If You Build It, They May Not Come
Don't Waste Your Website
There are plenty of business leaders currently sizing up the new economic landscape. Their companies were humming along smartly when, suddenly, the bottom fell out of the oil-patch. Seemingly overnight the price for a barrel of black gold was cut in half making margins thinner than Celine Dion after a stomach flu. In the good times, it never occurred to them to get a website since they always had more than enough business to keep them hopping. Why waste money on advertising when you don't need to?
Facing Up to the New Reality
That was then. This is now. Alberta has a whole new normal to adjust to. Industry players have finally come to the realization their businesses need to enter the new millennium. They need to get a professionally designed website to engage with current and potential customers. Running a company without a website nowadays would be like trying to operate without business cards back when card exchanging was the secret handshake of the old boys club. It's an online world now and if you're not in it, folks won't have a clue how to find you. Hard copy telephone books are, after all, totally last millennium.
Okay! Okay! I'll Get a Website!
Having a bright, fresh, attractive-looking website built is critical, of course, but even if you get the brightest, freshest, most attractive website in the History of the World, sadly, it isn't enough. No matter what, you still have to promote it. A website won't do much for you if you just let it lay there, no matter how shiny and new it is.
What Are You Going To Do About It?
Since the point of your site is to acquaint viewers with your wonderful company and to get them interested in whatever terrific products, services or information you want them to be aware of, now is the time to begin the promotion portion of the project. In the computer age, it does not usually make sense to try and advertise a website using traditional tools such as pamphlets, mailers or print ads, (although they may still form part of a successful campaign). Unless you have a massive budget for advertising, the best recourse for low cost (though not free) site promotion is social media; the Twitters, Facebooks, Google+ and LinkedIns of the world. (To help you get started, here is a handy four part lesson in Twitter.)
How Do I Know It Will Work?
Often in business, if you are looking for `best practices`, no matter what the issue, a great hack is to start with the most successful companies to see how they meet the same challenge. There is no sense in re-inventing the wheel, after all. It is much better to examine the strategies of the uber-successful and borrow freely from their experience. As far as site promotion goes, what the biggest companies are doing falls under the umbrella of social media.
Look at the world's most ginormous companies. According to this interesting Forbes magazine report, the largest company on the planet is a Chinese bank called ICBC (which stands for Industrial and Commercial Bank of China and not I Control British Columbia, as some would have it.) This firm has the resources to pay top-dollar for any kind of advertising thrust they have a mind to try. What are they doing? The are engaging in the same activities all the other hugely successful companies are employing; namely, using a whole lot of social media (or SM for short, which is very different, by the way, from S & M).
I Thought Tweets Were For Kids and Facebook for Granny's Baby Spam
ICBC has tonnes of Twitter accounts, fields of Facebook pages, and years worth of Youtube videos. A search of LinkedIn for ICBC China yields 3315 results. It wouldn't be all that surprising to find them on the dating site, Tinder. (Which way would you swipe for them?) The same enthusiastic embrace of SM goes for the other big guys, too. It can be safely surmised that they wouldn't be this solidly invested in social media if it didn't work.
How Do I Get Started?
Getting SM accounts is relatively easy and free. A look at each platform will give you an idea of the format and a sense of their unique vibe. From this research, you can pick the SM streams you think will be the best fit for your company. There is no need to embrace them all at this point for each of them will consume time resources and even advertising dollars, if you're so inclined. Just pick a couple that you think works best with your brand.
Be careful about programs that automate your SM presence, however. The S in SM stands for 'social' after all, and it is worse than useless to try and engage your audience using robot proxies. SM isn't a monologue, it's a series of conversations. You need a real person to converse with those who seek engagement with your company. You will also need to engage in some SEO.
WTF is SEO?
A critical aspect to getting traffic to your website is to get Google, the world's most popular search engine by a country mile, to notice you. To do this you must engage in SEO, or search engine optimization to move up as close to the front of the listings as possible. The further back you are, the harder it is for folks to find you. SEO is a complicated process, however and usually needs professional management. If you decide to try it for yourself, however, here are ten tips to get you started.
Ain't Nobody Got Time For That!
Both SEO and SM require a sizeable time commitment for results that may take ages to realize. This is no reason to ignore it, however. Assigning these tasks to a staff member to perform daily can work if the employee has the right skillset for the job. It requires someone who is of good humour, able to deal with angry people without getting angry themselves, be well-written and understand your brand at the deepest level.
Since such employees don't grow on trees (though may swing from them occasionally) the solution may be to contract website promotion and optimization services from a reputable website company. They understand the different media, the importance of brand and their role in promoting it.
Paying money to people to 'play' on Facebook and Twitter for you may sound like folly, but the fact is, it's what every company on Forbes' list of financial giants is doing. Why would you do anything different?