By now all of us – or at least most of us – know that we need a website and that the question is what we should do with it, not whether it should exist. Yet I meet small business owners, almost weekly, who don’t have websites and are still deciding what to do about it (if anything at all). On the flip side, I also meet business owners who have brochure sites—the kind of Web presence that never changes, never shares and never connects. It is better than having nothing. But in a world that seems to crave more and more connection, adding something more than just directions to your website is important.
Sure, it is easier to build a brochure site and forget about it (been there, done that). But the bottom line for small businesses is this: We cannot afford to miss out on the opportunity to connect with our people (target market) on their terms.
So where are they? Online? On blogs? On Facebook? On Twitter?
To know where your clients are, you have to know who they are and this includes
- what they like
- where they shop
- how they spend
- what they like to do
- the kinds of things they talk about
If you can put yourself in their shoes (which is easier when you are a part of the market you serve), then you can figure out where they are and what they like — and cater to it.
Hubspot.com recently released 100 Awesome Marketing Stats, Charts & Graphs. This report is a synthesis of marketing data from sources like BlogHer, MarketingSherpa, Comscore and Ad-ology. They say that their sources used original data and research to support their conclusions. In other words, Hubspot did the heavy lifting and consolidated what they consider to be the key online marketing information into one place. The list gives some insight into where people are online and what they are doing.
A few things stood out to me.
1. Millions Are Online
There are a lot of people online (75 percent of U.S. adults) searching for products, local stores, news, advice and more. As small business owners, our products, our local store, our news and our advice should be online too. But it needs to be relevant and put into a language that connects with the reader. In other words, our news doesn’t matter unless it’s important to our audience. How you say it makes the difference.
2. Most Are on Facebook
Chances are that if your people are online, then they are probably on Facebook (93 percent of U.S. adult Internet users). You may want to get that fan page up and give your (potential) clients a chance to “like” you and connect.
3. Email Still Matters
Email is still the preferred way of sharing content. It is the top activity that people engage in online and the top way they share information (Slide on page 95, Chadwick Martin Bailey, September 2010)
4. The Smart People Are on Twitter
I am not trying to be funny (well, a little). Hubspot referenced a report from Edison Research that highlighted the education level of Twitter users. It seems that in comparison to the general population, they are more educated and early adopters who are ready to test and respond to the latest products and services. The Twitter community (21 million) is not the large volume that the Facebook community (152 million) is, but they are educated and focused, making Twitter the perfect place for business networking and relationship building.
4. You Need a Web Home
You need a place online—a website, a blog—that your Facebook and Twitter accounts can send people to. You need a spot that adds value to your clients and gives them a reason to remain connected to you before, during and after purchases. And you need to own that space, build it up and strategize around it (your website).
We have to work to do. But with the right advice, the right tools and a consistently applied strategy, we can get it all done–and get results.
Your article sure echoes a lot of what was said in a social media conference I attended yesterday. If you’re not online these days, no one knows you! No one uses the yellow pages anymore; it’s all done online.
I linked this article on http://www.facebook.com/nametaginc.
There’s so much valuable information for marketers on sites like Facebook and Twitter, you’d be hamstringing yourself by not using them. Not only through my experience working with small businesses, but as a consumer myself, I cannot stress any further the importance of creating a strong online presence for your business. Great article.
I just want to add that #3, Email is viewed by top Internet marketers as THE place to make real connection and sales with an online audience. It’s usually the most intimate space we use online, and it’s the one thing we check regularly and often.
Email is also the most guarded of digital spaces, which makes me remember the number one rule: provide value to your customer with every message.
Thank for the relevant info. You make a convincing impression that being online is critical for small businesses, for whatever you are offering.
Most SMBs would agree with you, but a shortage of time is what often keeps this from happening. The key is to be consistent with whatever effort you make. Twitter would probably require the most regular interaction with Facebook second and email third.
I agree with David. Email is the best place to connect with your customers. Anyone can click to your website, it requires nothing from them, they can easily hit the back button. But when they give you their email address, they’re giving something personal, and it requires trust. So when you send them an email that isn’t spam, and is something that actually helps them, they are far more likely to buy from you or use your service.
Jamillah: Thanks for highlighting the report by Hubspot. Yesterday I had a Twitter workshop, so I will send the participants a link to your post, saying that they belong to the smart crowd! 😉
I have been a Twitter user since January 11, 2007. When did you start with Twitter?
I am a huge proponent of inbound marketing but when talking to firms in the B2B and B2G space, resistance to facebook and twitter reign. They seem to grasp that these sites could potentially send visitors to their web site, but feel the required time too much to be worthwhile. Many think that facebook is best for B2C companies. Twitter is often viewed, at best, as a place to post links to their web site, but few really interact with others on twitter in a meaningful way and therefore rarely use it. Mostly, I find B2B/B2G firms prefer LinkedIn for B2B and find it the most useful for business networking and relationship building.
David I like the way you say this: email is “the most intimate space we use online,…also the most guarded.”
@Robert Brady – SMB owners are time challenged, but I like your advice because it encourages action no matter what. As you say “the key is to be consistent with whatever effort you make.”
I initially thought twitter was for kids who wanted to tell their friends what they were doing every minute of the day (which may indeed have been how it started). Since I started using it for my business, however, it has become my most valuable tool. Articles such as this one, and the chance to tweet new ideas, have opened up a whole new ‘educational’ opportunity.
A very insight full blog post, you mention Hubspot I’ve been dealing with them for a few months now and its a great tool to build your inbound marketing campaigns, linking into Facebook Twitter and Blog posts. The social media tool is really good which is how I found this site.
If any of your readers want to evaluate their inbound marketing I’ve recently created an inbound marketing ROI tool at http://www.integrated-marketing.co.uk/inbound-marketing-roi-calculator/
The challenge our small firm faces is the overwhelming amount of possible venues in which to spend our efforts. Should we neglect remodeling our site to improve our Facebook page ? Should all of us concentrate on Facebook promotions, or should an equal amount of effort go into Twitter account building? Will Twitter account building EVER really take off? Maybe we should try to create regional buzz before trying to attract attention nationwide? worldwide?
So much opportunity, so little waking hours ….
For me strategy always STARTS with a series of questions,
@TODD A–if that holds true for others, then you’re in a great place…:)
@Gloria–I initially thought the same thing…that twitter was for kids (so much more).
The first step to marketing online is about being found. The more places you make yourself available the better attention and visibility you will get.