The internet is a big place. If you’re going to try to find your way around without a map, you’re going to struggle. What do I mean with a map? I mean, a plan as to how you’re going to actually get whatever you want. For example, if you’re looking for some information then your map consists of going to Google and typing in the right search query. That one is easy and most of us know how to follow it.But what map do you use to boost your online presence? That one is a lot harder. How do you get from where you are now to that distant gleaming city of an engaged and active fan base and brand advocates? Here I’ll explore some of the main routes that you need to take.
The first thing that you need to know about is that you can’t expect to ever get a good online presence if you think the internet is one way. People might engage with you once or twice if the only thing you do is spit out information, but soon after that, they’ll lose interest. You see, our interactions are based on the norm of reciprocity. When we talk, we expect other people to listen and respond.
In the real world, people don’t actually need to do the second step. You can see when they’ve heard and understood you. Online that’s a much harder thing to see. For that reason, it is vital that when people engage with you, you engage with them right back.
Now, ‘thank you’ is a good start, but it isn’t the end. Instead, try to start a conversation, wherever you can. Ask people why they think what they do, what suggestions they can make to make a product they like even better and so forth. When people feel you’re responsive, you become more than just another brand, you become an acquaintance, maybe even a friend. And that is a vital step towards engagement.
I’m always amazed by how much effort some companies put into marketing, when their own house isn’t in order. You click through a link, arrive on their website and wonder if they let their four-year-old niece write the text there, it’s so full of grammar and spelling mistakes.
Your content may not be king, but it is certainly your kingdom. It decides if people stick around or head off across the border towards some place more interesting. For that reason, though marketing is important, don’t neglect the home front. Every piece of content you put up should be of high quality. After all, a piece of marketing will be gone in two weeks’ time, while a piece of content that you put on your website can continue to represent you for months to come. Fortunately, nowadays that’s a lot easier to do than in times gone by.
Here are some tools that will make collecting and managing the information on your website a synch:
• Hemingway app: Often, we think our ideas are very simple to understand when they’re anything but. Then we need some outside help to simplify our language. Hemingway helps a great deal in that regard. Plus the online version is free!
• Grammarly: This is another great tool that catches more mistakes than word does. As an extra bonus, it has a browser extension, meaning it will monitor your writing online and off.
• mastergrades.com: Apps can only get you so far. After a while you might need a human touch to write or edit your work. IN that case, check out Master Grades, as they’ve got some excellent writers on staff.
• Evernote: Of course, writing your website in good English is only part of the battle. You also need to make sure that you’ve got interesting content. For that, use Evernote so that you can collect the stuff that’s really interesting all in one place.
• Yoast: If you’ve got WordPress, make sure that you install Yoast. This program won’t just help you with SEO, but will also help you with writing more clearly – a feature that was recently added.
The problem with complaints is that they’re often not made straight to your face, but rather to a third party. So make sure that you turn on Google Alerts, for example, so that you can find out when your company is being mentioned on the internet. Then, you can find out what people are saying about you when you’re not there, can take steps to deal with their complaints and in other ways improve the situation.
The internet is a quickly evolving place and the moment you think you’ve got it under control is the moment you start to fall behind. For that reason, keep learning. Make sure that you’re always expanding how you can use the internet better and how you can connect with the people that can make a difference.
Personally, what I’ve found to be a very effective strategy is to have a group of people who I can talk to and ask for advice. My friends are exceptionally harsh in their criticisms. That sometimes hurts, but it’s better to hear it from them than to find it out 6 months down the line when it’s already done untold harm. In business, you need a bit of tough love if you want to stay on the ball.
If you know where you’re going and you know what steps to take to get there, you’ve got a much better chance of actually getting there. So don’t just ‘start driving’ when you start out with your small business. Instead, find out what you’ve really got to do and stick to the plan.
The above suggestions will certainly boost your presence online and make it far more likely that you’ll create engagement for your brand. Don’t think that they’re the whole journey, however. Make sure that you stay aware of what’s going on, so that you can take advantage of whatever new developments may come.
Stories by Steven Mehler