Even if your business doesn’t trade online, it is incredibly valuable to have an online presence. A simple website or social media profile with some contact information can be a great source of customers, feedback and a place to build your brand. But the kind of online activities you engage with are going to be informed by the kind of business you are. I’ve seen hundreds of solo entrepreneurs who use Facebook as their primary customer communication and acquisition tool. However, for many businesses, this either isn’t appropriate or isn’t effective. So if you want to get serious about digital marketing, where should you start?
Despite its importance, how to succeed (and how to fail) online isn’t common knowledge. Today, we have a guest article from Kayleigh Alexandra at Micro Startups, here to explain and illuminate 3 ways to develop your online presence.
In the digital age, having a strong online presence is more important than ever, and businesses of all sizes can create a solid digital brand quickly and easily. Whether it’s through a website, social media, or a content marketing campaign, there’s a variety of ways your small business can strengthen its online community. Read on for the three secrets you need to know for SME online success.
1. Reach out to customers on social media
The reach and potential of social media is huge. It offers businesses of any size the opportunity to connect with their customers in ways that had previously not been possible. Social messaging allows brands to communicate with their customers in an instant. And the ability to share blogs, videos and other forms of content lets you engage with your audience intimately through likes and comments. This all contributes to a sustained and meaningful relationship with your customers, and makes social media an invaluable tool for any business.
Social media is one of the primary ways for your customers to get in touch with you. Indeed, more than 50 million small businesses use Facebook Pages to communicate with their customers. As such, the likes of Facebook and Twitter are vital channels for having conversations with your audience, fostering a sense of trust and community with your brand.
However, a successful social media strategy requires effort, planning, and consideration, with a structured editorial calendar and a consistent brand voice. Here are a few strategies to try on your social platforms:
- Giveaways: Getting your customers to like, comment and share a post for the chance to win is a popular means of spreading your social reach. Even small businesses can generate meaningful engagement through viral competitions, and they’re relatively cheap to run. Simply offer a free product or experience day in return for a like and a share, and your follower count will rise considerably.
- Videos: Video content has soared in popularity in recent years, particularly on social media, and it’s worth implementing for your startup too. A good video can be made relatively cheaply using tools such as Biteable, and a decent, inexpensive camera isn’t hard to come by, and you can even use your phone.
- Customer testimonials: Social proof is a vital tactic in your business’s arsenal, and you should be sure to share reviews from your happy customers. Facebook lets customers give star ratings and reviews to brands on their business Page, and you can quote user tweets on Twitter.
- Written content: Every business should know by now the value of content marketing. Relevant articles and blog posts (either written by yourself or others) are great to share on social media, and encourage engagement from your followers. A smart presentation is also a great way to represent your brand and gives you something informative to offer people interested in your business.
As a small business, you may not have all that much time to dedicate to social media. As such, it’s well worth considering implementing further tools to make your editorial calendar that bit easier to manage. Consider the following:
- Feedly: This is a tool which can provide you with all the latest content in your area. You can get articles from your favourite online publications which include certain keywords. Feedly is an excellent source when you’re searching for content to share on social media.
- TweetDeck: Are you using Twitter? TweetDeck can help you to keep on top of all of your customer interactions and messages in one place. They also make it easy to see the tweets from the accounts which are most important to you.
- Hootsuite: With Hootsuite’s automation, it’s possible to manage multiple social media accounts in one place. Rather than signing in to each of your accounts individually, you can centralise all your output to save your time and hassle.
2. Sharpen your content marketing efforts
As noted, content marketing provides a range of benefits for businesses of all sizes. It’s an important tactic for increasing your online presence, and it’s comparably cheap and doable for any business.
Here are the two main approaches you can take:
- Creating and maintaining a blog on your website with useful, actionable content will keep your customers locked in with your business. Not only will it provide you with useful content to share on social media, but it can also boost your site’s SEO. By regularly posting relevant and readable content will help you rank for your business’s target keywords, as well as increasing your search engine ranking. Beyond this, it will also help to cement you as an industry expert and making you a one-stop shop for your customers by providing helpful information.
- Try to address queries that your consumer base might have in your blog posts to give your blog real value. If you recently attended an industry event or trade fair, share a write-up of it in the form of a round-up with key takeaways. Similarly, if there’s been an event that affects your industry, offer your perspective on it with some thoughtful insights. Let people know that you’re familiar with the latest trends, demonstrating that your business really knows its niche.
- This involves focusing on your website’s relationships with other sites. Getting content about and links to business onto other sites will help to raise awareness of your brand, increasing your reach. It also helps boost your search engine rankings by getting external links back to your site. Always be on the lookout for websites that you could contribute guest posts to.
- Another way to get offsite content for your website is by requesting your customers leave you testimonials on dedicated customer review sites such as Trustpilot or Yelp. People will often check these sites before using a business, so encourage your satisfied customers to leave reviews if they’re happy with your service.
3. Take your business online with e-commerce
Your website helps to bridge the gap between your online and offline presence because it extends your physical presence to the digital sphere.
The value of ecommerce cannot be underestimated, as the area is only set to grow in the coming years. To that end, consider investing in ecommerce to give your offline customers the convenience of shopping online.
Use an online store builder to create a simple digital shop quickly and easily. Alternatively, if you don’t want to commit to running a whole store, most content management systems offer a variety of ecommerce plugins that let you integrate online shopping with your existing site. It’s relatively cheap and easy to start, even for complete beginners, and will open up a new and vital revenue stream for your startup.
Your website is the hub around which the rest of your online presence is built. As well as ecommerce capabilities, they can also provide your customers with useful information such as contact details, store locators, customer testimonials and more. Consequently, you need to make sure your website is up to scratch.
There’s a variety of ways your small business can create a significant online presence, and it’s well worth creating a strategy that incorporates them all. Follow these three secrets to online success, and your business will feel the benefits.
Kayleigh Alexandra is a content writer for Micro Startups — a site dedicated to giving through growth hacking. Visit their blog for your latest dose of startup, entrepreneur, and charity insights from top experts around the globe, or follow Mirco Startups on Twitter @getmicrostarted.