Building An Online Presence For Small Businesses
Building your online presence is a vital part of your success. Through the power of social media, small businesses have the ability to be just as visible as bigger businesses! However, it takes more than just making a few random posts here and there. You need to know a little about SEO, have a stellar email strategy, create value for your audience, and protect your reputation.
Everything and everywhere your business is mentioned online makes up your online presence. This includes your website, your social media accounts, and your reviews. BUT… It also includes anywhere people are talking about you, whether good or bad. If you don’t put in some effort to cultivate your online presence, you’re missing out on an excellent opportunity to grow your business!
SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization. Simply put, it’s how search engines like Google find you and rank you in search results. You’ve probably heard about SEO as far as your website goes, but you need to keep it in mind for your social media presence too.
When you’re starting out with your online marketing efforts, the main thing about SEO you’ll need to think about is keywords. When you do a search on Google, that’s a keyword! Simple, right? An easy way to develop a list of keywords for your business is to sit down and write out search terms that people looking for your products or services might use. If you have a local brick and mortar location or serve a specific geographical area, be sure to include terms that contain the location(s) you serve.
To show you an example of this, let’s say you own a shoe store in San Diego. Some great keywords might include: ‘Designer Shoes San Diego,’ ‘Women’s Shoes,’ or ‘Men’s Footwear San Diego.’ The thing to remember is search intent. What would someone intending to make a purchase be looking for?
Once you’ve optimized your website, you should turn your focus to optimizing your social media profiles. For each social media platform you’re on, take some of those keywords and write them into your bio. This will help your social accounts show up in Google searches! For Instagram and Twitter, it’s a great idea to include some relevant hashtags in your bio as well.
There’s a lot more to learn about SEO, but including a few keywords in your social profiles is a great place to start, not to mention it’s one of the easiest things you can do to boost your online presence.
Email Can Support Any Marketing Strategy
Email has been around almost as long as the internet, but to this day it remains one of the top ways to reach your audience. Some statistics even say the ROI for email marketing can be up to $50 to every $1 you spend. This is mainly because it’s so cheap and easy to implement.
The first thing you need for email marketing is a way to capture leads. The simplest way to do this is to have an opt-in form on your website. This also ensures that you’re in compliance with the legalities of emailing. When people voluntarily put their email into the form on your website, they’re agreeing to receive emails from you.
Once you start building your list, you can start sending out marketing emails. You can send newsletters, updates about new products or services, and announce contests or events.
- Personalize! Emails addressed to ‘Dear Valued Customer’ don’t get as much attention as ones that address your customers by name.
- Segment your email list. Dividing up your list by geographic location and demographics can help you target your emails more effectively. For example, having your list divided between men and women can be useful if you’re introducing a new product that is mainly for women. You don’t want to waste time emailing men who probably wouldn’t be as interested in it. This also works for local events. If you’re trying to target people in a 20-mile radius to attend an event, it helps to have your subscriber list broken up into geographic regions.
- Make sure your emails are mobile-friendly. The vast majority of customers will be opening your emails on their phones, so making sure they look great on mobile devices is a must.
- Use graphics and buttons. People aren’t going to read a long wall of text and hunt for difficult-to-click hyperlinks. It has to be visually appealing, and including buttons instead of links will greatly increase your click-through rate.
- Don’t forget to have buttons (not links!) for your social media profiles too. Your Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, or any other platform you’re on needs to be included in every email you send. Take any opportunity you can to make it easier for people to find you!
- Automate your emails when you can. There are tons of services out there that are inexpensive and extremely effective. Do your research and see what will work for your business model and budget.
Making your emails visually stunning doesn’t have to be difficult, and you don’t have to hire a designer, either. Canva is one of the easiest-to-use tools out there. You can design any kind of image you need for any of your online marketing efforts. This is one of the best ways to design emails that will get you noticed!
Providing Value Online
“People want to do business with you because you help them get what they want. They don’t do business with you to help you get what you want.” – Don Crowther
One of the biggest shifts in marketing since the heyday of print media is the concept of providing value. You can’t get anywhere by just plugging your products and having an ‘all sales all the time’ mentality. You have to actually give people a reason to follow you on social media by posting content they WANT to see. No one wants their social feed filled with hundreds of advertisements.
When you’re providing valuable, helpful information to your followers, they’ll save, share, and like your posts. This will not only increase your visibility on that platform but will also help build trust and loyalty.
Ideas For Providing Value:
- How-to guides and tutorials
- Share your own inspirations for doing what you do
- ‘Ask Me Anything’ (AMA) sessions
- Local news and events (if applicable)
- News from your industry
- User-generated content from your followers
Your Online Reputation
Did you know that most people won’t do business with a company if they have bad reviews or no reviews at all? It’s important to keep an eye on your reviews and respond appropriately.
Even one bad review can seriously impact your online presence, especially if you don’t respond to it and correct the situation. However, when you publicly attempt to make things right for an unhappy customer, it goes a long way towards negating the damage bad reviews can do. Remember, stay professional, polite, and genuinely show that you care.
On the flip side of this, having no reviews can be even worse than a few bad ones. It’s a concept called social proof. Customers want to know that other people have taken the plunge and purchased from you before, but if there are no reviews, they have no proof that you’re reputable enough to do business with.
One way to pile up some reviews is to offer a reward to any customer that posts a review. This can be a discount, a small gift, or even something as simple as a social media mention. It doesn’t need to cost you much at all!
The important part is to be seen actively trying to do the right thing and putting your customers first. In many cases, you can turn an unhappy customer into one of your most vocal advocates online if you rectify the situation for them.
Now obviously you don’t have time to comb through every social media platform and review website every day. That’s OK! Google offers an extremely useful (and often forgotten about) free tool that can help you keep an eye out anytime you’re mentioned online.
Google Alerts allows you to receive a notification whenever a specific phrase such as your name, your business name, or the names of specific products are mentioned anywhere on the internet. Since most print media actually winds up on the web, this can also include most major magazines and newspapers too!
ProTip: You can keep an eye on how your competitors are doing by tracking mentions of their business, products, or services through Google Alerts as well! This can help you stay ahead of the curve and get an edge over your competition.
Building Your Online Presence
Making your company visible online and protecting your reputation should be high on your list of priorities as a business owner. The good news is that it’s not terribly difficult or expensive to do this! A little effort on your part can go a long way to helping you build your online presence.
A few rules of thumb to keep in mind:
- Stay professional at all times, even on your personal accounts. Never underestimate the ability of disgruntled customers (or employees!) to dig up embarrassing or damaging information.
- If you wouldn’t want it plastered on a billboard next to your face and company logo, don’t post it.
- If something doesn’t provide value to your audience or improve their lives in some way, it’s probably not worth posting.
- Watch what people are saying about your brand online. If you see a trend or the same complaint over and over, address it immediately.
You’ve worked so hard to establish yourself and your business, so take care of it with these suggestions. Always let your own best judgement be your guide!