Whenever I engage with a new client who wants me to manage his or website, one of my first questions always is: Do you have any other digital assets? One of the most important factors for any business today – whether it’s a one-person shop or a factory employing thousands – is the management of its online presence.
Online presence is the sum of all the business’ representations on the web: an official website, a blog, and a social media page or account (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, Pinterest, etc.). They all must be managed and treated for what they are – a big army of marketing and customer relations specialists.
The thought of managing our online presence can be daunting, especially when we’re talking about a new business or a business that’s long neglected that aspect of its management. Managing your online presence is crucial for retaining existing customers and getting new ones. Here are the principal steps to take in order to do it effectively.
1. Build a strategy
Your online presence must achieve both short and long term goals. Therefore, before you start designing your Contact Us form, think: what would you like your website to achieve, how can your social media page help, what would the blog support, and which businesses can you collaborate with to benefit all parties?
2. Create a website
Your website is your online home, so to speak – the main venue for all your digital activities: this is the place to tell the world about yourself, sell your products exactly the way you want to, and showcase your services. Think about what’s important for you to show on your website, and get help from professionals (UX specialists, a website builder and a designer) so you can think together about your needs and goals. The thinking process is crucial to creating the website that will work best (until you have to revamp it, of course. Websites are a lot like socks).
3. Pick the right social media site for you
Every social media site features different strengths and audiences: LinkedIn caters to white-collar businesspersons, Facebook’s users are aging, Snapchat is becoming the young people’s app, Twitter is skimpy on words and appreciates wit, Pinterest is for DYI lovers, Instagram is big on visuals. You have to pick your social media site according to your target audience. A watered-down presence on each site is pointless, so pick one or two that will do your message the best service, and start from there. The important thing is to be consistent and articulate.
4. Build your content strategy
Your online presence demands a constant influx of updated content. Your website should be updated periodically to reflect changes. Social media sites demands content several times a week, depending on the site, the nature of your business and your target audiences. Finally, your blog has to show that you’re following the latest trends of your business.
To manage all that, you need to build a strategy for the short term, the next three months, and the next six months. You don’t need to plan what you’ll write in every post from now on, but you do need to know what it is you’ll be talking about in each of these places, so you won’t have to reinvent the wheel every week.
5. Make friends
The beauty of social media sites is that they allow you to create long-term relationships with your clients and like-minded businesses. Use this to talk to your clients and gage what they need, want and think. As for other businesses, use social media to promote collaborations that will bring new clients and increase the number of “friends” and members of your online community.
6. Check the numbers
Sometimes, maintaining an online presence and writing content keeps us too busy to check what they actually bring to our business. There are plenty of free analytics tools out there (Google Analytics is probably the most robust and popular among them) which will enable you to check these monthly numbers. How many people entered your site; how many of those made a purchase; how did they get to your site; how many people reacted to your posts and how many of these made a purchase; and so on. Create a list of criteria you can check every month, according to your business goals. In this way, you’ll be able to know if you’re investing in the right places, or wasting your time on a strategy that is ineffective.
7. And now, start from scratch
The internet is not for the faint of heart. It changes constantly, and what seems like a hot trend today may be looked at as utterly ridiculous in two years’ time. So, never assume that your online presence – however well your strategy may serve you now – is a set constant. Once a year, at least, rethink your strategy, adapt your content accordingly, and reconsider your optics on every place online.