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As Lockdown Lifts Are You Utilising LinkedIn To Find New Customers?

Across the country businesses are being given the green light to re-open following a lengthy period of closure.

Whilst there may be a range of practical considerations they need to be thinking about it’s vital business owners aren’t forgetting the importance of creating engaging and relevant content on social media.

That’s the message from content specialist and publicist Tina Calder of Excalibur Press who will be presenting her free webinar Supercharge Your LinkedIn With Great Content tomorrow (Wednesday June 17) at 3pm.

She said: “For many businesses, especially those who are targeting business people or are working in a b2b setting, they should not underestimate the power of showing your customers that you’re back, you’re stronger than ever and able to give them content that they can and will engage with.

“When a crisis happens in a business more often than not things such as social media, digital marketing and communications tend to be pushed to the side in favour of what is considered an immediate need.

“The problem with that is by the time you do put focus into these things it’s often too late.

“Creating strong, engaging, organic content now can help to support your brand to return to the market and back up your marketing and sales strategy for your comeback.”

Tina’s 90-minute webinar Supercharge Your LinkedIn With Great Content will help attendees unlock some of the secrets of the popular b2b social platform and is packed full of top tips, tricks, tools and techniques to help you go it alone and do it yourself.

Tina added: “This webinar will go over some of the basics of optimising your profile, however, what we will focus on more is the content, what should you share, how do you share, where do you find it and how can you use it to maximise your opportunities, get sales leads and raise the profile of yourself, your brand and/or your business.”

Supercharge Your LinkedIn With Great Content is part of a series of free webinars each week by Tina and Excalibur Press helping businesses look at a variety of elements of their digital transformation during the Covid-19 crisis.

One element of this webinar is Tina’s 79 types of content you can share on the platform.

To give you a taste of these, here are just 9:

1.  How to

‘How to’ content offers your audience massive value and often performs well because you’re helping the audience to solve a problem that they (might) have.

At the same time, publishing this type of content benefits you because you’re giving them an example of your expertise in your field. You can create a how-to video or set out the instructions step by step in text.

Either way, they’ll thank you for it by consuming more of your content in the future.

2.  Case studies

Case studies are a big opportunity to demonstrate the value of your product or service, often by telling a real-life story of how your business has helped a customer or client of yours with a business problem.

In essence, case studies are a sales tool. The person reading the case study should be able to picture themselves using your product or service by the end they finish reading it.

The more interesting the angle or more challenging the client’s problem, the better for your case study and you’ll relate how your business was able to solve the problem for them. You should be portraying yourself as a supportive element and, ideally, you should back up the key points of your case study with data to convey the value of your product or service.

3.  Behind the scenes

Maybe you’ve heard it a million times before now, but it’s really true: people buy from other people. They like to know who they’re buying from and the behind-the-scenes content gives you a chance to really connect with your audience and humanise your brand.

Behind-the-scenes content is transparent, not excessively polished and, like a case study, is about the process. Your audience gets to see what’s going on behind the brand and the content helps them to understand your business better. It builds trust in your business and your expertise starts to shine through naturally.

4.  Opinion

An opinion piece gets people talking and can even become news in itself, but be careful not to become notorious. If your opinion pieces leave a nasty taste in your audience’s mouths regularly, they could harm your brand reputation.

Ideally, the pieces should be balanced and base themselves on an objective analysis of the facts and evidence, not necessarily be providing the evidence itself. Note that just because a piece should be balanced, that doesn’t mean it can’t be hard-hitting if it’s appropriate to be so.

The purpose of an opinion piece is to help the reader form their own opinion and should enlighten them or empower them. All throughout, the piece should be entertaining enough for them to read right until the end and make them want to read more pieces by you. Be careful not to impose your own views heavily on them. You’ll lose your audience otherwise.

5.  Interviews

Unique content is crucial in content marketing and interviews are a terrific way to create this. They’re also an easy way to generate content. The person you’re interviewing will create lots of valuable material you can use for your content. You can then create a text article, video or podcast of the interview. Experiment with different media to find the one that suits you.

Interviews give you the chance to reach out to influencers in the industry, who can offer some excellent insight.

Don’t worry about being on a ‘lower’ level than they are: the interview will give the influencer free publicity, so many will be happy to do it and if people see you interviewing several major influencers, they’ll start to perceive you as having slightly higher authority. They start to associate your business with the major influencers and you’ll become an influencer in your own right.

6.  Throwbacks

Everyone loves a blast from the past, which makes ‘throwback’ content a powerful content marketing tool. It’s nostalgic and allows you to create an emotional connection with their audience. It’s also a lot of fun and you can really engage your audience.

One way you can create throwback content is to dig into your business’s archives and share a video, picture or social post from your early days in the business. It could be from when you were just starting out and still trying to figure everything out as a business owner. You can compare yourself to now and discuss how far the business has come since then.

7.  “Meet the team” posts

Introducing your audience to your team is a part of your brand storytelling. It’s a powerful way to show your audience the people behind the brand, who are just as important as the company itself, and adds a personal touch to your content. Choose videos or text posts with an image, but either way, let people see your team.

Publishing “Meet the Team” content will also build trust with your audience. This is because you’re no longer “faceless”. When your audience sees names and faces, you become a “real” company to them all of a sudden. In an age where people are concerned about online scams, your “Meet the team” content will build your credibility.

8.  FAQs

The chances are you’ll hear some of the same questions a lot in your industry, which gifts you with a great opportunity to create truly valuable content for your audience in the form of FAQs. Make a note of the questions you hear most often — or even just all of the questions you hear — and create a separate LinkedIn post for each one and answer the question.

You can teach your audience and help them to learn about your industry. You can teach them about your products and services and how to use them successfully. You can discuss how you’ve helped other businesses. Answering people’s questions with your content will build trust and increase your credibility with your audience.

9.  Long form articles

Did you think that people want really short content on LinkedIn?

You’ll be surprised. The Content Marketing Institute has reported posts with 1 000 to 3 000 words get more shares, even though shorter content dominates LinkedIn. Posts can be text heavy and have simple elements such as bullet-pointed lists. You don’t have to pack them with images and charts etc.

The CMI suggested three main reasons for the higher numbers of shares that longer posts enjoy:

  • LinkedIn is a refuge from the pressure to add images and videos to prose.

  • People base their sharing activity on how important they perceive the author of the content to be. An impressive job title can capture as much attention as visual elements.

  • The structure as a network for professionals, which creates minimum expectations for entertaining content.

LinkedIn has evolved immensely in the last few years and is an essential tool for marketing your business. The platform offers lots of scope to create amazing content and, just like on other platforms, audiences will reward good content. They’re receptive to lots of different types, which means there are plenty of opportunities to produce excellent content and really build a positive brand image.

Register for Supercharge Your LinkedIn With Great Content at https://bit.ly/3huRS7z

Tomorrow (Thursday June 18) Tina will also be delivering her popular Blogging For Business webinar at 3pm.

For details of forthcoming free webinars go to https://excaliburpress.co.uk/events

Business

Businesses Need To Seize Opportunities Created By Brexit

Ards businessman, Dr Adam Hunniford is urging Northern Ireland businesses to seize the opportunities created by the contentious Brexit NI Protocol.

Dr Hunniford, of PiP Chemicals said that whilst the issue remains politically divisive businesses can use the unique position of Northern Ireland to boost existing trade with the EU and develop new contracts.

“The Irish Sea Border means that for EU companies buying from Great Britain, they cease to be simple distributors who can rely on their suppliers meeting the regulatory requirements” he said.

“Rather, they become importers who must ensure these are all met – themselves – and shoulder the responsibility should there be failings.

“The same is not the case for EU buying from Northern Ireland, as Northern Ireland is in both the EU and GB regulatory systems. So a PiP Chemicals competitor in GB trying to sell to an EU company causes the EU company a set of issues they never had before that do not exist when buying from PiP.

“In real terms what that means is that if you get your supplies through GB the EU can ask about regulations, compliance and any relevant duties.”

Dr Hunniford said that this has created the circumstances that can be capitalised on.

“The opportunities lie in the EU market for Northern Ireland companies,” he explained. 

“At the moment Northern Ireland is still operating in the EU system, comply with the rules and customers in Ireland remain a distributor and which means any compliance issues remain with the Northern Ireland company.”

He explained that already the Irish Health and Services Agency is clamping down on GB companies trading to the Republic of Ireland leading to many no longer supplying south of the border.

The Co Down businessman said that now was the time to promote Northern Ireland’s position.

“We should be shouting loud that we are still part of the EU, you can buy from us, there are no delays or regulatory hurdles,” he explained. 

“It may be politically sensitive, but the reality is that we are now in direct competition with Britain.

“We are separate but we can offer something that GB cannot and so we should be saying ‘buy from Britain, have difficulties, buy from us, they will be fewer’.”

Dr Hunniford acknowledged that this will not be a popular strategy for many.

He said: “The broader government, of course, won’t like that companies like ours are attempting to take this strategy and it may not go down well with the public at all if Northern Ireland companies started stealing business from other regions of Britain, but that’s what has been created, whether we like it or not.”

He also explained the Brexit situation has been taking place within the context of the global pandemic, meaning most have been trying to cope with unprecedented pressures.

“Shipping containers are in the wrong place, and it will take some time to resolve this,” he said. 

“Add into that is there are fewer haulage drivers across the UK.  A lot of the lorry drivers were often Eastern European, and they have gone home, and that means there are fewer lorries coming and going.

“Hauliers will not be able to supply services at the same level, as the paperwork and lack of full containers going back and forth to GB is hitting their bottom line and that leads to increasing prices.”

However, whilst there are opportunities to be had, Dr Hunniford also warned there are inflationary pressures building.

“It is imperative that companies look to the current unique position of Northern Ireland to look to EU solutions, including transport and seeking new markets,” he said. 

“PiP Chemicals have tried to mitigate the issues by having more stock and supplies, but that has extra storage costs. Had we not had to do that we may have been able to hire extra staff.

“Every company is facing cash flow problems, and that too will lead to price increases.”

PiP Chemicals, based in Newtownards, specialises in designing, formulating and manufacturing products for the automotive business and wider industrial uses. It sells directly to the automotive trade

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Digitally Enabled Change, Data and Storytelling: the Way Forward for Tourism in Northern Ireland

Tourism NI’s head of digital explains plans for recovery

Digital development, increasing use of data and a vision of transformation for how the tourism industry gears up for the post-pandemic recovery are some of the priorities for Tourism NI as it prepares to revive Northern Ireland’s world-leading tourism status.

The recent Tourism Recovery Action Plan, launched by Tourism NI and DfE, has identified the need to support with adopting digital technologies to improve business processes and productivity, bolster online presence and revolutionise access to digital marketing platforms.  

Tourism NI’s Chief Digital Officer Dave Vincent explained that the work the organisation had been doing prior to Covid-19, as well as since the outbreak of the pandemic, will enable the Tourism Recovery Plan to be effective.

However, Mr Vincent was clear that digital tools, data sets and transformational plans needed to be considered as part of all tourism business planning, large and small, over the next 18 months.

“We have been doing a lot of work to improve how we support the sector,” he said. 

“But what we provide has to be seen as a business outcome as opposed to a digital outcome. 

“In the coming months and years we want people to think of it as their digital strategy, not just about their digital transformation.”

This doesn’t diminish the need for creating and distributing good, compelling content on websites and social media. What Tourism NI is doing is supporting businesses through the development of the organisation’s web portal.

When the pandemic struck, a Covid-19 Business Support Hub was established on TourismNI.com to provide support to the tourism community. The ability to create the hub is part of the vision to provide more support through the site.

“Part of our development is through the use of a destination management platform. It has a host of features such as listings, offers and partnerships” explained Mr Vincent, adding: “It’s in 900 destinations around the world, and we are using it for the Discover NI site and we have provided access to all 11 council regions.

“Visit Causeway, Visit Mourne, Visit Derry, Visit Lisburn and Castlereagh are already live and more will come, meaning visitors can see the same quality and content. They will be able to look at what is in each area and book, plan and make their time here better.

“It will mean we have the first real, collaborative platform which is certainly the direction of travel we at Tourism NI want to take.”

One challenge facing everyone in the industry is the ability to gather quality data on visitors.
Tourism NI is working to further develop its own data hub and dashboard of information which will enable the sharing of data.

“We are developing a dashboard that will be on the Tourism NI site and we aim to have as much data as possible for the industry” Mr Vincent said.

“This includes questionnaires completed at airports, sensors recording activity at places like the Mournes and Derry Walls, and a range of other data that can be shared.

“We’ve got the sensors, they tell a story about where people are. We have also acquired credit card data, so we can tell what our key markets are spending, where in the destination they are spending and what they are spending on.

“I’ve got telecoms data, and we’re also collecting review data in real-time so I can look back on the visitor experience.”

The Chief Digital Officer explained with the aggregated datasets the service to individual businesses becomes such that they are able to look at content, see the direction they may want to go in and use it as a service platform.

“The aim is for businesses to register and get access to a range of tools. They will also get access to application forms, they can see the status of claims, grants, mentoring,” he said. 

“It also means when the business has content we can share with a distribution platform, at the push of a button, have the content out on Visit GB, Trip Advisor, Booking.com, and many more. That will be even more powerful when people share their information.”

Part of what is enabling Tourism NI to action these plans is that they were in development for a period of time.

“When the lockdown happened we were ready as an organisation,” said Mr Vincent. 

“Our Cloud-based services were ready to support the industry and we had the platforms ready.

“From a digital perspective, there is no difference to those we work with if we are in the office one day and working from home the next.”

He added that Tourism NI’s lead role on working groups demonstrated the value of the organisation.

“All of a sudden we had the industry talking to Tourism NI and representing the industry in surveys, getting us feedback and responding and showing the value we have,” the Chief Digital Officer said. 

“Some in the industry might have thought we just sit in our offices and not understand what we do, but the journey through Covid-19 showed many what we can do with engagement and partnership.

“It showed it wasn’t just about grants, but we add value to the sector as a whole.

“Before there were aspects of what we do that were the only encounter businesses had, such as inspections and certifications.

“It has been quite transformational in terms of how we are perceived and understanding what we can do.”

Part of that has been the number of programmes Tourism NI has been able to deliver.

“From a business plan perspective there are many schemes we implemented last year,” he said. 

“We were able to tackle website development turnaround, as part of my role in influencing the direction of grants.

“Quite a lot of companies received investment in a website audit, with content and videography, so we are capitalising on that for both sides.

“This means businesses can engage in digital storytelling and their videos, website, and social media work together to explain what they do. Marry that with the Destination Management Platform and the business can work better, and we at Tourism NI have more tools to attract visitors. Our work with Tourism Ireland, also, is about making the online space one which funnels people to choose a visit to the island of Ireland.””

Mr Vincent said he understood the difficulties many businesses are having, and whilst there are many resilient in the uncertainty, others are struggling, and need to tackle some of the basics of working in the sector.

However, he is keen to support those, as the next period can help change attitudes.

“What the lockdown has done is accelerate some of the thinking around the digital-first customer experience and journey” he explained, adding: “This all works towards creating a very attractive proposition for potential visitors”. 

For more information on how Tourism NI can support businesses visit: tourismni.com/contact-us/covid-19-business-support-helpline

Twitter: @NITouristBoard

LinkedIn: linkedin.com/company/northern-ireland-tourist-board 

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