A chat with @brummiedave for #MAent

UntitledDave Allen is author of ‘Learning to Fail: 5 rules for using social media in higher education‘. As part of his role as a university’s digital marketing manager, Dave runs training sessions, and led a tutorial on blogging for my MA.

I caught up with him over Twitter and ask some questions to help research my #MAent enterprise idea…

Let it be noted I’m following Rob Fitzpatrick’s recommendation and using the MOM test, i.e Dave doesn’t know what my enterprise idea is.

What do you think are the issues for small businesses when trying to market themselves online?

It’s hard to say, as I don’t run a small business, and it varies massively depending on the sector. However, any organisation that ultimately needs to promote itself, or its services needs a marketing strategy that reaches, encourages and allows its potential customers to purchase its products/services in the places they’re likely to be at their most receptive. Naturally, the web, PPC, PR, social, email and SEO then form a massive part of this marketing strategy. The challenge for many small businesses, however, is where exactly to start with all this, how to be found easily – be it their website or social accounts amidst all the noise, and then how to structure their site to best engage with visitors and convert them into paying customers.

RB: “The challenge is where exactly to start with all this. How to be found. How to stand out amidst the noise. How engage with visitors.” My online training idea can definitely help with these.

What advice would you give them to help with these issues?

Practically for those starting out; start small, keep it simple and build out. By which I mean, for the website, sign up to a reliable web hosting and domain name service that offers 1-click WordPress install. Install a paid theme, then create a minimal site with static about, contact and product/services pages. Then use a blog feed to generate interesting, useful or funny content that people want to click on from social feeds, email newsletters, Google searches, etc. to drag them to your site. This approach takes time, but is worth it. Also, be very literal and descriptive in your page titles and headlines. Google search makes up 60-80% of web traffic for most UK sites, so think about what people might be searching for.

RB: “Creating a basic website, blogging, content that people want to read, SEO.” Again, my online training idea can help with all of these.

Who would you refer them to if they needed third-party support?

It depends on what they need really. Generally, they’ll get best value for money by employing skilled/knowledgable individuals or small companies directly. There’s always a danger when working with agencies that you pay for the management of the task, rather than the ‘actual work’ (of course, that might be something that’s needed, so it depends on individual requirements).

RB: “Skilled, knowledgeable individuals.” That’s me!

When you offer advice and training to people on content creation, online marketing and social media, what is your approach?

It depends, but it’s usually either as a 1:1 consultation over a coffee to provide more detailed advice, or even some basic technical work if it’s not too time consuming. Ideally this might be accompanied with a ‘homework task’ for them to take away (e.g. audience persona templates). For the most part though it tends to be in the form of training, either classroom based or 1:1 for more technical/demo-based advice. For example, I run a 2-hour blogging workshop, which I’ve run tailored versions of dozens of times. However, a word of caution; a lot of training workshops by social media types have been run by people with zero understanding of pedagogical techniques or how people learn. Giving a ‘brain dump’ and calling it training is pretty much useless. So, if you take this route, learn the basic components of lesson planning, lesson structure and basic pedagogical techniques. I’m by no means an expert, but ask a secondary school teacher if you can.

RB: This is interesting. No mention of online training but the ‘homework task’ could be online. Tailoring content is something I’ll need to be aware of as channels and content production methods evolve, and there won’t always be a one-size fits all solution. The training portal will help with feedback and support, and while I do work at a university, I am not a teacher. My idea isn’t just about being a skilled online journalist, but also about teaching so this is something I’ll need to factor in. In previous roles I have been a mentor and NVQ assessor for trainee reporters, but I need to make sure I get feedback on my training so I can continue to improve it and make it relevant and useful.

And what platforms/tools to you use, i.e face to face, blog posts, video etc?

For advice/training it tends to be face-to-face or classroom-based mostly, as you can assess their learning. However, I tended to use blog posts and an eBook (I produced as part of my MA) in the past, to communicate supportive post- or pre-training materials.

RB: Dave’s training is face-to-face and supported by online material. This is where my idea is different, the training will be online. But I may flip Dave’s model and use face-to-face to support or promote/market my online offering.

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