Where and how to start in the online space, that is what most business owners ask themselves when they are ready to get their business in the online sphere. The issue appears when they have bad consultants which come with ideas for campaigns or creation of accounts without even checking if the social sites are relevant for the business or what the background, current status and competition of the business is. Usually by making the mistake to start with campaigns and activities without background, business continue on that bad path and follow goals that are actually not relevant for them. Maybe just because they have a fear inside not to have started something and now accept that it was wrong. But it’s not the end of the world for those who already started bad, they have to stop doing what they do right away, look back, re-evaluate what they did wrong, remove all the activities and goals that are useless, keep the good ones, add others if necessary.
The most important thing to know is where you stand now with your online presence. The questions to be answered is: What, where and how is your Owned, Paid and Earned media. An easy to understand graph is the following one from Forrester Research:
Put everything on the table and detail Owned, Paid and Earned media and see how they perform. Now do the same for your competitors.
After this you will know where you are and where your competitors are.
Now you have to see where you want to head to. That means you have to be realistic and setup your goals based on the information you gathered about your business and your competition. For your goals to be valid, use a specific date at which you want the goal to be achieved. Your main goal is to increase your business, but what do you want to achieve online?
Here are some examples, if you don’t have previous data, add numbers instead of percentages:
- % Increase Sales Offline/Online
- % Increase traffic on your websites
- % Increase social engagement and reach
Keep the goals simple and easy to be measured. Think also about having monthly or quarterly goals, for better decision-making and for tracking if everything is working according to the plan.
At this point, it’s time to see how you are going to achieve your goals. You will have to put on the table what are you going to do and what resources it will take to get to that point. Some example of broad sentences on how you are going to achieve your goals are:
- Increase the usability of the websites, brand consistency and integration
- Develop video and blog content specific to the targeted customer
- Develop engaging activities on social networks for current and future customers
- Integrate products packaging and merchandise with online activities
- Support and create communities around your domain of activity
- Partnerships and link building activities
If at this time you get a sense of the feasibility of the goals and decide that something must be changed, DO IT.
The tactics are helping us to get deeper details about what and how to get to the goals. I will give you some examples of tactics and what they help with, these examples will include: Usability, Content (video/blog/news/how to’s), SEO/SEM, E-mail Marketing, SMO, Blogger outreach, Partnerships, Offline to Online to Offline and Campaigns.
It is very important how easy your online proprieties are to be used. Users are not going to spend a lot of time searching on your website what they need, if you don’t make it very easy usable and understandable they will just go back to Google and find what they need in another place. Make your website be consistent, make information that is important distinguishable, have a good information architecture, create an easy to browse navigation and improve your website based on the data collected from the users.
A bit more to read about Usability on Wikipedia.
2. Content (video/blog/news/how to’s)
Without content there is nothing. Content comes in many forms, flavors and colors, but you have to choose the ones that are relevant to your business and audience. Here are some examples of content:
- Start creating video content based on needs and campaigns. Examples of video content: Videos on how to something, Videos with/from your business communities, Videos on new products, Videos from events, Videos with shop owners or clients talking about your products.
- Start creating blog content with tips and tricks, how to’s and about your company/products. You can even do Partnerships with other blogs and contests to get content.
- Have a news section with the latest product launches and product improvements.
- Have valuable and unique content which is made for your target audience.
SEO/SEM is a lot to talk about, but let’s keep it short and look only at the following:
- On-site optimization : You have to look into the structure of the website, the html code optimization and validation, the internal linking and the meta tags for search engines. There are also other integrations which have to be implemented, an example is Google+, the social network. G+ influences search engine rankings. Be careful not to have duplicate content and use user-friendly urls.
- Off-site optimization: Partnerships and blogger outreach helps gaining more links and authority for your page. Google Webmaster Tools is giving basic tips and trick but also diagnostics which can help you improve.
- Ads: Creating Google Ads on specific keyword searches which have a high search volume will bring traffic to the site, but this has to be transformed into e-mail or social media leads or any other type of lead. Lower search volume keywords can have a higher conversion.
4. E-mail Marketing
Having an e-mail marketing plan keeps users connected to the business on the long-term. It is also a great tool to get good conversions.
- E-mail subscription: Have a visible and easy to use e-mail subscription system with double opt-in.
- Frequency and types of Newsletters: If your business is not a big news website with tens of editors, articles and categories keep the number of newsletter types low. Don’t spam your subscribers.
- Un-subscription and measurements: The unsubscription rate tells us if something is wrong. If it’s high, it means you will need to optimize on the title/content/frequency. Unsubscribing has to be easy.
Social media optimization is more than integrating your website with social networks, but here I will give you some examples of integration:
- Facebook Integration: The website will have to be integrated with Facebook comments for discussions related to the products, only if your business is Facebook friendly. I don’t think that as a law firm you want Facebook integration (“Like” for the best divorce lawyer for example, or comments related to your divorce on the lawyer’s website). Like/Share buttons will be used for social spread, again only on relevant pages. It is very important to control how the shares and likes look on social, that’s why setting up the OG meta tags of the website is important.
- Google Plus Integration: Create a Google plus page for the website/brand and integrate with the website, this is important to get better featuring in Google search. By using meta tags; images or specific content can be shown directly in the search engine page (Author picture for example). By getting +1’s on products, it will show the user’s friend that he liked the page/product. This integrations also shows up in Google Ads if implemented correctly.
- Twitter Integration: Will show more details on tweets about the link the user shares. This will improve the user experience and bring followers on the main accounts.
6. Blogger outreach
Bloggers are important for audience reach and brand awareness, they are almost the same as publications just that they relate more on a personal level with their readers. They also don’t have the same limits as publications. So let’s see how you should go ahead with bloggers:
- Identify Bloggers and create a list: Top Blogger who write things related to your business or products, Top Bloggers who are in your audience, Top Bloggers who are writing about your industry.
- Create content and connect: Create content for each of the target groups but also inspire them to write
content related to the brands and products. Set up a contests and rewards mechanism for them. Create a blogger network inside an already established community.
- Keep Constant Communication: To succeed and get constant content regarding the brands, traffic and links, you need to have constant communication with the bloggers. Give them credits for their hard work and tell them about new things before they go public.
There are all kind of Partnerships, let’s see with whom you can do a partnership:
- Offline Stores: Create a list with all offline stores where the products are sold or use you own shop chain if available. Identify their online assets. In some cases you can get a lot of links and traffic from their online properties, and most likely, it is free.
- With already established communities: Establishing partnerships with big communities get’s a lot of brand awareness and new evangelist members for your brand, if done right.
- Online Shops: Partnering with the biggest online shops available is creating awareness for the business and products. This can be used to attract visitors to the content website.
- Related topics website: Some of the big content websites are open for businesses to create a new category about some sub-industries and have those sponsored by the companies. This brings brand awareness and traffic.
The list can continue and is very dependable on the type of business.
8. Offline to Online to Offline
If your business already exists offline, why not get your current customers online to spread the word about you? Let’s see some tactics to make this work:
- Offline Stores: By having an in-store activity which leads to online, more specific to the business website, you can drive traffic and leads. An example of this would be a flyer or a banner which drives the consumer online for video tutorials.
- Fairs/Trade Shows: Fairs and Trade Shows can have an online aspect, depending on what you promote. You can do a tweet contest, a live video streaming of a contest about your business, pictures of who is visiting the stand and other activities.
- Products Packaging: The packaging can be slightly changed or it can have a flyer attached with further information about the benefits of going online and getting onto the website.
- Events: Local events for the community members of the website can be held. If you have a lot of people from a specific locations or areas, you can setup events where the members talk about their experiences with your business. (Works only for some businesses)
We got to campaigns, usually these are done for a short-term and they should target a benefit for the company on long-term. There are several types that include Awareness Campaign, Promotion Campaign, Customer Retention Campaign, Support Campaign and others, you can read more about social media campaigns here: Doing social media campaigns is easy, right?
Goal achieved and deadline respected, what now?
Now you have to go back to the status, you already know what worked and what not. You have to see if this strategy has really improved your business and fine-tune or change accordingly.