Blue Eyed Sun

Blue Eyed Sun - gorgeous greetings cards

Social Media Tips

  • Is Instagram important for Retailers?

    Is Instagram important for Retailers

    Is Instagram important for retailers? With loads of social media options to choose from, here's what I think about this question.

    Despite being an avid user of social media for many years, I’ve been relatively late to joining the Instagram party. I registered my account names early on, but it’s only been this year that I’ve actively started using what for many in our industry is a daily habit.

    When YouTuber, Noodlerella, recently told me that Instagram was essential to the growth of her YouTube channel I realised I could ignore it no longer. I set up @JeremyCorner on Instagram the next day and grew my followers to 150 within 24hrs. What shocked me most was that my first post gained likes from over a third of these. This level of engagement is massive compared with other social platforms.

    What’s been particularly interesting is the number of retailers and publishers actively using the platform. It’s massively popular and reminds me of Twitter in 2009 when it was the hottest party in town and the posts were fresh, fun and interesting. It also felt more like a community than a load of broadcast noise.

    I think one of the reasons I didn’t rush into Instagram (launched in 2010 and acquired by Facebook in 2012 for $1 Billion) is that I felt over saturated with Social Media platforms at the time. I’d also spent a while experimenting with various tools and you don't always know which ones are going to workout (I’m thinking of Google+, Periscope, Blab and Snapchat). The key thing to note is who is actively using them and whether they matter to you and your industry. If they do, then it’s worth testing them for your business.

    For you and I in our industry I can tell you that Instagram matters for both publishers and retailers. It’s visual, it’s active, it’s accessible and it dovetails into retail very well.

    With a fast growing active user base that’s twice the size of Twitter and three times the size of WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger, Instagram is crushing it in the greeting card industry right now. A lot of users are having fun using Boomerang effects, Filters, Emojis and even creating Instagram Stories.

    As with greeting cards, Instagram is particularly popular with women who make up 56% of UK users. It’s a brilliant visual tool for people looking for new products, experiences and places.

    Retailers that are constantly hunting for great new products for their customers, love it. Consumers too can discover new things online and even order by messaging the retailer directly. It’s also a great way for retailers to connect with their suppliers and for them to cross promote one another’s businesses.

    For greeting card publishers it’s a way of showing the personal story of their brand and sharing their ideas and talents with a wider audience. One that more often than not includes retailers and buyers.

    The whole industry benefits from a thriving networking of interconnected business people. Those that aren’t using Instagram are missing out on this great opportunity.

    With technological changes like the internet and faster payment services affecting footfall on the high street, retailers need to take action to replace lost customers. Consumers are now navigating the digital high street daily to explore new products and discover new experiences.

    On average we now spend over four hours a day on our phone or mobile devices. That’s one out of every six days! The majority of this time is spent using these top five social media platforms: Youtube, Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram and Twitter. Importantly, 82% of users turn to their mobile devices to help them make a product decision!

    Is Instagram important for retailers? If you are not engaging on it you could be missing out.

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  • 10 Ways Retailers can get started on Instagram

    Get Started On Instagram

    With the rising popularity of Instagram, which now has 700 million active users, here are ten tips to get started with the social media platform for your retail business:

    1. Post Daily 

    Post regularly on Instagram. Don’t post too often though or you can get penalised by Instagram’s algorithm. Once a day is generally best. You can post multiple images in the same post. As with all social media, consistency matters most over time.

    2. Image matters

    Your Instagram images have to look good. Make sure they are in focus. Don’t post blurry images. Use the filters in the app to help jazz them up a little. Try to keep a consistent visual look and feel to your account. Retailers should try and replicate the special visual experience of their shops. Publishers’s accounts should mirror their unique brand story.

    3. Engage

    Follow others and engage with them by liking and commenting on their posts in order to grow your following. You can double tap images to like them. Chip away at this regularly to grow at a steady rate. The Instagram algorithm takes past page engagement into account when prioritising content for other users. So keep engaging.

    4. Bio

    Make sure you write a good bio using key words that matter to you, your suppliers and your customers. Make it fun and enticing. Hyperlink to your most important website as this is the only link you’ll post on Instagram that’s actually clickable. Mine directs my Instagram followers to

    5. Don’t Sell

    Actively selling on social media is a real turn off for followers. Decide on your brand story and share it through strong images. People want a visual sense of your business and what it is so that they can choose to engage. That’s not to say you can’t share your wares. Think show, not sell. Test calls-to-action that your followers will enjoy.

    6. Business or Personal?

    All social media is personal really. Having said that, it helps to set up your brand with a business account on Instagram. You get a load of metrics and can project a more professional image. It’s useful to have a personal account too as it broadens your reach outside of business. This also hedges against changes in the algorithms for business accounts to favour advertisers.

    7. Tag others

    You have the option to tag other users. This alerts them to your photos and can increase engagement. For example, I tag all of the publishers and retailers that feature in my latest video when I post an image from The Greeting Card Project. People will get annoyed and unfollow you if you do this to them all the time. You can also use the @ symbol to mention people and notify them when you post.

    8. Use #Hashtags

    Instagram posts with at least one hashtag have 12.6% more engagement than those without. Although you can add up to 30 hashtags per post, only use ones that are relevant to the mage you post. I usually hashtag publishers, retailers, card recipients and the cities where I’ve shot my YouTube videos when I post on Instagram e.g. #Harrogate

    9. Instagram Direct

    Keep an eye on your direct messages on Instagram as some people like to contact you privately. I get this from new customers and people who have questions. Check in daily so that you can respond quickly or turn your Instagram alerts on in your phone.


    I find with most social media accounts that responding quickly to comments keeps the posts higher up other peoples’ feeds. I’ll often like the comments straight away and then reply with a message at busier times so that the posts are boosted and sty up longer.

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  • Technical Tips for Making Videos for your Business

    Tips For Making VideosSince I created The Greeting Card Project on YouTube, a lot of people have asked me how to get started with video for their businesses. Creating video has never been easier. Here are my top technical tips for getting going:


    You don't need to buy lots of specialist video equipment. Try using your smartphone first, then upgrade later as your skill base and interest in your video project grows. I shoot, edit and distribute all my videos for The Greeting Card Project on my Apple iPhone 6S Plus (I can store lots of video on the 128GB of memory). Test your current phone, then look at digital camera options rather than buying an iPhone if you don't have one. Ideally you will need a socket for an external microphone.

    Video can crunch through your power quickly, so it's useful to have a charger in your car and a back up power source to put extra juice into your phone if you are out and about filming a lot.

    I bought a Joby GripTight GorillaPod Stand, which is an incredibly useful small and flexible tripod for my smartphone that helps me position it when I'm filming on my own.

    If your phone mic isn’t up to scratch, buy a Sabrent Lavalier Clip-on Microphone for £10 on Amazon and attach this to yourself or interview subject. I also bought a small directional RØDE VideoMic Me for around £50. Both the microphones record in stereo (Surprisingly the onboard iPhone mics record in mono, which doesn't sound as good). Both the clip mic and Rode mic have wind protectors which are very useful, as even the slightest breeze will cause issues.

    Good Sound

    Test the sound recording on your phone first, so that you understand what works and doesn’t work on your device and at what distance. Your viewers will put up with a slightly bad image and good sound, but they won’t stand for bad sound. A simple way to ensure good sound is to not be too far from your phone when filming.

    Avoid filming in noisy environments (like near roads or crowds). Even the smallest noises can be picked up and become annoying for viewers. Always double check your sound and make sure it works and is in sync. Some people that live stream will wear headphones so they can monitor their sound as they are filming.

    A Nice Image

    Try to film in well lit areas so the image looks good too. If it's very sunny, make sure the bright light isn't directly behind you making you look darker and harder to see. Avoid the sun shining directly in your eyes and making you squint. Slightly overcast days are ideal for a nice even light.

    Make sure that you film in close up or medium close up most of the time. Most people will be watching your videos online on their phones and they can't see you very well if you are filmed from afar. So avoid too many wide shots. Closer shots are more dynamic and visually interesting.

    Try not to pan the phone around too much or too quickly. Most phone cameras don't handle motion very well and the image can be blurry and hard to follow. It's better to take individual still shots and piece them together in the edit. I learned this the hard way early on in my project.


    I edit all of The Greeting Card Project videos on my iPhone using the free iMovie software that comes with it. It’s fairly intuitive to use and I upload my videos to YouTube direct from my phone. Make sure you watch each video after loading to check for technical errors with sound or image before you make it public. You can also edit using AVID, Final Cut Pro or Adobe Premiere software.

    You want the shots to be long enough to clearly communicate what's going on and not so long that it becomes boring. Most people don't cut fast enough with their footage on YouTube videos. As a general rule 2-3 seconds is more than sufficient for a shot to say what needs to be said. People have short attention spans these days, so it's best to get on with the story you are telling.

    Learn to kill your darlings if they don't work. That means the shots you spent ages on that don't fit or look good need to hit the cutting room floor. You don't need lots of shots to set the scene so don't bore your audience with the hundreds of shots you took just because you took them. Choose the best and ditch the rest. With practice you will get better at only filming good shots.


    You need to create a good thumbnail for every video you make. I tend to take a photograph separately for this because stills from videos can be blurry. A good thumbnail will attract attention so that people click and watch your videos.

    It's also nice if your thumbnails offer a consistent brand experience for your videos. So spend time getting the first ones right so you can get your thumbnail format sorted.


    It’s good practice to add tags, descriptions and hyperlinks to everyone that features in your videos so that viewers can find them easily. As an example click on 'Show More' beneath this video from The Greeting Card Project.


    A lot of video on social channels like Instagram, Facebook and Twitter is watched without sound, so it may be worth considering adding captions to encourage more engagement and increase view times. I don't do this for my videos, but would definitely do it if I wanted to reach larger groups of people.


    Your video content won’t get watched unless you share it through your various social networks. I tag the social handles of those who feature in the video to encourage them to share the videos. Spending time listing their hyperlinks in the video descriptions makes this job a lot quicker. I also have a small network of up to 20 people who are active on social and support one another with shares and retweets. Find your raving fans and tag them with your new content to get the ball rolling.


    It helps if you prepare and practice. I like to keep a single focus in mind when I do my videos. You may lose viewers if your story rambles. Before you start, think of one point you'd like to make in your video and focus on it throughout. I’ve also found regular practice improves my story telling and video content. Remember, if you want your videos to be shared you have to make the type of video that people like to share.

    The real trick to getting started is to pick up the phone and start playing with it. You can make some videos without sharing them to see how it all works. When you are ready, post them online and see what responses you get. Ask people to comment and leave feedback. Listen to it and adjust.

    I hope you found these tips useful. Have fun. I look forward to seeing what you make!

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    The Year of Video

  • How to use video for your retail business

    Video For Retailers

    A lot of businesses make showcase videos, which tend to be professionally filmed, expensive to produce and often quite boring. These days consumers want authenticity and a sense of connection with brands and their stories.

    Video is an ideal way to do this. It allows retailers the chance to tell their story in authentic ways using footage shot on their smartphones. Amateur footage can give a more authentic and 'real' feeling. It's never been easier to get started with video for your business.

    Here are some ways you can share your videos online and ideas for how to use video in your retail business:


    5 billion videos are watched on YouTube every day with more than half of views being from a mobile device. It is the third most visited website in the word and is relatively untapped in the greeting card and independent retail sector.

    Videos can be longer on Youtube and they are often shot in landscape rather than portrait. Intros and outros are common and they help to build your channel’s brand and grow subscribers. “How to” videos are especially strong on this platform. For example, our Ivy Ellen wedding DIY wedding stationery videos have had thousands of views on YouTube.

    As a retailer you can do demonstrations of new products, how to videos and content related to local events that those in your community will want to share.


    Facebook recently reached 2 billion users and is encouraging more video content to be posted natively rather than sharing links. Long term they are looking to generate ad revenue from this content in the same way that YouTube does.

    Facebook video content tends to be shorter, typically 1-2 minutes and intros and outs are insignificant. You need to make your content shareable, so think about why someone would be compelled to share your content. Shares are more valuable to you than views on Facebook.

    Some card retailers and publishers are starting to use Facebook video to connect with their audience. Their stories and content often focuses on the people behind the brand, which consumers love to connect with.


    Instagram allows short video of up to sixty seconds. The native aspect ratio on Instagram is square although it does accept landscape. This platform is seeing strong engagement in the card industry at the moment with retailers and publishers having a lot of fun with it.

    Instagram Stories in particular are doing well. These show up at the top of your screen and often include short video clips. You can can get creative with text, drawings and filters. Essentially it is a way of allowing your fans to engage with the people behind brands they like to shop with. Some retailers are using Instagram Stories to show off new products with members of their team waving them before the camera. It’s a lot of fun.

    Find someone fun and outgoing on your team that doesn't mind being on camera and have them show off your latest deliveries, products and store events.

    Live Streaming

    Live streaming is essentially broadcast live from your mobile device instead of being prerecorded and loaded up later. Whilst you can live stream on Youtube, Periscope (Twitter) and Instagram, Facebook live video in particular is getting huge traction as they’ve been investing a lot of money in growing it. Facebook Live videos are watched 3 times longer and comments are at 10 times the rate of regular videos. I also think their algorithm pushes live video higher up the feed.

    To make the most of your Live Broadcasts: build anticipation by promoting when you are broadcasting ahead of time, make sure you have a strong wifi or 4G connection, have a catchy description for your broadcast to grab people’s attention, say hello to people who engage, be engaging and have something interesting, funny or amusing to show or say. Use a closing line to thank viewers for watching and to signal the end of the broadcast. In Facebook Live it’s OK to go native with the format by holding the phone normally (vertically rather than horizontally).

    One major advantage to creating FB Live video content is that you don’t have to edit it, which can take time. The downside is that your mistakes are all up there for everyone to see, so be sure to practice before live streaming. Only a handful or retailers are making the most of this tool.

    So, grab your smartphone and give it a go. See what responses you get. The most important thing is to be consistent over time with your output. So allow a year to test video for your business and see where it takes you.

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    Watch The Greeting Card Project videos

    The Year of Video

  • The Year of Video

    The Year Of VideoThis is my year of video, so I've recently launched The Greeting Card Project on YouTube. It’s part of my New Year’s resolution to make a video about greeting cards each week and to post them online. By the time you read this I will have completed five short films and visited a variety of shops in the process. I will also have purchased and sent over a dozen cards.

    My Motivations

    This project has its roots in a terrible confession that I have to make. Despite having owned a greeting card company for 17 years, I don’t send that many greeting cards myself. I do send Christmas cards and initiatives like Thinking of You Week and Festive Friday have helped me to improve on my card sending. I just feel that I’d like to send more and get closer to what greeting card sending is all about.

    When I was a teenager I used to make and send cards. I grew up in South Africa and attended a school in York away from friends and family. In those pre-internet days I would write and send cards and letters every week. I loved sending and receiving them through the post and want to reconnect with this activity.

    Social media is the current form of the internet. It’s on mobile devices in our hands everyday and offers more efficient ways of communicating with our loved ones than sending cards. I’m curious to discover why the an old fashioned industry like ours remains stable with £1.7 Billion in annual sales and hasn’t been killed off by the internet.

    As 85% of card buyers are women I’m also interested to understand why women in particular send cards and how they affect the quality of relationships. I love people and am very active on messaging apps and social media, I do feel like I could feel closer to my friends and loved ones and am interested to see if card sending will help me to feel this.

    Why YouTube?

    My ten year old son is a big fan of YouTube and watches it daily. In fact he doesn’t watch any live TV. He’s not alone. Almost a third of people on the internet use YouTube which now has over a billion users watching millions of hours every day. More than half of YouTube views come from mobile devices and they reach more 18-34 and 18-49 year olds than any cable network in the US. In 2016 the number of hours people spent watching videos on YouTube rose by 60% year on year.

    Other companies like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Snapchat also offer video content. Facebook alone generates 8 billion video views per day. That’s double the video consumption on Facebook in early 2015. Video posts have higher organic reach than photos and Facebook Live in particular has seen impressive take up with people watching live video for 3x longer than video which is no longer live.

    I like YouTube best because of its focus on video. It’s also not just a singular feed flowing past you each day like the other platforms. I find it easier to embed YouTube videos onto other sites. I like that it’s search works better than other platforms. It’s also good for categorising and organising your content.

    My strategy is to experiment with the other social platforms like Facebook and Instagram in order to generate interest in The Greeting Card Project YouTube channel. I’m also incorporating feedback loops by encouraging comments to help me create better content and engagement with my audience.


    Despite having the idea a while ago, it took me over 18 months to initiate this project. Some of my hesitance was rooted in fears I had, like fear of the extra work that this will mean for me, fear of being good enough and fear of failure.

    I have a background in film making and know that it can be time consuming. The great thing about YouTube is that it’s very rough and ready. Production values are not expected to be high. I decided to film and edit the videos in iMovie on my iPhone 6 to keep it simple. I also chose to make the project personal to me so I will be sending cards from a range of publishers and exploring the feelings I have about the process.

    I was afraid of sharing my feelings so openly. You feel vulnerable standing up in front of others. As TED speaker Brené Brown says, “the difficult thing is that vulnerability is the first thing I look for in you and the last thing I’m willing to show you. In you it’s courage and daring. In me it’s weakness.”

    I was afraid that people would judge me. That they might think less of me. Fortunately, through being active in our industry, I’ve learned that people already judge me. I’ve also come to realise that those judgements are their business and not really about me at all. So I decided to follow Susan Jeffer’s advice and ‘Feel the fear and do it anyway.’

    I don’t know if the project will be of interest to anyone else. It’s possible that nobody will watch my videos. It’s possible that they may not be good enough. I’m not planning to be perfect from the start though. My goal is to have progression not perfection. I want to make these videos and that is enough for me right now.


    I feel that this project is what I’m meant to be doing this year and that it will open my heart and mind. It is the coming together of skills I have acquired over the years and passion for connecting people with one another. It’s a personal journey of exploration within where I will listen more closely to my feelings and those I care about in order to feel closer to one another.

    It’s also an opportunity for me to get closer to some of my customers by visiting their shops and talking about greeting cards with them. I hope to receive some greeting cards this year and talk about how that feels too.

    On it’s simplest level I hope that The Greeting Card Project will inspire others. I’ve already had some wonderful feedback and comments from friends since starting.

    Getting Started

    If you are thinking about setting up a YouTube channel yourself it’s pretty straightforward and there’s plenty of advice online for how to do it. There are a number of things worth keeping an eye on when you create videos.

    Good sound is more important than good visuals. Ideally you want both. Remember to keep an eye on your sound levels and to speak loudly and clearly.

    It helps if you can be engaging on screen. Try jumping around a little to get yourself into an energised upbeat state before filming. At the same time, YouTubers always recommend being yourself so that you avoid seeming inauthentic.

    Keep your sound bites to 30-60 seconds at most. Also, have a variety of cutaway shots that show other things nearby so that you can break up any long bits.

    My son and I have met lots of YouTubers at various gaming conventions. One of their top tips is to plan and create engaging thumbnail shots for your videos. These are the little images that people click on to access your video. The more interesting they are the more clicks and views you will get.

    Finally, software developers have a term called MVP (minimum viable product) which is the most basic version of your product to launch with. From there it can evolve based on user experience and interaction. Launch your MVP first. This will keep your project lean so that you won’t unnecessarily over-engineer or over-complicate your YouTube videos.

    I’d love your support with this project, so please do subscribe to The Greeting Card Project channel on YouTube and drop me line if you’d like to be involved.

    The Greeting Card Project - January Review

    Subscribe to the Greeting Card Project on YouTube

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  • How retailers can start selling online

    Selling online for retailers

    At Autumn Fair this year I chaired a panel on ‘Lessons learned from journeys into ecommerce' with two independent retailers who are successfully selling online. I was so impressed with the ways that my two panelists had made sales without spending big money on expensive websites that I thought I’d share them with you:

    Low Cost Digital Marketing

    On the panel were Alice Wheeler from Wonderland near Glasgow and Claire Rose from Miss Claire Rose in Harrogate. Both have bricks and mortar stores and both sell online. It’s worth following them on their social media pages, which have been a big part of their sales success. You can find them on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram via their websites.

    Both retailers have purchased their web domains and used free or low cost software like Weebly to get simple, responsive (shows well on mobiles) websites up. The sites show where they are, what they sell and have easy shopping cart software which enables them to take orders. This isn’t the bulk of where their sales come from though.

    Social media is an important part of how they sell. It really is as simple as taking photos of what they have on offer (often just using the camera on their phones) and posting them straight to their social media accounts. Their followers then like and share them across a larger audience than the retailers initial fan base. Customers will often order just by messaging them on these platforms.

    Selling on Facebook

    If you look at Wonderland’s Facebook page, for example, Alice has photographed images of products underneath which her followers will post comments. As customers ask questions, Alice then engages with them quickly (You can set your phone to alert you when customers message or  comment). The more engagement she has the higher her posts show on other FB news feeds and all of the Facebook friends of the customer potentially get to see the interaction.

    The median average number of Facebook friends is 200. Imagine the equivalent scenario in your shop. Someone browsing and asking a member of your sales team questions would have up to 200 people watching the interaction and seeing what you are both doing. If it’s a product that sells well you are very likely to get additional sales from this interaction.

    What’s important is that it’s all from the hip and quick and easy for Alice to do. She doesn’t prep high end photos in photoshop. She doesn’t put text on the image with pricing, colourways or dimensions. Less is more. You want engagement and you want customers asking questions and interacting on your page.

    If someone chooses to purchase they might then message Alice via Facebook Messenger. Payment can then be taken quickly and easily by Paypal or later if collected in person.

    Shipping to Your Fans

    Both retailers offer to ship their orders to customers for a small fee and use their local post office for shipping. As the volumes increase they can look to outsource this aspect or talk to suppliers about drop shipping. For now though they are up and running and selling online.

    One of the key things that struck me was how powerful a small local fan base of your shop is. Obviously you have to stock products that people want at a price that’s right and displayed in a attractive way. Once you get this right your fan base will grow and you need to build this base on social media. You don’t need lots of followers, just focus on people who love what you do.

    Your raving fans are easier to sell more to, give great reviews and constantly refer new customers to you. It’s better to have 100 good followers like this than 10,000 you paid for that don’t care. To get going it’s useful to encourage friends and family members to like you on social media. Then make sure your social media details are on your bags, till receipts, website and marketing.

    Negative Feedback

    One of the main fears retailers often have about selling online is negative feedback. The fact of the matter is that you can’t escape this. Even if you don’t have website you may already have negative feedback online. It’s better to engage with customers by being online. Then you can turn it around.

    Another important aspect of meeting customer expectations is to empower your team to be able to make decisions and take care of customers. At Blue Eyed Sun and with our wedding website know that if they can fix a problem for £50 or less then they can get on and sort it. That way they can act quickly to post out replacements for damages or missing items without causing our customers and delays or further frustration.

    Free Listings

    TripAdvisor was cited as a great way of dealing with feedback head on. It’s not just for hotels and restaurants, you can also register your store. Encourage your core fans and friends to write some good reviews to get you going. Because people use TripAdvisor to plan their trips (including where they will shop) you can increase footfall to your bricks and mortar shop. If you have not registered your store on there yet, it’s free and worth doing.

    Miss Claire Rose also links to her TripAdvisor page from her website which has over 70 positive reviews giving added reassurance to new customers.

    Make sure you also list your shop on Google so that it shows up on Googlemaps for keywords on products you sell. It’s free to do and again you can get reviews of your store on Google so that more people visit you online and offline. Visit to get started.


    Claire also uses Instagram to present a Smorgasbord of delicious product that she stocks in her shop. Images have to be nicer on Instagram and the app has a range of filters to help you with this. Using hashtags like #greetingcards will get your post seen by a wider range of people than just your followers because people use the hashtags to search for images on subjects they are interested in. Followers who like products can message you to order and like your photos to increase your marketing reach.

    Getting Started

    As anyone who retails online or offline, business is an ongoing exercise in improvement. What I found most inspiring about hearing from Claire and Alice is the way they just got on with it. So, if you have smartphone, what’s stopping you? If they can do it, so can you. Often we can hold ourselves back by trying to be too perfect. Their success shows how selling online can be as simple as setting up a Facebook page.

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  • 10 things to do before using social media for business

    social media for businessFor anyone considering social media for business it can be overwhelming. No sooner do you have your Facebook page sorted, the algorithms change and your posts don’t get seen as often. You set up your Instagram and then Snapchat is supposed to be the new thing. Plus some platforms fizzle out and become less popular.

    Marketeers are often quick to jump on the next big thing in social media. It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement. If it’s not a new social media platform like Snapchat or WhatsApp, it’s new buzzwords like Social Selling. How can you unsure that you aren’t wasting your time and are best positioned to reap the benefits from these tools?

    Here’s how to get started:

    1. Know your customers

    It’s no good setting up any social media accounts without knowing your customers, so that you can find them and others like them online. What demographics do your customers fit into and are these groups using social media? If so, which platforms are they using? Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Instagram, Pinterest are all good, although you may find that your audience favours some more than others.

    Track which customers are your biggest fans and return to purchase most often or spend the most. Ask them why thy like your store, what social media they use and what they’d like to see from you online. Over time you may find that the customers online differ from those coming into your store. Pay attention and give each group what they need in ways that appeal to each.

    2. A Good Offering

    It's no good driving footfall to your door if you don't have the right offering for these people when they arrive. Do you stock products that customers you are marketing to will want and at prices that are right for them? Are they displayed attractively and is your store the right type of environment for them? If you know the profile of your biggest fans what can you do to make your business and your offering even more appealing to them?

    3. What Makes You Different?

    As well as knowing your customers you must know yourself and how you are perceived. Niches are the key to success in business these days. You can’t be all things to all people. What is your unique selling point? Remember, good service is expected as standard these days. What is it that motivates your fans to buy from you? What makes you stand out from the crowd? Knowing this will help you attract more of the right customers and it will also drive engagement on the right social media networks. For Blue Eyed Sun it’s “gorgeous handmade greeting cards for design-led shops.”

    4. Communicate your Specialness

    It's all very well having a great USP (unique selling point), but if you don't tell your customers about it you are missing a trick. Communicating your uniqueness consistently across your marketing will help get your story across when you are using social media for business. Keep it simple, clear and concise. Remember to mention what makes you special in your bios when you set up your social media accounts. If you can say what you do and who it’s for then even better.

    5. Your website works

    Surveys have shown that you have less than 8 seconds to engage with visitors to your site before they move on or choose to stay. Once you have spent time and money driving customers to your door you want to make sure that they don't leave because of something that you haven't got working on your site. If your website is slow loading, not up to date, has broken links or doesn't deliver on what is expected then people will leave very quickly. It's worth focussing on what you want customers to do when they visit your website and then making sure everything on it funnels them towards this goal.

    6. A well trained team

    If you send a load of time and energy driving people to your business and your team don’t deliver then you are wasting resources. Make sure that your staff are on message with your brand and understand what the business focus is. Then give them the support and tools to be able to deliver satisfaction to your customers and resolve issues fast and satisfactorily. If you are delivering products make sure that you have good operations and logistics set up to get your products to customers quickly. Amazon have set the bar very high for all of us. Do your best to make meeting high expectations standard procedure for your team.

    7. A useful blog

    Blogging has been the backbone to all of the social media and digital marketing activity for Blue Eyed Sun and our wedding stationery business, Ivy Ellen. Customer focussed content helps drive traffic through these platforms to your website and enhances your SEO (search engine optimisation) so that you are well ranked on Google. Try to avoid just writing about yourself and selling your products on your blog. People want to read informative articles on subjects that interest them or they find amusing. None of us like to be sold to, even though most of us like to buy.

    8. Performance Tracking

    You need to analyse what’s working and what isn’t on your website so that you can adjust accordingly. Sign up for Google’s free analytics tool at Google will send you a short piece of hidden code that you can have your website developer add to your website for very little cost. This fantastic tool will provide you with an incredible amount of data on how many people come to your site, how they navigate through it and where the come from to find you. It will show you which social media sites are driving the most traffic and help you to improve what you do.

    9. Social strategy

    Always listen first when you start using social media for business. Are you in the right place? Watch what works and what doesn’t before you post. What do you like to share and engage with online? Don’t just blast sales messages out, remember that interaction is more important on these networks than broadcasting. Plan out when you will broadcast your social media messages and run tests on the times of day that best suit your audience. Also plan when to check in and read the tweets and messages of those you follow in your industry. Remember to leave them a like, a share, a retweet or a message to let them know you were there and to engage with them.

    10. Engaged fan network

    The more engaged you are with your loyal fan network offline the more likely you will be able to take this onto social media. You can easily connect with your customer email database when you set up your accounts on these platforms. Good customers who are already online are more likely to share you with their friends and the wider your audience will become over time. It's great to have a lot of followers, but a small network of engaged followers is more powerful and will give you better results.

    Whilst it’s important to set up your business brand on social media, remember that you and your team are the faces of your business. People like to buy from people so be aware of the importance of your own personal brand online and use it to help your business along.

    One of the biggest shifts I’ve personally had to make when using social media for business is towards network thinking (which is open, random and supportive) and away from the institutional thinking (which is closed, selective and controlling). What this means for you practically is that digital marketing is more about community and engagement. You can be selective about who you follow and engage with, but you will often find that opportunities arise from unlikely and random places so it’s worth following most people who follow and engage with you. You cannot control the internet so it’s also best to be a nice, helpful and friendly person online.

    What is ORS network thinking?

    Learn about social psychology in social media

    Why you should always listen first on social media


  • What is ORS Network Thinking?

    What Is ORS?

    My ORS journey began in 2009 when I started experimenting with social media and bought several books on the subject, one of which was by an entrepreneur called Penny Power (called Know Me, Like Me, Follow Me). Penny and her husband Thomas Power founded one of the first social networks for businesses in 1998. Called, it built a sizable number of users in the UK and was a forerunner to LinkedIn, which was recently purchased by Microsoft for $28 billion.

    Penny’s book led me to the video below of Thomas talking about a concept called ORS or network thinking and the shift that organisations and businesses have to make to achieve success online using social media. ORS appealed to me and I thought that Thomas was onto something recognising the shift from institutional thinking to network thinking online.

    I also think that ORS thinking is natural for so many people in the card and gift industries, particularly for newcomers and millennials.  If you don’t fit into these categories it’s worth paying attention because it’s these new ways of thinking that are disrupting business models around the world.

    After meeting Thomas at the Sage Summit in New Orleans for the first time last year we have become friends and he was gracious enough to accept my invitation to speak at the Giftware Association’s Members Day, at which I recently became Vice-Chairman of the GA. I introduced ORS to the GA two to three years ago and we are currently using it as part of our strategy to modernise the organisation.

    What is ORS?

    The shift from institutional thinking to network thinking is marked by the shift from Closed, Selective, Controlling thinking (CSC) to Open, Random, Supportive thinking (ORS).

    Sitting at board level, Thomas noticed that organisations operated in a closed, selective and controlling way where directors are responsible for corporate governance and to their shareholders. In institutions you have to operate behind closed doors to protect the organisation, you have to be selective about what you absorb and how you communicate and you have to be controlling of everything. This is driven by the demands of public policy, shareholders, staff and the law. It’s institutional thinking or CSC.

    This is very different from how we operate inside of networks where we need to be open, random and supportive (ORS). You have to be open and accept everything that comes at you, you have to be random and accept the disorder that things come at you and you have to be supportive of everyone around you. That’s networking thinking or ORS.

    Thomas believes that we are transitioning from institutional thinking to network thinking this century. Having undertaken this journey himself he reckons it takes around ten years to adjust. He’s even devised a tool where you can assess your digital personality type to see how easy or difficult it might be for you to make this change. You can try it for free at:

    Why ORS?

    As social beings we all know the benefits of having a good network of friends and acquaintances. Interestingly, studies have shown the benefits to be more powerful in the secondary network than those closest to us. That new job offer or business opportunity is more likely to come from a friend of a friend than one of your buddies for example.

    In the 1990’s British anthropologist, Robin Dunbar, found a correlation between primate brain size and average social group size. Dunbar’s Number proposes that on average most of us can only comfortably maintain 150 stable relationships with our current brain size (the number lies in a range from 100 to 250). This is the average number of people we know on and keep social contact with. It doesn’t include those we have ceased a social relationship with or that we know but lack a persistent social relationship with. The bigger our long term memory size the higher the number is likely to be. Assuming Dunbar’s number to be correct and assuming that we appear once in our close friends’ networks then the average maximum number for most of our secondary networks is 22,350 (150x149).

    With social media and other forms of communication this number can be much higher. In a nutshell you can maintain more active relationships than before and from there more secondary relationships and opportunities open up. In order to do this successfully we have to build trust. To do this quickly and effectively we have to be open, random and supportive.

    The Fear of ORS

    Thomas trains board level executives in how to use social media effectively and, as he himself knows from experience, it’s not an easy journey to make. Even though I regularly practice being random and supportive for me it is a continuing challenge to be more open.

    That’s because being more open can make us feel more vulnerable.  Being vulnerable is often perceived as weakness (particularly in the board room). Yet it is our vulnerability that is our strength. Through it people can see us for who we really are and begin to trust us. As TED speaker Brené Brown says:

    “Vulnerability is our most accurate measure of courage...  The difficult thing is that vulnerability is the first thing I look for in you and the last thing I’m willing to show you. In you it’s courage. In me it’s weakness.”

    The fear we have of being ORS is that people will confirm the terrible idea which we may have about ourselves that we are somehow not worthy of connecting with. In its darkest manifestation it’s a fear that we are not really loved or loveable.

    The one thing that keeps us from connecting with one another is our fear that we are not worthy. It seems easier to protect ourselves by being closed, selective and controlling.

    ORS is really about looking within and challenging this fear. We must be courageous enough to tell the story of who we are with our whole heart. We must recognise that we are imperfect and let go of our illusions (or delusions if you prefer) of control.

    If you consider your feelings for a moment,we cannot live a full life keeping by treating them in a closed, selective and controlling way. You cannot numb these feelings. If you try to numb pain you numb joy.  If vulnerability is the birthplace of joy, creativity and love then you can only really spread this through an ORS approach and it’s practically impossible to do so by being CSC.

    The Change

    We see ORS more and more online these days. The CEO that admits to the failings of their business publically and sets out how they will change to try and prevent these things occurring again is the one we trust over those that try and cover or hide their mistakes. There are business leaders that support new start-ups and the TV personalities that talk openly to random fans directly on Twitter.

    The truth is, in the new world of social media we are already naked and bare before the world whether we like it or not. Even if you personally aren’t online there are people online talking about you or wanting to engage with you (Just take a look on TripAdvisor). We can no longer hide, even if we want to. We have to be courageous and unafraid. We have to step up online and have courage.

    The companies that aren’t afraid to make mistakes, ask for feedback, listen to us (no matter how small or seemingly insignificant our questions) are the ones that are thriving and growing. These are the businesses we all want to buy from. These are the companies that millennials are drawn to.

    It’s important to qualify that not everything has to be online or open. We don’t necessarily post all of our trade secrets, accounts or patents online (although this has been happening in some industries – think of open source projects like Linux and Wikipedia).

    For my own part, writing this monthly column in Progressive Greetings magazine and this blog where I explore my failures and challenges publically has been a big part of my ongoing ORS journey. I've also started a YouTube channel called The Greeting Card Project which explores the nature of sending cards and supports our industry.

    The journey towards continues...

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  • Social Psychology in Social Media

    Social Psychology in Social MediaIt’s not uncommon for companies to question the business case behind using social media. ‘What’s the Return on Investment (ROI)?’ management ask. The fact of the matter is that we are social beings by nature and this brave new world of social media is a digital extension of the way we operate in real life.

    A friend of mine recently told me that if he was to walk into a particular upmarket hotel in Hong Kong tomorrow the concierge and staff would greet like a long lost friend and ask after his wife and family, despite him never spending a night there. It’s not that they are particularly over friendly in this hotel, this happens because my friend is what is known as a familiar stranger.

    This is one of several examples of social psychology that offers another way of thinking about the business case for using social media more regularly:

    The Familiar Stranger

    We all have them in our lives, people that we recognise from regular activities, but with whom we do not interact. They are visual rather than verbal relationships where both parties maintain anonymity. Particularly common in urban environments, a good example of a familiar stranger would be someone you see on your regular commute to work, but never speak with. In the case of my friend, the staff in the hotel felt close to him because they had seen him around the lobby and the bar on a regular basis. As a policeman and security specialist he has used this technique to infiltrate secure buildings.

    If you exist on social media you are opening yourself up to a larger number of familiar strangers to become aware of you and what you do. You will be surprised at the number of people who watch and listen on these networks and become interested in you as you go about your business online, even though they never engage directly with you. Becoming a digital familiar stranger can also help you bypass gatekeepers to get to those all important sales contacts.

    The Power of Crowds

    Have you ever joined a crowd without knowing why? One social psychology study arranged for collaborators to stand together and stare up at a film camera on the sixth floor window above a busy city street. Only 4% of passers by stopped and looked up a single person was standing there doing this same, whereas 40% stopped if 15 people were already there gazing upwards. The crowd had a contagious effect on behaviour. Modern studies show variances on how this works today.

    What I find most interesting about this experiment is the small number of collaborators you need to attract a bigger crowd. You might only need fifteen people staring up at your blog and engaging with your Facebook pages for more passing people to be drawn to your business to see what everyone else is looking at.

    It’s a Small World

    Many believe that we are all connected to one another by six degrees of separation. In other words you could start with a farmer in Outer Mongolia who would know someone, who knows someone, who knows someone, who knows someone, who knows someone who knows US President Obama. This idea has been popularised by the Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon game.

    We are probably all more closely connected to the people we wish to connect with than we think. That important buyer, that key supplier or that particular customer we are hoping to connect with is just a hop, skip and a jump away on social media. LinkedIn in particular tracks how our networks are connected.

    Weaker Links

    The people we love and feel the most connected to us are often the ones we value the most in our lives. Yet studies have shown that it is actually the weaker links in our networks of relationships that can be the most valuable to us when landing better jobs. In other words it’s not always our close friends that help us with our careers, but our peripheral acquaintances.

    Having a wide range of relationships and connections is possible on the variety of social media tools we have for managing our relationships. If you are not using these tools you are missing out on developing these relationships and the opportunities that come with them.

    We all know elements of these social psychology experiments to be true having seen aspects of them in our everyday lives. Yet many people and businesses put off joining social media networks or engaging on them because they are so focussed on direct returns rather than seeing the bigger picture of going well in the digital world and convincing by our digital presence.

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  • Why you should always listen first on Social Media

    Always Listen First

    The natural instinct when first using social media for business is to shout what you do from the rooftops. We see it all the time on platforms like Twitter. New users view it as another marketing or advertising channel in the same way that they might advertise in a magazine or newspaper. They sign up and blast out their sales message.

    None of us like to be sold to though, do we? We should all know better. It’s like turning up to a party and shouting through a megaphone at people that you have a buy one get one free deal. People are likely to tell you to ‘bogof yourself’.

    As my friend Baiju Solanki often says, the secret to success on Twitter is to always listen first. For a start you need to know where your customers or potential customers are on Twitter, how they are interacting and what they are interested in. You can’t do that without listening.

    Think of your social media goals as a flourishing, abundant, fruitful orchard that you are trying to create. First you have to find the right climate for your trees to grow, then you need to identify the soil the seeds will flourish in and what sort of nutrients they will need and how often they need feeding. If you overwater a plant you can kill it. Similarly if you don’t give it enough it won’t flourish. You can’t know and do all of this without paying attention, watching and listening first.

    So how do you do this for your retail outlet? First, sit down and draw a mind map of your shop. Write your business name in the middle of it. How your customers relate to it? Are they from a specific town or geographic area? Are they a certain demographic? What is the typical profile of your top customers? What do they like to do? How do they like to shop? Where do they like to shop? What TV shows do they like? What are their interests? Next look at your products. What do you sell? What products sell best in your store? What do customers love to buy from you? Why? What key words best describe your retail experience? You can add more to your mind map as you go. This is just to get you started.

    Once you have your keywords on your mind map, start searching for them in the search bar at the top right of your Twitter page. Start following people who are using the phrases and keywords on your mind map or those that have them in their bio. Create Twitter lists to make them easier to manage as your account grows. They help you to filter the volume in your normal feed. You can also download tools like Hootsuite, which let you track keywords constantly in the Twitter feed.

    As you grow these lists you can see how they behave and what they are interested in discussing. Some may even have specific weekly chats they engage in using the # symbol. This is all part of understanding the climate and requirements of the trees in your orchard. When you are ready start engaging, do it in a way that is not motivated by selling. Make friends as you would ordinarily. Be polite, courteous and helpful. If you have a sense of humour that will help, as long as you avoid anything potentially offensive to people.

    Over time you will also learn which of your friends online care about you and are supportive of what you do and which are just in it for themselves. Once you have earned the right in your community (through sharing, caring and contribution) to tweet your own message you can do so. You must keep your sales messages in moderate proportion to your overall supportive messages in which your orchard prefers to flourish. One doesn’t harvest fruit from an orchard without taking good care of it.

    Being social means caring and contributing. It’s not all about you. There are thousands of other people who are in the room with you. Think of social media as offering a variety of business benefits rather than just direct sales. Twitter is a fantastic tool for improving the way you do things and having a better understanding of your business.

    5 Ways Retailers Can Listen on Social Media:

    1. Search for discussions on your store

    What are people saying about you? You need to know how you are perceived online.

    2. Solicit feedback from your customers

    What else do they want from you? Be brave, ask them and listen carefully.

    3. Where can you improve?

    Learn from fellow businesses that are sharing best practice online

    4. Are there more opportunities?

    Watch your competitors to see what you are missing

    5. Can you grow your sales?

    Listen to your suppliers They know what lines sell best from their offering.

    Listening is one of 7 Key Habits of Highly Effective Retailers - Discover the remaining habits here

    How Retailers can get started with Digital Marketing

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