In the past five years, the trend in online marketing has shifted rather dramatically. And I don’t just mean the rise in “social media” - although that’s certainly part of it.
No, what I mean is that there’s a shift in WHERE your business needs to have a presence online.
It used to be that you could focus your efforts on having a website, perhaps with a blog that you’d bolted on to your website to further attract visitors. Then you were typically advised to try to develop as much search engine visibility for your website as you could, and possibly build an email list.
Your primary goal was to draw prospects and visitors back to your website – your home base. It was at your own website where you wanted to interact and convert visitors into paying customers. Your website was the center of your online universe. In the case of many small businesses, your website WAS your entire universe.
Having a home base on the Web is still critically important. I don’t want to confuse anyone on that issue.
But today, your home base – your website -- by itself is NOT enough.
Today the trend is very much toward what I call “creating satellite outposts” across the Web. Small businesses need to have an online strategy that includes a presence not only on their own websites and blogs, but also at key social media sites that attract large groups of people.
In other words, your strategy should be to actively create outposts at key places across the Web. You want people “bumping into” your brand wherever they congregate. That way, you build brand awareness. You stay top of mind with people, so that when they are ready to buy they are more likely to think of you instead of your competitors.
Marketing Maestro Seth Godin talks about this in the context of “getting attention.”
As he says succinctly:
“In an attention economy (like this one), marketers struggle for attention and if you don't have it, you lose.”
So, where should these satellite outposts be? For small businesses, these are the outposts I typically recommend as giving the best ROI for the time and money spent:
Twitter – Twitter is a powerhouse for connecting with like-minded people, developing relationships, getting customer feedback, and increasing brand visibility. It’s also becoming a major traffic driver back to small business websites. I’ve noticed that Twitter is driving a growing share of my traffic. John Battelle made a similar observation about Twitter traffic several months ago. If you have time to create and participate in only one satellite outpost, make it Twitter.
LinkedIn – Every serious professional should have a LinkedIn profile. But to get real value out of LinkedIn, you need more. Consider setting up a LinkedIn Group around your business or around a topic your customers are interested in. Participate not only in your own Group, but join other related Groups too. Ask and answer questions in the LinkedIn Answers section also. LinkedIn is a particularly good outpost to stake out for those that market to the corporate or enterprise market.
YouTube – Set up a YouTube channel where you post videos that relate to your business – whether product demonstrations, how-to tutorials, or website tour videos. People will find the videos by searching on YouTube itself, or by finding video results in the search engines.
Facebook – for many small businesses, Facebook is where your target market is networking and spending free time. You want to be seen there with a personal profile (for personal branding as an expert, speaker or author) and with a business/fan page for your business to develop a community around your business there. Don’t forget to update your business page regularly.
MySpace – If you are in the entertainment business or market to the youth market, a MySpace page is a useful outpost. Otherwise, don’t bother.
Slideshare and other document sharing sites – If you are in any kind of business or profession where you generate knowledge pieces in the form of PDF reports, PowerPoints, spreadsheets, forms and the like, then document sharing sites are a way to show off your expertise. Set up a channel at key document sharing sites, and remember to feed your content out to these sites regularly.