Step 1 of any business plan is knowing who your audience is. Step 2 is working out the best way to reach them, start interacting with them, get them on your subscription list and then keep that communication going so that you build a relationship where they trust you and are eager to learn more.
…something I call Catch ‘em, keep ‘em.
Before the digital age this was always the job of traditional advertising methods. So you would advertise where your target group hangs out so that your business can be seen, open a shop where they walk past, drop leaflets through their door, attend networking events where they’ll be, even beam adverts into their personal space via the TV or radio. In reality the principles of marketing online are no different, just the methods of doing so have evolved. Where they are – you should be too!
Today these more traditional methods of marketing are often referred to as ‘offline marketing’, and the world seems to be talking about tweets, re-tweets, Likes, & followers, and if you’re a novice, this can seem somewhat overwhelming.
Where do you find these ‘followers’, how do you attract Likes, what is the difference between a profile & a page and a million other questions.
So I could write an entire book on this topic (maybe I will) but here are my top 5 “how to” tips to getting started.
- Press all the buttons!
One of the biggest inhibitors to businesses growing online is people’s fear that they will do something wrong. It’s highly unlikely you will break anything or your computer by getting going, so my advice is get in there, set up your profiles & business pages and have a go…press all the buttons! Find friends you know or other people who inspire you and model them. Watch and listen to what they are saying and doing, and how they are using these media to grow their businesses. Keep a notebook, (I have a list in my iPhone) for anything I see that I think ‘Wow’ I could do that in my business.
- Find your voice.
Just like any other forms of marketing your message is crucial, and even more so is how it’s delivered. The great thing about social media and digital marketing, because it is so easy to put up (and take down), anything you publish that doesn’t work you can remove it instantly.
The digital age has allowed Jo public to connect directly with their chosen businesses & business people – without having to go through the layers and layers of corporate hierarchy that often exists…and it is this ‘perception’ of 1:1 conversations with an individual behind a company mask that communities really respond positively to.
So inject a bit of personality and openness into your posts and the information you put out there. Almost everything that goes viral evokes a human emotion, usually one we are not expecting such as humour, anger, inspiration and so on.
- Be visible, be where they are
Just like building a network offline, start with who you know to begin building up a community. Then it’s time to go fishing and just like offline marketing you need to spend wisely to get the best bang for your buck. Always focus on where your target audience is. Some of the methods don’t cost anything, just your time, whereas others, specifically the online advertising methods, will require an investment.
– Follow/Like other people
This is the easiest way to get people to like you or follow you back and is a great, easy and free way to build up an audience. Obviously people who just follow you because you’re following them won’t necessarily be interested in your message, but some will and online growth is exponential, once you build up your followers, you will begin to attract others.
– Follow/Like other people’s followers
If you know your target audience is attracted to other individuals, businesses or brands for example, look at their followers and target them by following them. Just as in the previous example you will attract some followers back.
– Post comments on other people’s blogs or forums
The golden rule as always, is if your target audience is involved in the discussion then you should be too. If for example, you know your target audience is ‘New Mums’, get involved in the Pampers, Tesco Baby, Mothercare forums. If it’s Owner Managed Business Owners you are wanting to reach, join in the discussions in an appropriate LinkedIn group etc.
– Create your own Forum, Group or Blog
Every business (particularly consumer based businesses) should have a Facebook page, and every B2B business individual should have a Linkedin profile (and larger businesses a LinkedIn business page too.)
A Facebook Page is effectively an open forum, that’s what you’re doing when engaging people in a conversation. I always recommend businesses create their own Blog, just like this one and ensure their website has an RSS feed so that people can access instant updates. You can also create an industry specific or brand specific group within LinkedIn where you invite debate and discussion.
All of these are free and you can create different forums for difference audiences. So you can have different Facebook pages for different products or brands for example, each with their own following. I also recommend businesses where it’s appropriate, to create membership based communities that may attract a nominal fee, as we do with our Aim High Business Network, which encourages followers to interact through their own forum.
– Search engine PPC (Pay per click) (such as Google Adwords) or Social media advertising (such as Facebook or Linkedin ads)
The great thing about PPC either via Search Engines or Social media is that you can test, test and test some more. i.e. spend a small amount and review your results before investing higher amounts. Most can offer very specific demographic criteria, or key word searches, that you believe will match your target audience, you can then trial your adverts, often on an hourly or daily basis to see what kind of results you get. Try ‘split testing’ different headings, graphics, landing pages to see which convert the best.
This can seem overwhelming if you’re just starting out, but all of the major online platforms such as Facebook etc. have superb support and guides to help any first timers, but essentially its down to point 1…press all the buttons and have a go!
– Banner advertising
Similar to PPC except that PPC tends to appear down the right hand column of the results page whereas banner ads appear across the top. Due to the nature of online behaviour, research has shown that our eyes read more of the information at the top and left of a page, so banner ads tend to cost more.
– Advertising/JVs with other businesses
Some businesses if they already have a strong online audience will offer advertising on their own newsletters or e-zines. And Joint Ventures where you partner up for some mutually beneficial marketing is a great way to expand your audience. If say, for example, you decide to run an event together, both parties respectively communicate to their audience and in the process cross fertilise each other’s lists.
- Join up all your marketing
If you have a Facebook page, or a Twitter account make sure all your other marketing material tells people where to find it. Use your email signature to include links to all the relevant pages, forums and blogs.
It drives me bonkers the number of businesses who go to the effort to create an online presence only to not include the links anywhere on their website, let alone their business cards!
5.Get them on your list
Finally, your goal with any online community should always be to get them onto your list by inviting them to sign up to your regular newsletter. That way they are giving you permission to send them information directly to their inbox which strengthens your relationship even more so.
So, make sure you include newsletter sign ups on all of your digital spaces, your Facebook pages, your website etc. even at the bottom of your emails. Offer some enticing give away as a reward for someone offering you their personal information. What can you offer than immediately that they will gain immediate value from?
No matter what business you are in, you are always in the business of marketing and using the same principles as offline marketing you can create an equally strong brand and commercial enterprise online that either compliments your offline activities or creates an entirely online business.
Nicola Cook is
Award winning entrepreneur and twice published international best-selling author on professional selling and personal & business growth. To find out more about how to generate quality leads on and offline, join Nicola at Company Shortcuts Business Blast – book here companyshortcuts.com/events/business-blast-feb-15/
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