Messing about on boats with social media

When it comes to social media for business, Sarah of Dorset Marine Training prefers Twitter and Instagram over Facebook and LinkedIn. That was something of a surprise to me, so I asked her to explain.

I was interviewing Sarah as part of my occasional series that explores how small Dorset firms are using digital marketing, and in particular, social media. There’s a lot we can learn from one another, and I’m a keen advocate of collaboration and sharing wherever possible.

A shared love of being on the water

Sarah Quinn runs Dorset Marine Training alongside Dominic Coleman. Their previous careers had nothing to do with boats, but outside of work they were often on the water and trained as freelance instructors.

Two years ago, they plunged into working for themselves, launching their new business for the 2017 season. When I asked Sarah what drives them to do what they do, she had a clear answer: “We enjoy being on the water, and we love training people to use boats, so they can also have fun on the water.”

They operate mainly out of Poole and have two RIBs (rigid inflatable boats) which are kept busy on training duties most of the season. They run RYA Powerboat Level 2 Courses and use a 47ft Trader for their motor cruising courses, such as Dayskipper.


Not a natural with digital marketing

Sarah drives the social media accounts for Dorset Marine Training, but admits she had to work at it. She began by taking free courses through GetSet for Growth. These gave her the confidence to start using the various social channels and answered many of her more technical questions.

Equipped with knowledge, she began posting across several social media channels, starting with Facebook. Most of her posts are sent from her Android smartphone, and they’re shared during her short breaks during the day. Such as when she’s enjoying lunch on a pontoon.

Over the last two years Sarah has developed a preference for Twitter and Instagram, although she also posts on Facebook and LinkedIn. “They are more conversational,” she explains. “Twitter is great for building relationships, for getting to know people.” She’s a fan of virtual networking events, such as #dorsethour and #elevenseshour.

The place for social media in the business

“We have had business from our social media posts,” says Sarah. As an example: “Someone local started following us because they were interested in what we were sharing. They liked our style and signed up with us for a course.”

While many of their customers are individuals or families wanting to learn for pleasure, some are business owners needing to acquire or brush up on their skills.

Sarah regards their social media accounts as offering potential customers an insight into their friendly, approachable yet professional way of providing training. Many potential customers come through the website or word of mouth but use the social accounts to validate how Dorset Marine Training operates.

Part of their style is to be both fun and ‘in the moment’. Horizons aren’t always straight and images aren’t edited to find perfection - they’re just as they are, straight from the camera.

Fortunately, being on the water makes it really easy to snap great images. Yachts in the sunshine, sunsets over the coast, swans and seagulls. Sarah loves sharing glimpses into the sights she sees almost every day and is happy to accept that her pictures won’t be perfect. “I simply don’t have the time,” she says.

During the winter months these great pictures can be harder to come by. Sarah’s solution is to snap photos of their theory training courses - where they use toy boats to add a splash of humour.

Sarah’s advice to others using social media for business

“Don’t be afraid to explore, and don’t be disheartened that no one seems interested in what you share”, she says. “Many people see what you post but don’t engage (with likes or comments), so you don’t know they’ve seen it.”

Perseverance is important. Keep posting and if people do like it, the numbers following and engaging with you will grow. It’s encouraging when you meet people at an event and they say: “Oh, I follow you on social media.”

Sarah continues to experiment. She recently had a go at boosting a post, spending just £1 and successfully generating new enquiries.

If you want to follow Sarah’s posts on social media, follow Dorset Marine Training on the following channels: Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and LinkedIn.

Do I need to have the last word in every Facebook conversation?

This is a question I’ve heard several times recently, which is why I’m addressing it.

Actually, the question is usually phrased as: “How do I have the last word in a private message conversation on Facebook?”  And it’s not from people who want to have the final say in an argument.

The short answer is: You don’t need to have the final word. Facebook measures your responsiveness to the first message, not to each of your replies within a conversation.

So you don’t need to worry about having the last word. Although Facebook will send you an email alert if you haven’t replied to a comment - even if all the customer says is ‘thank you’ and the conversation is over.

This question usually comes from businesses wanting to protect the ‘response indicator’ on their Facebook Page. That is, the indicator that says: ‘Typically replies within…’ Businesses want their customers to have a realistic expectation of how long they will take to reply. And some customers want to be confident of getting a quick reply.

How does the response indicator work?

Facebook awards you the ‘very responsive to messages’ indicator if you reply to 90% of messages within 15 minutes of them coming in.

Below ‘very responsive’ are several grades of indicator, with the lowest being ‘Typically replies with a day’. Although, the absence of an indicator is itself a clue that the Page administrator often takes more than a day to respond - if it allows private messages at all. You can turn messaging off in Settings - General - Messages..

Does the response indicator include auto replies?

No, auto replies are not counted by the response indicator. You can set various types of automated reply using the Facebook Response Assistant tools. These are found under the Messaging options in Page Settings.

Using the Response Assistant allows you to set expectations with people who message your Page, by giving them an indication of how long you might take to reply, or alerting them to other ways of getting in touch that could give them a quicker answer, such as by phoning.

Expect to see more features added to the Response Assistant in the coming months. Automation is becoming more prevalent in online communications, helping people get answers to commonly asked questions without needing the interaction of another human being.

Am I penalised if I can’t get to my messages because I’m working?

It’s okay for businesses with an admin team that keeps an eye on Facebook messages all day, but what about sole traders who can’t afford to respond to every notification on the spot?

You can tell Facebook when you’re usually available to take messages, again using the Response Assistant. There’s an option titled: Stay responsive when you can’t get to your computer or phone.

You may also have the option to set your messaging status as ‘Away’. If available, the option is on the bottom left corner of your Page’s Inbox. However, this option doesn’t seem to be available on all Pages - I manage several and it’s missing from most. I think it’s an older feature now being replaced by the Response Assistant.

If you found this article useful and would like to stay informed with other tips and information around digital marketing, please consider signing up to receive my emails.

Do I need to have the last word in every Facebook conversation? Was first published on Dorset Social.

Andrew Knowles
The difference between a Facebook Page and a Facebook group

Should I set up a Facebook Page or a Facebook group? That’s a common question from small businesses right now. Which is why I’ve put together this guide. It’s in two forms - a short version and then a more detailed explanation.

A short guide to the different Facebook options

There are three ways to engage with people on Facebook. These are through a personal account, a Page or a group.

Personal Facebook account: This is the basic Facebook account that most of us use to connect with friends and family. More than 7 out of 10 UK adults now have a personal Facebook account. One personal account connects with another by becoming their ‘Friend’.

Facebook Page: Anyone with a personal Facebook account can set up a Page on behalf of their business, club, charity, hobby, cause or for any other reason. People with personal accounts can choose to ‘Like’ a Page, but a Page can’t become friends with anyone.

Facebook group: Anyone with a personal Facebook account can set up a Facebook group. A group allows people with a common interest to have shared conversations, and groups have a variety of privacy options. Groups are only open to personal Facebook accounts, not to Pages (although there is an exception to this that I cover in the longer guide below).

If you want to use Facebook for business purposes, you can create a Page to represent your business, and/or a group for discussion and information sharing. You must have a personal account in order to set these up.

What if I don’t want to use Facebook personally?

Not everyone wants to use Facebook for personal use, and you may be reluctant to open an account in your own name. But you’ll need to, if you want to set up a Page or a group. There’s no requirement to add any personal information, or to become a ‘Friend’ of anyone on Facebook.

It’s important to note that Facebook forbids the use of a personal account for business.

I’ll cover the pros and cons of Pages and groups in the detailed guide below.

A note for those bothered by my use of capital ‘P’ for Facebook Page. I’m following Facebook’s own convention in its online guide and help text. Both the Facebook account and group use the lower case ‘a’ and ‘g’, but when it comes to the Page, they use a capital ‘P’.

A longer guide to the different Facebook options

I’m assuming you’ve read the short guide above, so I won’t be repeating the absolute basics.

Personal Facebook account

Your personal account is what Facebook is all about. Here you share information, jokes, pictures and more with your friends and family. If you want to, that is.

There are rules about how you use your account, although most of us don’t know them. These include that you can only have one personal Facebook account, and you shouldn’t use it for commercial gain (that is, for running business).

Click here to read the detailed rules (aka Statement of Rights and Responsibilities).

If you do use a personal Facebook account for business, you run the risk of it being shut down.

I actively discourage people from becoming the ‘Friend’ of a business run through a personal account. You can’t be sure who is managing Facebook for that business, and by becoming their ‘Friend’ you’re giving them access to information you post on Facebook, some of which could be quite personal.

It’s important to be in control of your privacy on Facebook and there are plenty of controls to help you. Find out more information here

You can use your personal Facebook account to make posts on:

  • Your own profile
  • Profiles of your friends

  • Pages

  • Groups

I won’t list the features and options of a personal account, because Facebook continues to add and change them. If you want more information about what you can do, take a look at the Facebook help pages, such as this one:


Facebook Page

You could think of a Facebook Page as being an alternative website for your business, charity, club etc. People who like your Page are described as ‘fans’.

People don’t need to be logged into Facebook to see your Page, but they can’t interact with it unless they have a Facebook account. I don’t recommend that your business only has a Facebook Page and no website, although some do. If you rely entirely on Facebook, you’ll be stuck if they take your Page down (and it does happen very occasionally).

More than one person can administer a Facebook Page. It may be that you set up a Facebook Page but in due course, pass it on to others to run, and eventually you cease to be an administrator. If you were to sell your business to someone else, you would probably pass on the Facebook Page to them.

There’s a separate app for managing posts and messages on your Facebook Page. If you’re not already using it, consider downloading the Pages app for your phone or tablet.

Who gets to see what’s posted on my Page?

Everything posted on your Page is public. However, not everything that you post on your Page is automatically presented to all your fans.

Facebook has a complex algorithm that decides who gets to see what on Facebook. After all, every time you visit Facebook there are loads of posts it could show you (from your many connections with friends, family, Pages, groups etc). It has to decide what is likely to be of most interest to you, and show these first.

The number of fans seeing posts from Pages has declined significantly over the last few years. That’s partly because businesses have posted lots of low quality content that, frankly, few people would choose to look at - who wants to wade through a stream of dull ‘buy this from us’ posts?

Recent changes at Facebook (from January 2018)  mean it’s going to be even harder for businesses to get their posts seen by fans. But harder doesn’t mean impossible. For the best chance of having your posts presented to fans, they need to be very interesting and very engaging.

Posting from your account onto your Page

Every Facebook post is linked to a specific author, or person who wrote it. The author can be a Facebook account or a Page.

When you’re the administrator of a Page, it’s easy to get confused about who’s the author of a post you’re making. Is it your personal account or the Page? And which should it be?

This is made more complicated when you’re posting from the Facebook app on a phone or tablet. When you post from a desktop you’re given the option to choose who you’re posting as, but that option isn’t always clear in the app - and remember, there’s a separate app for managing Facebook Pages.

Posting as a Page, you can make posts on:

  • Your Page

  • Other Pages

A Page can like other Pages, and individual posts on other Pages.

You can’t post on personal accounts or into groups (with one exception, which I’ll cover in the groups section below).

Can other people post on my Page?

You can choose whether to allow fans to post on your Page. You can also hide comments and block people from your Page.

You can’t control the ads that appear when people are viewing your Page.

While people can make comments and generate discussions on your Page, it all remains under your control. Even when you allow others to post on your Page, these posts are not shared with fans. This makes it almost impossible for someone else to share information or initiate a discussion on your Page.

There’s lots more information in the Facebook help section about Pages.

Just one of the many Dorset Facebook groups

Just one of the many Dorset Facebook groups

Facebook group

A Facebook group is a discussion and information forum that allows anyone in the group to contribute.

Groups can be private or public. Every group has one or more administrators or moderators with control over who has access to the group and who can delete posts.  

There are several big differences between a Page and a group. One is that it’s much easier for any group member to initiate a discussion.

Another difference is that Facebook is keen to grow activity on groups, making this an area where you can expect to see new features being added.

A third big difference between a Page and a group

You can only post into a group using your personal Facebook profile. You can’t post into a group as a Page.

There is one exception to that rule, and it’s fairly new (introduced in late 2017). Page administrators can now set up a group that’s linked to a specific Page, and can post into that group as the Page.

Why would this be useful?

Groups are a great place for discussions. Let’s say your business sells pet products and you want to set up a group where people can discuss issues around pets. You can now create this group and link it to your business Page. Then you can enter into the discussions by posting as your Page, rather than posting from your personal account.

How groups differ from personal accounts and Pages

You can author a Facebook post from your personal account or your Page. You can’t author it in the name of the group. Nor can a group like or share posts made by others.

There’s lots more information in the Facebook help section about groups.

Final thoughts about Facebook accounts, Pages and groups

We all use Facebook differently. There are loads of things you can do in Facebook, and more are being added (almost daily, it feels like).

If you feel Facebook is getting too big and complicated to fully understand, you’re not alone. What’s important is that you find a way of working with Facebook that gives you the results you’re looking for.

If you’re not sure how to do something, don’t be afraid to ask someone. Ask me, if you want.

This post 'The difference between a Facebook Page and a Facebook group' was first published on


FacebookAndrew Knowles
Turning virtual reality into commercial reality

Photographer Luke Woods is a man on a mission. He’s working hard to persuade Dorset businesses to embrace virtual reality video and 360-degree images, as a way of standing out from the crowd.

Virtual reality is set to be the big content trend for 2017, according to a blog post on influential digital marketing website Econsultancy. But before I go any further, it’s probably useful to explain the differences between the various forms of photo and video that go beyond the traditional two dimensions.

A short guide to VR, 360-degree video, 3D and AR

Virtual reality - True VR is a highly immersive experience presented through a headset connected to a motion sensor and computer. The wearer is free to move through a virtual environment in any direction they choose. A virtual world can be an alternate reality, such as seen in computer games such as Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, or a virtual version of our own world. 

360-degree video - Much of what we think of as VR is actually 360-degree video. It can also be presented through a headset with a motion sensor, but the wearer’s point of view is restricted to the camera’s position. If you’re watching 360-degree video through a headset, you can move your head to look in any direction you choose, but in, say, a street scene, you can’t decide to walk down the street.

For the last two years Luke Woods has been one of the those working with Google to improve the 360-degree experience. 

Take a quick look at this 360-degree video of Framptons in Bridport, by Luke Woods. You can view it on a flat screen device - you don’t need a headset. Once it starts playing, use your fingertip (on touch sensitive screens) or mouse to change your point of view.



On some smartphones, you can select the cardboard icon, then put your smartphone in a VR viewer, and you'll have more of a virtual reality experience.


3D video - Just a few years ago, 3D was the next ‘big thing’ in home entertainment, with many TV sets offering the technology. But it didn’t take off, in part because people didn’t want the hassle of needing to wear 3D glasses whenever they watched.

Augmented reality - AR overlays our view of the world with computer generated information or images. Pokemon Go was AR’s big moment in 2016, adding a wealth of imaginary creatures to our homes and streets.

None of these technologies is actually new. I was exploring computer generated virtual worlds decades ago on a Commodore Amiga computer. Back then there were no motion-sensing headsets. All these can be viewed on a flat screen, although true VR, where you feel like you’re really there, does need a headset.

What is new is that it’s becoming easier to capture content on 360-degree video, and it’s increasingly being used in marketing and education.

Practical uses of 360-degree photos and video

Let’s say you want to book a short break for a special weekend away in a hotel. You find a place which, from its website, looks good. You look it up on TripAdvisor to see what other visitors have to say about it. But you want to go a step further and get a feel for what the rooms and facilities will be like. After all, photos are useful, but a skilful photographer will find the best angles and exclude what they don’t want you to see.

By offering a 360-degree image experience on their website, the hotel makes it much easier for you to experience what they have to offer. In this case study video from Luke Woods, a B&B owner explains how 360-degree images helped his business grow.

A good wedding photographer captures the magic of the big day and video enhances this. Using 360-degree video, you can make the memory even more immersive, and Luke provides an example of this, taken at Minterne House in the heart of Dorset.

Google Street View has been giving us 360-degree images of our nation for about ten years. You can now leave the street and go inside selected buildings and businesses. As a Google accredited photographer, Luke provides businesses with internal 360-degree images that are available from Street View.

Dorset estate agents Domvs now offer virtual reality property tours. When viewed along with drone overviews of a house, it’s now much easier to get a feel for your potential new home without having to visit in person.

It’s possible to stream 360-degree video live. In mid-2016, we saw the first livestream of a surgical procedure in 360-degrees, which could be hugely useful for medical students.

The power of 360-degree video is the sense of ‘being there’, particularly if it’s presented via a headset. It can be a powerful educational tool, and not just in schools. I’ve heard of one insurance company experimenting with putting their staff at the centre of a virtual home disaster, to make it easier for them to relate to customers who’ve just experienced the trauma for real.

Can 360-degree images help your business?

For some businesses, offering 360-degree photos or video can help them stand out from the crowd, because their competitors aren’t doing it. There’s a novelty factor to presenting yourself this way right now, simply because it’s new and unusual.

The commercial benefits of 360-degrees seem obvious for estate agents and those selling holiday home space, or a hire venue. If video is a great way to sell experiences, such as coasteering or boat rides, would a 360-degree video make it more immersive and more appealing?

What about the more mundane businesses, such as hairdressers and accountants? Can they take advantage of 360-degree images? Where the quality of your premises can make a difference to a customer’s experience, 350-degree can gives you a new way to showcase it.

We’re all more comfortable going inside business premises that we’re familiar with. By giving people an introduction to your workplace, through 360-degree images, you can help build that familiarity before they visit it person.

Because it’s still relatively unusual, 360-degree images don’t need to be very sophisticated to stand out. When they become more common, businesses will need to pay more attention to the content of the image or video, such as introducing storytelling. And doing that in 360-degrees is very different from the traditional single point of view presentation we see every day.

Learn more about VR and 360-degree images

This has been a quick overview of virtual reality and 360-degree imagery. If you want to know more, here are some suggestions of where to go next:

Get in touch with Luke Woods via his website, or look him up on Twitter or Facebook. Luke is a specialist in this area – one of a small number of photographers sought out by Google to help take their 360-degree project forward. Luke provides businesses with 360-degree images, allowing people using Street View to enter and explore their business premises.

Take a look at Google Cardboard. You can build or buy a VR headset made literally from cardboard, which uses a smartphone as a viewing screen. Simple but very effective!

Explore some fabulous 360-degree images on Flickr VR. But remember, despite the name, they are not true virtual reality, because you're not free to roam around to change your point of view.

Read How to use 360-degree video in your social media marketing, from Social Media Examiner. This article is now 18 months old but is still very fresh. 

Andrew KnowlesComment
Should I hashtag the name of my business?

The subject of hashtags comes up on every Twitter training course that I run. No surprise there, as the hashtag was invented and popularised by Twitter. And no surprise that despite being used almost everywhere, hashtags are still something of a mystery to many.

Hence the common question on my training courses: should I hashtag my business name? People are taken aback when my answer is ‘probably not’. There are much more effective ways of using hashtags. And if your business is small, as the vast majority are, using the name as a hashtag is pointless.

hashtagging your name won’t achieve anything

Let’s say that I start using my business name in tweets. I might tweet: “I’m preparing an article about using business names as hashtags #dorsetsocial”

The tweet already includes my business name, so what’s the point of repeating it as a hashtag? One answer might be that by using a hashtag I’m creating a theme that other people might be interested in.

After all, the real power of the hashtag is its ability to connect people around a single subject or idea. I’m writing this in mid-February, so a big theme on Twitter right now is #valentinesday.

Can I unlock some of this hashtag power around my business name? No, you can’t. The thing is, lots of people are interested in #valentinesday, which is why there are loads of tweets with that hashtag. And Instagram pics - the photo-sharing app is the other place where hashtags have become incredibly popular and useful.

The power of the hashtag is that when someone sees a tweet with #valentinesday, they may click or tap it to see what other people are sharing on the same theme.

But who’s going to follow the #dorsetsocial hashtag? Or the hashtag of your business name? Probably no one other than you (or me). And depending on the name of your business, the hashtag of its name may already be used in ways that are entirely unrelated to what you do. After all, no one ‘owns’ a hashtag.

connect with the power of the hashtag

So if using your business name as a hashtag is a non-starter, how can you make the hashtag work for you?

Let’s stick with the #valentinesday example. If you’re a florist, chocolatier or restaurant owner, or have some other product that you can tie in with February 14th celebration of love, use that hashtag in your posts where it’s relevant.

There will be people out there following the #valentinesday hashtag and by using it, you get your message in front of them.

But don’t expect using a very generic hashtag like #valentinesday to generate a flurry of interest. Loads of people are using it, meaning your posts will quickly get lost, and if your product is tied to a specific location (such as a restaurant) it will only be of interest to a local audience.

How to find the best hashtags

To really get results from hashtags, you want to find those that work well with your target market. These hashtags are usually specific to a particular area or a particular industry.

An example I often quote is #dorsethour. Every Monday evening, from 7.30pm, businesses across Dorset tweet about what they’re up to. Lots of people tune in by following the hashtag, leading to some great conversations. It’s a great way to make new contacts.

There are loads of other #hour hashtags, themed by county, city and industry. Likewise, there are loads of event hashtags you can use, such as #idealhomeshow or #wintec17 (the ‘official’ hashtag of the Women in Technology Scotland 2017 conference).

To look for a hashtag that’s associated with an event or activity, visit related Twitter profiles and see what hashtags people are using. Even where there’s an ‘official’ hashtag, people may adopt others in addition, or as alternatives.

There are no hard and fast rules when it comes to hashtags. That said, don’t overuse them on Twitter - one or two per tweet is usually enough. Instagram posts tend to have more, with a maximum of 30 permitted.

Tools you can use to search for hashtags include: Hashtagify, Ritetag and Tagboard.