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Online presence. This term has become one of the cornerstones of modern marketing. While there’s certainly still value to print and other forms of advertisement, the internet has quickly become one of the biggest, and most complicated, tools for the 21st-century business owner.
Back when the internet started to become influential, simply having a business website was enough to impress potential customers and to assist in marketing efforts. However, just creating a business website now isn’t enough to truly cultivate an online presence and therefore reap the benefits of smart, well thought out online marketing strategy.
To understand the difference between the new engagement model and the older presence model, it’s important to distinguish between hits and shares.
Image via Flickr by the UMF
Think about the common business website. The way the owner of this website quantifies interest in the business is by looking at the number of hits the site gets, or the number of unique visitors in a specified period of time, be it a day, week, month, or quarter. There’s no information here about the time the visitor spent on the site actually reading through the material – they very easily could have clicked the site and then gone to lunch, or clicked the website on accident.
However, when using online tools like Facebook or Twitter, business owners can see actual customer engagement via shares. If customers are engaged with your marketing and share the content that you publish, your name will reach a wider pool of potential client, which, according to Jayson DeMers of Forbes, “makes you easier and more accessible for new customers, and makes you more familiar and recognizable for existing customers.”
Think of it this way: in order to find your website, potential clients have to be specifically looking for you. Even if you have the most beautifully curated website possible, clients have to enter the right keywords or your company’s title into their search engine to reach it. However, if a client shares your content on their personal social media, you’ve just been introduced to a whole new pool of potential customers.
Social media is the easiest way to get that content out into the digital world. That doesn’t mean that this content should only be based on these sites – publishing them both on your website and on social media channels means that you’re getting that information out there on two fronts.
This feeds into the concept of establishment versus cultivation. Simply establishing social media sites won’t go nearly as far as cultivating them. Posting original content regularly on your social site can make a huge difference, as well as creating and cultivating an online personality. By emphasizing individual branding, not only are companies able to create a more approachable, personable business model but also more easily connect to their client base.
Peter Roesler of Inc discusses the benefits of cultivating your presence: “social media marketing helps with customer acquisition by establishing a brand as legitimate. When Internet consumers discover a business or retailer they want to use but know little about, they often check their social media page to learn more about it […] A website establishes that a brand exists, but a social media page establishes that the brand is active.”
This cultivation of an active presence is what makes social media so handy. Websites need to be completely built before they’re launched, but social media can be grown and molded, essentially becoming a digital personification of a business model. This can not only help a company appear more genuine, but also removes some of the barriers between company and client. Social media allows active interaction, including via sharing, while websites are simply a stand-in.
In order to encourage sharing behaviors in your client base, having a dynamic site is far more beneficial than one where you just keep the same information. Creating new content on a regular basis, whether on your own or by utilizing an experienced content writer, gives you postable material that can easily be transferred from your webpage to your social media sites. The more you post on your sites, the more dynamic it becomes. Changes and new information will create more sharing opportunities, expanding your marketing reach.
Content doesn’t have to be complicated – we don’t mean thousand-word articles churned out once a week. Instead, this new content could be anything from small updates to meaningful customer appreciation posts. When you update, it shows an investment in your business, but it also means that your name is popping up more frequently in the feeds of current and potential clients.
Now that you have a system of dynamic, engaging, and shareable content, it’s time to utilize it to improve your marketing campaigns. Don’t bombard your site with information – set up a regular schedule to ensure that there’s content coming out on a timely basis, and leave yourself room for some spontaneous, small updates as they come along.
This process may absolutely end up getting you more hits on your website. Website traffic is absolutely great and important. However, social media visits and shares may end up generating more meaningful engagement, like when a client shares a post of yours that gets you new clients via their social media networking.
While hits on a website can give you a certain amount of information about how much attention your business is gaining, with the rise of social media, it’s now easier to create actual engagement with your users. This turns into easy-to-track business expansion while also allowing you a personalized view of what sort of content works the best as marketing material.
It is important to not treat social media like a marketing experiment, however. As the saying goes, “the internet never forgets.” Bombarding your network with information and different styles of ads can create the opposite of the desired effect. Take some time to formulate your approach if this is your first foray into social media marketing, and check out other businesses you like to see how they handle their online presence before you start to build your own.