THE BRITISH LIBRARY

Innovation and enterprise blog

20 posts categorized "Technology"

03 April 2017

How to research digital trends with eMarketer

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Emarketer-logoWe often get enquiries in the Business & IP Centre about how to research digital trends. Such as mobile phone usage and social media growth.

Fortunately, we have access to eMarketer research, which is the first place to look for research about marketing in the digital world. eMarketer PRO is relied on by thousands of companies and business professionals worldwide to understand marketing trends, consumer behaviour. And to get hold of essential data on the fast-changing digital economy. 

eMarketer is unusual for a market research publisher in how much information they give away for through their free newsletters.

But the only way to get hold of their full content is to come into the Business & IP Centre in London and access eMarketer PRO.

Here you will find:

  • Over 200 new reports each year with data, interviews with subject matter experts, and original analysis to provide insights, understanding and context on the most important topics in digital.
  • Aggregated data from over 3,000 sources of research in the data library.
  • Over 7,500 proprietary metrics about the digital marketplace, including media trends, consumer behaviour and device usage.
  • The ability to create customised charts and tables to help tell compelling stories with data.
  • Coverage across 100 countries, including proprietary metrics for 40 core countries.

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eMarketer PRO will help to:

Answer specific questions and access data about digital related topics. Such as how much time do millennials spend with online video? How many smartphone users are there in the UK? What are the key UK digital trends for 2017?

Get deeper insight on digital topics. Such as what is programmatic advertising? What are the pros and cons of developing mobile apps vs mobile websites?

Research topics related to Advertising & Marketing, B2B, Demographics, Email, Industries, Measurement, Mobile, Retail & Ecommerce, Search, Social Media, Video

Benefit from eMarketer Forecasts using eMarketer Estimates up to 2020 for hundreds of Metrics. 

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To give you an idea of what you would find, here are some extracts from a typical eMarketer report.

UK Digital Video and TV 2017:
Who’s Watching, How They’re Watching and What It Means for Marketers.

 

Nearly two-thirds of the UK population will watch digital video content in 2017

One

 

There will be more digital video viewers than smartphone users in 2017

  Two

 

Short-form content isn’t necessarily the preserve of the young; older groups are viewing increasing amounts

Three

 

In terms of platforms, YouTube dominates the short-form space and has massive overall reach

Four

 

For long-form VOD, the BBC’s iPlayer service dominates, but Netflix is gaining ground

  Five

 

So what does this mean for Marketers?

Pre-roll ads don’t work and are mostly disliked on digital channels

Six

 

However, pre-roll is still where most of the money is going: 59% of digital video ad spending in H1 2016 went to pre- and post-roll inventory

Seven

 

Social is one area that seems like a good environment for video ads

Eight

 

Engagement with a video ad on social media often leads to a purchase

  Nine

19 May 2016

Kikka Digga - Business & IP Centre Success Story

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Kikka-Digga logoOn Saturday I visited Plumpton College near Lewes, for their annual open day. On display amongst the new-born lambs, Sussex wines, tractors and chainsaws was a stand for Kikka Digga. With my curiosity for all things new, I sauntered over and chatted to the demonstrator Nick Skaliotis. It turned out this was the very first public outing for the his new invention, which he claimed would make digging gardens significantly easier.

Mid-way through our conversation I asked if Nick had patented his invention, he looked more closely at me and said, "I know you". It turned out he has been a regular in the Business & IP Centre at the British Library. In addition to getting help with his patent from our wonderful Inventor in Residence Mark Shehean. He also attended several of our workshops including lean start-up webinar, social media for business and trade marks.

Kikka-Digga image
After hearing Nick’s story I just had to buy his product to see if it really did live up to his claims. Also, I hoped it would help me to avoid the lower back-pain I now get every time I dig over my vegetable patch.

As soon as I got home I took the two pieces of metal out of package and installed them onto my fork. This was as simple as the instructions indicated with just two items to clamp onto my fork.

As you can see from my photos below, I was able to dig over a small section of my very weedy heavy clay soil quickly and easily using Kikka Digga. And, even better, I had no twinges in my lower back afterwards. So I am definitely sold on the product.

I also like the name Kikka Digga, for being simple and memorable. And it has even more k’s than the legendary Kodak brand. George Eastman said about the letter k, “it seems a strong, incisive sort of letter.” I am also glad to see that Nick has registered the name at the UK Intellectual Property Office.

Kikka Digga trademark

You can see a demonstration of the invention in action on YouTube. And keep up to date with Nick’s progress on Facebook or Twitter.

I can’t wait to see how the gardeners of Great Britain take to this wonderful invention.

Kikka Digga 1

Kikka Digga newly assembled on my fork in seconds

Kikka Digga 2

My first few digs into my heavy clay soil are surprisingly easy

Kikka Digga 3

Misty is as impressed as I am by the speed and ease in digging up the plot.

 

By Neil Infield in the Business & IP Centre London team

31 July 2015

Social Media for Small Businesses: Finding Your Feet

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Social media is very powerful in this digital age – in a single minute, around 3.3 million pieces of new content are uploaded to Facebook, 347,000 tweets are posted on Twitter, and 38,000 people upload pictures to their Instagram feed. Each social media platform has its own individual character and way of engaging with audiences and unlocking this is the key to a successful social strategy.  However, it can be a bit daunting for beginners, so here are a few tips to help you find your feet.

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Decide on the right social platforms for you

Begin with a maximum of three social channels to increase your chances of successful engagement with your audience, and be sure that they suit your business objectives. For example, LinkedIn is largely a corporate channel, so it might not be a priority if you’re trying to reach the end-consumer, and Instagram is more likely to be used by the under 35s.

Don’t bombard your audience

Customers do not want to feel spammed, so be mindful that it’s not necessary to post multiple times a day if you have nothing interesting to say. Relevant, engaging content is what you should be aiming for and it’s easy to achieve this if you simply put yourself in the mind-set of your customer.

Visuals are key

Images are processed 6,000 times faster than text by the human brain, so your followers will be more engaged with your content if an image is part of the post. According to Twitter, an image will make your tweet five times more shareable, so a bank of relevant imagery is helpful for a successful social media strategy.

Keep an eye on your channels

On average, customers expect a response to their queries or comments within an hour, and research suggests that a solution should be reached within six hours to maintain customer satisfaction. For SMEs this is so important, as word of mouth is a key part of growing your customer base. It’s essential to keep your customers engaged until a solution is reached. Facebook in particular is helping this support process with its recently launched ‘Saved Replies’ feature, which allows admins to quickly respond to customer enquiries with pre-written responses, such as directing them to the Help Desk – a quick way to maintain customer satisfaction if you’re pressed for time.

Don’t be too ambitious too soon

Immediate results are unlikely for a smaller business engaging in social media, but if you are smart in your approach then tangible benefits will be realised before too long. The ultimate goal should be engagement with your audience, so measuring inbound as well as outbound social media activity is important. Winning advocacy of your products or services is of course your ultimate goal.

 

John Morris is COO of UK2 Group a global group of web hosting brands providing web hosting and internet services to savvy surfers, small businesses and blue chip giants alike. They are also a corporate partner of the Business & IP Centre. For more help with social media for your small business attend an introductory workshop in the Centre. 

29 July 2015

Top tips on online accounting for small business

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Books are migrating to e-readers, music is being streamed and accounting is now happening in the cloud. This is the quiet revolution that accountants whisper but dare not speak aloud. Accounting software is dead; it’s online and upwards to the clouds. Online accounting has arrived.

Cloud computing

It may sound a touch over the top but it’s true. As a business, how you manage your books pretty much manages everything else. Your accounting is an important engine in your business. A well-oiled efficient system will reap rewards; a slow burner with too many miles will underperform and slow you down.

This is where online accounting in the cloud is so significant. Consigned to software history is the accounting package sold ‘out of a box’ installed onto your desktop, run on a local drive and perhaps backed up onto a different drive. It was fun while it lasted but now SMEs have multiple choices when it comes to doing their books.

And here lies the problem. Business owners are generally uncertain about how to choose an online accounting package that works for them. But help is at hand, outlined below are some helpful tips to help you decide on how to choose the best package.

Why choose online accounting?

It’s easy to say the future is online but what are the actual advantages?

  • Firstly, you can access it anytime, anywhere and aren’t bound to the PC in your office and you don’t need to keep installing updates
  • Being on the cloud means information can be easier to share as well
  • It can save considerable time and keeps your records up to date

The question then is which online accounting package to choose? There are numerous packages you can subscribe to out there. Xero and Quickbooks are making inroads but there are lots of others too. There are well over thirty providers of online accounting, so choosing the right one for you can feel overwhelming. The best thing to do is to narrow your focus by asking yourself a few of the following questions:

  • How long has the software been around? In other words, is it market tested?
  • Is the software UK compatible? Can it deal with VAT? You will need a system that works effectively for VAT returns.
  • Can it work with multi-currencies (if you need to trade overseas)?
  • Can it integrate with other software easily (known as API) such as CRM or invoicing programmes?
  • Will it securely connect into your bank account? This can be very helpful when it comes to bank reconciliation and looking at a live picture of the financial state of your business.
  • What is the level of customer support? Are you able to call or use chat while online?

Having confidence in the provider you choose is important as they will be presenting all the data and running all the reports for you. Reports are your window into what’s happening with the numbers in your business, so it’s vital you can see what’s going on clearly. It’s best to see if your accounting software can run any of these types of reports clearly and effectively:

  • Profit and Loss reports
  • Balance Sheets (divided monthly)
  • Company snapshots
  • Debtors and Creditors
  • Product and Inventory reports (if needed)
  • Employee and payroll

Test, test, test

Most of the major online accounting platforms will give you a free trial. Riz Wasti from 2E Accountants and participant on the Innovating for Growth programme recommends you test the software first to see how it works for you. He suggests doing the following:

“Most online software offer 30 days trial period. That’s your opportunity to test the software before relying on it. Use your real transactions, bank payments & receipts, sales invoices, bills and expenses, etc. Softwares will also have a Demo Company setup with data already entered. That’s your opportunity to play with the software”.

Migration to your online platform

Once you’ve selected the best online accounting package for you, do allow for time and some cost to migrate across from an existing platform. As ever, the devil is in the detail (and the numbers). Riz advises that:

Migrating data from an existing system can be complicated. It’s best to do it in stages, for example starting with sales invoices and bills in batches of months and reconcile bank statements for each month entered. The payment allocation process can be time consuming. Bank data can be uploaded in one go separately to sales and bills, but then bank payments need to match or be allocated.”

All the more reason to do all the research you can on finding the right online accounting package for you. The effort is sure to be well worthwhile in the medium to long term for your business.

If, like most business owners, you sometimes feel confused about your finances in the business, the Business & IP Centre has help available: from how-to guides on running your business, to workshops including “Get Cashflow Confident” with our ‘numbers coach’, Johnny Martin.  

 

Jeremy O’Hare is a Relationship Manager for the British Library’s Innovating for Growth programme, which provides £10,000 of fully-funded and tailored advice for businesses looking to grow. Since joining the British Library in 2005 he has worked with countless businesses, facilitating advice and research as well as providing workshops and information advice for start-ups and established businesses. 

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11 June 2015

How to take your business online

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First Aid for Life is an award-winning first aid training business and a current participant on the Innovating for Growth programme at the British Library. Established in 2007, by Emma Hammett, First Aid for Life provides quality training courses, taught by highly experienced teachers, giving people the necessary skills to help in a medical emergency. The Business & IP Centre, helped First Aid for Life offer training courses online.  

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Source: First Aid for Life

We asked Emma about the challenges that led her to Innovating for Growth, how the programme changed her business and her tips for  taking a business online.

Hi Emma, what challenges were you experiencing in your business before Innovating for Growth?

When I joined Innovating for Growth, much of the business was solely reliant on me. The successful migration from ‘live’ first aid courses to delivering an online platform was something I was having difficulty getting my head around. I wanted to scale up but scalability can be more challenging with a service industry, unless I went down the licensing or franchise route, my practical courses were constrained by the number of trainers within the business.

What vision did you have for your business to scale up?

To achieve my goal of growing the business, I decided to create an e-learning platform to take first aid training from the physical classroom to a virtual one. Development took longer than anticipated, but I am incredibly proud of the innovative and interactive Online First Aid programme which combines video, illustrated step by step instructions and ‘test yourself’ sections to create a truly unique and engaging learning experience. 

The new website offers a range of 32 online first aid courses that comply with verifiable Continued Professional Development requirements, assist with pre-learning for those with English as a second language, and provide an ideal solution for businesses to fulfil corporate and social responsibilities. Bringing my service online has opened up many opportunities including the possibility of joint venture and affiliate opportunities with a range of companies. 

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Source: First Aid for Life

How did Innovating for Growth help you to achieve this?

Through workshops and mentoring sessions, I learnt how important it is to develop structures and systems in order to achieve real growth.  The Business & IP Centre helped me to secure my intellectual property rights, develop and grow my team and create a source of scalability outside my core practical business  as well as develop a tangible brand identity. Ultimately the programme helped me to add an online element to my business which has been vital in taking my business to the next level.

I am now in a position where I can work on my business, rather than just in my business and can strategically direct it to achieve our goals. My original offline business has been growing at 30% over the last 5 years and I am optimistic that the online training will lead to further growth. I now employ a team of 17 trainers who are medical and emergency services professionals, consequently the business reaches most corners of the UK. Innovating for Growth helped me to delegate and build a talented team of first aiders. The quality of our training and customer services is of tantamount importance and I want to retain the quality of service as the business grows.

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Source: First Aid for Life

What were the steps for taking your business online?

I started planning the online courses nearly three years ago; I created the content in the format I required and researched platforms that could support the functionality I wanted. My initial courses were not in an ideal format and it was not until last year that I found the right platform and web designer to really make the courses work in the interactive and fully responsive manner I had been looking for. Once I found the correct platform I worked with a web designer to add the content I had developed, tested it on users and finally launched the new site.

What advice would you give to another business trying to move to an online platform?

  • Be prepared to invest time and money to get it right and test your concept to ensure you are creating something that people will want to buy. 
  • Ideally choose a well-recognised platform rather than anything bespoke so that you can easily find freelance help to make changes and support you as your course develops and you are not beholden to a particular web developer.
  • Carefully think through your reasons for wanting an on-line business and ensure you create courses to achieve those goals.
  • Once the courses are selling they should begin to provide a passive and sustainable income that can bring you real flexibility to your working life.
  • If you need help growing your business – apply for some help with Innovating for Growth.

 

If, like Emma, you want to win £10,000 worth of free business support, apply for Innovating for Growth today. 

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Innovating for Growth is part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund

 

20 May 2015

The future is looking Fab (Lab)

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In this superfast, digital, tech era we often hear people questioning the need for libraries - 'I can just google it’ or ‘I can get it online’ are common phrases batted around. This is of course overlooking the far wider benefits that libraries bring to local communities, the positive impact on health and economic wellbeing, or even the economy itself. Indeed libraries act as ‘the great equaliser’ - safe, trusted and impartial spaces, where anyone from any walk of life can access services. The success of the British Library’s own Business & IP Centre service is evidence that libraries have an important role to play in helping businesses to innovate and grow. 

If all that doesn’t produce a flutter of excitement in their steely hearts, then perhaps something that will appeal is the idea of the library as a maker space, a rapid prototyping hub, a place for creative collaboration and sharing of ideas. Sure you can join online forums to share ideas, but you probably don’t have a CTR TMX12 Laser Machine in your garden shed!

Exeter Library’s FabLab is one such space; ‘an open access, not-for-profit, community resource where anybody can invent and make just about anything.’ It is the first ever to open in a UK public library and boasts a plethora of machines such as a Pro-Router, Vinyl Cutter, the aforementioned Laser Machine and of course the obligatory 3D printers.

So successful have they been, that the library hosted a Fab Futures conference last Friday 15 May, bringing together experts from across the UK and the globe to talk about how libraries can support innovation and creativity in the 21st century, and how they’ve done it in Exeter.

The day offered a local perspective with the lab volunteers and library staff talking through the prototyping equipment, offering hands on introductory taster workshops and showcasing the versatility of the machines.

 

Textile designer- Fran
Local textile designer Fran used the digital equipment to create her laser cut designs
 
 
Digitally printed items in delegate packs
Goodies in delegate packs made in the Fab Lab

 

Speakers attending from Mak Lab Glasgow,  Fab Lab Manchester and Fab Lab Ellesmore Port, talked about the social significance and impact of the UK Fab Lab Network through engaging local communities, older people and disability groups as well as charities and businesses with the possibilities of digital manufacturing.

 

Laser cut mdf
What happens when you put MDF in a laser cutter

 

A Google Link up with Chattanooga Library in Tennessee showcased their innovative 4th floor ‘public laboratory’, highlighting an intuitive partnership with Etsy, where their digital equipment is used to manufacture products which are then sold on the Etsy platform.

Take a look at the full programme for the day and the storify of the event.

Fab Lab Exeter is a great facility for local entrepreneurs and creatives to access low cost or free digital making in a shared learning environment, and the perfect space to develop prototypes for new products and designs. To complement the Fab Lab, in the next twelve months Exeter Library will be joining the British Library’s National Network of Business & IP Centres in city libraries across the country. The Business & IP Centre will connect the Fab Lab’s innovation activities to intellectual property support and business information resources, helping to create healthy and sustainable businesses across the region. The current Business & IP Centre National Network provides support for entrepreneurs and inventors in Newcastle, Leeds, Sheffield, Liverpool, Birmingham and Manchester which also had a Digital Demonstrator Suite.

Here in the UK the libraries’ ‘maker movement’ has been a bit slow off the mark compared to our cousins across the pond, but it’s starting to gather momentum. Led by the likes of Exeter’s FabLab, or indeed Common Libraries National Science Experiment, we might in the near future find that people are as likely to pop to their local library for a ‘raspberry pi jam’ as they are to borrow a book.

Does your local library run any ‘maker sessions,’ ‘raspberry pi jams’ or ‘library hacks’? If so, get in touch, we’d love to hear more and visit one of our National Network of Business & IP Centres soon.

David Gimson and Hanna Fayaz on behalf of the Business & IP Centre

02 March 2015

Inspiring Entrepreneurs: Growing Pains and Gains

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Last Monday’s Inspiring Entrepreneurs: Growing Pains and Gains event at the British Library brought together founders of the Cambridge Satchel Company; Julie Deane, Ella’s Kitchen; Paul Lindley and Naked Wines; Eamon Fitzgerald to share their experiences of fast growth, including the challenges and rewards.

All three businesses went from zero to multimillion pound turnovers in a relatively short period of time, aided by digital technology.

  • Ella’s Kitchen, is the biggest baby food business in the UK, turning over circa £100m last year and sold in over 30 countries
  • The Cambridge Satchel Company, which started in 2008, has a £13m turnover
  • Naked Wines, which started the same year, has 250,000 prepaying customers, 120 wine makers on the books and a £67m annual turnover
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Richard Phelps, Executive for Entrepreneurs at Barclays, Paul Lindley, Julie Deane and Eamon Fitzgerald

Julie Deane noted passion was important for a business' success. She was very geeky at school and no-one who knew her would have thought she would end up at the helm of a company which featured at London Fashion Week. “It shows that you can change direction if you have a passion for something."

Deane's motivation for starting a business was to get her children into a good private school, a goal she achieved with only £600. Her mum had always told her it was bad to borrow, so she never has. “Borrowing money makes you scared so you cannot be as free to do something fantastic.” The limited budget meant she had to be creative and learn new skills. She built her own website through a free tutorial and saw exporting as “a different label on the parcel.” She used her children to model the bags and paid them with a Mars bar each. They also starred in her Google advert.

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The Cambridge Satchel Company

Deane contacted fashion bloggers who were attending New York Fashion Week to generate word of mouth and since then the bags have been seen on the shoulders of Taylor Swift and Alex Chung, and featured on hit TV shows Girls and The Good Wife.

Deane now employs 120 people, producing over 900 bags a day in a factory based in Leicester, selling to Harrods, Selfridges, Harvey Nichols and Bloomingdales.

Eamon Fitzgerald spoke about the business model for Naked Wines being built upon customers grouped as ‘Angels’ investing £20 a month in the company, in return they enjoy insider prices of 25% - 50% off retail wines prices. The longest serving customers are involved in the consultation of new ideas, with opportunities to taste new wines.

Fitzgerald recalled how Naked Wines’ ‘Angels’ raised £2,500 in one afternoon to help an independent wine producer whose stock had been vandalised. He said campaigns like these motivated staff and customers and set aside his brand from competitors.

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Eamon Fitzgerald

Fitzgerald had the following tips for business success:

  1. Have a product that is better than your competitors
  2. Cut out overheads for customers and build a fan base based on strong values such as supporting small wine growers
  3. Invest in talent rather than sales
  4. Treat your best customers well

Paul Lindley, founder of Ella’s Kitchen, finished the panel recalling how he was inspired by his daughter Ella when he used games to make food fun and entice her to eat. He was working at Nickelodeon at the time, which meant he had a good knowledge of what children like and how they relate to brands. 

Lindley noticed most baby food was aimed at parents, Ella’s Kitchen is different. It is healthy organic food, but the packaging and combination of foods makes it appealing to children. The bright pouches the company uses were unique at the time, “it was important to me to engage all their senses and to think like a child.” He wanted to be “different and create the next generation of toddler and baby food. The other brands had not changed and were very functional. We created a brand that was emotional because when you have a baby you are at your most emotional.”

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Ella’s Kitchen

Customer values were at the heart of his brand and Lindley’s mission was to improve children’s health by giving them a good relationship with food. Lindley is now focusing on a new start-up, Paddy’s Bathroom. It’s a range of fun organic bathroom products named after his son and the social message is much more upfront. For each drop of water children uses to wash themselves a village in Rwanda gets a drop of clean water.

Lindley’s five steps to success echoed Fitzgerald’s and Dean’s advice earlier in the evening;

  1. Strong brand values
  2. Putting the customer first
  3. Building an “awesome team”
  4. Going on instinct
  5. Promoting social responsibility

All three speakers stressed how important it was to reward their employees, for instance, by offering them shares in the business or giving them stock. Lindley said it was vital to recruit based on mind-set rather than skillset and all said their first recruits were the most important, promoting the “need to invest in recruiting the right people.” Equally important in the success of each of their businesses was story-telling. Lindley said “A story is so important to a business and telling that story is so important to the success of the business.”

Inspiring Entrepreneurs: Growing Pains and Gains was broadcast live via webinar and screening events in Leeds and Manchester Business & IP Centres also featured introductions by local speakers Eric Hawthorn from Radio Design Ltd and Chris Bird from Bird Consultancy.

The British Library’ Business & IP Centre offers workshops and resources for anyone looking to start a business. The Centre’s Innovating for Growth programme provides free customised help to small businesses based in London, helping them to grow and flourish. The programme is currently accepting applications until 25 March 2015.

Hanna Fayaz on behalf of the Business & IP Centre

10 February 2015

10 tips to help you start a successful business blog

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Emily Hill is the CEO of Write My Site, a digital copywriting agency based in Ealing, London. Her next workshop, ‘Blogging for Business’ takes place at the British Library Business & IP Centre on Thursday 12 February at 6pm. We asked her what advice she would give to small businesses wanting to start or develop their blog. 

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Emily Hill, CEO of Write my Site

Blogging for Business

Ahead of my workshop about business blogging as part of this year’s Web in Feb, I thought it would be useful to outline a few tips for small business owners who are considering starting a blog – or indeed, those who have set up blogs on their websites but aren’t too sure what to do with them.

At my copywriting agency, we write content for all manner of business blogs, from start-up tech companies through to big fashion retailers, and while there’s a vast difference in the type of content that performs best for each client, there are some general principles that apply to everyone. Below is my shortlist of 10 considerations which I hope will help in deciding how to approach blogging for 

1)      Blogging is proven to increase traffic to your website

Let’s start with the question at the top of every small business owner’s mind: does blogging actually bring more traffic to your website? The answer, happily, is yes. Adding between 21 and 51 blog posts to your site boosts traffic by up to 30%, and when you’ve added at least 52 blog posts, your traffic increases by 77%.

A study of 2,000 businesses by HubSpot also revealed that blogging more than 15 times each month increases traffic by 55% and inbound links by 97%.

2)      Blogging generates leads

Blogging sceptics think it’s not worth spending time or money on lots of content that doesn’t generate immediate sales. These people are missing the point. For small businesses, a blog is the most valuable digital asset they can curate. Blogging does generate leads – according to a Think Creative survey, small businesses that blog get 126% more lead growth than small businesses that do not blog. However, it’s important to take a long-term approach.

At Write My Site, we regularly sign new clients who have been following our blog and social channels for months – in some cases years. Blogging is about building your reputation as an expert in your field, and you can’t do that overnight. The payoff, however, is that the clients who’ve been following your blog are the best kind of clients: they’ve already learned something from you, they already trust your brand, and they are brilliant at generating repeat orders and referrals.

3)      Small businesses get the most out of blogging

Small businesses with 1-10 employees receive the biggest benefit of frequent blogging: they can double their sales leads by increasing their number of blog posts from 3-5 to 6-8 per month (HubSpot).

That said, measuring the impact of a business blog purely by the amount of traffic or leads it generates is a limited approach because it excludes the value of developing a social media fan base, and obtaining PR opportunities (e.g. invitations to speak at industry conferences) – both of which are invaluable by-products of blogging for small businesses who must constantly find ways to compete with more well-known competitors.

4)      Writing the company blog needs to be someone’s main job

Here’s the drawback to blogging: it’s labour-intensive. This means someone has to spend their time researching and creating the sort of high-quality, original content that will stand out from the thousands of generic articles that already exist on any given topic. Most business blogs are abandoned after fewer than 5 posts and my guess would be it’s because nobody has the time to keep it up to date.

Writing the company blog needs to be someone’s main job or clearly-defined part-time role. It doesn’t matter if that someone is an employee, a contractor or an agency copywriter – what’s important is that they don’t have conflicting demands on their time.

5)      Every business has something interesting to say

Many businesses fear they are too “boring” to be able to populate a blog with regular content that people will want to read, but there is a clear reason why this isn’t so: if your business has a customer base, then it is sitting on information and advice that will be of interest to those customers.

Take net curtains, for instance. This is not a topic that automatically gets my pulse racing, but I became a customer of a small textiles company that had taken the trouble to publish articles about how to measure, select and hang net curtains. Why did I buy from them? Quite simply, because they had taken the trouble to provide genuinely helpful information that was an exact match for my needs. This made me far more positively inclined towards them than towards the other companies that simply tried to sell me their products.

6)      Longer articles are generally better than shorter ones

In recent years there’s been a shift from short and snappy blog pieces to longer, more detailed articles. This is partly because of Google’s increasingly strict quality guidelines (see point 8, below) and partly because responsive design has made it possible for long-form text to be easily read on mobile phones and tablets. Although there is no convincing evidence that the length of a blog piece has a noticeable impact on traffic, it does seem to affect links and social shares. If a blog post is greater than 1,500 words, on average it receives 68.1% more tweets and 22.6% more Facebook likes (Quick Sprout).

My view is that most blogs benefit from a mix of article lengths. I tend to write a combination of 1,000 words plus pieces (such as this one!) and shorter pieces of no more than 500 words as these can be more easily absorbed by the busy reader.

7)      WordPress is awesome

I suggest to my clients that they get set up to an easy to use and SEO-friendly blogging platform such as WordPress. What I really like about WordPress (other than it being completely free) is the extent to which it can be customised – both on the front and back end. You can make it look and behave in just about any way you like.

8)      Keywords have grown up

More precisely, Google has grown up. Blogging used to be so easy: all you needed to do was keep repeating a certain word or phrase as often as you could and wait for Google to put you on Page One of the search results for that term. Following a deluge of poorly constructed ‘spam’ articles from companies wanting a quick win, however, Google has raised its game and is becoming better at recognising keyword spam and other cheap tricks designed to manipulate its algorithm.

Following the Hummingbird update in 2013, Google’s key interest is figuring out what people mean rather than just what they say when they run a search. The semantics of search is a huge topic in and of itself, so for the purposes of this section I’ll skip straight to the conclusion: write articles targeted at the reader and don’t crowbar your keywords into them. If you’re using WordPress (see point 7!) you can install a plugin called Yoast which will help you tweak your articles for keywords in a natural way.   

9)      Your blog needs a voice

Generic content is the kiss of death in business blogging, especially for small companies that don’t already have an established readership. There is absolutely no reason for anyone to read your ‘me too’ version of an article that has already been widely circulated. You must develop a distinctive voice, and a distinctive view on whatever topic you are writing about.

10)   Your analytics will tell you what’s working (and what’s not)

The only way you can tell whether or not your blog is doing well is by measuring it. As the saying goes “if you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it”. Fortunately, this doesn’t need to cost you a penny. Make sure you install Google Analytics so that you can track visitors and page bounces (the number of people who leave your blog without interacting) for every article. Over time you should be able to spot patterns that tell you what kind of articles are most popular with your readers. 

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Blogging for your business can reap huge rewards, so I hope these tips have gone some way towards helping you develop and refine your strategy. Good luck!

06 February 2015

From Google to Poet in the City: London’s Knowledge Quarter to lead the UK's knowledge economy

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The Knowledge Quarter in King’s Cross is the newest buzz in London. The project started two years ago and was officially launched in December 2014. It is a partnership of over 35 knowledge-based institutions within a three-mile radius of King’s Cross, who are united by the shared purpose of creating and disseminating knowledge. 

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The Knowledge Quarter’s mission is to promote the area around King’s Cross as one of the greatest concentration of knowledge institutions anywhere in the world, raising awareness of their outstanding facilities, expertise and cooperation. To find out more check the newly launched Knowledge Quarter website and Twitter feed @KQ_London.  Fran Taylor, Marketing Manager at the British Library, has also written a blog post London's Knowledge Quarter: Five things you need to know.

With the British Library as the Chair, the Knowledge Quarter includes an array of organisations such as the Art Fund, the British Medical Association, the Guardian newspaper, the University of the Arts London, Google London, Poet in the City, University College London, the Royal College of Physicians, the Francis Crick Institute and many more. 

At the official launch by George Osborne the Chancellor of the Exchequer it was also announced the  new Alan Turing Institute will be housed at the British Library. This will help to ensure that Britain leads the way in big data, algorithm research and to recognise the contribution of Alan Turing to mathematics, computing and wartime code-breaking.

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That week also saw the launch of the British Library’s Living Knowledge Strategy to 2023, which will bring all elements of this to life.

What is striking about all of this to me, is that King’s Cross has seen a phenomenal regeneration in recent years. It is quite a turn-around considering the previous gradual decline from its grandeur as a transport and commuter hub in the late 1880’s, to a run-down ‘red light’ district a hundred years later.

One tweet heralded the announcement of the Knowledge Quarter with: What was once the “wrong side of the Euston Road” is now the Knowledge Quarter

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Coincidently, a couple of years ago I went on an official guided walk around the King’s Cross area, given by Rachel Kolsky of GotoLondonTours. And even though I  thought I know the area fairly well, I was still impressed with the history, regeneration and investment in the area.

It was on this walking tour with fellow information professionals, that I first heard about Google’s UK Headquarters moving to King’s Cross. I remember looking at the vista from the temporary viewing platform - I could see buildings housing the Guardian, The University of Arts, the Crick Institute, the amazingly rebuilt St Pancras Station, and of course my workplace the British Library. There are too many planned developments to share here, but I have written a blog post all-change-at-kings-cross which serves as a nice memoir. It also acts as a guide for those of you who haven’t visited as yet even for a leisurely stroll or to dine out in the area’s many eateries.

Business clusters and cultural hubs like the Knowledge Quarter can be a good way to give organisations with a common vision, opportunities to collaborate, connect and co-locate. Some other examples of ‘quarters’ are the Cambridge Science Parks, the ‘City of London’ Financial district, the Jewellery Quarter in Hatton Garden, the Inns of Court in Chancery Lane and Holborn, print and publishing in Clerkenwell and the Southbank for cultural activities. Tech City hub, also known as Silicon Roundabout in Shoreditch has been well documented. And in the north of the country is  Liverpool Knowledge Quarter. London Council’s report on business clusters attributes this clustering to the “critical mass in skills, services, knowledge and institutions which can underpin economic competitiveness and advantage”.

In an internal British Library presentation, I was pleased to hear that another objective of the King’s Cross Knowledge Quarter project is to increase local community engagement. Other targets are to develop further local schools engagement, apprenticeship, internships and training with organisations, such as with digital skills.  We also heard that by 2020, up to 50,000 people will be studying, and working in Kings Cross, and that the population of 225,100 is expected to increase by 2023 to just under a quarter of a million.

Without a doubt,  one of the main objectives of the Knowledge Quarter is to increase economic growth and development in the area, but also to reach out beyond London and the United Kingdom. In our digital connected world, it is a lot easier for organisations to be collaborate, connect and innovate across national boundaries.  So to say that the Knowledge Quarter’s ambition is global is not an understatement.

Here in the Business & IP Centre we have been doing our bit over the years to help companies start and grow into international businesses. And we have been using internet technologies to deliver webinars and our Inspiring Entrepreneurs events to an international audience. This month we have a host of events on ‘The Web in Feb’ and we have a London Business Information Guide to assist you to find information about setting up or doing business in the capital.

Welcome to the Knowledge Quarter from Knowledge Quarter on Vimeo.

Seema Rampersad on behalf of the Business & IP Centre

28 January 2015

Top tips: Pinterest as a visual bookmark for your business

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Pinterest thought leader Vivienne Neale gives us her top tips to master Pinterest for your business. Vivienne will give a workshop on the same topic on 18 February 2015 in the British Library, Business & IP Centre for which you can register here.

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Using Pinterest for business

The world of social media is a crowded place. Many new social networking sites are popping up and trying to compete with giants like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Deciding which social media tools are right for your business can be a challenge. Thus, it is crucial to learn from experienced practitioners when delving into the social media sphere.

Once you take the plunge it is not enough to have a presence online, you must also stand out to make a worthy return on your time investment. Pinterest is a fast growing social media platform that is used as a visual search engine by businesses and consumers alike for inspiration, research and for shopping. 

Vivienne writes regularly about Pinterest, develops Pinterest strategies for companies in the UK, Europe and the US and beta-tests Pinterest-related products. We had the chance to ask her some key questions about Pinterest in anticipation of her workshop.

Hi Vivienne! Why do you think Pinterest has become so successful when Facebook, Instagram and Twitter can also manage images?

Pinterest is unique. It taps into our scrapbook passions. It allows us to collect ideas in a very easy to manage place, grouping pins into boards and creating a thing of beauty. Pinterest’s main advantage is a direct link to the image source the user can visit. Here lies the strength for marketing!

How can small businesses use Pinterest?

The key to using Pinterest as a business tool is to share images and content your customers love, related to your niche. If you are a florist, you may want to create an account about flowers with boards on wedding ideas styles, garlands, church decorations etc. Pinterest is about aspiration and inspiration - visualising the ideas and concepts behind your brand.

A bed retailer might have pins grouped under heading such as, “10 tips on getting a good night’s sleep”, “Bad Back Fixes” or “Foods to avoid before bedtime”. Use your creativity but ensure your pins are optimised to their full potential. With the introduction of Pinterest’s Smartfeed in 2014 you can enhance your account easily. You can also share content marketing on Pinterest by creating an infographic or a photo collage.

How can you measure the impact of Pinterest on your customers/business?

Analytics software can measure what is happening on your page. Pinterest offers some basic analytics, but there are many other existing software packages that provide more depth of information. For example, Tailwind and Ahalogy are great Pinterest analytic tools. Never underestimate talking to your customers either - ask them if they have been to your Pinterest site, what they thought, what they liked and what they hope to see in the future.

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How can a services company, who does not have a product, use Pinterest?

Services firms can greatly benefit from Pinterest too. For example, an architecture firm can showcase their work and inspiration; a psychologist can create boards with stress busting images and inspirational quotes. Just consider “What would be useful, interesting, entertaining or educational for my customer?”

How much time should a business invest in Pinterest to make it a success?

For many, Pinterest is a joy and can find it difficult to log out! I post 100 pins per week spread over seven days and schedule them using a management tool. It is a time investment but it pays off. If it is in your budget you can pay experts to manage your social media account too.

How can I protect my copyrights and intellectual property (IP) rights on Pinterest?

There have been a couple of cases in the US where brands have made a complaint to Pinterest about the violation of intellectual property, but there have been no prosecutions. If a brand or business does not want its content being pinned then it must insert a line such as: ‘Content on this website is considered to be intellectual property of ********* and cannot be shared, published, printed without authorization’. To find out more about intellectual property you can also attend a Beginner’s guide to intellectual property workshop in the British Library, Business & IP Centre.

What are your top tips on using Pinterest for business?

  • Put a ‘Pin it’ button on your website – making it quick and easy for anyone on your site to pin your images and information
  • Use engaging board titles
  • Use a business account and not a personal account. Verify it and ensure your profile and board details are completed in full
  • Use good quality images, portrait orientation
  • Get familiar with Rich Pins; they include extra information right on the Pin itself
  • Come along to my workshop in the Business & IP Centre to find out more and ask any questions you may have. Register here