Online Marketing – Can your Business Afford to Be Without It?

Online marketing for small businessesIf you are contemplating taking your business online the challenges and tasks can seem daunting. Online marketing is constantly evolving with new social media tools cropping up all of the time. It can be hard to keep up. You might be wondering if it is even worth taking your business online. However, the question you should be asking is, can your business afford to be without it?

Social Media is Mainstream – Are you Up To Speed?

Over the months we have covered the importance of social media in this publication. As little as 2 years ago local businesses took a lot of persuading to get involved with social media. It was seen as a fad and most people thought that it would be replaced by something else.

Today, there is no longer that battle between social media and mainstream marketing. Social media IS the mainstream. Both Titter and Facebook each have over a billion users and people are spending more time on social networks than they do on email.

Concentrate on Making Your Business Findable!

Just because ‘everyone else is doing it’ isn’t normally a compelling enough reason to do something but if your competitors are on Twitter and Facebook and you’re not, you may be missing out.

More importantly, it is more than likely that the very people you are trying to reach out to are on these sites. If your customers (or potential customers) are using social media sites, you need to use it too.

The staggering figures that were mentioned earlier, speak for themselves: social media sites are not a fad and they are not going to go away. A broad range of people use these sites and some of them will be your ideal target customers and prospects so it makes sense to make your business findable. If you can make your products or services easy to find online then you are halfway there.

There is no doubt about it; social media is mainstream. If you’re not using it yet then we can stress enough how much you need to get up to speed …and fast.

The good news is that you don’t need to do everything and it is easy to learn some of the basics. We will show you which bits to focus on and why.

The Evolving Web

When British scientist Tim Berners-Lee invented something called the World Wide Web in 1990 he could scarcely have imagined what it has become today and how big a part of our everyday lives it is.

Not only has it integrated into our social lives but it has become an essential business tool and a creative multimedia platform. It is now with us wherever we go thanks to the other technological trend, the Smartphone. These two innovations are interconnected and have a direct impact on the way we do business.

The Social Web

We all use the Internet to connect with our friends, express our personalities and opinions, publish our photos or watch a video. Online marketing has become social too.

Having a presence on social media sites is a necessary for all businesses but that is only part of the story. Yes, you might have squillions of followers but are they buying anything? We have seen so many businesses get carried away by how many followers they have and they totally forget why they are on social networks in the first place – that is to engage with their community and build their brand.

If you want your business to succeed online you need to ensure that you have a web presence on the main social websites so that your business can be found in the places your customers spend their online time. Social media is perfect for building relationships with your customers. It generates customer loyalty and increases sales.

The Visual Web

Have you noticed how visual the web has become recently? Not so long ago the internet was nearly all text with the occasional picture thrown in that used to take forever to download. Now it is extremely visual and this is making it even more appealing to people like your customers.

There are a number of reasons why the internet is more visual. There have been massive improvements in technology which makes it easier and faster for images to be seen. Superfast wireless broadband means pictures download instantly and video streams effortlessly for most people. Technological developments have made photo and video sharing sites not only possible, but popular. They have captures the public’s imagination and they are now part of people’s everyday routine.

Another reason is shrinking attention spans especially for things online – there is so much online information to wade through these days. Who has the time to read lengthy paragraphs of text? We want succinct blog posts, short videos and pictures. We want something that will show us at a glance if we’ve found what we are looking for. Something that will attract our attention and draw us in. Most of all we want something that looks good so that we will want to click on it and share with our friends.

That is one reason why Pinterest is such a success. As an online scrapbook of images it is attractive – even addictive. As a social bookmarking site it drives more traffic to websites than previous text-based ones such as Delicious. There is a reason why Facebook paid so much to acquire Instagram.

It isn’t just the new social sites who recognise our desire for visual interaction. Even the older social networks like Facebook are becoming more visual. Facebook’s Timeline layout gives more weight to images. Facebook, Twitter and Google+ all have prominent header images on profiles now. This is becoming the norm for what social networks look like.

What does this mean for your business?

1. You need to use plenty of images on your social networking sites.
2. You need to make sure that you use images on any web page or blog post so that people can ‘pin’ them to Pinterest – they can’t share your content if you don’t have a pinnable image.

The Mobile Web

One of the things that has enabled the rapid growth of social media is the increased uptake of Smartphone’s, tablets and mobile web browsing.
More and more of us access the Internet on the move from our phones. Most experts predict that mobile access to the internet will soon overtake access from desktop/laptop computers. In some parts of the world, such as Africa, mobile phones have been the primary access point to the internet for quite a long time.

It is not just mobile access to the internet itself: it’s all of those apps such as Instagram, Vine and Snapchat. In fact all of the social media sites and services are available as iPhone or Android Smartphone apps. The fact that most of us update our Twitter or Facebook status on the move, often including photos and/or location information, is what has driven the growth of these networks.

We are entering a world where all media is social, and all our social interactions are mediated via apps and updates.

What does this mean for your business?

It is more important than ever to make sure that your website is accessible from mobile devices. It needs to be mobile friendly so that it displays well on Smartphone’s. We will be able to help you with this if you are unsure.

Take advantage of all of those social networking apps by using them on your Smartphone. It will save you loads of time and will enable to react quickly on the move.

The Marketing Revolution

The evolution of the web has in turn led to a marketing revolution. The change is not just in technology, but in culture. Hard selling has now been replaced by social engagement.

Instead of indiscriminately shouting sterile marketing messages at people who may or may not be interested in your product or service, today you can easily find people who are already interested in what you have to offer, by tapping into pre-existing online communities of interest or even by creating your own.

In today’s competitive marketplace you need to be findable. You need to go where your customers are, and engage with them in conversation.

This makes it easier to attract people towards your business with engaging, interesting, valuable content that they will seek out. If you can tap into those communities of interest, you won’t ever need to sell again – people will come looking for you.

People have described social marketing as ‘permission-based’ marketing. ‘word of mouth’ marketing or ‘conversational’ marketing. Basically, it just means going to where your market is, reaching them with the information that they want, when and where they want you to.

The rise of the mobile web means that this is now often on the move. This is a shift away from ‘megaphone’ marketing which is randomly shouting your message at a random, diverse mass of people who are probably not interested in what you have to offer. By social media, you are making yourself visible to targeted niche communities. You can engage directly with them with useful content and build up a relationship with them.

Social media marketing works for small local businesses because it focuses on building customer relationships rather than sterile marketing campaigns. Resist the temptation to use that safe, impersonal corporate voice. Instead, stick your head above the parapet and be yourself. You will gain a loyal following and they will warm to you much more because of your personal touch.

There is definitely an advantage to being a small business. Because social media is a personal medium where authenticity matters, it is not always easy for big corporations to use with the same effect. It’s perfect if you are a small business or entrepreneur. You can build trust and make connections by using your personality and being genuine. The social marketing revolution has arrived and you can be part of it.

Getting Started

If you are really pushed for time and can’t wait to get started with all those social media tools or just need a bit of help to kick start your online marketing campaign we can help you.

We offer expert advice tailored to each individual business, no matter what niche you are. We are here to help you to grow your business and become part of the online marketing revolution. Please don’t hesitate to contact us to see how we can develop your online marketing plan.

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