When you think about marketing your business online, your mind naturally goes to social media.
Social Media is THE THING. I get it. It feels like everybody is on Facebook – and Twitter – and Instagram – and all the other cool social media sites. And you don’t want to be left behind. But as my mother used to say:
If everyone was jumping off a bridge, would you jump too?
Marketing mistakes happen when impulse overtakes reason. So before you rush headlong into social media, it is important to ask yourself “Why?”
If the honest answer is “because everyone else is doing it”, you need to hit pause. That just isn’t a good enough reason.
As a digital marketing strategist, I am not saying that social media marketing is bad. But I AM saying that there are lots of other options for marketing your business online and you shouldn’t jump too quickly into social.
Marketing Your Business Via Social Media Isn’t Free. Or Easy.
Setting up social media profiles may be free and relatively easy but succeeding at social media is not!
Time is money and managing your social media activity can eat up A LOT of your time.
The many hours you spend posting, liking, sharing, etc. is time when you are not engaged in other business activities. And without a clear digital marketing strategy in place, you probably won’t get much by way of ROI (return on investment).
On top of the time-cost, there is a tendency to start shovelling real dollars into social media. Once you are in-the-game, you want to see results!
It is tempting to start “boosting” posts and purchasing ads in an attempt to get more followers. You may even get drawn into the murky world of buying followers. So now, you are wasting your money as well as your time.
There Are Real Risks For Your Business…
Social media requires daily monitoring. You cannot just set up profiles and post only when interesting things happen.
In fact, doing this can make your business look bad. Inactive, or underactive, social media accounts create the impression that the business itself is lethargic.
Social media also has the potential to attract brand risks, like negative feedback.
You need to constantly monitor your presence on each platform and respond quickly and effectively to negative or inappropriate comments. If you don’t, you can inadvertently create a PR disaster.
I am not trying to scare you away from social media. In fact, I think social media may be a great way of marketing your business online. But I don’t believe it should be your first priority. Or your second. Or even your third…
Priority #1: Know Your Audience
Online marketing is all about making connections – building a relationship between your brand and the people who buy your goods and services.
To do this, you must start by figuring out who those people are.
The internet is a BIG space. You can’t be everywhere. That’s okay, because you don’t need to be everywhere. You only need to be where your ideal audience is!
You may already be able to describe your “target” audience.
Example: “Female. Ages 25-50. Professional. Income $80,000+”
But this isn’t precise enough. This doesn’t give you enough information to visualize a person, or relate to that person as a human being.
The first step towards successfully marketing your business only is taking the time to build Buyer Personas. These are detailed character sketches. They look past demographics and into the needs and wants of specific buyers.
When you have constructed buyer personas you will be able to identify where your ideal buyer is and what type of content you need to create to attract and engage them. Once you know exactly WHO you are trying to connect with, the next priority is to develop an effective plan to make that connection happen.
Priority #2: Develop a Digital Marketing Strategy
In business, you need to take a strategic approach to everything you do. Digital (online) marketing is not an exception to this rule. There is a German proverb:
A digital marketing strategy will put you on the right road and help you avoid wrong turns.
You may want to hire a digital strategy consultant – like me – to help you develop the strategy document. In addition to bringing digital expertise to the table, an outside consultant also provides objectivity, which is very valuable.
Social media will probably be part of your digital marketing strategy – but not all of it.
An effective digital marketing strategy looks at the whole picture and – as I keep saying – social media is only a small piece of the digital universe.
Priority #3: Build A Website Capable of Doing the Heavy Lifting
In today’s world, EVERYBODY searches for stuff online. And when people go looking for the types of goods and services your company sells, you want them to see your company.
To be effective, your website has to harness the power of search engine optimization (SEO).
SEO is all about making sure your website ranks well in search engines, like Google, Yahoo, etc.
SEO can seem scary. Firstly, because it feels like something only a “techie” understands. And secondly, because the rules are always changing. The search engine Gods are perpetually tweaking the algorithms they use to rank websites.
But the truth is that you don’t need to know everything about SEO. You can achieve a lot just by making sure your website has great content and looks good on every device (responsive design).
Laptops are no longer dominant. Today, most people search for things on their cell phones and tablets, so marketing your business online demands a website that is attractive and functional across all devices.
Responsive design means that everything on your website (content, images, navigation, etc.) automatically scales and adjusts to match the size of the screen your visitor is using.
Make sure your website is doing everything it should! Check it on a laptop, cell phone, and tablet. If there are any problems, get them fixed.
The structure of your website needs to have pages that cover the basics, like “About Us”, “Services”, and “Contact Us”. Each page should have content that engages people and provides real value. It is better to focus on quality than quantity. A few well-thought-out pages is perfect in the beginning. Once you have the basics in place, you can expand and add more content and more pages over time.
Search engines LOVE good content. It is like nectar attracting bumblebees. Every page of your website should be vibrant – with persuasive, SEO-friendly text, strong visuals, and clear calls-to-action.
It is important to use keywords that appeal to the Google Gods but DON’T stuff your pages with keywords. This actually angers the Gods and potentially pushes you down in search engine rankings.
Conclusion: Marketing Your Business Online Requires Planning
Before you jump into social media – or blogging – or creating sales funnels – or any of the myriad of other digital marketing options – you should:
- Know exactly who you are trying to connect with (Create Buyer Personas),
- Know how to make that connection (Develop a Digital Marketing Strategy), and
- Have an SEO-friendly website
Digital marketing – including social media – offers tremendous opportunities. To succeed at marketing your business online you need to think strategically. And remember that you don’t need to be EVERYWHERE. You only need to be where your buyers are!
Article written by Kim Scaravelli, CEO, Trust Communications Inc.