The Bare Essentials: Getting Started Online
Yes, your business needs its own website. You’ve got that set up, now what?
Establishing an online presence for yourself and your business is no longer an exercise in “set it and forget it”. Unlike a billboard that you’d rent along the Island Highway, you’re going to have to work to get your message in front of the right set of eyes. Those of paying, and most importantly of all – local, customers.
Here’s a quick guide to the essentials to get you started.
When it comes to local searchers looking for local businesses, the geographic location of your business is paramount. Today’s consumers more often than not will search for local business while on the go, using their mobile devices and search engines like Google to find hot spots in their immediate proximity. It’s essential for you to stake your claim and plant your online flag-pole.
How do you this? Well, the single most important thing you can do is sign up and verify a Google MyBusiness account. This is Google’s service for local business and it connects to searches completed in the always-popular Google Maps.
Not only can you capture searches completed close to your psychical location, you can include contact information, reviews, menus and even links to your website.
Everybody and their Grandma's favourite social media platform. Facebook’s ubiquity across a wide swathe of society’s demographics makes it impossible to ignore. The premier social platform has established itself as the go-to source for news and gossip – what better place to earn your business a sterling reputation?
The grassroots nature of Facebook is a great way to not only build a following in an organic way and earn new customers, but also retain existing ones. Encourage satisfied clients to leave reviews for you online and to check back often for specials, discounts and events. Most importantly keep your following informed, up-to-date, and, don’t forget, entertained and turn them into raving fans. This way you'll always be top of mind.
Don’t get us wrong, building an online following takes time and commitment, but your hard work and effort will pay off in spades in the long run.
Manage Your Online Reputation
Aside from finding your business in the first place, the internet is the go-to resource to decide on which product is right for you, or which service will likely serve your needs the best.
Online reviews like those that appear on Yelp, Trip Advisor, and even Facebook and Google are the go-to place for satisfied customers to sing your praises. Although, as you are likely all too aware, these online review sites are also bastions for the drying of dirty laundry.
We all know from personal experience that its those negative interactions that are much more likely to gain attention. No matter how well you run your business, these negative reviews are bound to rear their ugly heads - it’s how you handle them that will set you apart.
Although you won’t have editorial control over the reviews themselves that are left on website’s like Yelp, Foursquare or Tripadvisor, you can claim these spaces for your business. This allows you to ensure that the important information about your business (address, hours of operation, contact info) is correct, and also give you the opportunity to respond to any review, both the good and the bad.
So, although you may not be able to control what is said about your business, you can own your online presence and place it in as positive a light as possible. Oftentimes simply acknowledging a negative review is enough.
A website dedicated to your business is only the first step. In order to truly reach your customers where they hang out online, it's essential for you to extend your brand, and manage and monitor how you are perceived online.