Expanded ideas from my presentation for the Greene Co. Chamber of Commerce on using Social Media and Blogs to grow your business.
First, a note:
If you do not know how to do something on the computer, LEARN HOW. Everyone knows how to “google.” If you want to know how to create a link to another website, type “link code” or “html links” or “how to create a link” into the Google search bar. Youtube is full of step-by-step video tutorials about everything from creating a Facebook fan page to creating a WordPress blog. Saying you do not know how to do something is no excuse.
Here are my steps to getting started in Social Media and Internet Marketing. These steps assume you already have an existing business website.
Understand your company’s website. What software runs your company website? Can you add a simple link? Can you change your company’s description? Most small businesses either build their own site or have a local design company set one up. If someone did your website, you should ask to sit down with them for an hour long tutorial. Your website is your first impression on almost every customer. You should certainly have a basic understanding of something so important to your business.
Start a blog. Link to it from your business website. Link from your blog back to your website. Many will tell you blogs have been replaced by social media and are no longer relevant. They are wrong. Search engines are still the primary way people find you on the internet and social media is the way to interact with those visitors. Blogs are by definition constantly changing content. They give the search engines more opportunity to find you. I like WordPress. You are currently reading a free WordPress blog. They make it easy to set with step-by-step instructions on this page. If you come up with a specific question while setting up your blog, google it or check youtube. I guarantee you are not the first person to have that question.
Learn about Photos. People like pictures. Put them EVERYWHERE. But you need to understand some basic principles of digital photos.
1) In general, you cannot take a small photo and stretch it into a larger one.
2) You can shrink a larger photo into a smaller one using the right software (I recommend Photoshop Elements)
3) There will be a limit to the size photo you can post on your blog. Most photos on my sites are 600×450.
4) Using software like Photoshop Elements, you can shrink the size of a photo file without shrinking the size of the photo or lessening its “look.” Important for loading images faster over the internet.
Set up a Business Facebook Fan Page. Provide links to your business website and blog. Update a max of 1-2 times a day. Do not turn your business into “that” annoying friend. Post photos of employees, your office, even some customers. Post about current events in your company and if you make a big sale, mention it. Your goal here is to interact and periodically remind folks of your company. DO NOT turn your business page into your personal page. Invite your real-world friends but remember your friends already know you and know what you do. It does no good to have a bunch of fans who are not all that interested in your business. Your brother may be an enthusiastic fan but will he help your bottom line for the year?
Learn about SEO. Search Engine Optimization is complicated and constantly evolving but there is one principle that remains constant.
– CONTENT IS KING – If you provide content that other people find entertaining and/or valuable, the search engines WILL eventually recognize this usefulness and move you up in the rankings. Keep your content specific and original. Continuous reposting of other people’s articles helps their SEO, not yours.
Your content contributes to these two important SEO functions:
Use keywords, especially in post titles, but do not over do it. If your article reads like a keyword list, it is obvious to the reader and turns them off. Think about how you search the internet and format your keywords in that manner. If you are looking up a place to eat in Athens, would you type “Athens italian restaurant” or would you type “Athens GA italian restaurant.” Hopefully you would search the second choice unless you are planning a trip to Greece.
Backlinks are links to your site from other places on the internet. The more backlinks…the more valuable Google, Bing, Yahoo thinks your content is…the higher your ranking. The better your content, the more likely other people on the internet are to link to you. Links from .gov, .edu pass more “linkjuice” to you.
Can you pay someone to do this? There are plenty of companies out there that say they can put your business on the first page in a few short days. VERY few actually work. Those that do are likely using an under-the-table, backhanded technique called Blackhat SEO and companies that are truly successful using these unethical means are few and far-between. If Google catches you using blackhat or a blackhat company, you run the risk of getting blackballed or last-page listed. You can remain that way indefinitely. Do you want to risk many years of digging yourself out of a hole and your good domain name? I know of one business on Lake Oconee paying a Blackhat company to get them on the first page. I feel sorry for them if Google ever catches on. Plus they are forced to pay their “search” company monthly in order to maintain rank. Everything we’re talking about is FREE!
Set up a Twitter, LinkedIn, Quora, etc, etc, etc We all agree these can sometimes be boring, repetitive, and seem down right useless. But they are free and if you get just one sale from it, your time spent will be worth it. The more places you are online, the more likely you are to be found. You need a short description, links to your sites, and ALWAYS a photo of some sort on all of these sites. Twitter is great for up-to-the-minute news and information. One example of where Twitter was used in this manner was during the BP Oil Spill. Justin Grindal caused serious headaches for one of the largest companies in the world with nothing more than a free Twitter account. That shows just how powerful some of this stuff can be.
Links to help you on the above topics:
Matt Cutts and a few others are Google’s search guys. They help create the algorithms used in searches so they understand what works and what doesn’t. Here is one of the more valuable videos I found from Matt. It’s a hour long but oh so helpful.
Google Keyword Tool – search keywords and find out how many searches are being done a particular term. The more “Global Monthly Searches,” the more difficult it will be for you to get on the first or second page for that term. That’s why you should concentrate on keeping your topics very specific.
BING – This is Microsoft’s answer to Google and I think it will continue to grow. Facebook is powered by Bing, not Google. You can also find individual Facebook profiles through Bing searches which you cannot do in Google. You should understand the small differences in the two and get in on the ground floor of Bing searches.
Youtube – When in doubt, check to see if there is a Youtube video about your particular problem. For example, I wanted to know how to change the text color in a WordPress blog post so I typed :
” WordPress change text color” (w/o the quotes)
into Youtube and got this:
You can find a video tutorial about almost every single process and piece of software on the internet. Use these to your advantage.