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18 April 2012

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Social media can help raise the profile of your business and keep potential customers informed about what you are doing. Digital marketing expert Daniel Rowles explains how...

Social networks and social media are a great way to get an insight into who exactly your customers are and what they and others think of your business.

They can also drive additional direct sales, footfall to your showrooms and influence the buying process. The problem is that there are so many things you could be doing, it's hard to know where to start.

Whether your company is big or small, it is likely somebody is saying something about you or your products online somewhere. That may be a on a blog, through Twitter, on a social network like Facebook or any number of other places.

If you aren't aware of what is being said and where it is being said, you are missing an opportunity. First of all to understand what people think, but also to engage, react and to try to improve people's perception of your brand, product or company.

You're probably familiar with Facebook from having a personal profile, but setting up a business page allows us to communicate in a completely different way. You can post images, videos and updates to your business page and anybody that has 'liked' it will see your latest posts.

Business pages can communicate information on any topic, but remember people use Facebook for fun, friends and family, so keep it engaging and no hard sell.

Then there is Twitter. You can use Twitter to post updates, links to your website, or anything you can fit into 140 characters. Anybody that 'follows' you will then see your tweets. Remember though that Twitter is something people dip in and out of, so they won't read every tweet. And, as with any social media, you need to keep it interesting, engaging and avoid any pushy selling.

We also need to realise that people's buying decisions are often made before they even enter a showroom or speak to you. Google calls this the "zero moment of truth". This is the stage in the buying process where we do research, compare products and look at reviews. Google estimates that 82% of consumers now carry out this type of research online, so ignoring this opportunity will certainly have an impact on the bottom line.

Those that are vocal online about your business in a positive way are one of the best opportunities we have as marketers. By nurturing advocates, you can create an extremely effective way to improve brand image and to directly drive more traffic to your websites.

This comes down to peer-to-peer recommendation. The number of searches done online with the word 'review' appended to the end has more than quadrupled in the past three years. You only have to look at the travel sector and the influence that TripAdvisor.com now has to see the impact this can have.

Social networks can drive the bottom line; we just don't always see the connection because we don't understand what motivates customer purchases. Very often this is what their peers think, have said or have reviewed.
The first practical step in engaging with social networks and social media more widely is to be aware of what is being said.

Many online brand-monitoring tools were too expensive for smaller businesses and larger companies needed to embrace social media. There are not many cost-effective tools in this arena. ViralHeat.com is a good example of a low-cost and very effective tool for monitoring what is happening online for a particular brand, product or company. Even Google Alerts, a free service from Google that tracks particular search terms, can help give us some insight.

Digital marketing gives businesses a unique opportunity to understand and engage with potential customers and drive business in a cost-effective way. Get your website right and take advantage of the opportunities that social media offer.



Building a great website

 

Always remember that however much you engage in social media, a good website will be at the centre of your digital marketing efforts. Here are some tips on building a great online presence:


Think about users first. What will they want to find out? What are the key activities they need to carry out? Never start by thinking what you want to sell them.

 

Keep it simple. Overly complicated websites, long content and confusing navigation will put off potential customers.

 

Think about the search engines. Make sure the words you want to be found under when people do their Google searches are in your content, in places such as headings and copy.

 

Make sure you can easily update and change your site. A Content Management System (CMS) allows you to update and change your site yourself. It might cost more initially, but will save you money and time in the long term.

 

Daniel Rowles
Twitter: @danielrowles
www.targetinternet.com

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