The following blog post was submitted by one of my former students, who just completed my Internet Marketing Course at SDSU.
By: Ivana Mlinarevic
If you’re a business owner and aren’t taking complete advantage of what the Internet has to offer, well then it’s time to start! To be successful in today’s world of smartphones and instant connection, an Internet marketing strategy is essential. This article will provide you with the tips necessary to defining your business’ social media goals, increasing your online presence, and successfully optimizing your website to better reach your customers.
Find your target audience.
Understanding your target audience is key to defining your social media communication strategy. Once you clearly identify your target market, determining how and on which social channels to reach them becomes easier. Know what kind of information your audience is seeking and provide them with content they find valuable. Remember, quality trumps quantity. It’s not about being everywhere at once, but rather focusing on those social spaces your audience is most engaged on.
Use social media to communicate with your audience.
The beauty of social media is that it’s generally free. Each social network offers a slightly different purpose in helping your company reach its communication goals. Social media is an outlet for business owners to share original content, join in on discussions, and engage with their community. As you begin using various social media channels, you will quickly learn which social networks are fit for your business and which are not.
Post interesting, relevant and timely content.
Internet users look for information, entertainment and community. Share information on your website and across social media channels that encourages positive communication, reaction and interaction. Post content that excites your audience. If you are unable to generate original content, find relevant news or information and link back to the original story. Blogging is also a great way to keep customers up-to-date on new products, promotions, and company news. It’s also an opportunity to increase search traffic (See “Optimize Your Website”).
Images help break through the clutter of social media. They are easy to digest, like and share. Make use of color in your posts, but don’t overdo it. When using images ensure they are relative, high quality, professional, and reflect your brand image. If your images don’t follow those guidelines, your audience will lose interest in your product and drift away from your website or social channel.
Create a blog.
Blogs are a search engine’s best friend. Search engines are able to easily read and categorize blogs because they are text-based. Free blog services include WordPress and Blogger. Use Google’s free keyword research tool to determine keywords relative to your industry, other websites that are competing for those terms, and how many people are actually searching for that term. Once you’ve identified relevant keywords, use them in pages within your blog and include them as tags to help search engines know what your blog post is about. Blog about topics of interest to your audience. Controversial topics are also a good way to spark debate and draw readers to your page. Ask for feedback and respond to comments in a timely manner. Consider making negative responses public and addressing them in a professional way to build credibility.
Optimize your website.
The center of your Internet marketing efforts should be your website. Incorporate keyword phrases you’ve identified (using Google’s keyword tools or WordTracker) that produce the highest search volume and least amount of competition within the content of your website. To ensure your website appears when a user searches for those particular keywords, include as many keywords and phrases in the first paragraph of your website. Linking keywords or building pages around the phrase will also make your keyword optimization a success.
Keep the user in mind when designing your website.
Simple websites are best. Content and design are what keep your audience interested and eager to return. Be consistent throughout your site with fonts and color schemes. Avoid broken links or grammatical errors. Ensure your site preforms the same on all platforms. Showcase new content on your home page in a designated area. Make it easy for users to return to your home page at any point on your site. Finally, come up with a creative way to obtain your customer’s name and email address. Developing a database of information about your customer will help you better serve their needs.
Focus on the customer.
You have less than ten seconds to capture a visitor’s attention once they’ve reached your website. Rather than focusing on self-promotion, use your homepage to tell customers why your product or service is right for them. Include stories, images and information that clearly represent your brand image.
Consider Facebook advertising.
Facebook advertising is targeted, measurable and cost-effective. It’s also a way to quickly grow your Facebook fan base. This type of advertising is especially effective with local clients because of the ability to target by geographical region, occupation, interests, age, and other characteristics. There is no long-term commitment and it is a good way to test which ads are successful with your audience.
Evaluate and measure your engagement.
Enhancing your social media presence takes time, effort and patience. To keep track of what is being said about your company a listening tool is essential. Small businesses with limited web presence might consider Google Alerts, a basic level of social listening. Whereas larger companies might incorporate Salesforce Radian6, which provides a deeper analysis of conversations on the web. These listening tools can also help you keep track of what is being said about your leading employees and competition. A tracking tool such as Hootsuite can help monitor several social networking channels simultaneously while also tracking specific activities within your social networks – a huge benefit if your business is present on many social sites. A web analytics tool that provides information about your website’s activity is also a must. A free and easy to set up option is Google Analytics. Google Analytics can determine sources of traffic to your website, where your best visitors are located, and what people are searching for on your site. These tools will help you build a healthier and more engaging online presence.