Sort Out Your Digital Footprint
By now, almost all businesses have worked out they need some sort of online presence. But few realise that to stand out online, you need to cover more than just one area of the vast online world.
Every business is different, so there is no one formula that covers everyone. But, for small to medium-sized businesses, there are some things to MUST cover. In this article, I'm going to talk about them and give you pointers to get the best value for money.
There is no getting away from this. You MUST have a website. Yes, it's going to cost you a few quid, but depending on your needs, it could be as little as a couple of hundred pounds/euros.
I'm gonna say this right at the top: A Facebook Page IS NOT a business website. It's nuts to think it is. This is an article I wrote about it ages ago. It could do with an update, but it's mostly all still relevant today.
The type and size of website you need depends on your business and what you want to achieve with it. If you want to sell online, you need to be prepared for a chunky investment in the site itself, plus at least the same again in some online marketing to get traffic to it. You also need to be prepared to invest substantial time to it too. Have a read of this article about the realities of selling online.
In many cases, a simple and cheap "placeholder" website will do. This will cover the minimum for you...
- Get your business in the search results
- Give people an easy-to-find place to get your business info (contact details, opening times etc.)
- Tell people a little about what you do and who you are.
For something simple, expect to pay £300-400 / €350-450. Less if you opt for a template-powered website.
The key thing with getting a website is not to allow your chosen web company to talk you into spending more than you need. Over-selling and over-promising are rife in the website business. Don't get conned!
Google My Business
(Also known as Google Places, Google Local and Google Business Profile: Google LOVES to change the name for things, constantly!)
Once you have your website sorted, you absolutely must get a Google My Business (GMB). It's part of the Google search ecosystem that is getting more and more important, yet is still mostly ignored by the majority of businesses. It's entirely free, too, so it's mad not to utilise it.
Once you've set up your GMB/Places/Local listing, you can literally jump to the first page of local search results overnight. I know. I've seen it happen.
You can learn more about Google My Business in this recent article.
It can be a bit complex to set up correctly, so if you need help, I can do that for you. It costs about £2-300/€250-300, but it saves time and means it's done right. But you can do it yourself if you have the time available to put into it.
Facebook Page (maybe)
While a Facebook Page is not and can not be your website, it can be useful for some businesses.
If you're a business that sells or offers services to the public (B2C), it's fairly important you have a Facebook Page. If you sell to/service other businesses (B2B), a Facebook Page is less important. I'd even go so far as to say not important.
Facebook still has a reasonably well-spread age group. Accurate stats are hard to come by, but it's claimed 18.1% of people between the ages of 18-24 use Facebook. 25.7% of people between the ages of 25-34 use Facebook. 18.1% of people between the ages of 35-44 use Facebook. 13.6% of people between the ages of 45-54 use Facebook. These are the "official" figures. But, they are based only on accounts setup, not active. My personal instinct is that if your target customer is below 30, don't waste your time with Facebook unless very specialist.
The main thing is, though, if you have one, update it regularly. A Facebook Page that had its last update a year ago looks like a business that has disappeared. And yes, before you check, I know the Caffeine Injection page hasn't been updated since Aug 22. I'm as guilty as the next person on this one. For Caffeine Injection Facebook isn't important, so really I should remove it. But that can be a total pain, as Facebook doesn't like to lose pages. So the advice is: If your business doesn't need one, don't set it up!
If your business is mainly visual, and by that, I mean if you make or sell something very visual, then there is a strong case for being active on Insta. If you're an accountant or sell hydraulic hoses, there is not much point!
Instagram has a younger age profile than Facebook, but not much. If your target customer is 18-25, you'll get much better traction on something like Tiktok or whatever the cool kid on the social media block is this week ;-)
Twitter (maybe, and perhaps more useful than FB & Insta)
Putting aside (if you can) all the politics of Twitter nowadays, and despite the sheer volume of noise on the platform, there is still a strong case to be active on Twitter. For many, Twitter is still the first port of call for getting in touch with a brand and/or company. It's also the first place many go for customer support. Whether you need to maintain a Twitter account depends on a lot of things, and for marketing, it's mostly useless, but as a way of communicating with customers, it can be a great asset.
Don't think of Twitter as a way to market your business. Do think of Twitter as a good communication tool. For instance, I run a private Twitter account for my clients. On it, I put status updates about the business. So if there is a problem (emails down, server fallen over etc.), my clients know to check there first.
TikTok et al.
If you need to be on things like Tiktok etc., you'll already know. If you are not sure, you don't need to bother.
These platforms move fast and require a huge commitment of time and money to get the most out of them. If you don't have that time or money, avoid.
The oldest form of digital marketing, but still the best in terms of Return On Investment. or ROI as it's often called.
Advertising on all the social platforms is damn expensive. Whereas sending out a marketing email to a list of email addresses can cost pennies if you do it yourself. But before you get to that stage, you need to build a mailing list.
If you haven't already done so, get a subscription sign-up box added to your website. Also, get whoever is managing your mailing list to create a unique link that takes anyone who clicks it to a dedicated signup page. Then add this to all your outgoing emails. And whenever you speak to anyone, ask if they want to join the mailing list.
Seriously, I can't stress this enough. I started building a mailing list for caffeine Injection 15 years ago. it's now got over 70,000 subscribers. I send a newsletter to them at least monthly. For the last ten years, I've never been short of work and never had to spend a penny on additional marketing.
I've been offering email marketing to clients for almost as long as I've been building websites (nearly 20 years!), and there are loads of resources on the website about it. The main page about this service is here. There are also various articles in the blog.
That lot might seem a lot to think about, but it's only the start of sorting out your digital footprint. Can I help with it all? Some, yes. As a rule, I don't get involved with social media platforms, but I can be persuaded! But things like websites, Google My Business and email marketing are all part of my regular services.
I'm also available for general advice and guidance. If you are daunted by the thought of really harnessing the power of the web to drive your business forward, I'm more than happy to spend some time with you chatting about options and sending you off in the right direction. Just get in touch.