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The Power of Social Media – an Inspiring Entrepreneurs evening

Web in Feb logoAs part of the Inspiring Entrepreneurs series and in conjunction with Social Media Week, the British Library hosted The Power of Social Media last night, to show how small businesses can enhance social media to engage with their customers and reach new markets.

I am grateful to my colleague Michael Pattinson for writing this report on the evening:

The event was sold out and also streamed live at Southampton University and New York Public Library.  As befitting an event about social media, there was also a live blog at www.businesszone.co.uk as well as a live Twitter feed.

The guest speakers included Fraser Docherty, founder of Superjam, Ian Hogarth, CEO and co-founder of Songkick.com, Rory Cellan-Jones, the BBC technology correspondent and Justine Roberts, co-founder of Mumsnet.

The event was hosted by Matthew Rock of Real Business magazine.  He began by telling the audience how useful social media has been for his own business, Caspian Publishing.

FraserFirst up was Fraser Docherty of Superjam.  Fraser proved to be a very engaging and funny speaker.  He told us how he started making jam, based on his grandmother’s recipes when he was fourteen, selling it door to door and at farmers markets before securing a deal with Waitrose.  Social media and blogging provided him with a cheap and easy way to publicise his brand and communicate with his customers.

According to Fraser, one of his proudest achievements has been setting up a charity which runs tea parties for the elderly.  So far, there have been tea parties so far but he believes social media can help him create thousands of similar events around the country.

IanThe next speaker was Ian Hogarth who set up the website Songkick.com, which allows members of the public to match their music interests to the site and then receive alerts when their favourite bands are playing.  The site uses a “robot” which scours the Internet for concert and gig information.

Ian made the point that everything on the web is media and everything good on the web is social.  He said: “Good ideas spread faster than ever before – that’s an amazing thing for entrepreneurs, how the barriers of entry are changing.”

Ian talked of the importance of motivating and exciting your audience by emphasising the value of your product or service.  He also talked about how the internet had blurred the lines between product and marketing and how his product manager is effectively his marketing manager thanks to social media.

Ian had recently returned from a trip to LA and recommended that any start-ups using social media needed to spend some time in Silicon Valley because their ideas about social media were so advanced.

RoryNext up was the BBC’s technology correspondent Rory Cellan-Jones.  Rory has witnessed first hand how social media, especially Twitter, has revolutionised news reporting.  He used an example of the earthquake in Qinghai province in China last year which was reported on Twitter before it appeared on any other news media.

Rory had some amusing anecdotes of the pitfalls of using social media – his advice:  don’t say anything on Twitter you wouldn’t say in normal conversation!  However, he brushed aside criticisms that social media is killing the art of conversation and social interaction saying that these same criticisms were made about the telephone and email.

Justine RobertsThe last speaker was Justine Roberts from Mumsnet, the massively popular website for mums (and the occasional dad) with a phenomenal 1.2 million visitors each month.

She emphasised how social media was so effective in providing a discussion forum which can be so much more effective in selling a product than traditional advertising.  She also talked of the potential dangers of going viral with silly publicity stunts which have a habit of backfiring but her main message was listen and engage, don’t stifle debate.  She also said that you should relinquish control and let yourself go!

A Q&A session followed and some interesting issues were raised by members of the audience such as online privacy and how do you protect your intellectual property.  The speakers all agreed that you can’t expect privacy as social media is a public space.  As far as Intellectual Property is concerned, you can’t stop people from copying your ideas, you just have to provide the best forum and the most recognisable brand.  As Justine Roberts said: “this is the internet, you can’t put up walls. We don’t stop our users recommending competitor websites.”

Other issues raised by questions included how social media can be used to help B2B companies and where social media is going in the future.  Rory Cellan-Jones felt that despite the dominance of Facebook, there was still room for vertical specialist social networks and that social media was blurring the lines between B2C and B2B.

You can read the live blog replay at http://www.businesszone.co.uk/topic/marketing-pr/live-blog-power-social-media/32776

The event was also filmed and highlights will be appearing on the BIPCTV YouTube channel shortly.

Comedy at The British Library – What’s So Funny Live

It’s Friday and so time to lighten up a bit.

Actually it was on Monday evening that I was lucky enough to attend What’s So Funny Live, an evening of comedy as part of our Evolving English exhibition.

Five comics took over our rather serious Conference Centre with the challenge of making their audience laugh.

Each of them succeeded in their own way, with Ida Barr being particularly – or perhaps peculiarly, unique.

Doc Brown the rapper and performance poet-turned comedian (who prefers not to be known as the baby brother of author Zadie Smith), was the host for the evening, and contributed some excellent laid back humour. In particular his story about listening to his ‘brothers’ outraged tales of police harassment as they go about their illegal activities.

Susan Murray focussed on regional accents with some self deprecating jokes about the unimpressive nature of her West Midlands accent.

Old timer Arthur Smith followed with sketches about how everyone will eventually become a BBC Radio 4 listener – however hard they try to resist (certainly true for me). He also persuaded the audience to sing along to “I am the Mayor of Balham / oh yes I fucking am / I am the Mayor of Balham / I fucking fucking am”. Taking much delight in polluting the otherwise pristine air of  the British Library with foul language. However, he finished on a joke that was so clean it would be suitable for children and involved balloons and letting people down.

Next came Ida Barr, the creation of Chris Green. She is an ‘artificial-hip-hopping’ former Music Hall star, doddering around the stage but peppering her talk with the street language of ‘innit’ and ‘aks’. Odd, but also hilarious.

Finally came Richard Herring, famous (or perhaps infamous) for his 2009 show Hitler Moustache, in which he attempted to reclaim the toothbrush moustache for comedy… by growing one on his upper lip. He was enormously relaxed and confident with the audience, and has a great deal of excellent material to call on. He successfully unnerved us as well as making us laugh at ourselves and him. He has a great sketch about the potato of the sky…

 

Appeal for empty niche brand water bottles

As part of my presentation, during our Practical Market Research workshop, I have a slide showing three very different types of bottled water.

The images nearly always trigger an insightful discussion about branding and niches within markets, and how entrepreneurs need to think very carefully and strategically about their product and service. Are they going to target the top of the market populated with ‘high net worth individuals’, the growing green consumers, or perhaps the ethical demographic?

As you can see from my screen shot, I cover all of the above sectors with my examples.

The first is called bling h20 and costs $40 for the limited edition Paris Pink bottle. They justify its price tag by putting Swarovski crystals on the bottle and making Paris Hilton its patron saint.

The second brand is Tasmanian Rain and claims: This uniquely pure rainwater is captured on the pristine island of Tasmania, Australia where the air is scientifically proven to be the purest in the world. The air currents travel over Antarctica and 10,000 miles of open ocean eventually reaching the western most part of Tasmania, “the edge of the world”. Here, TASMANIAN RAIN is collected before ever touching the ground, therefore never absorbing impurities, and resulting in a water that is ten times more pure than other premium and artesian waters.

Finally, Belu is an ethical brand and claim to produce the UK’s most eco-friendly bottled water.
It is 100% carbon neutral with the UK’s first plastic bottle made from corn not oil. We deliver one month of clean water per bottle we sell and donate all our profits to clean water projects.

All of this is a rather long winded way of getting  to my appeal for empty bottles of these (or any other niche filling bottled water brands) as example for me to hand round in my workshop.

If you happen to be passing by The British Library and could drop them off at the front desk for me, I would be very grateful.

Website Design: Ten Areas Where You Can Learn From User Behaviour

website_design_user_behaviour.jpgI am currently working with my SLA Europe colleagues to build a shiny new website for our association so these tips are timely.

Many of the clients we see in the Business & IP Centre are not planning to build their own websites, but all too often they come in with horror relating to their experiences with web designers.

In many cases they have paid a self-proclaimed ‘professional’ web designer a great deal of money to produce a site they are not happy with. As with all aspects of bringing in professionals to deliver a service your business needs, whether it is accounting, contracts or web design, the more knowledge you have the stronger position you are.

So this short guide from Alistair Gray is a good start to get you thinking about what you site should (or shouldn’t) look like.

Website Design: Ten Areas Where You Can Learn From User Behaviour

10 Unexpected Online User Behaviours To Look Out For
by Alistair Gray

1. People Have Banner Blindness

2. People Develop Tunnel Vision

3. People Skip Your Homepage

4. People Need Answers

5. People Follow The “F” Pattern

6. People See But Don’t Watch

7. People Hate Scrolling

8. People Don’t Read

9. People Are Lazy

10. People Want Directions

Green and ethical month in the Business & IP Centre

May is Green and ethical month in the Business & IP Centre.

We have been inspired by our very successful Web in Feb month of activities to produce a Green in May month (except that it doesn’t rhyme).

As we know from our customers coming in to the Centre, Green and ethical business is growing fast.

Surveys show that 79 per cent of consumers would rather buy from companies that limit their environmental impact.

Throughout May we’re holding special events that explore green and ethical business: the opportunities, the practicalities and the reasons to get involved. Hear from eco-experts and meet entrepreneurs who are making a difference with their businesses.

We have also updated our guide to useful information sources for starting a green or ethical business.

Week one

Get more local
Get More Local
Tuesday 6, 18.00 – 20.00, free

Week two

Green money – beginner’s guide to business finance
Johnny Martin
Monday 10, 16.45 – 19.45, £9 – a special price for social enterprises

The cutting edge of green
Insider Trends
Tuesday 11, 18.00 – 20.00, £10 when booking with discount code “BritishLibrary”

Make the trade
London Community Resource Network
Wednesday 12, 10.00 – 13.00, free

Legal milestones for green business
Keystone Law
Thursday 13, 18.00 – 21.00, £25 – with a 50% discount for British Library contacts, quote “BL2010”

Week three

Raising money for green and ethical businesses
MessageLab and the Funding Game
Monday 17, 13.00 – 17.00, £25 +VAT

Managing an ethical business
Red Ochre
Thursday 20, 14.00 – 17.00, £25 Inc VAT

Social entrepreneurs without limits
Unltd World
Thursday 20, 18.00 – 20.00, free

Week four

Developing organic and ethical skincare products
She’s Ingenious!
Tuesday 25, 11.00 – 13.00, £25

Starting a social enterprise
Red Ochre
Thursday 27, 10.00 – 16.00, £50 inc VAT

Our ‘Green and ethical month’ events
Week oneGet more local
Get More Local
Tuesday 6, 18.00 – 20.00, free
Week two

Green money – beginner’s guide to business finance
Johnny Martin
Monday 10, 16.45 – 19.45, £9 – a special price for social enterprises

The cutting edge of green
Insider Trends
Tuesday 11, 18.00 – 20.00, £10 when booking with discount code “BritishLibrary”

Make the trade
London Community Resource Network
Wednesday 12, 10.00 – 13.00, free

Legal milestones for green business
Keystone Law
Thursday 13, 18.00 – 21.00, £25 – with a 50% discount for British Library contacts, quote “BL2010”
Week three

Raising money for green and ethical businesses
MessageLab and the Funding Game
Monday 17, 13.00 – 17.00, £25 +VAT

Managing an ethical business
Red Ochre
Thursday 20, 14.00 – 17.00, £25 Inc VAT

Social entrepreneurs without limits
Unltd World
Thursday 20, 18.00 – 20.00, free
Week four

Developing organic and ethical skincare products
She’s Ingenious!
Tuesday 25, 11.00 – 13.00, £25

Starting a social enterprise
Red Ochre
Thursday 27, 10.00 – 16.00, £50 inc VAT

Ten top tips for presenting from Jacqui Harper MBE

I was going through some old notes today and came across these top ten tips for presenting. Although many are familiar suggestions, numbers four and eight are less so, and worthy of attention.

They come from a Top Tips for Presenting workshop delivered by Jacqui Harper MBE, M.D. of Crystal Business Training, way back in November 2006, but are just as relevant now.

1. Start by identifying the purpose of the presentation for your audience.
The key thing to ask yourself is ‘what’s in it for the audience?’ Once you know the answer to this you’re on your way to creating a great presentation.

2. Use key messages and a simple structure to convey your points.
The best presenters communicate clearly and concisely with key messages that are easy to follow.

3. Make your material relevant and interesting for your audience.
Keeping an audience’s attention is quite straightforward if your material is adapted to their specific needs and interests. Audiences like to know you’ve done a bit of homework for them.

4. Rehearse your presentation at least twice.
It’s even better if you can tape your rehearsals with a camcorder. This speeds up familiarity with your material and dramatically improves your fluency.

5. Make sure your presentation has a strong impact at the beginning.
Your audiences are most attentive at the beginning of a presentation – if you engage them at the start you’re most likely to keep them.

6. Show the audience you care about your material and them.
Showing passion for your subject and a genuine interest in your audience always goes down well.

7. Use light touches of humour when you can to build rapport.
It doesn’t need to be a stand up routine. Occasional humorous comments instantly build rapport.

8. Only use PowerPoint when you absolutely have to!
PowerPoint will generally send audiences to sleep unless it’s really well used. It’s far better to ditch the slides and speak directly to the audience.

9. Dress in an outfit that makes you feel good and is appropriate.
A smart, well-groomed appearance will boost your confidence and impress your audience.

10. Get training!
All good speakers have had training. The cheapest way to train yourself is to buy a self-help guide like ‘Voices of Experience: The Expert’s to Making Great Presentations’. The quickest way to learn is to do a public speaking course with specialist companies like Crystal Business Training.

I also remember her advice to practice vocal exercises before every presentation.

What’s not to like about LIKE?

LIKEIn a year that has seen cuts in commercial library and and information services resulting from the UK recession, and the sad demise of the City Information Group in the summer (CiG – RIP), it is good to have something new and positive to talk about.

LIKE (London Information and Knowledge Exchange) is a networking group for Library, Information, Knowledge and Communication professionals, who meet on a monthly basis to share stories, learn and exchange knowledge in an informal and relaxed setting.

According to one of their fans: “The best thing about LIKE meetings is that they attract interesting and friendly people. It’s rather like a very good dinner party.”

They are already up to their tenth meeting, to be held on 28 January in The Perseverance in Lamb’s Conduit Street, featuring Liz Scott-Wilson Head of Information Management at Tube Lines talking about Information behaviour & culture change.

At their previous get together in December they looked forward to the coming year, and recorded some LIKE members’ New Year Resolutions.

Business and IP Centre launches New Business Podcast featuring… me

I have to say I was somewhat nervous about being interviewed for Business Bytes. This our new monthly podcast narrated by business journalist Jamie Oliver, and designed to give inspiration and practical advice with the challenges in setting up and growing your own business.

Actually, I just do the inroduction and the really interesting content comes from designer Sebastian Conran of Conran & Partners, business expert Jane Khedair from Business Plan Services, and Dee Wright  founder of The Hair Force.

Each month, Jamie will be interviewing entrepreneurs, business experts and some of the Library’s success stories, who are just at the start of their entrepreneurial journeys. But we have hit he ground running with a mention on the Telegraph newspaper website.

Episode one: From idea to business
19 October 09
In our first pilot episode, Jamie introduces himself and the Business & IP Centre, and interviews a range of experts and entrepreneurs about the importance of ideas, how to take them to the next stage, and why you should protect them.

Starting a business is like playing at Pooh Sticks

Bryan Mills

During a recent training event I was fortunate to hear Bryan Mills speak. Bryan has had a long and successful career creating and managing IT related businesses (although without an IT background himself). His particular claim to fame is building CMG from a two person business, operating from the founder’s homes in 1965, into a multinational FTSE1oo business.

During his fascinating talk recounting lessons learnt from a lifetime as an entrepreneur he used the analogy of playing Pooh Sticks for business start-up.

As both a fan of the game from early childhood, and having grown up very near to the home of Winnie-the-Pooh the inventor of the game in Hartfield, West Sussex, Bryan caught my attention.

When you are planning to start a business you look down into the swirling river below (the market place for you product or service), you try as hard as you can to see where the current is flowing strongest and is least turbulent (assessing the market opportunity with published and field market research). You drop your stick in as carefully and accurately as you can (detailed business plan preparation). And once it is in, you follow it with Eagle eyes, watching every bob and weave (you track every activity minutely in your newly founded business).

However once the stick goes under the bridge it moves both out of your control and out of sight, and there is nothing you can do to influence its route down the river, across into a bank of reeds, or dropping down to the bottom of the river bed. This is very much the situation once your business is up and running. All kinds of unpredictable events can knock you off course, or sink the business altogether.

Perserverance and the achievement of goals

I don’t usually get too philosophical on this blog because I know most people are looking for practical solutions to problems.

However, on my recent holiday up in the beautiful Langdale Valley in the Lake District, and then on to the Highlands of Scotland, I managed to achieve something I first attempted 25 years ago.

Although climbing Ben Nevis does not compare to the serious mountains of Europe and the Americas, it does feel good to have finally conquered the highest mountain in Britain. Especially as my two previous attempts had to be abandoned due to bad weather, leading to dangerous conditions on top.

It made me think about how much perseverance entrepreneurs need in order to succeed in business. They will need to overcome a great many obstacles and challenges on the way if they are to succeed in the long term.

To quote Roy Castle from his Record Breakers days,  “what you need is dedication”.

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/0/04/Ben_Nevis_south_face.jpg