Social media, SEO and dynamic user generated interfaces

Charles BaughanCharles Baughan, MD of Westaways Sausages, reveals how embracing social media has streamlined enquiries and made business easier

If, like me, you speed read the trade magazines that land your desk, I realise the heading of this column alone will now mean I have lost around 50% of my readers. This could be because you are in denial, that there are no key words in the title for you, it is not your department, that you do not trust the internet, or you just cannot see the point of it.

The topic is prone to acronyms (like SEO search engine optimisation), to new buzz words (apps, hashtags etc), and to phrases like dynamic user generated interfaces. To the uninitiated this does not make for easy reading.

Over a recent public holiday (.this phrase tends not to apply to those supplying UK retailers) I thought I would make a list of 100 key contacts in our sector that might be interested in working with us. Having drawn up the list of companies I then proceeded to try and identify the decision-makers in each company, and their email addresses. Only a handful of companies had websites that showed this detail. Some companies, it seemed, were deliberately hiding or protecting these contact details. This caused me to look at our own website. It had a contact us link but had no personality. We had a project under way to make our website mobile and tablet-friendly, so we had a review and decided to incorporate a button on the front page Talk to the Boss, that came straight through to my personal email. I hear the doubters saying OMG how do you cope? The answer is it saves everyone in the office a huge amount of time. I get considered, concise emails that I can respond to at my leisure, giving clear direction, and if need be I can forward the mail on to the correct contact in my company.

Our sales analyst (Hamish) who sits next to me in our office runs our Facebook pages and I run our Twitter pages. We follow an eclectic group of people that helps feed our imagination, but the real benefit is that we can respond immediately (depending on time zones) to any messages, and it shows we are real people, who actually care passionately about the products we make. This still surprises a lot of people.

Funnily enough, we get a load of enquiries through our website, and the ranking of our pages on search engines is pretty good. Our IT boffins tell us that our internet activity is helping improve our ranking, without us paying for it. I could drone on about Dunbars number, virtual and real worlds and geosocial networking, but maybe Ill save that for another day.

Oh, and the other thing is, if you do decide to change your approach, then do please answer your mail, your messages and your phone; you never know who might be calling.

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