Creating a Web Presence – Why Bother?

The Short Version:

If you don’t have a web presence, your competitors will overtake you. You’ll miss out, without ever knowing about it.

The Long Version:

I recently worked with a new client who has very little presence on the web. One of the first things I do when a new client gets in touch is Google them.

I’m not being nosy; I want to know:

  • who they are
  • what they’ve done
  • what they’re doing
  • what people are saying about them
  • what they’re saying about other people

It’s important to me that my clients are reputable, respected and not notorious for late payment, spamming or other nefarious activities. And I think Googling a business or individual is the very least you should do to check someone’s credentials.

Now, this particular new client had almost no mentions on the web. Which seemed weird. So I asked my new client if they had a web presence and she said:

“I have a web domain but I’m yet to develop it and I have a linked in account but don’t check it. What advantages does a social media presence have?”

Rather than reply by email, I thought this was a good opportunity to blog about the reasons for having a web presence – a chance to create a blog post that I can point other clients and colleagues towards when this question arises.

So, what is the value of being mentioned on the web, and maintaining a healthy social media presence? The value is manifold:

Supporting Evidence

It’s nice to see evidence of a person’s life – their actions, their works – the web is a perfect place to scatter this evidence.


Who do you know? Who have you worked with? The web lets you demonstrate your connections in a way that feels more genuine than anonymous claims in a CV. LinkedIn is especially good for showing connections and displaying recommendations – all deeply authentic because it links you to the actual people you’ve worked for.

Sense of Self

Your web presences allow you to give a bit of yourself away. Don’t be a cold, flat CV – be a human being with opinions, preferences, idiosyncrasies and embarrassing musical tastes (see

Build Trust

Every time your name appears on the web, it increases the sense that you are a real person who does real things, and who can be relied upon in a real sense. If someone Googles your name and finds nothing but a private Facebook profile, they have learnt nothing. Give searchers everything they could possibly want.


The web is incredibly democratic – you can speak to anyone on Twitter and (if you go about it in the right way) get their attention.

Industrious social media operators can side-step traditional recruitment processes and make friends with potential employers. Social media tools like Twitter and FriendFeed give you access to interesting individuals – and the chance to make their acquaintance.

How do you do all this?

It’s easy! Just follow my twelve-step program:

  1. Read blogs
  2. Join Twitter
  3. Read blog posts about Twitter, like this one
  4. Start a blog.  If you’re technologically-challenged, use, TypePad or Blogger
  5. Tweet regularly
  6. Blog regularly
  7. Comment on other blogs in fields that interest you
  8. Use @replies on Twitter if you have something interesting to say (that ensures the recipient sees your tweet)
  9. Join FriendFeed
  10. Maintain your LinkedIn account, updating connections, asking for and giving recommendations
  11. Work on getting a proper website. Again, if your technical expertise is limited, consider
  12. Once you’ve been blogging for a little while, offer to contribute a post to another blog

Scratching the Tip of the Social Media Iceberg

As you’ve probably guessed, there’s more to it than my 12 steps suggest. Every social networking site has its own quirks and requires different strategies to get the most out of it.

The best way to get started with anything like this is slowly. Take measured steps – always take a bit of time to see how people use websites like Twitter and LinkedIn. Follow the lead of others, and try to understand what constitutes bad behaviour in each forum.

Further Reading:

Matt at Zen Bullets has an interesting post: Write Your Autobiography, Before Someone Else Writes It For You

Bizarre Signage

I had to share this with you, even though it has a tenuous connection to copywriting… I’m not even going to try to justify it:

Seen in a fisherman’s club in Eastbourne –


I love the anger in the writer’s words. Don’t talk about the f@!?ing bingo!!!

Useful lessons for freelancers – #7: Don’t expect other people to do it all for you

If people offer to put you in touch with rich veins of work, thank them, but act as though it isn’t happening. Never rely on other people to do your work for you. And always assume that those helpful people will forget to carry out their promises, just in case they do forget.

But never resent people for forgetting little things like this. Remember that everyone is just as busy as you are.

Business Book: sharing insights, concerns and bright ideas

I’ve blogged before about the importance of allowing ideas to flow freely around your business – because it’s crucial that insights and ideas reach the people who can implement them.

But I recently noticed something that I think many businesses could adopt in order to facilitate this flow of ideas…

In one of Brighton’s fantastic cafés (I can’t remember which) I noticed that the staff made notes in a big book behind the till. They recorded things like:

  • Changed water filter 8:30
  • Asked cleaner to wash floor properly (again!)
  • Drunk guy threw up on the steps (cleaned and disinfected)
  • Don’t forget to light the candles in the window – customers think we’re shut if they’re not lit!!!

So the book was primarily a method for different shifts to communicate, and for observations to be recorded. But it’s a great idea- and one I think many businesses could benefit from. Bright ideas come from all quarters – the secret to success is creating a channel for ideas to flow.

The pitfalls of marketing within the social web


My friend and associate Raj Anand, founder of Kwiqq and an enthusiastic marketer, recently encountered a small controversy.

Inspired web marketing?

In a moment of marketing inspiration, Raj decided to see if he could manipulate the social bookmarking website Digg and send one of his blog posts racing to Digg’s front page. By simply offering a lollipop to everyone who Dugg his post, Raj wanted to see if he could get the substantial number of votes required to make his post number 1 on Digg.

In order to spread the news of his lollipop offer, Raj made use of his social networks like Facebook and Twitter. Raj also posted a message to Brighton’s New Media (BNM) email group. And this is where Raj’s experiment began to derail.

Some members of the BNM group objected vociferously to Raj’s posting. It was rejected as being pointless spam. It must be said that some BNM members defended Raj’s actions, but generally the reaction was that Raj was spamming the list.

Marketing and social media

As I watched the reaction to Raj’s marketing stunt with interest, I began to wonder what lessons on modern marketing could be learnt. The simple lesson is very clear: be careful when using your social networks to market your business. Many people are sensitive to anything they perceive as spam. And as soon as someone feels that something is spam, it becomes, in effect, spam.

International differences

I think that if Raj had attempted his Digg promotion in the US, he might have received a different response. In America, this kind of chutzpah is more likely to be celebrated and embraced. UK audiences are more sensitive to what they perceive to be brazen salesmanship.

The fine line between spam and content

Some people in Raj’s networks saw the novelty in Raj’s Digg promotion – it was a harmless, fun marketing exercise that was attempting to manipulate a popularity contest with a bribe.

Others viewed Raj’s offer as a cynical marketing stunt that abused his social networks with an empty gimmick that was only intended to achieve publicity.

So Raj’s one initiative could be viewed in two disparate ways; there is clearly a fine line between spam and content.

Anyone planning on using social media as a marketing tool must exercise caution – because the risk of  offending and alienating an audience is easy to misjudge. Even those with good intentions (like Raj) can easily cross the line into spam territory.

Judging the market

The simple way to understand the online communities is to use them. If you’re new to social media, go slowly. Start off as a user and watch everyone else. Contribute.  Often the best benefit to be gained from social media is the start of your reputation as an upstanding, helpful and knowledgeable individual.

(Picture courtesy of Anaulin)

Advertising after the Internet revolution


A few thoughts on marketing, and how the Internet has shaken things up:

Has the Internet changed advertising?

Has the Internet changed business?

Has the Internet changed people?

Yes, yes, yes. The Internet has changed the way people live, and it is forcing changes to the way we do business – and the way businesses advertise.

Nowhere to hide

The Internet is like a giant light that nobody can dim. The light shines on everything; exposing truth, lies and everything in-between. Because everything is illuminated, it’s imperative that businesses strive for perfection in all things. Whenever you screw up, your customers will loudly pronounce your FAIL.

Your products and services will be publicly scrutinised. And having a good relationship with your customers doesn’t earn you an easy ride: your biggest fans will be your harshest critics. Everything is commented on, blogged and Tweeted. For the modern marketer, there is nowhere to hide.

The advertorial

Adverts need to be informative. To be informative, you need to have a genuine statement. Noisy propaganda is clearly just noisy propaganda. The product has to be great. The innovation must be genuine. If you want to advertise, get a product first.

(Picture courtesy of Takuya Oikawa)

Apple’s honesty policy


When most businesses advertise they scream out the messages they want people to absorb, while doggedly ignoring any negative news, even if that negative news is what everyone’s actually talking about.

Advertising, for most companies, is a time for rampant propaganda. Corporations create new realities based on their desired vision of a world that orbits their glorious product.

Half-baked Apples

Apple’s ad for their new telephone is refreshingly honest. When Apple released the first version of the iPhone, many people said they would wait for a 3g version. So, for many people, the 3g version was something they had been waiting for. Apple’s advertising is speaking the same language as the public. When I saw this ad, I was struck because it felt like I was listening to one of my geek friends.

Apple’s honest approach means their ad blends right in with my world. The ad’s message doesn’t jar. It just picks up the ongoing conversation. This is a very powerful persuasive technique.

Having the confidence to be honest

I’m surprised that Apple are confident enough to be so honest, because the ad admits a failing: the original iPhone was not what many people wanted. Many people viewed the first iPhone as a stop-gap – a product not worth buying. By saying that the new phone is the one everyone’s been waiting for, Apple are admitting that their initial offering was half-baked. But that’s okay, because it was.

Perhaps the marketing lesson here is that sometimes it’s better to address negative news head-on. Ignoring negatives can make them loom larger. Apple neatly twist something less-than-perfect into something that effortlessly merges with the real world.

Can you catch this?

I’m still reading Can I Change Your Mind? by Lindsay Camp (in case you’re wondering; my only chance to read books is when I commute, which doesn’t give me much time at all!).

I found another interesting idea in Lindsay’s very entertaining book, which I think all writers can benefit from. Lindsay suggests that the most direct and clear writing is not always the most effective way to get people to understand something.

To quote from the book (Lindsay is in turn quoting his friend David Stuart’s “famous ball-throwing analogy”):

“If you and I stand a metre apart and I throw a ball to you very gently, you will almost certainly catch it. If, on the other hand, you stand 30 metres away, and I chuck the ball as high in the air as I can, catching it will be a lot harder. But which catch will be a more rewarding experience? Which will you be more likely to remember?”

The connection to writing is explained:

“Writing that expresses meaning ‘indirectly’ is like the ball thrown high into the air. There’s a risk you may drop it. Good writing is about judging how difficult to make the catch.”

I really like the idea of throwing words to people, and judging their ability to catch them. A well judged throw gives the catcher a memorable experience. A badly judged throw is something you’ll both want to forget.

Don’t waste my time – lessons from a persuasive writer

I’m reading Can I Change Your Mind? – a book about persuasive writing by copywriter Lindsay Camp and came across something that resonated with my experiences of writing for clients.

Under the heading Losing sight of the intended result Lindsay discusses how clients keen to shout about their new “manufacturing process, award for innovation or bottling plant outside Kettering” often force a copywriter to mention them.

Now sometimes the new manufacturing process or bottling plant can be great things that attract attention or help convince your customers that your business is right for them. But all too often these bits of information are forced into copy because the client is proud of them, not because they serve a purpose.

Lindsay goes on to advise aspiring persuasive writers to “tell your reader what they might be interested to hear rather than what you want them to know.” is now live!

I’m very happy to see released to the internet.

I’ve been working with Jacquie Trott (the proud owner) and the talented graphic designer Dan Marsden to whip this bright idea into shape.

One of the challenges was bringing the fun of the idea onto the web page, while still clearly featuring the benefits of the exclusivity.

It was a lot of fun working through various ideas with Jacquie and Dan – and eventually striking on something that worked hard but carried a lot of irreverence.

So take a look at to see some stunning t-shirts, all strictly limited to 250 printings!

Networking for Pleasure

Do you network?

I always thought “networking” sounded slightly awful, like something people with shoulder pads did lots of in the eighties. So it was with hesitation that I attended Vine Brighton’s most recent networking event.

I was pleased to discover it was not the slick, schmoozy, hard-selling nightmare I had imagined networking events to be.

Among the interesting people I met were a life coach, web developers who use social networks to expand your web presence, a swimming instructor and an image consultant.

So if you want to meet a cool bunch of people you might like to work with, try Vine.

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