Step 1 - Know Your Business
Before you even sit down behind a computer, or hire a marketing consultant, you need to have all your ducks in a row and you need to have a wealth of information at your fingertips.
Business name, all applicable contact numbers, address (preferably not a P.O. box), relevant keywords (words or short phrases that best describe your business), photographs (products/outside of building), website address, servicing area (if you provide a service, how far will you travel), social proof (year established, memberships, association logos or badges), and videos (if a new business, take viewers on a tour or show a product being assembled).
Step 2 - List Your Business on Several Different Citation Sites
A citation site is a page like Google+ Local. Here you take all of the information in step one, and begin to fill out your profiles. For every citation listing you create, be sure to annotate where you listed it, and the date created. I usually build a simple spreadsheet in order to keep track of the listings. If, in the future, you change locations, you will need to update those listings to reflect the new address. The same goes for telephone numbers and website addresses.
Step 3 - Build Your Social Media Sites
Start with Facebook. It’s the most engaging out of all the online social options. Facebook will require a user account in order to start the process of building a fan page. Once the page is up and running, start promoting the heck out of it! It’s not one of those “if you build it…they will come” scenarios. You need to tell people you exist on Facebook in order for them to find you.
Next, start building pages on different platforms. I use Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. I recently started incorporating my content into a Google+ account. I’m not a huge fan, but now that Google Places has been shifted over to Google+ Local, there definitely is a need for a strong presence.
I could write a book on the pros & cons of each social site, but I want to move on. Only create a few social media pages. You don’t need to be available on all of them. What will happen is, you will update 3 out of 5, and your new prospect will find you on number 4! The first experience they have with your business will be an outdated LinkedIn page that hasn’t been updated in six months.
Only create what you can handle!
Step 4 - Optimize
Utilize keywords in all of your profile descriptions. By sprinkling in those selected keywords throughout all of your profiles, you are not only letting the world know what you do, but you are making it easier for search engines to find you. Be sure to fill out every block that gives you an option to type in information.
A well-stuffed profile looks great when someone lands on your page. Include hours of operation, and accurate contact information. The number one mistake I see is small businesses not including information detailing when they’re open, and not listing an email address or telephone number.
In this case, the more information listed…the better!
Step 5 - Start Blogging!
By building a blog you start to label yourself as an industry expert! Everyone would rather make a purchase from someone who knows what they’re doing. Not only does blogging allow you to project your voice as the local guru, by creating new content you have something new to post on all your social sites, and personal website. New information gives your customers a reason to return.
If you had a stagnant page, and nothing new was ever posted, why would they come back and take a peek?
Google loves blogs. With approximately 80 percent of the world’s search traffic, you might as well give them what they want! Remember to use your key words in your text. Don’t stuff your content with keywords and make it sound unnatural. Write as you were talking to a friend, and you’ll find the right words inject themselves automatically.
Step 6 - Maintain and Manage
Keep things up to date and relevant to your niche. Don’t get in the habit of posting content that has nothing to do with what your business sells, or the services you provide. It’s great to let your customers know that you are human. You can do this by peppering in some personal content, but don’t turn you website, blog, or Facebook page into a diary. It sounds easy, but many bloggers use their platform as a cheap way to ensure their own mental stability! If that’s the case, you might need to hire a professional. Stick with what you know best, and if you are passionate about your business, what you do will shine through your words.
Keep all information current! I can’t stress that enough. Every profile you create is there for the world to see. Technology does not acknowledge when you don’t feel like updating a page, and in turn deletes the profile for you. They keep spreading the word, whether it’s right or wrong.
Use caution when building your online presence. Too much can be…TOO MUCH!
Step 7 - Engage
If you are going to start the conversation, you need to participate in it! Social media is actually replacing a ton of customer support functions. Now, it is often easier for a disgruntled customer to get a hold of you through your Facebook or Twitter page rather than picking up the phone and calling.
Reply to questions! This issue is time sensitive. If a prospect asked a question 2 weeks ago, and you missed it, don’t reply just to reply. Try to engage with them offline, and apologize for missing the post.
The internet has given us some awesome forums that we can use as tools for market research. It’s kind of scary how much information someone lists on Facebook, but it’s usually the same information you’d pay a market research firm big bucks to find out! Leverage their freedom of expression, and develop products to fit their needs. Social media makes it easy to find recurring pain points.
Listen like a spy, and solve a problem!