What it means to own a business has changed a lot in the past decade. Entrepreneurs are running businesses from home and using the latest technological advances to manage business efforts with a quick tap of their smartphone. The rise of online shopping, advertising, and social media has forced business owners to think differently about how they promote themselves and how they interact with customers. In order to have a successful 2017, business owners must put in the time - and yes, even the money - into growing a comprehensive online presence.
You can no longer ignore social media
For years, businesses relied on TV, print, and word-of-mouth to make their presence felt. Then the internet made it so an online presence was paramount to success. For a while this meant operating an easy-to-navigate website or online shopping hub.
But now it’s not enough to have a good website. It is very important that you do have one, but if you don’t have a strong social media presence, you’ll be drowned out by competing businesses who do have those pathways in place.
Sure, you can spend money on social media advertising - from Facebook to Twitter to Instagram to Snapchat - but the good thing about social media is that so much can be done for free. Having a presence on a multitude of platforms ensures that wherever a customer likes to spend their time online they can find you if they want. Facebook is especially vital to your success as it’s not only the most popular platform, but it’s the one where you can best communicate with customers via messaging and post interactions. Facebook is becoming the go-to place for customer service. Without a strong presence your business will seem antiquated and out-of-touch.
And when you do create your social media presence, make sure that it keeps in line with your official website and physical presence. Forbes calls it the “omnichannel,” where your “site, app, social media, and in-store aesthetic should be consistent.”
“Cultivating a brand identity is critical for a small business,” says Pinkyotto owner Peter Hsia. “Whatever the client sees or experiences becomes your brand.”
A consistent social media presence is one of the cheapest, most-effective ways to promote your business this year.
Mobile is key
In 2017, your business will lag far behind if it doesn’t focus on mobile. As cell phone usage spiked, so did the time customers spend accessing business information on mobile as opposed to desktop. You can’t just assume that your online presence, once designed for desktop access, will translate well to mobile.
This year you should strongly consider creating a mobile app for your business. As SmallBizTrends points out, it’s easier than ever:
“Small businesses have been slow to build apps for their brands because of the high price point of mobile development. However, there are now a lot of inexpensive, yet effective, options that can allow your company to propel itself into the mobile-centric world of 2017.”
Don’t forget about SEO
Though focusing on social media and mobile presence is important, you can’t forget about the gold standard of increasing your business’ visibility: SEO.
Search Engine Optimization, or the practice of altering or affecting the visibility of your website in a search engine's results, is still vital. If a customer is searching Google for a product or service you offer, you want to show up in those results. It’s that simple.
Though good SEO practices can be learned, it might not hurt to spend a little money and hire a solid SEO firm to help you get started.
In the past, some business owners saw social media and other comprehensive online presence as a bonus - something simply there to aid their existing strategies. But this is 2017. It’s no longer a bonus. It’s now vital to any business’ success.
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