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Direct from Advertising Week: boost your business online

Advertising Week is one of the industry’s biggest talking points, where media and advertising heavyweights come together to discuss innovation, tech and the latest developments in creative and digital marketing. Over the next few days, we’ll be covering some of the most relevant talks right here on the O2 Business blog, and sharing what we’ve learnt from global leaders in the industry. To kick things off, we’re summing up what we heard at the first session of the week: The Guardian Leadership Breakfast: Influence in a Fragmented Age, hosted by Guardian News and Media’s deputy chief executive David Pemsel, alongside Instagram’s Tracy Yaverbaun, Mindshare’s Mark Creighton and Centaur Marketing’s Ruth Mortimer.

Collaboration is key

In an increasingly fragmented online landscape, the panellists all agreed that creating cut-through is about communicating a unified message across all your available platforms, from newsletters and emails to social media. According to Mindshare’s CEO Mark Creighton, it’s never been easier to do this: we’ve got more knowledge, more insight, more channels, devices and platforms than we did in the past – but we haven’t got the structural or behavioural change needed to bring this together. In his opinion, the current landscape demands more collaboration than ever before.

In the context of small businesses, this premise holds true. Whether it’s with influencers, your customers or even your competitors, making contact with other individuals or businesses is the only way you can expect to raise awareness and boost your business online. Read more on collaborative working in our write-up of last week’s Power Hour.

Start with the audience

For small businesses, the same thing applies – and it means understanding your customers and communicating with them in a way that adds value to their lives. Defining a specific tone of voice for your company will really help you to engage your customers in a unique and consistent way.

According to the panellists, too often a creative idea is the basis of a whole campaign for a brand, instead of actual data and insight. Mark Creighton said that he’d had brands approach him, confused as to why an expensive piece of creative had been released online but gained no traction. His answer? It wasn’t rooted deeply enough in data and insight and therefore didn’t resonate with the target audience. Using data, he said, is something that really needs to be addressed over the next five years, and is something that we shouldn’t be afraid of. Read our piece on how your business can use data here.

Use social media to your advantage

Social media can be an intimidating prospect for those unfamiliar with it, but using the channels in the right way can have a huge impact on raising awareness of your business offering. Tracy Yaverbaun shared some statistics on Instagram use: the average user spends an astonishing 21 minutes per day on the channel, and over half of millennials have an account. There’s obviously an incredible opportunity there but, as Tracy said, it’s such a young platform that everyone’s still working out what’ll be successful and what won’t. The main thing to consider, she said, was that content from brands on the platform had to be valuable, relevant and authentic to the channel’s unique environment of community and creativity.

Get the context right

Sending the right message to the right person at the right time has always been key when it comes to promoting a company’s offering, but it’s even truer now that we’re confronted with mountains of digital information on a daily basis. According to David, the value of trust in a brand is still huge, as is the value of the data that informs the messages we create. If branded content is about both inspiring and enabling, then using audience data is absolutely key to ensuring that branded content is relevant, helpful and native to the platform it’s hosted on. As Ruth said, ‘you’ve got to accept the insight.’ Mark was keen that companies start to use Google as a means of understanding their audiences – to see search terms as a series of questions that customers are asking that you could help to answer through quality content on your company’s site.

For small businesses, this means using what you know about your customers to your advantage: who are you dealing with regularly? How do they operate online? Which social platforms do they most frequently use? How can you tap into the conversations they’re having that really matter to them? Can you create content for them that would really add value to their working lives? Answer these questions, and you’ll be well on your way to a more meaningful online presence for your business. Keep an eye on our Twitter page for live posts from this year’s Advertising Week.

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