Marketing your business online can feel a little bit like trying to fill up a swimming pool with an eyedropper, right? There are so many people out there, and not everyone uses the same social media, frequents the same corners of the internet, or uses the same search engines. What’s a small business owner to do?
While I know how you are feeling, honestly, I would advise you to take a deep breath and relax. Internet marketing does not have to be hard, complicated, or even all that time consuming, provided you focus your efforts in the right place and devote yourself to following all aspects of your campaign through to the end. I would even submit to you that you may end up liking internet marketing and feeling much more relaxed about it than you did with the older methods you used in the past.
Internetaphobia: What’s Behind the Fear?
Everything that is new and different is scary at first, and it is no different with internet marketing. Small business owners are often under the (false) impression that they are not tech savvy enough, they don’t have enough money, or they don’t have enough time to make the internet a profitable avenue for their companies. Many think of Twitter and Facebook as sites for casual personal conversation and don’t really get how social media can benefit them. Others scoff at content marketing, wondering what, exactly, is the point, or how they would ever have the time to write meaningful articles for their websites day in and day out.
Let me begin by saying that there are a multitude of different marketing pros out there, some legit and some rather unscrupulous, who would be more than willing to take your hard-earned money and put together an internet marketing campaign package for you, and there are times when this can be really helpful and worth the price. That being said, there are also so many things that you can do yourself with a little bit of time and thought for absolutely no cost whatsoever, and this is where we are going to focus our attentions today.
Just like when you were an infant learning to walk, babysteps are the way to get started in marketing. Do you have a website? If so, great – you are off to a good start. If not, you need to create one. Making an effective website can be done at little to no cost with absolutely no knowledge of HTML or computer programming. Before registering your domain name, look for a hosting site that includes free web design software with your hosting plan. Most of these will walk you through a template, giving you step by step guidance to get your website up and running.
Remember that a website doesn’t have to be big and fancy to be effective. In fact, things like Flash can actually make your site harder for Google to find and affect your SEO negatively. The best bet for a beginner is to keep your site simple and elegant. You can always add on later. Once your website is in place, you are ready to tackle the next part of your campaign: creating a blog.
Blogs: The How and the Why
I like to think of blogs as the original social media. Originally, they represented a free way for non-programmers to post their photographs, thoughts, and ideas online for the general public to see, and a lot of people made connections and started to follow and comment on blogs that they liked, even if posted by complete strangers. Today, blogs are a big part of successful business websites, and you should strongly consider adding one to your website, as well.
Creating a blog is simple enough; most website templates include a blog option in their setup list. After you have the nuts and bolts in place, you are ready to start creating content. Content marketing is one of the best ways to draw in a loyal following, particularly if you create content that is valuable to your audience. This is new to a lot of people, because it is not a message of “here’s my product, and here’s why you should buy it.” Instead, content marketing takes ideas that are related to your business, product, or industry and shares them with your readers in the hopes that they will see your website as a source of something useful.
The best way to explain content marketing to you is by giving you a real-world example of its use. Take a moment to look at the website of the energy drink Red Bull. The first thing you will notice is that you will not find a single picture of a Red Bull drink anywhere on their home page. Instead, this page is entirely devoted to content, including articles and videos, about people doing high-energy activities. Why? Because this makes the website interesting, relevant, and keeps people coming back for more. Would you return over and over to a website that only featured photos and details about a drink? I wouldn’t, either.
While your content marketing probably won’t go to quite the extent of the Red Bull site, it is nevertheless an easy technique for you to put into practice on your blog. Do you sell auto replacement parts? Then create content that is related to your industry, such as articles about how to repair dents, a comparison of metal and fiberglass, or anything else that you think your customers would find to be of value. You don’t have to create new content every day, but strive to post one new article each week, preferably on the same day of the week. This will give your readers something to look forward to and a reason to return to your site.
Delving Into Social Media
Social media is not just a place for individuals; it is also a powerful tool for businesses looking to grow and expand. Once you have your website and blog up and running, consider investing a bit of time into one or two social media platforms. You have several to choose from, including Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, Pinterest, Google+, and YouTube. The mistake that a lot of people make is by diving in head first, creating a profile on every social media site known to man, and collapsing under the pressure of keeping track of it all.
The reality of the situation is that you will find social media much more beneficial and practical if you devote yourself fully to a small handful of platforms rather than do a halfhearted job with many of them. Tell yourself that you are not going to get overinvolved, choose your favorite (or two), and create a profile. Here is a basic outline of your choices, including a suggested posting schedule:
- Facebook – Facebook is the most widely used, and posts here should be made once or twice a day. Use it to have conversations with customers, colleagues, and anyone else interested in your business.
- Twitter – Twitter is quick and to the point, allowing you to send out brief bulletins to your followers. Posts should be made several times a day, and interactions should be as close to real time as possible.
- Instagram – Instagram is all visual, so it works well for restaurants and merchandise moving businesses. Posts should be made daily.
- LinkedIn – Known as the social media site for businesses, LinkedIn is a great place to share information about your company and connect with other business people. Post several times a week.
- Google + – Similar to Facebook but a little more professional, Google + is great for businesses heavily invested in the Google ecosystem. Post once or twice daily.
- YouTube – A video site, YouTube is great for how-to videos, real estate walkthroughs, etc. Posts should be added about twice a week.
Keeping It All Together
Once you have chosen your social media sites, made a website, and created a blog, you need to sit down and develop a good schedule that you are capable of maintaining to keep it all straight. Take time to plan what you want to say, and then keep your posts regular and predictable. You should also plan to devote part of your social media and blogging time to reading other pages and following those that you like. You will find that many will follow you back, and this can help to build your fan base.
As long as you stay organized and keep at it, online marketing can work for you without taking over your life. If you discover that a particular media outlet is not right for you, don’t be afraid to try another one that may be better. Use the analytics tools, make connections, stay professional, and be predictable in the intervals that you post. This will bring in the business, add to your followers, and keep your from becoming overwhelmed in the process.
Feel free to leave any feedback you may have in the comment section below!