The Microsoft way to boost the online presence of a small British business

Engaging through social media

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Social media is a valuable means of finding your customers online. The largest social media networks, like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn are all free and public, and represent a huge opportunity when it comes to having conversations with your customers and promoting your small business. 

Social media is a cost effective means of advertising designed to be engaging and interactive. An instant means of communicating to groups of people, social media can help companies broadcast their products and services. One site will often suit a company more than another, for example, Instagram is used by picture lovers (and selfie lovers) whereas Facebook is used to broadcast more meaty information like events. 

You only need an email address to set up a Facebook or Twitter account. What’s more all the information you’ll need to help set up your profiles is available by visiting http://www.greatbusiness.gov.uk/engaging-through-social-media/. Once set up, the billions of people that use social media will instantly become potential customers/clients. The best advice for anyone using social media is try to make posts and content engaging by using images, videos and news. Experiment with different kinds of posts such as questions, competitions, jokes and anecdotes. You’ll quickly see what works for you and what gets people talking. Do More Online is a good place for inspiration. 

Social media is a great way to engage with customers and build your brand. But if you don’t tread carefully it can also represent a PR minefield. Avoid updating your social media profiles too often – you’ll just be annoying. On the other hand it’s better not to have a profile at all than never update it – it will look like you don’t really care about your business. 

Don’t talk at people on social media, the point is to engage with consumers not just broadcast information about your brand. However, this does leave you open to criticism and negative feedback. Don’t ignore it, keep an eye on your Twitter/Facebook accounts and deal with issues swiftly and tactfully. You can frequently turn a negative experience into a positive one, generating good PR for your business. 

Read more on social media:

Being efficient with online finance

It wasn’t a million years ago that paying suppliers for a small business meant 20 different cheques with 20 different envelopes and trips back and forth from the bank or post office. You can do all that today just by getting your small business connected using the Internet. With your business finances online, there’ll be less paperwork, your company will run more efficiently and you’ll have more time. 

You need to protect your customers’ finances. Paypal, Sage Pay, NetBanx and WorldPay are all popular platforms for secure online transactions. It’s important to display the logo of the payment method on your website so potential customers feel assured and are more likely to buy from you. Partnering with a reputable payment system is the start but you must also offer a help service, provide contact details and confirm any transactions with an email.

Using the internet for your finances can be made safer by protecting your bank details, updating your anti-virus software, using the latest version of Windows, installing the latest security updates and, if possible, trying not to use public computers. Some banks offer additional security software specifically designed to protect you during online banking. Rapport software, as it is known, is free to download and secures financial transactions in addition to normal internet security software.

For more advice on being efficient with your businesses finances visit Great Business. 

Marketing online

Marketing online is a goal for many small businesses but can be seen as quite a daunting task. There are multiple platforms to explore when it comes to promoting your business and services online including social media, search advertising, newsletters and blogs.

Don’t be afraid to experiment with different kinds of marketing tools. Boosting a Facebook post is useful if you want to up the number of people that engage with your page or post. If you go down this route it’s important to set yourself a budget and bear in mind it doesn’t have to be expensive. 

With so many companies selling online, and household names like Argos, eBay and Etsy making it so easy to trade online, it’s no wonder UK online sales are at £193 billion a year. Using host sites such as, Etsy and eBay is safe and they also provide help and support for new sellers. For more information on how you can start selling via these websites, visit their support pages at http://pages.ebay.co.uk/help/sell/store-getstarted.html and https://www.etsy.com/uk/sell/

Background on the Do More Online campaign

The Do More Online campaign refers to a plethora of activity being undertaken by the Government Department for Business Innovation and Skills, alongside partner organisations, to enhance the digital capabilities of micro businesses and sole traders. 

Do More Online is a part of the Business is Great campaign and aims to raise awareness of the extensive Government and partner support that is available for small businesses to enhance their online presence, and demonstrate the following:  

  • That thousands of potential customers are searching for businesses online – if small businesses aren’t there, they can’t be found
  • That doing more online will save businesses time and money 
  • That doing more online can be done cheaply, quickly and without IT expertise 

For more tips and support on how your business can do more online, visit http://www.greatbusiness.gov.uk/domoreonline for more information. 

Chris Rothwell is the channel development group manager at Microsoft.

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