Small businesses should get social

Ivan Croxford, general manager for digital marketing services at BT Business, explains how marketers can get optimise social networking sites such as BT Tradespace.

Ivan Croxford
Ivan Croxford

There are some great benefits to utilising social networking to help promote your business. Yet, this is an area that can all too easily missed.

Yet sites like BT Tradespace are set up exclusively for businesses to enable them to create and use video amongst other social media tools to market themselves and grow their businesses online.

BT Tradespace research shows that visitors spend longer on a seller site with video than one without (59% spend 5+ minutes compared to 15% normally). So, the capabilities for businesses to really promote themselves, and use social networking sites like Tradespace for acquisition and retention marketing is one of the best possible tools they could choose to use.

We’ve recently upgraded BT Tradespace to give small businesses the tools and advice they need to easily record and upload video content onto their online profile to display products and engage with customers. Internet video is also on the rise and is predicted to be over 60 per cent of all consumer internet traffic in the next three years.

We’ve also put a special offer when they purchase Flip video camcorders, in a bid to help customers reach out to others and showcase their best work. Online video advertising is continuing to grow as more and more people are using engaging video content to help get their unique personalities across online. We are now giving businesses on BT Tradespace a simple, effective way to market themselves using video.

Such technology introduces a range of new features to ensure that small businesses can extend the reach of word-of-mouth online, get noticed by customers through influencing their search engine rankings and create more sales on and off the web.

It means that small businesses can help grow their online reputation and establish stronger relationships with their customers, partners and suppliers.

At BT, we have BT ServiceSmart a new customer service tool designed to help members improve their customer service. Customers can ask questions or report a problem so that businesses can resolve any queries through the community. Businesses can try to do similar skills themselves, so they are always able to provide assistance to customers when it is needed.

This should also be the case in search. Members should be thinking about keywords for every item they add to their online profile, which helps them to achieve a higher ranking on search engines allowing consumers to find them more easily.

On BT Tradescape, businesses can track visitors to their BT Tradespace profile using Google Analytics.

More and more small businesses are boosting their online presence in an effort to increase their turnover. BT Tradespace is all about making online an accessible and effective sales and marketing channel for businesses, helping them grow their customer base and in return their business.

There are some other benefits that we are currently utilising to help businesses audience. These include tools for businesses to boost their online reputation and build word of mouth, including online fans, testimonials and business recommendations, systems like BookItNow, allowing businesses selling services to accept appointments in just a few clicks.

You should always promise secure transactions using PayPal to enable businesses to set-up an online store in just a few steps using images and video to display goods and services. We provide access to more than 4.2 million stock photos and illustrations so businesses can personalise their online profiles and have the ability for businesses to set-up or join communities to connect with others, share ideas and get advice on a diverse range of topics.

Getting businesses to use social networking as a B2B marketing tool is by no means an easy task. They have to be sure they can easily get the most out of it. We have 350,000 businesses signed up over a very diverse range of audiences and will be looking to boost that with online marketing and offline presence at key business events.

Simplicity is key. This has to be treated as a component for business. It isn’t the same as the more relaxed and casual nature of consumer-focused sites like Facebook and isn’t as complex as 140 character status updates, favoured by the likes of Twitter.

It’s about making a visual impact and building a network of professional contacts and utilising the web to make business a pleasure. Word of mouth is a powerful medium and this is a perfect enabler. I would encourage all businesses – particularly marketers – to think about how they ca get the most out of having an online profile that is much more professional than the usual fan pages.

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