To begin with, think on this question:
Where do you look to as your first call when you are trying to find some information on a product or service, a hairdresser, a garage, French lessons or a new supplier?
You go to the internet right. Can we say everything is online now?
Of course we can as long as you are searching rightly…..
Before the introduction of the internet, a lot of us would have resorted to the yellow pages or Ghana telecom directory .etc. which were manual in process. The days of leafing through your yellow pages is over.
Have you ever wondered how many times you use Google or any other search engine to search the web within a day?
According to Google, 97% of consumers use the web to search for local businesses. This is a very fine statistic to keep in mind if you wish to enter the global community from wherever you are. 100 billion searches are conducted every month on Google.
The fact therefore is that, your customers are online and if you are not there too, then they will find someone else who is.
Having a strong online presence is a crucial component of your marketing strategy, no matter the size of your business or what industry it belongs to.
What then is an ‘Online Presence’?
An online presence is how and where you can be found on the web. It is your online representation and shows where you exist. It is your whole existence on the web and other parts of the internet.
It includes your Twitter account and your tweets, your Facebook profile and updates, your Facebook page and updates, your LinkedIn, your follows and followers and friends and contacts, your Instagram photos and captions and comments and likes, your email newsletter, your Etsy store and products, your Pinterest profile.etc.
Your brand is included in your online presence. It dictates the way your online presence looks, feels and sounds. A good, strong brand will always create a strong, online presence.
What are the benefits of having an Online Presence?
It helps you to reach more people. Do you want to go global? Then you better get online!!! Once online, you have access to powerful marketing tools such as Google and the social media. Nothing offline can compete. More traditional forms of advertising just aren’t cutting in anymore. People fast forward through the Ads on TV; they have grown immune to the flashy bill boards and clever taglines. Now it’s all about reaching people where they hang out and talking to them about things that interest them. To do that, you need to be online.
It increases your credibility as a trusted brand. “81% of shoppers conduct online researches before making big purchases.” This is because most customers are pretty savvy these days and are mostly online for all their needs.
Reputation management. “86% of people would pay more for services from a company with higher ratings and reviews”. Even if your business isn’t online, your customers are and chances are that they talk about you! This can impact your business negatively, depending on what they’re saying of course. But if you don’t know what they are saying, then you are powerless on how to maximize the opportunity –or to implement some damage.
It helps build a stronger brand. Your brand is often what will differentiate you from your competitors. Customers may be drawn to your company because of the way you present yourself, the language you use, the beliefs and principles you stand for. Creating a strong brand is therefore a key part of marketing your business and standing out in the crowd.
The online space provides a wonderful platform for small businesses to strengthen their brands. Social media allows you to show some personality, blogging lets you talk about what’s important to you and your website itself is the hub; the place where your customers can explore and learn everything about your business and brand.
Now that you know the importance of having an online presence, these are the first things you need to look at when building your online presence:
Your website: All businesses, no matter how small, should have a website. It can be extremely basic, but it should contain the fundamental information customers- both existing and potential- need. (websites will talked about in details in subsequent lessons)
Social media: Social media is an important part of your online presence that improves your chances of generating additional revenue and building customer loyalty. It allows customers and other interested parties to engage easily via a channel that plays an important role in their everyday lives. Although not every social media channel will be relevant to each business, it is definitely worth looking into for options. For example, Facebook and Twitter will serve a purpose for almost any business- it’s a great place to post news, tips, photos and videos and also ask and answer questions. In addition to Facebook and Twitter, you might find Instagram, Google+, LinkedIn, Youtube, Pinterest, Tumblr, Foursquare .etc helpful. Instagram for example, is a photo-sharing network, so it works wonderfully for businesses selling ‘beautiful’ products such as jewelry, food or housewares. It’s important to consider your target demographic since Instagram has around 130-150 million users, over two-thirds of which are women between the ages of 18 and 35. With Instagram, you’ll also need to keep a smartphone handy to properly access your account and engage with your audience fully.
Search engine optimization. Once you have a website, it’s vital that it can actually be found by search engines. What then are search engines?
The part two of this lesson continues in the next edition.