I went to the Business Link sponsored StartUp Event for New Businesses at Alnwick Castle yesterday.
Well, I say Alnwick Castle, there were lots of very thick stone walls but I didn't actually see the Castle, so I think we were in the ducal potting shed! I did walk past the Tree House restaurant from the carpark though, and have resolved to visit if only to see if the inside is as good as the outside!
I stole that picture from www.johnbrash.co.uk website so if you want one of those in your back garden, that's the place to go!
I learnt a lot - particularly about Social Networking, which I mostly don't really understand and only join in because I feel I should. So as I suspect I'm not the only one, here's what I learned about Social Networking:
It doesn't have to take all day: it is possible to set up automatic cross-posting. So for example, I can publish a blog post which automatically turns itself into a Twitter from my feed, and a link on my Facebook page (ok so I don't actually have a business page for Facebook yet), and even as an update on LinkedIn. And apparently vice versa.
There is software you can buy that does this for you, or there's free apps available - not that I've actually got any further than knowing about it, but it's good to know. Because it is soooo tedious doing a blog post then going to bitly to shorten the URL then pasting it everywhere else.
Your Blog is your PR department - it's where your news, sales and promos information lives for people to find it. You need to pitch yourself as expert, knowledgeable and a resource of information for your customers.
You can make it easy for SearchEngines to promote you - by linking to your blog in other places (like Twitter or Facebook or even as a signature every time you make a comment somewhere on the net). The more links you have around the net, the more the SearchEngine pushes you up the search results.
You can make it even easier for SearchEngines to promote you - by thinking about what you want your blog to say about you & your work. Think about what words you would expect someone to type into a SearchEngine to find you - and make a list of them - these are your keywords. Then when you write your blog, use some of those words in your article - do it naturally so that the words are part of the flow of the narrative or story you are telling. The SearchEngines are set up to match keyword rich pages with searches that people make.
You can tell if your Blog (or any other website) content actually reflects your keywords - by using the Create page in http://www.wordle.net/. You plug in your blog or website url and get a pretty picture showing the words that you use most in that blog or website.
I've just done it with my blog url http://loisdesigns.blogspot.com/ and my Etsy shop http://www.toothillmedley.etsy.com/.
Did I get the results I hoped for? Nope. But that's not a surprise cos I've never actually thought about my online presence in those terms before.
You can monitor the internet to see who's talking about you or issues you are interested in: on Twitter you do this by setting up a saved search of your keywords, like your Twitter name and other crucial key words. You can then use that search to respond to people whose Tweets show up in that search. There are sites like Swix HQ who monitor for a fee, or free ones like TweetStats or ChirpStats that show you trending keywords and track who has unfollowed you etc.
There are free business listing websites: Like BrownBook or HotFrog that you can use to list your business - yet another free leg-up the greasy pole of the SearchEngine wars of visibility!
Just think how much more I could have learned if I'd not turned up halfway through the session!
The session was presented by Michael Thompson of Urban Giants - a specialist in graphic design and visual promotion. (Go Wordle his website http://www.urbangiants.co.uk/ - that's what ours are supposed to look like: fully and consciously promoting exactly what he wants it to!)
One final Social Networking point that I found out all by myself this week, was that LinkedIn has two groups for Etsy members, both of which seem quite lively.
This is a series of 5" square cards using handcut dog motifs fixed onto bright card - currently for sale at £2.99 +P&P each in my Etsy shop at http://www.toothillmedley.etsy.com/ and my Folksy shop at http://www.toothillmedley.folksy.com/. The full range can be seen on my Flickr account at http://www.flickr.com/photos/toothillmedley/sets/72157625998015706