Prime Minister Supports Home Business at Enterprise Nation Summit

On Friday I attended Enterprise Nation’s first Home Business Summit, where I discovered home based businesses contribute £300bn to the annual UK economy.

£1 in every £11 of turnover is created by a home business and there are 2.9 million home based businesses in the UK.

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See more in Enterprise Nation’s Home Business Infographic here.

The conference coincided with the announcement of new policies from the Government, who are aiming to make home working easier, and more widely accepted across the country.

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The surprise guest of the morning was Prime Minister David Cameron, whose attendance had not been announced, and who appeared (and disappeared!) like a whirlwind. He gave a very positive address to the audience, reiterating the Government’s commitment to home businesses.

David Cameron said: “70% of new businesses are home businesses and this is where a lot of the jobs and the growth are going to come from in our country – so the scale is immense if we can help businesses and startups get going.”

You can find his full speech here, on Business Zone.

The new Government policies include:

  • Making it easier for people to run a business from a rented home. The law will be changed so that landlords can be assured that agreeing to this will not undermine their residential tenancy agreement. A new model tenancy agreement will also be made available shortly.
  • Updated planning guidance makes it clear that planning permission should not normally be needed to run a business from your home.
  • New business rates guidance clarifies that in the majority of circumstances home based businesses will not attract business rates.
  • New legislation to make it easier to hire an apprentice to help your home business.

As a home business based in London, it’s really encouraging to hear the Government taking home business seriously, and helping us make it easier to run things. David Cameron certainly wants us to be a nation of entrepreneurs and he said he wants us to celebrate people who start their own businesses, so it’s good that he is practicing what he is preaching.

 

Tweet Dreams: A Q&A with Twitter Co-Founder Biz Stone

Last month I was lucky to catch Biz Stone, Twitter Co-Founder sharing his thoughts on business and creativity while promoting his new book at London’s School of Economics.

The audience listened as the humble and wonderfully inventive Stone recounted his experiences from young boy of a single parent family, to global entrepreneur worth $250 million.

It was clear that Stone has always been interested in the open exchange of information, after running one of the first well-read Blogger web logs and working on a groundbreaking podcasting project at Google.

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Stone said that you need emotional investment as a CEO of a company, and that you need to be a user of your own product to really understand how to improve it.

“I knew how to empathise and connect with our audience” he said.

He used Twitter right from the beginning, sending updates to his friends about his weekend plans, and reading what his network was up to.  He is also a regular user of his new application Jelly, which allows users to ask and answer questions with photos and videos.

Stone said it wasn’t until March 2007, at global conference SXSW that he realized how useful Twitter could be, as everyone was using the site to update on which talks and parties they were attending; “It was a fun toy that revealed itself as a profoundly important business”.

Over the years he has listened and learned from customers, letting them effectively write the strategy for new features and the growth of the tool. It was at the SXSW conference that Twitter users invented the hashtag (now used to categorize tweets around topics and events) to signify their presence at the event, and share thoughts with other attendants.

“We wanted to build a tool where the product was so good that we got people talking about the different ways you could use it,” he recalled.

Stone said he never expected Twitter to be used for such important global event like the Arab Spring – but was is quick to add that Twitter didn’t cause these events to happen, it was used as an alternative broadcasting tool aiding the spreading of useful information.

When asked about the future of marketing, Stone recounted Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, explaining that customers are looking for something more from brands than just information about what they need.

“Customers are looking for more meaning. The future of marketing is philanthropy for two reasons. It means customers will choose you over competitors, and you will attract key talent in your workforce.”

He also offered advice for anyone marketing a business using Twitter, “Be human, be authentic and helpful as it shows goodwill.”

It was clear that Biz Stone has a huge belief in social good, and spoke of his hopes for a more connected world. He ended his session saying he hopes the future of social media is that humanity can work together as one entity more, “to get things done at a much faster rate”.

The book (which I received a signed copy of – thanks Biz!) was a good easy read, with some important business lessons and some funny stories from the creative mind behind one of the world’s most visited websites.

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5 things from Figaro Digital Marketing Conference 2014

Screen Shot 2014-04-25 at 11.21.29Last week I attended Figaro Digital Marketing Conference 2014, a day dedicated to the latest innovations and trends in internet marketing, including social media, email marketing, SEO and content marketing. The event featured speakers from Shortlist Media, BT, Waterstones and Time Out as well as some top agencies.

Here’s 5 top takeaways from my day:

1.  Images are absolutely key: 

It’s getting more difficult to market yourself online without a fantastic bank of images at your disposal. The busier people are getting, the less they want to read, and the easier it is to consume images instead. Social networks are constantly redesigning to give more emphasis to images within the newsfeeds, and the huge growth in image-based network Instagram proves this.

Shortlist’s co founder Tim Ewington said that images really affect how best their emails direct traffic to their websites. Meat pictures perform very well for their weekly male subscribers.

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2. Google Authorship is worth setting up: 

If you are a publisher or blogger, Google Authorship is definitely worth setting up. As you can see on the screenshot, having the author’s headshot next to their articles make the posts much more enticing to click on in Google search results. You can setup Google Authorship here.

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3. Social media demands creativity: 

BT’s Senior Digital Brand Manager, Christopher Wellbelove explained how repetitive social media tactics don’t get you anywhere. You must try new things and be willing to think outside of the box. As I always say, ‘Experiment, and find out what works best for you!’

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4. Find a tone of voice that works for you: 

Luckily Jonathan O’Brien, chief Tweeter for Waterstones Oxford Street, had exactly the right tone of voice for the company. It was quite daring, sarcastic and highly cheeky – but it captured the attention of almost 70,000 followers who enjoy his daily facts, musings and down-right random updates. It’s all about finding the tone of voice that works well for your business, and sometimes that might not be talking about the obvious at all.

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5. The future is exciting: 

Global design agency We Are Experience delivered a very interesting talk about some of the technology they are working on with companies such as Transport for London and Zipcar, including tube platforms which tell you where to queue for the empty carriages and cars that automatically arrive at your doorstep. Crazy but very cool!

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Videos from the day’s conference are available on Figaro Digital’s website here.

Speaking social media in Romania

For the past week, I have been at the ecomTEAM ecommerce conference in Brasov, Romania.

The two day conference took part at the 4* Kromwell Hotel and around 250 delegates attended, ranging from business owners to marketing managers.

I was invited to speak at the conference on the subject of social media, as many companies in Romania are exploring the use if platforms to reach wider audiences and to influence sales. I discussed the opportunity social media can bring businesses – from generating sales, to changing a reputation and educating audiences. I spoke about how some UK companies are using social media to create enriched customer experiences to encourage a loyal fan base.

Brasov is a small town, two hours from the capital of Bucharest, in the region of Transylvania. This is also the town where the Bran Castle is found, where the legend of Dracula is based. The lovely town was a great place to visit in Romania, as you can see in some of the pictures below, and the benefits of having a conference three hours outside of the capital meant that most of the attendees stuck around for the full days of the conference as well as the evening party – which was a good chance to meet and speak to people about social media in the country.

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Facebook is the most popular platform used in the country, with recent figures showing that there are 7 million active users. LinkedIn is also a popular platform, with many using it for business networking. Twitter and Instagram have much smaller audiences in Romania, and when I took my workshop of 30, only around 10% of the room admitted to using the service.

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During the first panel, featuring Romania’s Head of Google Dan Bulucea, the interesting point came up that credit card payments are not as confident as other EU markets at using credit cards to pay for items online. This led me to make the point on my panel that social media could be a good technique at highlighting great customer stories. Happy customers who have successfully shopped with online companies could be encouraged to share their positive experiences online, which will no doubt influence other potential customers in using the same payment methods.

Social media could also be a great way of building brand advocates too, if companies offer great customer service and a memorable tone of voice through their channels. During my workshop, I asked how many people had a social media strategy in place. Only two people of 30 in the room raised their hands, proving that Romanian businesses are not strategically thinking about their activity.

Creating a social media strategy can help businesses to focus on why they are using each channel, and what they should be posting. It can help to achieve objectives and focus on what your audience would respond to best. In my workshop I covered how to create a social media strategy using the following 6 steps:

1. Objectives

2. Audience

3. Platforms

4. Tone of Voice

5. Content & Frequency

6. Measurement 

My workshop aimed to inspire Romanian businesses on what is possible, using lots of example from successful global brands such as ASOS, H&M, Lidyl, Nike, Oxfam, Nandos, and Jamie Oliver.

I really enjoyed my visit to Romania, and getting to know the country and would like to thank the ecomTEAM for inviting me and making me feel very welcome. I’ve been interviewed by Garbo, a lifestyle website in Romania, about my career in social media here. You might need Google Translate!

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On the panel at Facebook HQ for DAWN

I was honoured to be part the latest Digital Advertising Women’s Network (or DAWN) event which took place at Facebook HQ in London.

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The particular theme of the event of The Work Network, and my particular angle was how to use social media tools to stay connected with your network. Many of us have an old pile of potentially useful business cards sitting somewhere gathering dust, or haven’t spoken to our colleagues from our first job for a while. Tools like LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook can enable you to keep track of your network, and reconnect with any that may provide new opportunities, partnerships and useful advice.

I believe online networking has two key benefits;

  • It widens your network to friends of friends, influential people in your industry, and peers that you haven’t even met yet.
  • It reinforces relationships with those that you have met, and helps to keep you front of mind for future opportunities.

Seeing as I have worked in three digital advertising agencies in my career, and met countless interesting people through my freelance social media consulting, there is no way I can keep up with them all via emails and correspondence. Twitter for me is the best way of staying on top of how contacts are doing, and what projects they are working on at present. LinkedIn provides an excellent way to keep track of who is working where, and what they are working on. Facebook is a great way to use your friends of friends, to build awareness around what you do or help find the right people for the right projects.

Helen Morris, Marketing Manager at Carat wrote an excellent blog post about the event, and some of the key learnings which you can find here.