Malcolm Forbes once said, “Presence is more than just being there.”
Small businesses can use that statement as a cornerstone for implementing and maintaining their digital presence.
It’s not enough to have a website if you’re not consistently updating and optimizing its use.
It’s not enough to have a presence on Facebook if you’re not using the social medium to be social.
It’s not enough to establish a digital footprint and then never worry again about how outside influences or a lack of attention may impact it.
In this ever-changing information age, small businesses must be active and strategic in the digital world, not just be present.
Here are five steps you can take to keep your digital presence fresh.
Have The Right Site
To help a visitor understand the center’s mission, interim director Nathaniel Plant and deputy center director Christopher Reich turn to a Topobathymetric map of Tampa Bay.
Every small business should have a website. That almost should go without saying the it. A 2017 Clutch study indicated that 29 percent of small businesses were still operating without a website, but that number was expected to shrink to roughly 8 percent by the end of 2018.
But, while its critical to have a site, it must be effective. As content management specialist Kimberly da Silva wrote for BiznessApps, the site often serves as the first impression potential customers have of your company. How many times do you get to make a first impression? You know the answer.
“Apart from having a visually appealing website, you also need to ensure that the message you’re trying to convey to your customers is clearly presented to them,” da Silva wrote. “Strong visual imagery, quality content, and quicker load times are equally important. Do have your address and contact information easily visible?”
You can accentuate these points by creating a landing page that hits on the high notes regarding contact information and accessibility. As noted by interactivemarketing.com, you have approximately eight seconds to draw the attention of a visitor to your page, or the same amount of time a bull rider tries to stay atop a bronco.
“Your page must utilize the most effective design tactics possible to keep your visitor’s attention and readily satisfy their needs,” Startup Change co-founder Ellie Martin wrote for Duct Tape Marketing.
Do An Assessment
The land elevations in red are relatively high and not likely to flood. The deep blue represents the water. The green hues on the map represent land that is potentially susceptible to storm surge during a hurricane or increasing sea level rise brought to Tampa Bay’s shores by the daily high tides.
Before you decide how to freshen your digital presence, you must assess your current efforts. Analytics can be used to create an entire set of measurements ranging from number of visits to how much time customers and potential customers spend on your site. A quick poll (think Survey Monkey) also can reveal key data points. The assessment should go beyond the number of customers and delve into the type of customer your site draws.
Once you have the data, use it to improve your presence, starting with your website.
However, also look at different social media platforms and make key choices. According to status brew, close to half the world’s population is on social media, and 81 percent of small businesses maintain a presence on two or more platforms.
With the new data you’ve acquired, decide which platform best suits your business and the audience you hope to reach. There’s more than just Facebook and Twitter. Pinterest is widely held as a platform that’s ideal for reaching women. Instagram skews younger and offers a more visual-driven platform.
Sparxoo associate vice president Crystal Lauderdale says to maximize your impact while managing your time, focus on two or three channels that have the best chance of reaching your audience.
“For example,” Lauderdale says, “If you’re targeting a business audience, focus more on LinkedIn than Instagram.”
Web sites and social media platforms must be routinely energized with engagement. The most effective digital presence connects with customers and site visitors on a personal level. Consider an approach Tampa-based fast-casual restaurant PDQ implemented on Twitter.
A few years ago, it took a little-known designation – Jan. 24 is National Compliment Day – and set out to compliment all of its followers on Twitter. It also complimented all its restaurant guests with a free cookie and a compliment, but the social media effort not only created engagement, it earned the restaurant attention from local media outlets.
“Our social and digital presence is a major focus of our marketing strategy as a brand and is paramount in engaging with current guests and new followers on social media,” said Jeffrey Kamis, vice president of media and public relations for PDQ.
Lauderdale, the Sparxoo associate vice president, said engagement also involves regularly posted blogs and other content that not only keeps your website and social media fresh, but improves your site’s search rankings. The better content, the more people will share it on various platforms.
Of course, a small business that doesn’t have the aid of a marketing staff may feel overwhelmed with the demands of staying fresh in the digital world.
Lauderdale recommends creating a calendar to outline plans for thought leadership, blogs, social media and videos.
“This can be as simple as a spreadsheet or a dedicated calendar in your email platform of choice,” Lauderdale said. “Set target dates for writing and publishing and stick to them.
“Set aside an hour or two once or twice a week to plan and draft your social media posts, and then schedule them in advance using a tool like Buffer or Hootsuite.”
No, we’re not talking about moving around in your car or the decorative structure that hangs over a child’s crib and spins in the air.
The mobile phone dominates life in our society today and many people use it when searching for specific businesses or ideas. Your web site needs to be adaptive – able to be displayed on iPhones and Androids. According to Statista, nearly half of all website visits came from a mobile device. And of course, the number of smartphone users is projected to go up to 2.5 billion by the end of the year.
Yet with some sites, you have struggle to manage even simple tasks. A site visitor might have to enlarge it to find certain buttons, or it may load slowly. Big companies have skirted around the issue by creating apps, but small businesses that don’t have the budget for such development may be better off making their regular sites adaptive.
Even some companies with apps, like media outlets, constantly focus on how their sites present on mobile devices. The focus involves not only content but photos, which almost always need to be scaled to a 16:9 ratio to be fully viewed on mobile phones from your site and on social media platforms.
A lot of web designers insist their sites possess adaptive response but investigate and even if you have it and determine what your customers and potential customers see when they access from a mobile device.
DaSilva, the auther for Bizness Apps, says web sites should be able to fulfill these four requirements to be successful on mobile: load in 3 seconds, feature a key message or selling point that immediately catches the eye, be easy to navigate and have a prominent call to action.
Search Engine Optimization
SEO remains a critical aspect to keeping your content fresh on the site. Its demands continue to evolve and change as social media platforms change algorithms and the science becomes more exact. You must work to keep up the trends, but it’s worth the effort.
It’s tantamount to identify key search terms that will help elevate your site in search engine results. At the same time, understand how key platforms have eliminated some terms and phrases that once drove traffic. Once, the phrase, “You won’t believe” typically drew interest on Facebook and Twitter, but no more. It’s an effort by the platforms to minimize click bait. Determine what works and what doesn’t and seek expertise if necessary.
Martin, the co-founder of StartUp Change, advises small businesses to take advantage of the entrée of services offered by Google, such as Google My Business.
“Google’s incredible market share of desktop search engines hovers around 90 percent,” Martin wrote, “If you’re not maximizing your use of all that Google has to offer, you’re basically invisible to most potential customers.”
Another key step: take advantage of near me searches. More and more people aren’t just searching randomly but specifying location in their searches. A lot of mobile devices do it automatically if the user has activated the “location services,” another growing trend given the rise in ride sharing and other factors.
Research from 2017 indicated that one-third of all mobile searches are relocated to location and that number surely has grown in the months that have followed.
“In order to capitalize on these micromoments, you need to optimize your small business’s presence for local searches,” writes Andrew Gazdecki, the founder and CEO of Bizness Apps and a Forbes contributor.
Gazdecki recommends focusing on local business directories (think Yelp) or directories that apply specifically to your business’ niche.