If there is one thing that we have learnt from the Autumn Fair this year it is that there are still plenty of businesses yet to appreciate the importance of social media. There are also many that are very ‘up to speed on how to drive consumers to their sites’ Isabel Martinson of The Giftware Association assured me when I asked for her impressions of how well social media was being implemented.

It is a great way to build Business to Business (B2B) and Business to Consumer (B2C) engagement. Martinson certainly felt that ‘B2B is still something being explored and users are still deciding the best approach to make it work for them’. She debated the issue as the chair of a panel discussing ‘Web&Social’ at the Autumn Fair. There is still uncertainty with how best to maximise social potential but most are willing to tackle the challenge in hand. We attended all the social media presentations and panels to see what the topics of debate were and to be honest they have not really changed.

‘How do we start building a presence?’ was the top question asked.

Zak Edwards of Prezzy Box (www.prezzybox.com) responded to this one saying ‘you have to start first of all…it is like a flywheel approach – The more you push it…it gets easier and easier – just do it.’

This is something we would urge everyone to do. Social media is a free marketing tool and it doesn’t take as much time and thought as you might think. Yes you have to be creative but you do not have to be a social media master. And no, there really is no breakthrough formula. You learn more as you go and pick up tips from other users as you start to interact with them and build your social presence.

‘How often should we post?’ was another question asked or as one lady phrased it ‘3 times a day – how do you stop yourself being irritating?’

Tracie Bedwood, Handmade Boutique (www.handmade-boutique.co.uk) fielded that one:

‘Different posts at different times are seen by different people. It is quite interesting to see at what time of day you reach what audience. For instance if you post at 7am you reach a wide audience’ because they are fresh and looking for content and conversation to get the ball rolling.

Another question answered well was ‘Is there a way of attracting a certain kind of person to your site?’

Bedwood commented: ‘Include businesses by linking directly to them…this is the norm on Twitter as long as you do not abuse it and you could get something back from it’.

Anne Bannell, Jacks on Trinity (www.jacksontrinity.co.uk) added: ‘You can pay for advertising and when you do that you can drill down into exactly who you are trying to reach.’

All top advice from people who are on social media and are optimising it for their businesses very well. There remains a key question that haunts those who have yet to tap into social media for fear of standing out like a sore thumb: ‘how do we encourage engagement? What should we post about?’

To answer this we have been on our feet taking in the sights and sounds of #AutumFair2014. If you glue yourselves to your stands then you miss out on the biggest social opportunity going! The first rule of encouraging engagement is to reach out to people of interest, start conversations, comment on debates/discussions, start debates/discussions, mingle, natter and be sociable. We have done this in person today because the atmosphere at the fair was buzzing and the best way to post and tweet about it is by making yourself a part of it!

We met some great people and took the opportunity to get some photos taken with some of the more interesting and amusing exhibits. Excuse the bad hair day – it appears I have a giant forehead on most of the pics – we are approaching the end of the show and I have been on my feet for most of it! I have to add that we heard a visitor say ‘it makes you want to open a shop!’ Yes it really does – there is so much to see and I personally couldn’t get enough of it!

Here are our top pics of the day:

Holy Mackerel (UK) Ltd (holy-mackerel.co.uk)

20140910_121535

 Scream Wholesale (Screamwholesale.com)

20140910_123200  WOW!

Heaven Sends (www.heavensends.com)

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Santa Balls (santaballs.co.uk)

20140910_121103  My favourite pic – just the best hugger!

Powell Craft (www.powellcraft.co.uk)

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Hill Interiors (www.hill-interiors.com)

20140910_123341  This is me in my element!

 

A big thank you to everyone who gave us a comment or let us take our fab pics – really appreciated. Not one person turned us down which says it all: What a social bunch  #AutumnFair2014.