Social Media and Small Business

How are other small businesses using it?

Last week we looked at factors to consider when starting an online business – which got us to thinking about small business and social media. In the past year, we’ve seen a rise in the number of businesses using social media as part of their marketing strategies. Before we get into a few ways to use social media to help give your small business a boost, we’d like to share some insights about how small businesses are using social media.

A few months ago, we read an online survey regarding the use of social media amongst 1,180 SMB decision makers and how they use social media for business purposes. Of those who use social media for business, the most frequent channels for marketing were Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter. Coming in at the bottom of the list were Google +, YouTube and a company blog.

According to the survey, small businesses are primarily after getting feedback regarding customer satisfaction with products and services from their Facebook page. Surprisingly, these businesses used the company website or email newsletter most frequently for marketing promotions.

According to the survey results, 28 percent of SMB’s cited connecting with customers as their main reason for using Facebook, but only 10 percent of them found that offering specials and discounts are not an effective way to reach their customers.

How can I use social media effectively?

While posting about the latest and greatest products or deals on your Facebook or Twitter page can be a good incentive for consumers to follow or like your page, we believe that you can also use it to find out who some of your best brand evangelists and influencers are. It is important to not only identify this group within your community but also to engage with them, which is made easy through a majority of social platforms.

Social media can also become a platform for customer support and service. Your fans and followers should feel comfortable in your community and be able to post questions, comments or concerns on your page. If you’re going to use social media for this type of support, be sure to monitor your page frequently so that you can respond promptly.

Before implementing any social media strategy for you small business, it’s important to consider the following:

  • It should complement your existing efforts; align it with your wider business objectives
  • You should have a clear, defined target audience
  • Develop a plan for the content, such as a content schedule
  • Enlist members of staff to help you with content, or select a social media manager
  • How to integrate all of the existing channels you are using
  • Monitor, evaluate and refine the plan; it should be quantifiable
  • What’s the measurement of success?

Are you using social media for your small business? What has worked for you?

Starting an Online Business

The jury’s still out on whether or not the UK’s ‘Silicon Roundabout’ will ever grow to rival Silicon Valley in the US, but it is clear that this area is buzzing with exciting new tech start-ups. In fact, hundreds of new companies have been born there over the past two years. Reading about the experiences of Songkick’s CEO this week on Guardian.co.uk, got us thinking about exactly what is involved in setting up an online business. A few pointers, based on our own views and those of serial entrepreneur, Kevin Partner, who shared his advice with PCPro, can be found below.

1. Think about what business model will work best for you

Are you selling a service, a product, a subscription, an information resource, an online wholesale offering or something completely different? There are a multitude of business models out there and, whatever your online business idea is, you’ll need to think carefully about the approach you take to selling and marketing it.

2. Think about your point of differentiation

There are very few fresh business ideas out there but luckily you don’t need an entirely new product or service to create a successful online business. What you do need is to make sure you can offer a new angle or a better service or differentiate yourself in another way. You must have a clear idea of what this differentiator will be or you’ll struggle to get your company off the ground.

3. Think local

Even in the online world, people want to know that they are interacting and working with businesses which operate locally and they’ll often search for companies in their area. In fact, Google states that 97% of consumers search for local businesses online so you’ll need to make sure you can be found easily if someone is searching in your local area. GooglePlaces can be a great starting point allowing you to fill in the information about your business to ensure you appear on a map of the region.

Of course, there are plenty of other things you need to know before starting an online business but we hope this has given you some food for thought. Why not share your own experiences and advice on what to do when starting an online business with us?

SSD vs HDD – which is best?

The uptake of solid state drives (or SSDs) has increased significantly in recent years. Whereas previously they were seen as an expensive luxury for very niche tasks, especially in business, it is no coincidence that their move to the mainstream has coincided with their continual fall in price and rise to a ‘usable’ capacity. An SSD with a reasonable amount of storage (say 120GB or so) can now be picked up for about £120. In fact we have ones that are even cheaper than this in stock at the moment at £99 Inc Vat, such as this OCZ Vertex Plus. Admittedly a HDD for £120 or so would have 2TB of storage, but if you just want something with enough space on it to install and run all the applications you need, then the 120GB on the SSD is more than enough.

But moving back to the question, which is better, SSD or HDD? Ultimately it comes down to how you use them. This post will tackle this by looking at the advantages and disadvantages of SSDs when compared to HDDs.

 

Advantages

Speed – if speed is your priority then SSDs are the way to go. As processors, RAM, video cards etc. have become faster and faster, the hard drive, with its out-dated spindle technology has started to show its age; it has become the bottleneck. With no spindles to spin up or write-heads to write, SSDs are significantly faster at reading and writing data than HDDs. As a result your applications and documents will load quicker and your computer will start up and shut down more quickly.

Reliability – As mentioned above, SSDs have no moving parts. This doesn’t just make them faster, it makes them significantly more reliable too. If you drop a hard drive the spindles inside can scrape against the side of the disk, permanently damaging any data in that sector. SSDs are also not afraid of magnets. If you rub a magnet against a HDD it can wipe the data. Not the case with SSDs. HDDs also tend to get hotter, which can damage them.

Lower power consumption – with no moving parts and a different way of saving data, SSDs use significantly less power than HDDs. This makes them particularly well suited to portable devices where any drop in power can lead to better mileage out of the battery.

 

Disadvantages

Capacity – As mentioned in the introduction, SSDs simply don’t match the capacity of traditional HDDs who simply have many more years of R&D to build on. So if it’s lots of storage you’re looking (say you’re building a server for example), then HDDs are really the best option right now.

Cost – Relating to capacity, while SSDs have come down in price considerably, they are still considerably more expensive per gigabyte of storage than HDDs. SSDs for example cost about £1 per GB, whereas HDDs cost give you about 20 times that amount of storage for the same £1.

Lifespan – SSDs have a limited lifespan when it comes to the number of times they can be written to (approximately 40 years of non-stop writing). HDDs by contrast have no limit, so providing none of their moving parts fail first (see above point about reliability) they have a theoretically longer lifespan. While most people will never reach anywhere near the 40 year life of a SSD, it is worth bearing in mind. It makes them particularly unsuitable for databases where they will be written to constantly for example.

 

We hope this list of advantages and disadvantages will help you to decide which type of drive is right for you. Ultimately, as I hope I’ve alluded to in the article, it comes down to what the drive will be used for. For mobile devices where battery life is important or for when speed is important, choose SSD, but if you’re building a NAS device or just require a lot of storage, then HDDs are the way to go. If you’re still undecided, the main manufacturers have also started to introduce hybrid drives which combine the speed advantages of SSDs with the capacity of traditional HDDs. Well worth a look.

If you’re eager for more, here’s a few videos to help you along the way:

LockerGnome’s Brandon Wirtz and Chris Pirillo discuss the advantages and disadvantages between SSD and HDD when used as the primary drive in computers.

Samsung SSD vs HDD

What is an SSD? Chris Pirillo explains