Today, I wanted to focus on how a small business can build a brand while driving traffic to their website for relatively low cost (even free) with good ROI. This article will discuss the ins and outs of social media marketing. Before we start, let me preface with the fact that social media marketing is time consuming. It can be a very effective, affordable means of advertising – but it will require a dedicated investment of time to be effective. As you read the article, you will see what I mean.
First and foremost, you must have a good website or no marketing in the world will help. A good website includes elements of good user interface design that is attractive, functional, and easy to navigate. Text is a very important factor in a good website for two reasons. First, text is part of the way search engines like Google and Yahoo catalogue your website. Search engines ignore pictures and Flash components. So if your website is completely designed in Flash, you are in trouble!
Secondly, people who visit your website depend strongly on text to understand what your site is all about. A well written, well organized website makes your business seem more professional and expresses the purpose of the business. In addition to this, useful, educational text on your website can bring in traffic. People like things that are free. While you cannot necessarily give products and services away for free, you can give free information about topics that support your brand’s image. Not only do websites with educational content attract more traffic they also attract more business as the useful, free content builds a relationship and sense of trust with potential customers.
A blog is a great way to do this. Make sure that your blog is attractive, has good strong, useful text and lots of catchy pictures (you’ll know why good pictures are important in a minute). The educational content should be relevant to current themes of interest in your industry. If you don’t know what current interests are – read the news, other blogs, etc. to find out. Never copy or steal someone else’s ideas. If you are planning to build on someone else’s article (commentary style), be sure to attribute the original idea to that other person and link back to the original article.
Most importantly remember your mom’s advice: “if you have nothing nice to say, don’t say anything at all”. There are great rewards associated with saying nice things about other people and other businesses that complement (but don’t compete or undermine) your business and brand image. For example, you may find that your comments about another business result in that business linking back to your website or blog to “return the favor”.
While it is perfectly alright to disagree with someone else’s ideas, it must be done politely with an acknowledgment of the original idea’s validity even though your thoughts differ in a certain way. If you have absolutely nothing nice to say – say nothing at all. Negativity or bad mouthing another (even if it is a competitor) is unprofessional and just plain old bad business that WILL damage your reputation.
Once you are providing useful, brand supporting educational text – brag about it! Promote your website’s educational content with free tools like Twitter, Pinterest, Stumble Upon, Google Plus, Linkedin, and Facebook. Every time you post a new piece of educational content, post an update on all of the above sites. Also, be sure to add your blog feed to your Linked In profile. For the sake of Pinterest, make sure you have eye-catching images on your site that you can pin. Remember, don’t steal images or pictures off the internet at random – you will get caught and you will make someone angry. We are trying to build a positive brand, not alienate people. With a little effort, there are plenty of free images you can use.
Next, you will need to follow other people on the sites referenced above. There is an unwritten rule, that you must “return the favor”. When someone follows you, follow them back UNLESS their content could be damaging to your site or brand image. Also, when another business follows you, check out their website – perhaps you will find that you can write something nice about them as a extra relationship-building thank you for following me. If you do write about them, tell them so in a quick email to their marketing/sales department (they might just link back to your article).
Another way to build traffic is to comment on other blogs and Linked In group discussions, but here I will caution you to play by the rules!!!!! DO NOT SPAM. In most cases you will be required to either comment as anonymous or register for a profile; always opt for the later and proudly make your name known. Be sure add your website link in your profile. Take the time to read other articles and comments then give your opinion on the topic in a polite, professional manner. Do not just add a comment like “nice article so check me out at i_am_a_spammer.com” – really comment with a thoughtful opinions or experiences related to the article.
Again, you do not have to agree – but if you disagree, do it politely and professionally supporting your opinion with facts/experiences. Those readers who agree with your thoughts will naturally want to know more about you, click on your name, and end up at your website. Readers who choose to actively pursue your site by following the link in your profile are more likely to become good connections. Further, playing by the rules (not spamming or adding junk comments) will develop your positive brand image as a good business person who respects others 'property' while making your name more widely known.
So, I think that’s enough for just now. I will post another article with more affordable advertising ideas shortly. In closing, I will remind social media marketing can generate a positive ROI if you follow the rules. However, it will take time and dedication – Rome wasn’t built in a day. The industry research, blog and discussion comments, tweeting, pinning, linking, writing, replying to comments, etc. required to successfully grow a social media marketing campaign is time consuming. Depending on your aspirations for growth and brand development, this may be a full-time job. Considering how big and important this is, you may consider hiring a person or company who knows how to do it right.