Tips To Increase Your Visibility Online
by Mike Whaling
You’re sitting on a killer idea. No, scratch that … you’re not sitting on anything. You’re spending hours upon hours cranking on your killer idea.
You throw up a landing page (LaunchRock is so easy, right?), then put your head down again and keep building. There’s just one problem: How can you be sure that people can get the information they need when they hear about you and decide to look you up?
The latest edition of Universal McCann’s Wave report (PDF) explains it best: Your customer might try your website if they’re looking to buy or if they need a specific piece of information, but they’re much more likely to turn to other sources first if they’re looking for social experiences, discussions, or others’ opinions about your brand.
This is your opportunity: The broader your online presence, the better chance you have of making the right impression when potential customers are looking for you. Your site is still undoubtedly the hub of that presence, but you need to look beyond your site … here are four things you can do to make your startup more visible online:
1. Get the Email Address
Wait, isn’t email dying? Nope. Far from it, in fact. Take a clue from some of the most popular social networks — they all use email in various ways to keep their users engaged, introduce them to new content and share various data points.
People will stick with their email address a lot longer than they’ll stick with the social network du jour. (When was the last time you logged into MySpace?) So whether it’s through a registration form, a regular newsletter subscription or an offer to receive some kind of giveaway, get creative and make sure you’re doing whatever you can to build your list. As your presence grows, you’ll be able to steer your subscribers to the exact message you want them to see.
2. Get Creating
You’ve heard it before … content is king. I don’t necessarily agree with that sentiment, but your business should be doing some content marketing.
Content creation is more important than ever in today’s world of social media. But you’re probably thinking, I have no idea what to blog about, and I don’t really have time anyway. Even if you don’t make the time to write every day, there are still lots of ways you can generate information that is newsworthy or useful for your audience. A few ideas to get you started:
- Answer questions: Whether it’s as a blog post, in a FAQ, on a UserVoice page or on Quora, take the time to answer questions. If one person has asked, there are probably others with the same question. I can’t tell you how many times I’ll get a question from a client that I can answer with, “Funny, we just wrote a post on that … let me send you the link.” Those pages drive a fair amount of traffic to our site, and they save us a ton of time, too.
- Develop an ebook, checklist or buyer’s guide: This is perfect for that freebie giveaway I mentioned earlier as a way to collect those email addresses. Help your customer be a more informed consumer, and educate them to your way of thinking at the same time. Lifehacker’s Apartment Hunting Checklist and Target’s Stuff For My Dorm Room list are two of my favorite examples. How can you create a takeaway that adds value by being incredibly helpful?
- “Ambient” Data: Almost every business accumulates some kind of data in the course of doing business — I call it “ambient” data. Technology companies are usually a bit better at capturing this data, but most offline businesses naturally generate data, too. Look for cool ways to turn this data into an interesting story … this cool infographic about photos at MLB parks from social media monitoring startup VenueSeen is a fantastic example, and it got them coverage on ESPN and a number of other technology blogs.
- Visuals: Speaking of infographics, people tend to gravitate to visual information. Visuals can tell stories in ways that words sometimes can’t, and they’re much more likely to be shared too. Whether it’s an infographic, or just some cool behind-the-scenes photos shared on Instagram or Pinterest, look for interesting ways to communicate your message visually. (And keep your phone on you so you can capture those moments as they happen.)
3. Get Social
No, this isn’t just about “engaging in the conversation.” Sure, that can help … but if that’s all you do with social media, you’re missing out. Social media can be your best customer service tool, product research forum, recruiting tool and more.
Do what you do when it comes to social, but first and foremost, make sure you’re listening. Add your most vocal customers to a list on Twitter. Create a private Facebook group and invite some users to provide feedback on new features or products. Find ways to thank your loyal customers who regularly check in at your location. Listen, say thanks, then get out of the way and let your customers do the talking for you. Which brings me to #4.
4. Get Recommended
You might have the best marketing in the world, but people still want to see what others think about your product. In fact, people are far more likely to believe their friends (or even perfect strangers) over anything you could ever say in an ad. Build a great experience and let people know where and how to leave feedback — they’ll be glad to recommend you.
If you’re a local business, look to the usual suspects: Google+ Local, Yelp, Bing Local, Yahoo! Local and Foursquare to name a few. There is probably at least one local site or blog that deserves your attention, too.
By no means is this meant to be an exhaustive list, but my hope is that it gets the wheels turning. Building a broad online presence for your business takes time, but it gives your potential customers a much better opportunity to find you than if you rely primarily on your website.
What else has worked for you to help you build a better online presence for your brand?
Mike Whaling is president of the digital marketing consultancy, 30 Lines. Mike wants to make sure your startup’s story is seen, heard and shared online. His business, 30 Lines, specializes in helping his clients expand their online presence, reach the right audience at the right times, and successfully measure their efforts. Mike also co-founded TurnSocial, a social toolbar for websites. Connect with him on Twitter and Instagram.