For many businesses, websites are an afterthought and social media can be optional. But in the age of social distancing, an accurate digital footprint is critical. Here are four ways to help customers find your business online.
Think beyond transactions
A strong online presence is about more than digital sales. Customers and prospects need to be able to find you online.
Consider the hypothetical Joe’s Auto Shop, which gets a steady stream of clients from the neighborhood. Joe never needed a website to attract clients, so he never bothered.
During the COVID-19 crisis, people wonder whether Joe is open and if his hours have changed. When they search auto shops in the area, Joe’s doesn’t pop up, but Manuel’s Auto Shop does, along with his updated hours. Joe could lose customers to Manuel.
What Joe may not know is that he can start to build an online presence without investing time and money into building a website (though he may want to do that later).
Many people use third-party websites to find information about businesses, particularly during reopening and rebuilding. These third-party platforms are a great way to start building a digital footprint for your company.
You can register your business with review sites like Yelp and search engines like Google. (Creating a Google profile for your business only takes a few minutes, though you’ll be asked to verify by mail that you’re the business owner. This helps protect your business but can take a few weeks.)
Yelp, Google and other third-party sites have areas to note COVID-specific changes to business, so you can keep your customers updated.
Not only do consumers use these sites to discover companies, the sites themselves often provide metrics about how many people searched for your business and what percentage engaged to find out more.
Action: Boost your relevance once you’ve registered your business or created a page by asking customers to post reviews. Monitor these comments since they can help you better understand your customers, and good feedback can convince prospects to pick you.
Creating social media pages lets you share information without creating a full-fledged website. You can instantly communicate a product launch, for example. It also makes it easier to have two-way conversations with customers, which can be helpful as you reopen or rebuild.
Which social media platform you start with may depend on the type of business you run and your target customers.
- LinkedIn is a good platform to find corporate clients.
- Facebook or Twitter can help you reach everyday consumers.
- Instagram and Pinterest are especially great if your business is visual, like an interior design firm or a florist.
A number of social media sites also have e-commerce options, so customers can make purchases from your business via the social platform.
Get a website
If you’re seeing a lot of traction on social media, consider creating your own website. It’s much easier today than it was even a decade ago. A number of companies offer “templates” for websites, many based on the type of business you run.
- Squarespace, Wix, and Weebly offer a range of templates for any type of business.
- Shopify and BigCommerce focus on e-commerce.
- WordPress and others allow more custom coding.
In most cases, you’ll just need to follow the prompts to select your website address and domain, enter text, and upload photos. If you’re worried the web-version of your business name is taken, consider adding your city or state to it, and explore “.org” or “.net” in addition to “.com.”
To make your site different from your social media or third-party pages, fill it with unique content, like a blog or descriptions of your products or services. Don’t be afraid to get into the details and talk about what sets you apart. If Joe just got a new tool to let him do diagnostics in-house at the auto shop, he could create a post or video explaining how it makes for a faster and cheaper visit.
Action: Link your Google business profile, Yelp profile, and social media accounts to your website — and vice versa.
As daily life shifts back to the “in-person” standard, the online focus that’s dominated the COVID-19 crisis is unlikely to change. Now is a good time to build a digital presence that helps customers find you and pick your business.