As an entrepreneur wearing many hats to get your startup in the black, the idea that you also need to build and maintain your online presence to grow your brand can seem like a daunting task that you donít have time for, but itís of the utmost importance.
Consumers search for businesses and products online, usually on their phones while theyíre on the go too, so itís important that your business shows up online when someone searches for your products and services.
Luckily, creating your online presence doesnít have to be complicated.
What is Your Online Presence?
What does your ďonline presenceĒ actually mean? Your online presence is comprised of your website, your social media accounts, any social media accounts of your key stakeholders or anyone who represents your company, and your business listings.
Your website, social media accounts, and your business listings are important for helping new and current customers, fans, and other businesses find more information about your brand.
How To Start Building Your Online Presence
As a startup, it can seem overwhelming to know where to start when building your online presence. Thereís a lot of work that goes into it, but the payout Ė building your client list, interacting with your customer base, and converting interested people into actual sales for your bottom line Ė are all very rewarding and a necessary part of growing your business.
To help you navigate this large task, follow our broken down and easy-to-accomplish steps to make building your online presence manageable and successful so you can get back to selling and running your business.
1. Understand Your ďWhyĒ & Your Goals
This seems like a no-brainerĖ youíre in business to make money and grow, right? When it comes to guiding your business goals, ďmake more moneyĒ isnít really specific enough. As you start to build your business, you should create both short and long-term goals that are SMART. Download SMART Marketing Goals template.
SMART goals are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Time-bound, meaning that your goal to ďmake more moneyĒ should read more like, ďclose 3 new deals by the end of Q2.Ē Once you have a handful of SMART business goals, they can help guide your activity online and in-person.
Additionally, create a mission statement. As your brand begins to grow, youíll reach crossroads where youíre not sure if a new client or a new direction is where you should take your business. If you create a mission statement for your business, you can treat this statement like a compass. Does this new deal or new direction align with the ďwhyĒ behind your business? Whether you answer yes or no can help you make important decisions easier.
2. Your Website is the Foundation of Your Online Presence
For startups, your website is the center of your online presence. Your website should be the best place for people to find key information about your business Ė what you do or sell, how they can contact you, and how they can interact with you.
Your website can be very simple when you start out. Start with a few main pages Ė a homepage with an overview of your business, an about page with your mission statement that you wrote in step one and information about you as the founder, a service page, and a contact page. If youíre an e-commerce brand, have your products at the forefront of your site.
Lastly, you should add a blog to your website so you can create content for your customers to engage with. This will help people find your site in search and help potential clients convert into new clients. Step 4 covers how to create a content marketing strategy below!
3. Build Your Social Profiles
Youíve probably been on social media for years already, but now itís time to think about how you want to represent yourself and your brand online through social media. The best thing about using social media for marketing is that itís free.
For your brand, create social media accounts that make sense. For example, if youíre an e-commerce brand, Instagram will be more important than LinkedIn. However, if youíre providing a B2B service, LinkedIn will reap more benefits than Instagram typically. Donít overwhelm yourself and sign up for each service without a strategy for how you will use them. Develop a social media strategy for one or two platforms and actually earn sales rather than spend too much time and energy on platforms that donít make sense for your intended audience.
As a founder, your personal social profiles are important too. If you have a team, the teamís profiles can be impactful too. Take time to develop a social media strategy that includes how your team should represent your company on their personal accounts. You want your company represented in a professional way, so make sure you set expectations for consistency and a positive online presence.
4. Develop a Content Strategy
Now that your website is live and youíre gaining new fans and followers on social media, itís time to put a little more effort into what youíre sharing on your site and social media. The foundation for your online presence is set, so itís time to build on to it.
When building your content strategy, itís important to understand your sales funnel and the customer journey. Think about topics like, what questions are the customers asking, what sets your business apart from the competition, and how can you demonstrate your expertise through your content?
There are 4 phases of sales funnel content to consider when youíre creating your content marketing strategy:
- Brand awareness phase
- Research phase
- Decision-making phase
- Conversion and maintenance phase
5. Prioritize SEO and Continue to Optimize
As you continue to build your website and online presence, keep optimizing your content. Once something is published, the piece doesnít have to stay in its original format if itís not attracting readers. As your site experiences traffic and conversion growth, continue to optimize published pieces to help them rank better. Optimize your posts by using Googleís free suite of tools for businesses and understand the keywords that users are searching for.
For additional SEO value, make sure that your site loads quickly and is mobile-friendly. Consumers are often looking for solutions on the go, so a fast, mobile-friendly site is a must-have.
6. Start Building Real Relationships
Once your business is online, success will come the more you are seen. Find an online community of similar businesses and entrepreneurs and start to network and develop real relationships. Do the same with your customers who are really happy with your business. Repeat customers and people who already sing your praises to others online are fans that you should develop relationships with because their business and advertisement of your business are invaluable.
As you build your network, take your influence to in-person events. While youíre working hard building your online presence, attending conferences is a great marketing strategy to fuel content for your site and social media accounts. Let people see that your digital presence aligns with your real-life personality. Attend conferences and networking events hosted by others in your network or plan your own event!
Hosting in-person events can be a lot of work, but having a captive audience who is interested in your subject matter (and products) can be a great way to get people talking about you online. There are a lot of event planning platforms you can use to help keep your event organized. Some platforms are even free to use if youíre hosting a non-profit event or a free event. †††
7. Track & Analyze
The only way to know if your efforts are working is if you start tracking your online influence from day one. Track your website traffic in Google Analytics, the number of likes and followers you have on social media, and what marketing efforts and pieces of content lead to customer conversions.
Building your online presence takes a healthy dose of patience in todayís digitally-focused society, but by tracking your progress from day one, you can see what strategies work well for your brand and what doesnít, which will allow you to hone in your efforts and only spend time on projects that earn you fans, clients, and money
This is a guest post by Cara Benson.
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