Sunday, 4 March 2012

Connecting You

If you’ve read our first posting you’ll now know all about WildeHeads ethos and services and how it intends to keep you informed. Then came the challenge of how to promote WildeHeads without it costing a fortune.

First stop - see what is available for free to help promote the company. Without a doubt the most invaluable source (we can’t fathom why every business is not using these to their maximum effect) are all the social networking facilities. Looking at the options and learning to understand how they can be used to work in conjunction with each other was very illuminating.

The most well known movers and shakers (at least to us) in the field of social networking are Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and Blogger.

Facebook is the place where people socialise, for many Facebookers it’s not the place for businesses at all and yet all manner of companies have a page there now and they can befriend thousands to follow them there. It strikes us as highly appropriate for the Arts and for community groups to advertise and get chatting to customers on Facebook.

Why doesn’t WildeHeads have a Facebook page? Quite honestly, because it isn’t necessary at this stage and we are deliberating on what what it would say there that would be different from here, so it’s on hold for the time being.

LinkedIn is the site known to be for business networking. Those only used to Facebook often find it difficult to understand how it does so. Allow me to explain. It is the ‘contacts’ site. Unlike Facebook you don’t set about trying to ‘befriend’ everyone you see there that you’re interesting in connecting with. Why? Because it would be akin to barging into their office while they’re in the middle of a meeting. Some people might not mind you ‘cold calling’ but others may intensely dislike it. If the aim is to get to know someone, annoying them with your first attempt at contact is not smart.

However, there is a way of meeting many like-minded people in your industry by joining in discussion groups and by people you already know introducing you. With regard to discussions it’s generally considered bad form to start with “Hi, let me tell you about my business” or “Can you give me a job please”, but this can vary within the discussion groups itself. On finding a group you like, read a few postings on different topics first to get a feel for how people are communicating.

As it was put to Mel (our founder) by her business adviser, think of it as being at a formal party or perhaps at a conference during a coffee break - you join in the conversation by sharing your views about the topic being discussed. Try not to get too passionate if you can avoid it. Remember the idea is to connect with people and establish new contacts, thereby increasing the number of people who might be able to help with a bit of advice, or potentially increasing your chances of securing a new job or contract, as well as finding people you might want to team up with for all manner of things.

You can notify people about your own activities on your own profile/home page so when people look you up they can see what you’re about. If you’re careful to adhere to these simple guidelines you should be ok.

Twitter is the account to use to encourage people to take an interest in you, your activities and your business, but again it should be more like being at a coffee break at a conference as a general rule of thumb. Here though is the place to start to notify people about your activities e.g. you might be running a fundraising campaign and people might want regular updates on the running total or they might want to know about your latest newsletter or blog... Blogsites are there to inform and the place where you express yourself and can provide the most detail about your latest project or (as we’re doing here) to provide information to clients and customers.

The final link in the chain is your website where you encourage people to buy. LinkedIn supplies the contacts who, if interested can follow you on Twitter which will notify them of your new article on your Blogsite which can prompt them to look at your website. On your website you have a button to direct readers to LinkedIn, Twitter and your Blogsite. It gives customers the choice of what they want to know, in what format and how often. It’s possible for all to be free although we chose to get a website designed for WildeHeads so paid for what we got.

To analyse who’s reading what, and how to really capitalise on every element in that circle, you need an expert in the social networking field who can also help to automate things such as notifications on Twitter.

I deliberately chose this as one of my first articles for a very good reason. Social enterprises and the Arts don’t tend to utilise these free services as much as they could and in such hard times, free advertising and free ways to network and be able to brainstorm our way out of the difficulties we all face seem highly sensible. Once you’ve started using these tools I think you will soon come to appreciate how powerful they can be. At some point professional services are recommended when budgets allow.

In the first week of trading and launching the website, connections have already increased without us putting much effort in, because we’d done the preparation beforehand... but that’s a subject for another blog.

The WildeHeads Ethos

Welcome to WildeHeads!

First the name... blame relatives of mine, but I liked its quirkiness and the implication that we strive to think outside the box to do things a little differently.

Second the nature of the business is to facilitate, to enable. What it does not offer is business advice services. The information contained in the forthcoming WildeHeads blogs is merely my associates and I sharing what we have collectively learnt from professional business advisers (always look for their accreditation and history when seeking one), from our collective experience, networking, training courses and from what is freely available on the internet.

When coming up with concept of WildeHeads my first step was to list everything I could already do, everything I was interested in doing and everything I could think of regarding what I could turn my skills to. Then I did the same for everyone I was likely to employ or contract in its first year. It was a very long list! From the grandest of ambitions to the smallest part of any task in any job undertaken, it all went down on the list.

Interesting to note the grand ideas, for they quickly indicated what the long term aims are. “Aim high and be prepared to drop” is a maxim an Art teacher told me at school. Those dreams of the future are good to have as an overall direction to head for and provided me with the first foundation stones of WildeHeads’ ethos too. This is not to say that the direction might not alter, but it shouldn’t deviate from core values. In the case of WildeHeads it was to provide support facilities and services to companies, organisations and groups with a social ethic.

The social ethic is the core value behind WildeHeads. It simply means that it is here to provide assistance to the community, be it to an organisation requiring business services or a disadvantaged group needing motivational or creative workshops. I am passionate about the concept of social enterprise in its broadest sense and the role of Arts in the community. Not wanting to opt for one or the other, WildeHeads the business was born to support both while not being entirely either. Throughout my working life I have been switching jobs between the two and now I get to do both.

There is much debate about what is and isn’t a social enterprise. To me it is simply any organisation that provides direct support to the community, be it by using its profits as a donation to a community group, or being directly involved with supplying services to it. In this sense then WildeHeads could be said to be a social enterprise as can any and all Arts organisations. On another level Wildeheads is not, at least not yet, as it needs to prove itself to be financially viable in this, it’s first year.

It may surprise readers to learn that there is virtually no legal structure to any company that would preclude it from being a social enterprise. For more information on that contact your regional social enterprise (see links below). If considering setting up a social enterprise yourself, the advice is always to focus on what you want to do before deciding upon the legal structure of your business. Your activities, products and services will determine the best legal structure for it. (A tip I learnt from my time at Social Enterprise East of England). What I’ve learned most from working for many years in the Arts industry is all things are possible, we are only limited by our imaginations and possibly a bit of funding!

Without my passion in both these areas WildeHeads would not be viable. To attempt to be an entrepreneur of any kind is to me a pre-requisite.

If nothing else I hope what we at WildeHeads shares proves useful to all out there.

My very best wishes to you

Mel Dixon