It’s hard to imagine that some business owners don’t take much interest in building an online presence, but according to The Alternative Board (@TAB_Boards) that’s the reality. A recent survey from the organization shows…
- 18 percent of entrepreneurs have no social media presence at all.
- 59 percent see social media as an accessory to their business.
- 22 percent check their accounts only a few times a year.
- 64 percent monitor their accounts only once a week or less.
While we’d like to believe you are as shocked as we are, the odds are pretty good you’re actually in one of those groups. That could be a problem. Here’s why.
1. Your Online Presence Makes Your Business Visible
- Your business website.
- Social media accounts.
- Your blog.
“The way that you rank on a search engine, the way that you position your services or products on your website, the way that others talk about your brand online can make or break a business,” says Alexander.
Pro tip: According to Beth Carter, founder and chief strategist with Clariant Creative Agency (@ClarCreative), the trick to developing a successful online strategy is to know what your clients are looking for and where they’re looking for it.
“If you run a consulting firm that targets C-suite executives who you know are on LinkedIn, your company had better be on LinkedIn, too,” says Carter. “If you run a hotel and you know that customers frequently call you asking for directions from the airport, make sure a Google map is prominent on your website, and make sure that website is easy to read on a cell phone.”
2. Your Online Presence Gives Your Business Credibility
Jodie Shaw, chief marketing officer of The Alternative Board (TAB), says recent research shows that consumers are taking control of the buying process, and many see a robust online presence as evidence of your business’s trustworthiness.
“If a potential customer googles a company they’d never heard of before, and they see it has a website and it’s on multiple social media channels, that presence gives them a bit more confidence in the company,” she notes.
Pro tip: Shaw adds that small-business owners may want to monitor what others are saying about their business online, too. Start thinking of social media and online review sites as word-of-mouth advertising.
In fact, she says, “Customers are now saying they trust third-party reviews or commentary as much if not more than they would their best friend.”
Her recommendation? Value your web presence as much as you would positive word-of-mouth referrals.
3. Your Online Presence Engages Your Customers
According to Gallup, the more fully engaged your customers are, the more likely they are to spend their dollars on your products and services. Gallup’s research shows fully engaged customers…
- Bring 37 percent more revenue to their primary bank.
- Make 44 percent more visits to their preferred retailers.
- Make 56 percent more visits to their preferred casual restaurants.
Granted, there are hundreds of ways to improve customer engagement, but Shaw says one of the best reasons to use social media is that it allows you to interact with your customers in real time.
“You’re able to communicate with them about things that are relevant to them and engage them in a conversation, which builds confidence and trust,” she says. “That gets you loyalty and potential business as a result.”
Pro tip: Carter says your goals should inform your online strategy.
“A local retail shop might not need a super-fancy website; the bare minimum might be enough," she says. "But if the goal is to drive foot traffic each week, then the store owner might need to be extra active on Facebook in order to stay top of mind with patrons and get them excited to keep coming back."
How to Manage the Risks that Come with Online Activity
“Having any online presence comes with a set of risks, like bad reviews, bad photos, or false statements others make about you or your brand,” says Alexander.
Unfortunately, these aren’t the only risks your business faces. You also have to be careful that you and your employees don’t tweet, pin, or share…
- Copyrighted materials.
- Defamatory statements.
- Private information.
The Internet makes all of these mistakes easy to commit. However, if someone accuses you of these advertising injuries, your General Liability Insurance can likely offer some protection. Learn more in our eBook Tweet or Twibel: The Small-Business Owner’s Guide to Advertising Injury.
About the Contributors
Seema Alexander is a business model strategist, transition coach, and speaker. She is founder of seemaalexander.com, http://www.TheTransitionLab.com, and the Life After Corporate Mastermind Facebook Group.
Beth Carter is the founder of Clariant Creative Agency, where she applies inbound marketing methods to help her clients build sales and leverage content in powerful ways. As a communications professional, she brings over 15 years of experience writing award-winning copy for companies of all sizes, from Fortune 100 to the neighborhood mom-and-pop store.
Jodie Shaw is the chief marketing officer for The Alternative Board (TAB), a global company that helps business owners and leaders create better businesses and lives through advisory boards and coaching. She has over 20 years experience in marketing within B2B environments, with close to 10 of those years spent in franchising, and has worked in various advertising and marketing roles throughout her career. Prior to joining TAB, Shaw was the global chief marketing officer and CEO of a global business coaching franchise, which operated in 50+ countries.