Digital Marketing Basics: Part 1

So you are starting a business. Or maybe you have a business, but don’t know how to start using the web to get your name out there. In today’s on-the-go marketplace, it’s important to know the most important strategies and tactics to leverage social media and the digital space to promote your business.

The Website

This is the most important foundational piece for any business looking to start out or improve their digital marketing efforts. A website is where you want to drive your customers, whether that is to make a purchase, get information about your company, or just to promote brand awareness. Having a strong, informative, and useful website should be the backbone of all your digital marketing efforts.

If you are looking to create a site from scratch, it is easier today than ever before to make one on your own. Wix, Squarespace, and Weebly are three of the most prominent website builders available in the market. These sites all offer a similar service, and allow you to register a domain name, integrate all of your site features, and build out a website built upon pre-made templates, often for a low cost. You’ll also want to make sure that your website is optimized for mobile devices, something which is more and more important as the number of users accessing the web through mobile devices continues to grow.

Depending on the type of business you are, you might have different goals for your website. If you are looking to sell your products online, linking your site with an online e-commerce system like Shopify to enable customers to purchase directly from your website should be something to look at integrating. If you are a restaurant or cafe, you’ll want your location information and menu offerings to feature primarily on the homepage. There is an almost unlimited amount of information available online for best web practices, but the most important thing to remember is to make your website useful for customers. You want a visit to your website to be a positive experience, and having a cluttered or poorly designed website can be all it takes for a potential customer to lose interest in your business. Keep it simple!

Business Listings – Get your name out there!

Once you have a website up and running, you’ll want to drive traffic to it. One of the quickest ways to promote yourself online efficiently (and for cheap), is to claim all of the available online listings for your business. This is everything from Google My Business, Bing Places for Business, Apple Maps Connect, to Yelp. These are all free listings, and having your business hours, contact information, and address listed on these resources can increase your visibility online and make it easier for customers to find information about you. Having these listings claimed will also help Google and other search engines find you when a potential customer is searching within your industry or business category.

These listings also create a platform for visitors to review and leave comments about your business. Reviews can be a major influencer for potential customers, and having overwhelming positive or negative online reviews can often make or break new businesses. You’ll want to monitor all of the major review sites, and it is good practice to respond to all customer comments, no matter if they are negative or positive. You want to show that you care about the customer experience, and leaving a response can give validation to users who are leaving reviews.

However, if you are constantly receiving the same complaints about your business, no amount of well written responses can make up for poor customer experiences. Online reviews can let you know what you are doing right, as well as what you might change to improve your business.

Social Media

Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, Snapchat, Pinterest. Each of these social media platforms can offer something unique for your business if used correctly. Something which is easier said than done!

Generally you are trying to do three main things using social media as a business:

  1. Increase brand awareness
  2. Engage with your customers (and potential customers)
  3. Drive traffic to your website

Don’t try to create an account on every social platform at the start. Using social media effectively can be a challenge, especially if you are trying to balance everything else involved with running a business.  Explore each social media platform, and then choose one or two to start with that fit best for your brand and what you are offering. Depending on your customer demographics and type of business, some social platforms might not offer you the return for your time and efforts.

If you are opening a consulting firm for instance, Instagram might not be the best medium to get across your message, but rather focusing on Facebook and LinkedIn to connect with other businesses would likely have a greater return on your time investment. Conversely, if you are a local craft store, Instagram and Pinterest would be the perfect platforms to promote your content. Finding out what works best for you can be a challenge, but once you find that, you can look to create engaging and interesting content for your audiences.

Look out for Part 2 of Digital Marketing Basics, where we’ll go over how to start advertising online and using basic analytics to optimize your online presence.

Guest blog written by Social School contributor CJ Tuff
Digital. Marketing. Education.

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