunity for all in business and society.

As I’ve said before, communities are stronger when they work together. Look around you – identify your audiences and your shared communities of geography or interest. Then work out how you can use your social media time to support and improve those communities – it’s not just good business sense, you’ll find it personally rewarding too.

If you want to discuss these ideas further, please contact me today.

We’re blogging for charity

We are using our blogs to raise awareness of an excellent local charity called Nelson’s Journey. If you enjoyed this post, please help a grieving child by donating £1 (or more if you can spare it) to Nelson’s Journey today. Thank you.

JustGiving - Please sponsor us

Thank you for reading

This is one in an occasional series of posts about social media and business communications. If you find them interesting or useful, please give them a star or five and share with others. I hope you will join the conversation by adding your views below or contacting me on twitter or Google+

Kind regards

Huw 

@HuwSayer / @Business_Write

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Join the #BuyLocalNorfolk movement and help support your community today.

Do you live and work in Norfolk? Would you like to see a more vibrant local economy, creating more jobs and greater opportunities to develop your own business? Then you are just the sort of person who should support the #BuyLocalNorfolk campaign whenever you shop, whether for home or business.

Buy-Local-Colour-Logo-2014
The #BuyLocalNorfolk campaign is about supporting your local community – your friends and neighbours. It’s about creating a sustainable economy, which reduces the use of fossil fuels and the pollution associated with long haul transport. And it’s about creating a vibrant jobs market, so people both young and old can find jobs close to their friends and family.

The campaign is run by Buy Local Norfolk, which is a not-for-profit social enterprise. Buy Local Norfolk supports members by providing networking and marketing opportunities for local businesses, so strengthening connections within our community. It also encourages people to use the power of the pound in their pocket to support local, independent businesses on the high street.

You can make a real difference

Too many towns across the UK have become clone towns – all stocked with the same national chains, selling the same mass-produced goods. Worse still, many towns have become ghost-towns, with stores abandoning high streets in favour of large out-of-town shopping malls. Norfolk is different – and Norfolk is lucky.

Many of Norfolk’s towns still have thriving centres – with independent shops, specialising in locally produced goods and providing traditional personal service. This is great for local people because it gives them more choice. It is also important for the £2.8bn tourism industry, which employs some 750,000 people, because the diversity and individuality of Norfolk’s towns and villages attracts visitors.

You can help preserve our region’s distinctive identity by supporting these businesses. In doing so, you will help keep your community special, your local economy buoyant and more people in work. All you have to do is spend more of your money with local businesses. This doesn’t take a major change in your shopping habits – just small adjustments here and there can make all the difference.

You could start by using a local baker, butcher, farm shop or market – or looking for a local supplier of birthday cards, accountancy services, garden supplies, gifts, furniture and fittings. Why buy something bland from a national chain when you could buy something special from a local craftsperson? Obviously price comes into it but many local businesses go out of their way to compete on both price and service – all you have to do is ask them.

Businesses support businesses
Buy Local Norfolk holds regular, free-to-attend networking events around the county, which give your business an excellent opportunity to create valuable connections with new buyers and suppliers. This can make your business more resilient by shortening your supply chain and increasing your speed to market. It is also a chance to forge lasting friendships with business leaders who can support you with their experience, local knowledge and contacts.

Joining Buy Local Norfolk is simple – all you have to do is show you are a ‘truly local’ Norfolk business. This unique accreditation process is not onerous – it simply checks that your business is substantially owned and run by people who live in Norfolk and who already use five local suppliers. Membership costs just £5 a month and brings a whole load of benefits – including a full-colour listing in the directory, 5,000 copies of which are printed and distributed to businesses twice a year.

Buy Local Norfolk has also built strong links with some of Norfolk’s council procurement teams – including providing an electronic directory of members to Norwich City Council. Your membership also gets you a free listing (including your logo, company description, contact details, location map, and link to your website) on the Buy Local Norfolk website – which gets some 14,000 views a month from people looking for local businesses who can meet their specific needs.

Buy Local Norfolk believes that, as a community, we are stronger together. The organisation already has the support of over 120 businesses, local Councillors, MPs and MEPs. And the Buy Local Norfolk brand is increasingly recognised by Norfolk residents, including over 7,000 twitter followers. Now it’s your turn to get involved and do your bit to build a brighter future for your business, while supporting your community and making Norfolk an even better place to live, work and play. Join here today.

Buy-Local-Colour-Logo-2014

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Keep in touch

If you have any questions or comments, or ideas for future posts, please feel free to post them under this blog or tweet them to me. I will do my best to reply. In future blogs I will talk more about the Norfolk Food and Drink Festival 2014 (see my earlier post about being an #NFDF2014 Champion) – and other food and drink events around the county – I hope you enjoy them.

Thank you for reading.

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