Ever wondered how your business could improve their online brand, or how to use social media to drive sales, or even how to setup a blog for your business? Well today we hope to provide the answers to those questions with an interview with Chris Spooner! This is part three of our small business help series and you can read part 1 and part 2 if you missed them.
Chris is a full time designer working in Sheffield, UK for his company Spoon Graphics. You can view his design and illustration portfolio here. He also runs a great blog on design and other subjects and I highly recommend taking a look at its gorgeous design!
UK2: Social media has become a very active buzz word, how would you explain to a small business what social media is and the value they can find in social media?
Chris: Social Media generally describes the facilities available over the internet that allow users to interact and network with one another, such as internet forums, blogs, wikis, social networking and social bookmarking websites. As well as being enjoyable resources for the everyday web surfer, they also hold the potential to become a great resource for the promotion of your business or service on the internet.
Very similar to the traditional form of Guerilla Marketing, Social Media websites can help spread a message on a very low budget (often free) and covering an extremely large audience.
UK2: As a designer and blogger what value have you found in “social media”?
Chris: My personal blog thrives from Social Media, by creating useful content that appeals to my particular niche (Graphic and Website Designers), the posts and pages on my blog are shared through Social Bookmarking websites and are linked back from similar websites and blogs. Subsequently, my content and brand are spread across the internet to a variety of users gaining lots of exposure.
Alongside the boost in traffic comes the search engine benefits. All the backlinks to my website generate an increased Google Pagerank, and overall higher listings in the search results.
UK2: A lot of your work focuses not just on the web page design but on branding, logos, and illustrations used to define the mood of the web site and thus the business, how do you explain to business clients the importance of branding them self using these artistic methods? Have you met resistance from some on the approach you take and how do you get past this if there is any?
Chris: In my full time day job as a Graphic Designer as well as a Website Designer, luckily I can cover all aspects of the design for a clients business. Often starting with the initial logo design and branding for new businesses. This builds the important foundations which the following material such as stationery, brochures and website relate to. Keeping this branding throughout helps establish the individuality of the business and ties everything together.
UK2: Blogging is something that can be a bit intimidating for a business, the question of what to write, what is acceptable, and maybe why they should blog at all. Do you think a blog adds value to any business and why or why not?
Chris:There are many benefits a blog can bring to a business, it provides a preview into the people and personalities behind the business, increases the traffic to the website, can provide exposure and increase search engine potential as well as develop a core community of loyal subscribers and customers.
Content wise, anything that you want your customers to know can be written about on the blog; the release of a new product range, any awards or recognitions the company has received, new employee introductions etc.
However, there are some questions to ask before starting a blog for your business. First of all do you have enough time to run a blog, as they do tend to become fairly time consuming – most often an infrequently updated blog is worse than no blog at all!
Also, with a blog providing an informal insight into the business, would this conflict with your professionalism?
UK2: In your experience on your site and from helping clients what kind of benefits have you seen from companies starting a blog?
Chris: When launching a normal static website, the traffic statistics often rise very slowly forming a steady increase on the stats graph. Sometimes the traffic trends reach a plateau and level off forming a consistent number of visitors per day.
Blogs on the other hand can easily jump to receiving hundreds of visitors in the first few days, and go on to generate frequent peaks in traffic when new articles are published and shared between users and other websites. This constant flow of new content helps develop the site further than what the static website could reach, each ramp in traffic often results in a group of new subscribers and potential customers.
UK2: What blog software do you recommend and why?
Chris: WordPress seems to be the most popular choice for bloggers, which is also the package I use. Being freely available with plenty of plugins and themes means that it can be tailored to quite a specific requirement.
UK2: Do you think an informational business web site should be an even split between functionality and aesthetics or do you give one more precedence over the other?
Chris: Being a designer at heart my preference lies with aesthetics, but I think functionality is the most important factor. A website can get away without looking swish if it works correctly, but a swish website can’t get away without working correctly!
Recently I have taken an increasing interest into the website coding, validation and semantics which overall helps build a better website not only for usability but can also benefit the overall performance of the site in speed and search engine optimization.
UK2: If you could have your clients read any three books, blogs, or websites what would they be and why?
Chris: Without heading into any particular topic, and seeing as we discussed Social Media earlier I would advise on exploring social bookmarking and social news websites such as Digg.com, Delicious.com and StumbleUpon.com. By discovering the benefits of using these facilities as a user, you can then develop an idea on what kind of topics tend to be popular and how this content is sometimes tailored for social media in the form of catchy titles and optimized URLs.
UK2: Thanks for doing this interview and do you have any parting words of advice, or anything else you would like to talk about?
Chris: Thank you for the opportunity! I wish good luck to the business startups and hope this little piece of info helps out in some way.
Big thanks to Chris for doing the interview with us and be sure to check out his work at Spoon Graphics on his portfolio. And if you want to learn more about the subjects we discussed today a great starting point is to read Chris’ blog!