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How to get your online business profile ready for international negotiations?

Successful international business relationships are based on efficient negotiations. It is important for negotiators to be prepared to deal with unexpected situations. Having a clear understand of what’s necessary to attain thriving outcomes as well as be aware of relevant factors to the whole process will permit you to become successful. Ideally some of your team would have background in Digital and Social Media Marketing, or International business; but, getting your online business profile ready for international negotiations doesn’t have to be such a dreadful endeavor. All you need to do is remain focused on the facts and look for a way to build a professional relation with business partners.

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Why startups in Europe don’t have the needed support

Start up culture (CC) Walter Lim
Start up culture (CC) Walter Lim

Silicon Valley has become a synonym for innovation and, with its ecosystem of super-moneyed venture capitalists, it is world renowned as a hub for new products and software. Europe meanwhile has struggled to produce the likes of Facebook, Amazon or PayPal, or to garner the levels of investment for its startups. But could that be about to change?

Silicon Valley investors are beginning to show an increasing appetite to invest across the Atlantic, most recently seen in the US$58m investment that US venture capital group Andreessen Horowitz recently made in the British money transfer platform TransferWise. In fact 2014 saw investments involving US groups estimated to be about US$3.5 billion compared to US$808m in 2010.

Start-ups tend to succeed as part of a community or innovation ecosystem. Our research into these ecosystems found that the critical success factor for innovation and start-up cultures is the importance of a university city region. These are places where there is a concentration of intellectual capital and high levels of funders that are happy to take risks.

The other key ingredients are knowledge and financial capital, a willingness to take risks (and fail), and the drive to succeed. A comparison of the US and European start-up scene on these fronts shows why the US is still out in front when it comes to attracting investment and delivering new innovation.

1. Intellectual capital

Knowledge Capital image (CC) by Emilie Ogez
Knowledge Capital image (CC) by Emilie Ogez

European universities are coming second to their US counterparts in the creation of intellectual capital. A simple indicator is the international Higher Education league table with only three of the top ten universities located in Europe (and all of these are in the UK).

Not surprisingly, given their proximity to Silicon Valley, the California Institute of Technology, Berkeley and Stanford are at the top of this list. With Silicon Valley on their doorstep all three institutions have successful business founders and entrepreneurs working in university posts, sharing their knowledge, identifying the most talented students and looking for the next big innovations. This culture of giving back is not commonly found in European universities.

By contrast, the European universities in the top ten all fall within the much more widely dispersed “Golden Triangle” of top UK universities, concentrated around Oxford, Cambridge and London. This region sees significant research investment and innovation as a result.

Result: Europe 0 US 1

2. Financial capital

TechCrunch Disrupt Europe: Berlin 2013 (CC) by  TechCrunch
TechCrunch Disrupt Europe: Berlin 2013 (CC) by TechCrunch

The close relationship between the US higher education system and its high tech centres provides a direct supply chain of knowledge capital. However, innovation also requires the steady supply of financial capital. Recent figures provide some reassurance that the UK is becoming a nation of angel investors that are younger and female. The internal boundaries of the European Union appear to be no barrier to innovation with investors who are happy to invest across it and travel if and when needed.

These positives are no consolation for the largest startup investment infrastructure being based in the US. Angel List, a web-based platform for managing start-ups, alone was able to raise more than US$100m in one year in 2014. This disparity between the US and Europe in their ability to raise capital is evident at many levels.

Result: Europe 0 US 2

3. Risk and failure culture

Swim at your own risk (CC) Todd Shaffer
Swim at your own risk (CC) Todd Shaffer

Silicon Valley is built on a gold rush mentality. Make mistakes and then learn and build on them quickly.

In contrast, in European cultures failure is perceived as a negative and a situation that is to be minimised and avoided at all costs. National social security systems, regulations and long procedures when it comes to establishing new business ventures are just some of the legacies of this culture that burden European innovation.

The recent Edelman Trust Barometer Survey of 27,000 respondents adds further insight into the European mindset. It found that expectations of honesty and fair play are expected requirements for building trust between entrepreneurs, start-ups and investors. A lack of trust between those with ideas and those with money hinders innovation and the development of enterprising economies.

Thus the European start-up scene suffers from playing it too safe. The result can be seen in a recent European Commission ranking of innovation, which places the US at the top of the list and outperforming Europe by 17%.

Result: Europe 0 US 3

4. Necessity is the mother of invention

When it comes to having motivation to create a start-up, not having work or low employment opportunities can sometimes be a good thing. Necessity is the mother of invention and if an individual has no other option and has nothing to lose they are more likely to ignore a lack of knowledge or financial capital and take risks. Europe has now faced the largest economic crisis since World War II, with many pushed into self employment.

Unemployment rate comparison European Union 28 states vs US
European Commission, Author provided

Unemployment in the European market means more individuals are looking for work and some of these are considering the option of setting up their own business. To create a start-up culture there is a need for a critical mass of individuals working with one another, bouncing around ideas and prepared to fail – and learn – together.

Result: Europe 1 US 3

If you can’t beat ’em …

Follow your dreams, image (CC) by Chris Devers
Follow your dreams, image (CC) by Chris Devers

Based on these criteria it does seem that an entrepreneur interested in making it big has more chance of success in Silicon Valley. However, there is some hope for European entrepreneurs if they set themselves up near The Silicon Roundabout (or Tech City) in London where investment is growing. Germany too has a budding start-up scene, which is competing with the UK capital to attract international talent – and investment.

Of course, positioning the US and European start-up scenes as competitors is missing the biggest opportunity. The benefits of both locations are best combined through collaboration.

Europe is, and is predicted to remain, in an economic position where there is market receptiveness to innovation. The US meanwhile is better able to bridge the gap from idea to realisation. This is a powerful combination to fuel the next wave of technological innovation and start-ups, including wearables, implantables and EEG controlled devices.

By Aleksej Heinze, University of Salford; Gordon Fletcher, University of Salford, and Marie Griffiths, University of Salford

This article was originally published on The Conversation.
Read the original article.

8 tips on developing a winning social media marketing strategy

social media marketing strategy tipsWhen piecing together your social media marketing strategy, it’s always useful to have a number of successful case studies to follow.

Forward Role Recruitment is a North West UK based recruitment company that specialises in the digital marketing industry. As the business is aiming to interact with online marketing experts, it’s vital that it has a solid digital marketing strategy of its own. Forward Role recently won the ‘Best Social Media’ award at the Marketing & Advertising Recruitment Awards in London, so it’s certainly a good example for other organisations to consider when drawing up their own social media plans.

Here are eight tips that you could aim to follow when drawing up your own social media marketing strategy.

1)   Identify clear goals

A lot of companies start using social media for marketing purposes because they are told that it’s a good idea, but in many cases they don’t really understand why they are publishing content via Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and other social channels.

Before you start, you need to identify your goals. For Forward Role, the overriding aim of the social media marketing strategy was to drive new and unique talent to the company’s website. In addition to this, Forward Role was keen to use social networking platforms to raise awareness of the brand and to garner positive reviews from happy clients.

2)   Know your target audience

social media marketing strategy tips

Producing generic tweets aimed at everybody and nobody won’t do you any favours. The Content Marketing Institute advises brands to create buyer personas, which isn’t a bad ploy at all.

It sounds bizarre, but by creating a made-up person who has specific interests and needs, you will find it easier to stay on track. Before you update your social channels, think about whether your post will engage these people. If not, don’t bother.

3)   Figure out the best ways to measure ROI

This is where many businesses slip up. How do you know if your social media work is worthwhile if you aren’t tracking results?

Forward Role uses a number of different methods in order to measure the overall return on investment. Platforms like Followerwonk are particularly useful for assessing the reach of tweets and which posts have generated the most engagement, while the Insights function offered by Facebook also enables Forward Role to see which posts are performing well and which type of people are responding positively to these posts (Insights gives you an idea of who is ‘liking’, sharing and commenting on your posts based on their age, gender and other variables).

Most importantly, you need to analyse exactly how many new leads on your website are being generated by social media. This is where you need somebody who has experience of working with analytics tools, as they can identify trends that can shape your future strategies.

4)   Think of the logistics

social media marketing strategy tips

It’s crucial that you base your ongoing strategy on the data that has been garnered from your analytics. If tweets or LinkedIn articles about certain subjects have performed well, it would be foolish not to explore these same topics again in a fresh, creative way.

When tailoring your strategy, you need to bear the following in mind:

  • How can I get my on-site content seen by as many people as possible?
  • Which industry influencers are we looking to interact with?
  • What can we do to get people talking about our brand?
  • Can we encourage our happy clients to leave positive feedback?
  • Are we capable of reacting to questions, criticism or just general chat from our followers within an acceptable time-frame?

The latter is a particularly interesting issue that is catching a lot of companies out. Research shows us that consumers are increasingly demanding when it comes to social media interactions. If you fail to respond to their tweet or Facebook message within an hour, there’s a chance they’ll start to harbour negative feelings towards your brand. Forward Role ensures that the logistics of running a busy social media channel are taken care of, with a member of the team always on hand to reply to incoming messages quickly.

When setting up your social media team, you should ensure that your staff are flexible, creative and fully understand how your brand wants to be portrayed in the public domain.

5)   Think before you tweet

social media marketing strategy tips

As this blog post by online marketing agency Bring Digital shows, brands sometimes tweet before they’ve had time to think.

This is understandable given the fact that consumers expect firms to respond to them in double-quick time, but tweeting in a hurry can end badly. Social media can be a ruthless place, with any mistakes – especially those made by larger brands – quickly going viral.

At Forward Role, we regularly get together to discuss the pitfalls of social networking. We sometimes recreate embarrassing scenarios, before discussing in depth how we would have dealt with the situation. It’s all about being prepared.

6)   Be creative

Primarily, you need to ensure the content you post on social media is aligned with your end goals.

The Forward Role social team meet at the start of each week to discuss an agenda. Of course, the business already has a long-term social strategy in place (usually running on a quarterly basis), but in order to run successful campaigns, you need to make sure you’re fully up to speed on the latest industry developments.

Pinpoint which news items or announcements are generating debate in your industry, and then jump into these conversations, offering an alternative viewpoint wherever possible. For Forward Role, any news of a new Google algorithm update, for example, works really well, especially if we can provide a different, thought-provoking angle. By sharing relevant content – preferably from our own website – we can demonstrate that we’re on top of everything that’s happening within our field of expertise.

7)   Run a blog in parallel to your social accounts

A large chunk of our social media strategy is heavily linked to the content we produce for our blog.

You only have 140 characters to grab someone’s attention on Twitter, but if you can offer them a link to something more substantial to read, you’re far more likely to interact with them. This is why article headlines are so crucial. There’s a fine line between spammy clickbait and boring, uninspiring titles, so you need to find the right balance.

Articles that have worked particularly well for us on social media include ’12 Types of Recruitment Consultants You’ve Probably Met or Worked With!’ and ‘Top 7 Graduate Mistakes When Applying for a Job’. These performed well because the titles inform the reader that they’re going to garner a certain number of tips from the articles and they are also based on subjects that our target audience will relate to.

‘How to’ articles are also effective most of the time. If you can gauge which questions your target audience are asking, you can instantly grab their attention by writing a piece that provides the answers. Again, this is where strong research comes into play, which is something that a lot of businesses tend to neglect or underestimate when planning their social media workloads.

Having an interesting, regularly-updated blog makes it much easier to drive traffic from Twitter to your website. It also gives you more power over the type of subjects that you will be talking about on social networking channels. One key tip is to ensure your onsite content and social strategies are intertwined.

8)   Make a strategy… and write it down!

You’ll be amazed at how many brands fail to actually write down their social media and content strategies.

Research shows that having a documented strategy is more likely to lead to success, which really shouldn’t surprise us, but clearly there are a lot of businesses that think they can store all of their plans in their heads. Make sure your strategy is written down and then review it on a regular basis. If your KPIs change, for example, you need to refresh your strategy, so don’t lock it away for months on end.

This free Search and Social Media Marketing course  can offer some further steps towards a successful social media strategy development.

End to security updates for old Android operating systems

Google’s announcement that it will not provide security updates for older versions of its Android operating system means that more than a billion users face growing security risks to their phones or tablets.

While Android operating systems on phones and tablets have grown exponentially in popularity, from 4% market share in 2009 to 84% in 2014, by abandoning support for versions prior to Android 4.4 “Kit Kat” Google’s decision affects more than 60% of Android users running older versions that will now be vulnerable.

Android’s long tail – many users still run older versions.
Erikrespo/Google data, CC BY-SA

At the heart of this announcement is a piece of software called WebView, a component of the built-in web browser in earlier versions of Android, but which also turns up in many apps. It is WebView that Google is dropping support for, replaced in version 4.4 with a new component taken from Google’s browser, Chrome.

The reason for this is largely down to the number of security flaws found in the software, at least in part because it incorporates support for Adobe Flash which has simply proven too difficult to secure – ironically, as it was something Google touted as a plus for Android when Apple dropped Flash support for the iPhone.

There was no official announcement. In response to security researchers Rapid7 who had reported another WebView bug that needed fixing, Google responded:

If the affected version [of WebView] is before 4.4, we generally do not develop the patches ourselves, but welcome patches with the report for consideration. Other than notifying OEMs, we will not be able to take action on any report that is affecting versions before 4.4 that are not accompanied with a patch.

Many hands make light work

So Google is no longer fixing problems in anything but their latest (Android 5.0/Lollipop) or second-latest (Android 4.4/Kit Kat) versions, offloading the responsibility to either those that find the flaw, other interested developers, or phone manufacturers such as Samsung, HTC, or LG.

Android is an open-source operating system developed jointly by Google and other interested developers around the world who are able to update and maintain the codebase, while Google manages and steers the project. By making Android an open-source project, Google increases the community’s ownership of the project, encouraging others to work on it. This approach is contrary to Google’s competitors – Apple’s iOS and Microsoft’s Windows Phone – who develop their operating systems entirely in-house and keep tight control of their code.

So Google’s decision makes more sense with that in mind – the code for Apple and Microsoft’s operating systems is closed, so those firms wouldn’t be able to hand off their responsibility in this way. But Google can at least offer others the chance to tackle the problems.

Keeping you and your data safe

Our mobile phones are used for sensitive activities – from logging in to websites filled with personal data, to online banking or online shopping. It’s important to keep any software on any device – phone, tablet, or computer – up-to-date with the latest versions that patch those flaws and vulnerabilities that have been discovered. Encouraging more people to use the latest versions has been a key part of Google’s approach, through automatic updates and cloud services.

However, mobile phone manufacturers are keen to sell us their latest phones. Providing ongoing support for older phones is expensive and phone manufacturers, and especially the telecoms companies that sell them to us, are already terrible at updating phones, generally dropping support for older models as soon as they can. Expecting them to provide regular security updates seems far-fetched.

The upshot is that now phones even less than a year old are potentially vulnerable – Android 4.4 may have been “released” in late 2013, but new phones were arriving with 4.3 installed well into 2014. So, what can we do? Buy a new Android phone, or switch to Apple, Microsoft, or Blackberry?

Apple devices are considered by some to be more secure because of the tightly controlled ecosystem, from the operating system code to the vetting of apps in the App Store. But even iOS is not immune. Part of Android’s appeal is the fact that it is open: easy to access and customise, but with a greater risk from rogue apps, viruses, and hacks. It also means that, with the requisite technical skill and patience, Android users can tackle these problems themselves, unlocking, upgrading and customising their own devices as they like – such is the way with open source.

The moral of the story

So, are Google setting more than half their users up for a fall? In practice this may not have a huge impact for most. It may encourage phone manufacturers and the telecoms companies that sell them on to us to be more forthcoming with software updates for their devices, reducing the number of devices running out-of-date software.

Zain Javed, Head of Penetration Testing Services from Xyone Cyber Security said

Companies like Google should be encouraging people more to update to the latest versions and this in some way is a forceful tactic but it’s one that is required. Even if Google continued to provide patches it is still not guaranteed how long a user has to wait before the manufacturer and the network operators make the decision to roll them out.

Ultimately, the key message is that we need to start thinking of mobile devices as computers, not just phones, with all the caveats about security software, updates and precautions which that entails. This could be the tough love from Google that pushes people in that direction.

The ConversationBy Aleksej Heinze, Salford Business School and Alex Fenton, Salford Business School

This article was originally published on The Conversation.
Read the original article.

Buy twitter followers: it won’t get you anywhere

Two of Scotland’s leading politicians illustrate an interesting phenomenon on Twitter. In the wake of the Scottish National Party’s surge in popularity following the independence referendum, Nicola Sturgeon and Alex Salmond have both gained large numbers of followers. Both have now amassed more than 100,000 each, with Salmond out in front with about 139,000. A high proportion of them are fakes, however.

These fakes might be what social media specialists call “sock puppets” – fake accounts of individuals pretending to be someone else. These online imposters often follow celebrities to make themselves look more authentic, along with other tricks that include constant automated re-tweeting and constantly following and un-following other users.

What is the point of these sock puppets, you may be wondering. One obvious advantage is that they can be parcelled up and sold in batches to people and organisations seeking extra Twitter followers.

Buy twitter followers to make me popular!

Social media is one of the fastest-growing areas of marketing. One study in which I was involved concluded that there is indeed no such thing as negative publicity if Twitter is used effectively.

Organisations and individuals realise that having a healthy social media following increases trust from prospective customers. You want everybody to know your business is popular. You can build a strong following by developing good content and relationships with other users, particularly those who will either help amplify your message or act upon it.

This takes time, however, not to mention the human resources required to plan and engage with your following. So people are sometimes tempted to take shortcuts, including buying Twitter followers, retweets, Facebook likes or YouTube video views. You name it, it can be bought. Sometimes they might do it themselves; sometimes it might be the social media agency that manages their account, or even a sub-contractor.

Nor does this cost a great deal. Visit some websites offering these services and you find that thousands of Twitter followers can be had for as little as £5.

Such shortcuts certainly seem to be popular. Data from the Google AdWords keyword research tool shown below reveals that on average, more than 40,000 searches are conducted per month that use the keyword “buy twitter followers”.

Google AdWords screenshot, January 12

Google AdWords

Is it worth it?

If the followers are simply accounts that do not have any human interaction or just re-tweet everything that your account says, they are of very little value. A number of studies suggest that simply having a large number of followers does not indicate that you have an influential Twitter profile.

What is more important is that viewers can see that the account has been recently updated and the content is not simply a monologue about the great things that the organisation offers. Twitter is a social platform and although there is room for sharing content, it is also about listening and engaging with others. If an account interacts and replies to its audience, it is usually much more useful and influential compared to an account with thousands of followers but does not tweet to them.

A number of tools exist that can help people analyse the value of their Twitter profile. For instance Sprout Social looks at engagement and influence. Here’s what it makes of Alex Salmond (139,000 follows) compared to Salford Business School (2,000 follows):

Sprout Social

Salmond might have vastly more followers, but his account actually scores slightly lower than our business school. It is worth pointing out here that you would expect an account that has lots of fake followers to score badly on these metrics.

Another good analysis tool is FollowerWonk. Here’s what it has to say about David Cameron, Nicola Sturgeon and Salmond:


I’ve included the follower numbers for context, but you can see that criteria such as engagement, average followers per day, total tweets and average tweets per day are also used to show the success of an account’s performance. We can clearly see that Nicola Sturgeon is much more active compared to the other two accounts. David Cameron is still attracting more followers per day, however, which could be due to his high profile or because he is a more popular target for those celebrity-following sock puppets.

It is worth adding that fake accounts are not something Twitter encourages, as its spamming rules make clear. Twitter wants to remove and suspend these accounts, partly because it could undermine its own advertising-based business model. This is backed up by advertising regulators such as the UK’s Committee of Advertising Practice, whose non-broadcast-advertising code requires that any paid social-media endorsements be declared to the consumer of that information.

In short, purchasing fake Twitter followers is both a waste of money and considered spam. It is not about your number of followers but how engaged they are and how useful these are in pursuing your objectives.

On the other hand just because an account is not behaving as expected by the norm – not tweeting, for example – it is not to say it is a fake. The vast majority of internet users are “lurkers” – interested to read content but don’t want to share their views. If you are one of these lurkers, beware. Your account might be suspended or blocked if you don’t change your image from an egg to your profile and you don’t attempt to engage with others!

This article was originally published on The Conversation.
Read the original article.