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With our headline sponsorship of the #BizPartyInspires conference came the opportunity to present as a sponsor. We could have, as many sponsors do, pitch the product, (in this case our simple and easy-to-use online accounting software) but in this instance we were delighted to tell our #SponsorForADay story. More importantly, for the assembled small business owners, we were delighted to share the lessons we learned on the way to winning the Bank of Ireland Sponsor for A Day competition and those marketing activities that didn’t pan out as we’d planned.

Prior to our presentation and indeed right the way through to the Q&A at 5pm the floor was really keen to find out the answer to one key question, “How do I manage my time on social media?” and we hope this blog post will go some way to alleviating that one big concern.

JESS3_BrianSolis_ConversationPrism4_WEB_1600x1200First off, we recommend that you take a close look at The Conversation Prism.  Developed in 2008 by Brian Solis, it is a visual map of the social media landscape which is ever changing. What’s key here for the small business owner is that it tracks dominant and promising social networks and organises them by how they’re used in everyday life. Niche small businesses will have many different and unique requirements from other small businesses in other niches and likewise will have a different set of requirements when it comes to winning new customers and maintaining existing relationships.

Some social media tools cut across all sectors, Twitter being one obvious example, but for anyone in the music industry it’s essential you are in touch with MySpace. Any business that sells accommodation or interacts with the public from a service point of view needs to have eyes and ears on TripAdvisor; be ready with positive acknowledgements of good reviews but be fully prepared to deal with negative reviews, take them on the chin and redouble your efforts to make good the genuine complaint. If you sell primarily in the B2B channel then you should have a presence on LinkedIn.

In her presentation ‘on The Importance of Social Media for Small Business’ at #BizPartyInspires, Hedi Grimwood referenced Einstein and his wordsAlbert-Einstein of wisdom, “Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

Heidi was advocating that we explore as many social media channels as possible and see which ones work for you rather than using channels that are inappropriate for your business and being disappointed with the poor return on your time invested.

What we propose is that you take the Conversation Prism and first take a look at the social media landscape and see what’s relevant to your niche or sector. With that in mind, build a social media plan based on an understanding of the best ways for you to win, convert and retain new customers. What’s more, you’ll avoid the Einstein paradox, win new customers and maintain your sanity.

Time is a precious commodity and for those of you taking your first steps into social media marketing, please make sure you spend time understanding what’s required from the various social media tools at hand. Free-to-use is a dangerous honey trap as you can’t rewind the clock after you’ve spent hours chasing customers and prospects that aren’t using the social media tools you are.

We recommend you be pretty good at a few rather than being spread too thin across many. Select the few that are most suitable to your sector and ignore the noise from social media software tools that are vying for your ‘time’.

Bottom line: Identify your sector and compile your social media tool shortlist. Allocate the time you can afford, no more, and stick rigidly to your social media plan. Start with a modest time allocation and build over time as your competence and confidence grows. From small acorns…….

Marc O'Dwyer

After completing a Graduate program in Marketing, Marc’s impressive sales career began at Allied Irish Banks, Pitney Bowes and Panasonic where he received numerous Irish and European sales performance awards and consistently exceeded targets and expectations. In 1992, Marc’s entrepreneurial spirit led him to set up his own business, Irish International Sales (IIS). Initially, this company was a reseller for Take 5 Accounts and Payroll software. Within four years, IIS became the largest reseller of Take 5 in Ireland, acquiring four other Take 5 resellers. He also found time to set up two mobile phone shops under the Cellular World brand and a web design company offering website design services for small businesses. In 2001, he bought the majority share in a small Irish software business, Big Red Book. At that time, the company was losing money. The company became profitable within two months, and Marc then acquired a payroll company to compliment Big Red Books Accounting products. In 2003, IIS were appointed as Channel Partners with SAP for their new SME product, SAP Business One. Marc sold his Take 5 business and concentrated on developing this new market for SAP As a result, by 2007, IIS was recognised as the largest Channel Partner for SAP in EMEA (Europe Middle East and Africa). In 2008, the IIS Sales Manager bought the Company from Marc in an MBO. He launched Big red cloud in June 2012, the online version of big red book, to date the company successfully converts 59% of trials into sales and the number of customers is growing rapidly. Marc continues to run both Big Red Book and Big Red Cloud which now support 75,000 businesses. He is a very keen sportsman, having played rugby for 20 years, represented Leinster at under 16 and under 20 levels, and league squash with Fitzwilliam Lawn Tennis Club for 10 years. Marc has competed in 11 Marathons, including the London and Boston Marathons, and has completed several Triathlons and Half Ironman races. He has also completed six Ironman Races in Austria(x2), Frankfurt (Germany), Nice (France) , Mallorca (Spain) and Copenhagen (Denmark)

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