What could a blog, plus online social networking give your company?

Developing your brand is about creating a relationship with your customers based on their perception of your organisation. Start not with what you sell, but with those who will buy, and find the appealing values that your organisation shares with them to give your organisation a personality they can relate to.

Successful branding helps to make sales easier because trust has been created between customer and organisation. Creating this kind of successful brand doesn’t happen overnight but it can be supported by making your organisation accessible to customers on the web.

A blog is a type of online diary, often used by businesses to publish articles about issues and events relevant to their industry that will be of interest to their customers and their peers. It can be hosted separately from your main website or the free blogging software can be installed on your web-server to integrate your website and your blog. Some smaller companies or freelance workers only have a blog as the software is versatile and can be used in a similar way to a traditional website with pages for services, products and contact information. You can update your blog as often as you like and as soon as you hit the ‘Publish’ button your articles are live on the web and can be indexed by search engines.

Blog-posts can be effectively promoted through the use of the social networking site Twitter where users write their current status in messages of 140 characters or less. These messages can contain hyperlinks that direct readers to your blog post, your website or to any other online resource you want to promote.

Your Twitter status can also be linked so it updates your Facebook status and your status on the Ecademy business networking site, meaning you only have to write updates once and all the people who ‘follow’ you will be informed. If you are trying to spread the word out about a new product or service it is obvious that linking your updates this way could provide an effective and low-cost way to promote them online.

These websites can also prove useful in other ways. By posting questions to those in your network others can respond quickly with personal recommendations and links to information resources. Additionally, social networking can enable you to keep in touch with friends and business contacts you may not often be able to meet up with in-person due to geography or lack of time.

Social networking has received coverage in the mainstream media and on the BBC news website an article by Claire Prentice explains how small firms are harnessing social networking for their marketing. As many small firms cannot afford to spend large sums on advertising they have turned to the social networking websites to reach a global audience with a minimal cost. Promoting special offers, new services and even to fill cancelled appointments at the last minute, updates on Twitter or Facebook build trust between customers and your organisation because they know the information comes from the source.

Social networking sites invite your customers to enter into dialogue with your company and the feedback you receive can be used to improve your services. However, your organisation also becomes open to criticism. Approach criticism as a chance to improve your service and potentially win back a customers and even this aspect of social networking for business use can have a positive outcome.

Are you new to social networking online? Here’s some tips on how to begin:

Online social networking site http://www.twitter.com, uses short messages to help you stay in touch with other twitter users and http://www.facebook.com is a full social networking site that allows you to upload photos, update your status and instant message other friends online at the same time as you.

Business networking sites include http://www.ecademy.comwhich is a large site with users from all over the world with clubs and regional networking groups you can join. You may also like to look at http://www.linkedin.com for opportunities to network with other professionals.

If you’d like to start your own blog visit: http://www.wordpress.com. Try reading a few blogs to see the breadth of writing that exists on the web. You can search Google for blogs or you can visit a blog search engines like http://www.technorati.com which has a list of 100 top blogs to browse. Also try http://mashable.com for blogs about the world of social media online and a series of articles on ‘How to’ that should help you if you are struggling to use any of the sites mentioned in this article.

Create Design Studio have a dedicated service for those of you who would like to start your own blog but don’t know where to begin. Setting up blogs on your existing website, designing the pages, showing you how to login and write articles as well as using Google Analytics to see how well your blog is doing. Call Create Design Studio’s Managing Director David Woodroofe on 01962 737989 if you would like to discuss having your own blog.

If you decide to take the plunge why not look up Charlotte Lamb, Creative Director at Create Design Studio, on Twitter by searching for @charlotte_lamb to read Charlotte’s Tweets on Graphic design. Or visit the Create Design Studio website to find out how we can help you with web design, graphic design or e-marketing.