It doesn’t matter if your business is a corner bakery, or a multibillion-dollar investment firm, it’s 2017 and the world has moved online. You need to be there with it. Just over ten years ago YouTube was born, it was a great place to watch videos about cats, but not much else. Now, there are thousands of people making hundreds of thousands of dollars a year through their YouTube videos.
The point is, real change is taking place every year. What was conventional wisdom five years ago, could hurt your business today.
Small businesses are competing with titans of industry by out manoeuvring them online. It’s possible to get the same level of exposure using Facebook, for free, that you could get by spending a million dollars a year on advertising a few years ago.
Established companies are leveraging the wealth of information that’s at their fingertips to better understand and support their customers. By interacting with them on a personal level, real loyalty is being built.
Multi-national goliaths are helping shape people’s perceptions. The previously guarded inner workings of these companies are being exposed, showing that they’re run by normal, average human beings, who also like videos of cats.
The important things to consider when thinking about your online presence are what are the tools, what do you what to get out of it, how will you manage it and what will happen if you ignore it.
What are the tools you should use to build your online presence?
- Facebook – The undisputed king of social media. There are 16,000,000 Facebook users in Australia, that’s close to 7 out of 10 people in the country. That means that 70% of your target audience is probably on the platform, whatever your industry.
- YouTube – While not as big as Facebook, YouTube.com gets just under 15,000,000 unique Australian visitors each month. That’s not 15 million views, it’s 15 million people visiting the site.
- Instagram – The Facebook of picture sharing, has roughly 5,000,000 Australian users.
- Twitter – The younger cousin of Facebook. There are almost 2,800,000 Twitter users in Australia.
- LinkedIn – The more business-focused uncle to Facebook. 3,600,000 Australians have accounts.
- Your website – This tool probably has the smallest reach but the strongest impact.
While there is probably overlap between the platforms, users will use each one for different reasons. It’s important to realise this when you are planning your online presence and what you would like to get out of it.
Deciding on what you want to take away from your online presence should be simple. More money. Interestingly, you have to put income at the bottom of the priority list to be effective. This isn’t the same as online advertising, this is your companies’ online persona.
When looking at what you want to get out of an online presence, try looking at the softer sides of business. You might consider, gaining customer loyalty and trust, increasing word of mouth advertising of your products, better brand awareness and having more informed customers.
The end goal of creating an online presence should be to increase the visibility, trustworthiness and positive perception of your company.
It’s not easy doing this, but it can be simple. If you know the rules.
The 6 cardinal rules of online persona management
- Focus on giving value. Not every Facebook post or YouTube video needs to be a sales pitch. If you run the corner bakery, why not post a few free recipes or a video on how to bake the perfect loaf.
- Content is king. Creating useful content and distributing it increases your visibility online. If you’re not putting anything out, no one is going to notice you.
- Don’t sell too hard. If someone visits your website, you have an 8 second window where they will decide to stay or go. If the very first thing they see is a sales pitch, chances are that they’ll bolt.
- Respect your visitors. Whether it’s your Facebook page or website, the average user has gotten wise to the sales tactics of old. Never try to hide what you are about.
- Be authentic. If you really care about your team or the environment, post a video of your company doing some teambuilding exercises in nature. Don’t just pay lip service.
- Treat it as an essential business process. Dabbling in online persona management is like dabbling in sales, ineffective. You need to have dedicated resources, a clear goal, a strategy and tactics to achieve your goal.
Ignore these rules at your peril. The consequences of badly managing your online presence can be devastating.
The most tragic thing that can happen to a business is “Lost Sales”. This is money that should have been in the bank, but was lost because something happened that made the customer change their mind. If you post something on Facebook that could be seen as racist for example, you alienate most of your customers, regardless of actual race. This could easily lead to the next consequence.
Public Relations nightmares. Your companies’ online persona is just as real to people as its physical one. If you distribute offensive content, the social media monster will devour you. One Facebook post that’s in bad taste can have reporters outside your door in a heartbeat, asking why you’re such a fascist devil.
On the business end of the spectrum, having a bad online presence is like having bad breath at a cocktail party. No one wants to talk to you. If you have an advertisement in a magazine, most people will try to find you online if they are interested, if you have a bad website or Facebook page, they’re not interested.