â€œIâ€™m on Facebook. I donâ€™t need a website.â€ Thatâ€™s what a recent client told me when we sat down to discuss building a website for her small business. I was in shock and awe. After roughly twenty minutes, we finally both agreed, at least, that without a presence of some kind on the internet, her small business has a lesser chance for success.
She was stuck on Facebook as her only outlet to reach current, loyal customers. But she was also relying on it to attract new business. Social media is a great promotional tool for any business. But…
She was doing it wrong!
Here are 3 free online marketing tips you can use to get your small business noticed on the web.
1. SEO STRATEGIES
When it comes to having a presence on the web, one of the most basic, yet often ignored (or done incorrectly) tools is Search Engine Optimization. Except for paying for your web designerâ€™s knowledge and proper execution of SEO, this tool costs you nothing. It consists of items, more-or-less, â€˜built-inâ€™ to your website.
But first and foremost, you need a website. And Google has to know about it.
In an article from Search Engine LandÂ (April 29, 2013), Matt Cutts, Googleâ€™s head of search spam, says the number one most devastating mistake webmasters make when it comes to SEO strategies, is not having a website, or having a website that cannot be seen by Google.
If the search engines canâ€™t find you, neither can your customers.
When you hire a webmaster to design and build your website, make sure he or she understands proper SEO Strategies. Without them, your website stands very little chance of being discovered by your target customers.
Expert tips from Matt Cutts (the â€˜Google Masterâ€™, himself):
2. LEARN ABOUT YOUR CUSTOMERS
When you sit down with your new web designer for the first time, make sure they are asking you the right questions. In order for the array of SEO Strategies to work properly, a combination of things must happen.
First, you need to know who your target audience is. To be seen by potential customers, it is imperative that certain â€œkeywordsâ€ are included on your website. These keywords need to reflect what your potential customers are searching for.
For example, if you own a plumbing service in Nashville, TN, it is usually a good idea to include the words â€œplumber in Nashville, TNâ€ somewhere on your site. But donâ€™t just assume those are the words your potential customers are entering into Google. Are they searching for ‘plumber in Nashville’, ‘plumber in Nashville, TN’, or ‘Nashville plumbers’? Believe it or not, it can make a big difference.
You and your webmaster should do what we call â€œkeyword researchâ€ to find exactly what people are entering in their search engine. Ross Jones from 2 The Top DesignÂ shows how easy online marketing can be done through proper SEO and keyword research:
Keyword Research Infographic by 2theTop Web Design
3. SOCIAL MEDIA BRANDING
Having all the proper SEO strategies built into your website is a great start.
But when we stop and look at the landscape of todayâ€™s marketplace, many people love the interactive experience of social media. More and more people are staying connected with family and friends via Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Vimeo, Pinterest, You Tube, SnapChat, Google+, etc.
Your customers are your ‘friends. Connect with them. Interact with them. Entertain them.
Social media, however, should never replace your main website. It is merely a tool to enhance your customers’ experience.
At a recent presentation to students at The Art Institute â€“ Nashville, TN., SEO/Social Media expert Jeremy Rivera discussed social media branding, and it’s role in your business. He compared your website and social media’s role, to an octopus. The body of the octopus houses the important organs like the heart, lungs, stomach, etc. That is the role of your main website.
Your social media presence is like the octopus tentacles. They connect to the ‘body’, but are not the most important part.
(If you took away the octopus’s body, all you’d have left is tentacles. And that would be weird. Not to mention, slightly ineffective).
However, social media must be used responsibly. There are a few simple rules when it comes to connecting your business to your customers via social media:
- Interact with your followers. They expect it. They are taking the time to reach out to you. Respond.
- Follow other people. Social media is a tool that can humanize your business. People use social media to follow other people. Soâ€¦follow other people. You might gain new customers by being included in someone elseâ€™s circles.
- Do not use social media to â€œsellâ€ something. Donâ€™t always talk about the latest sale, or whatâ€™s on special, or hock new products/services. Just connect. The example Jeremy Rivera used in the presentation at The Art Institute, was during the Superbowl, 2013. Remember when there was a power interruption, and half the lights in the stadium went out? Oreo tweeted â€œYou can still dunk in the darkâ€. Brilliant! They didn’t try to sell a single thing. Quick thinking (on someoneâ€™s part) generated 24 characters that created priceless buzz.
- If you receive negative comments on your social media outlet, donâ€™t ignore them. Respond. Turn a potential negative comment into an opportunity to thank someone for bringing an issue to their attention. Assure them that your company listens to their customers and you will work diligently to resolve the problem. Ignoring them can only hurt you. Maintain a positive public image.
- Be creative. This is your chance to get out of the â€˜stuffy boardroomâ€™ and show your audience a lighter, fun, funny, entertaining, human side if your business. For example, you can produce a funny video and post it. Post fun pictures to your companyâ€™s Instagram or Pinterest accounts, etc.
- Know your audience. It goes without saying, but you should post things that are appropriate to who is following you. The last thing you want to do, is come across as insensitive, rude, or obnoxious. Jeremy Rivera points out that when it comes to your brand, â€œsocial media is a great place to build it, and a great place to lose it.â€
- Be active on a regular basis. You need to keep your audience engaged. Thatâ€™s the whole point of social media. Donâ€™t wait six months between posts. Be active. Your customers are. If you create effective social media posts, you will be leaving your followers wanting more. (That’s a good thing). They will return to get it. Donâ€™t disappoint them.
Having a presence on social media can be extremely effective on several different layers. According to Jeremy Rivera, â€œbrand can be improved, spread, and projected onto social media if handled properly. There are BOTH opportunities to grow awareness AND capture direct conversions-ready traffic if done properly.â€
THE FUTURE OF SOCIAL MEDIA
When thinking about social media, most people think of the standards: Facebook, Twitter, You Tube, LinkedIn, Instagram, Pinterest.
However, many people often ignore the future of social media: Google+.
If your business does not have a presence on Google+, you could already be behind your competition. Think about it for a second. When you, personally, open a search engine to find a business (or anything else), what do you open?
In an article on Search Engine LandÂ (February 11, 2013), Danny Sullivan says â€œNo question. Google remains the most used search engine in the world, far outdistancing competitors.â€ If Google is used by so many of your potential customers, shouldnâ€™t your business be â€˜a part of Googleâ€™?!
Jeremy Rivera agrees, saying â€œG+ is going to play more and more of a role as itâ€™s accepted by more casual users lured in along with Gmail and a Google account. In ways, itâ€™s already more important than Facebook and Twitter in RAW impact on SERPS [search engine results pages]. Business owners who blow off G+ will â€œrue the dayâ€ soon.”
THE COMPLETE PICTURE
Marketing your business is not as simple as it used to be. You must have a presence on the internet. However, itâ€™s not enough to just have social media. Itâ€™s not enough to have just a website, either. The two must be used in combination in order to flank your competition. You have very powerful tools at your disposal. With such great power, comes great responsibility. Use your tools responsibly.
“Social media is a fantastic medium for reaching your target audience in a manner that may increase brand awareness while also creating opportunity for conversions or sales.” – Jeremy Rivera
Although social media can be very powerful in attracting new customers, you must give them a ‘home base to go to for information (your website). Use your tools wisely. “Be the octopus“.