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In today’s ever connected society, it should come as no big surprise that online marketing is critical even for major companies. As such, it makes sense that having an internet presence is also important when it comes to launching a startup or expanding the reach of your small business.
Especially for small businesses and startups, getting established online can be a daunting task. After all, whether your efforts take place in person, on social media, or through blogging and content marketing, there are a lot of other businesses out there competing for attention.
Not only does the internet connect your business with a greater number of potential customers than ever before, but websites, social media, and blogs also allow you to cultivate an active online community around your brand.
Fortunately, while attracting online viewers can be challenging, it is definitely worth it to maintain an engaged community of fans.
All small businesses want to get their money’s worth when it comes to encouraging engagement with their brand, so here are five best practices for growing your online community.
Choose the Right Platforms
While utilizing social media is a great strategy, many small businesses are too ambitious and try to get involved everywhere. This can turn into a major mistake as they find their time and energy is spread too thin, leading to sub-par or inconsistent content overall.
Before starting up a business account on Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, and every major social media network out there, take time to do your research.
Since they share the same (or a similar) audience to yours, try checking out the pages of successful businesses in your field and figuring out what social media sites and strategies are working for them.
Just remember that some platforms are better suited for certain businesses than others. For example, if you sell crafts, more visual networks like Pinterest might be a good fit.
Quick Tip: If you’re just starting a new business and want to secure your business user name across all of the major social media sites, you may want to look into KnowEm.com. KnowEm allows you to check for the use of your brand, product, personal name or username instantly on over 500 popular and emerging social media websites.
Be Likable and Consistent
As interconnected as society is today, large and small businesses alike need to work on how they represent themselves online. Consistency and likability are critical.
This is because people naturally find it hard to trust a business that is off-putting or can’t even manage its own Facebook page on a regular basis.
Especially on social networks, businesses that are boring, unresponsive, or standoffish will quickly be ignored. After all, social media users are there to connect with the people and things they find interesting.
Likewise, since this interaction is happening online and not in person, businesses need to ensure that they are coming across as friendly, helpful, and customer service orientated.
So, whether you update your website on a weekly basis or tweet every day, make sure that you are being personable and consistent.
While sharing personal stories might not be appropriate for every small business, you might be surprised at how much online audiences enjoy interacting with businesses that are genuine and/or unique.
Many businesses make the mistake of thinking of their online dealings as just another way to market their products. This idea is faulty, as very few consumers enjoy seeing constant sales pitches. In fact, businesses that are only interested in promoting themselves are probably akin to door-to-door salesmen.
Instead, when it comes to growing an online audience, small businesses should focus on engaging in conversations and fostering a community.
From asking questions to inviting people to share their own experiences, starting a discussion not only shows your business is interested in what customers have to say, but also encourages further collaboration and online activity.
Create Desirable Content
As most small business owners have heard countless times, the phrase “Content is King” stills holds true. In fact, providing desirable web content to your target audience is essentially proof that your business both knows what its visitors want and is able to fill that need.
Namely, by providing potential (and existing) customers valuable content, you develop trust and credibility with those individuals. In addition, whether it’s in the form of interesting articles or useful templates, your business can also increase it’s authority in that field.
Eventually, if you supply content that people want on a regular basis, your business will become the first source they turn to for help. After all, doesn’t it benefit your business to be known as the go-to place to ask about custom swimming pools or quality office furniture?
Unlike typical marketing strategies, providing desirable content not only builds a positive association with consumers, but also encourages them to check out your business’s related products and services.
Be Available and Responsive
In addition to providing content your audience wants, you also need to be ready and available when questions (and complaints) arise.
This is due to the fact that business websites and social media pages are swiftly becoming the modern day version of a customer service number.
Since technology has made the internet commonplace, this shift makes a lot of sense for our always-connected society. After all, why pick up the phone when you can just ask online?
The fact is that most consumers are using the internet at night and on the weekends, not during the typical 9-5 workday. As a result, they end up posting online rather than leaving a message on the business answering machine because they want their concerns to be addressed as quickly as possible.
While most small businesses don’t need to be available 24/7, it’s pretty clear that customer concerns should not be ignored. For example, consider what happens if your business fails to answer typical social media posts like “Is the online sale still going on?”, “I need help with this issue”, or “This product isn’t working!”
Not responding in a timely manner may cause your business to end up losing out on valuable opportunities such as assisting in a purchase, showing you care about your audience, or appeasing a frustrated customer.
Have questions or thoughts about growing an online community? Please leave them in the comments below.
To your success,
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