Over the past 6 years, the use of the internet as a social tool has exploded. The opportunities for businesses to meaningfully connect with a wide audience are constantly expanding in exciting ways. However, in order to make the most of this opportunity, small businesses need to understand that the internet, and social media in particular, requires it’s own distinct approach to promotion. This article hopes to serve as a primer covering the basics of successfully marketing your business online.
Sick of spam? Don’t add to it.
These days everyone from the digital agency CEO to your grandmother is targeted by spam in one form or another and not surprisingly, they’re sick of it. There are millions of people out there who think that unsolicited emails, or any number of social media tools pumping out one sided self promotion will get them customers.
Unfortunately its small businesses, the people who live or die via creating good customer relationships that are the main perpetrators of misusing the web, despite good intentions. This is usually because they haven’t adapted their communication to a web audience. It takes a totally new approach, along with some time and imagination, to grow your business using social media.
If you don’t provide something of value up front for your audience you will be actively ignored, drowned out by the noise of all the voices clamouring for people’s time and money without actually offering anything.
So how do you do it right?
Become a resource
You need to give the user a reason above and beyond your products and/or services to engage with you. There are so many other services online, why should somebody follow/subscribe to you?
- Are you entertaining?
- Do you give out free stuff?
- Do you have a distinct opinion?
- Are you an authority in your field?
If the answer to at least one of these questions isn’t yes, you need to make some changes to your online presence.
Whether its important information, entertainment value, useful downloads or advice, providing the incentive for your audience to engage with your business online means becoming a resource.
People as consumers need to be informed, today more than ever. So when somebody needs information about your topic of expertise, if they find an article about it on your site with lots of relevant information, it encourages them to come back. They are much more likely to subscribe to your social media stream, be it your blog, your twitter stream or whatever else, if your updates are going to be useful to them.
By becoming a resource you become the first thought of people thinking about your field of expertise. When they know that you are well informed, people are much more likely to come to you when they need the product or service you offer. Becoming a resource ultimately means inspiring a higher level of trust in your potential customers – by showing that you are an expert and you want to help them, not just take their money.
There are many different methods of becoming a resource, each with its own particular merits, here are a few:
- Write blog articles that your intended audience would find useful
- Introduce and then link to helpful articles on other sites
- Post interesting and useful links, to your own site or others, on twitter or other social networks
- Get other experts to write guest articles on your site
- Write your own guest articles on other sites
These are just suggestions that fit a wide range of situations. You should experiment and see what works best for you.
Over time, its not just people that will view your site as an important source of information in your field, so will the search engines. The more people that view, link to and subscribe to a website the more relevant it is deemed by search engines and the higher it appears in results. This in turn means even more people will find your site and generate more business for you.
While a television advert throws out offers and marketing to whoever is watching, its a one way process and its the same experience for everyone that sees it. With the correct use of social media, you can create dialogues that present people the opportunity to feel more involved and get to know you and your business better. Once you have a website, a blog, a twitter account or any other combination; you have constant access to this method of highly personal yet wide reaching communication for nothing! The potential is vast if you commit to going into it honestly and transparently.
If you treat the web like a community, you will get the rewards of one. Just like in life you can gain or lose credibility by the company that you keep and the approach you choose to take. If you churn out spam from every available digital outlet, you will be ignored. If you take an active and relevant part in the online community and contribute something of value, only good can come of it.