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Have you given much thought to building a brand for your small business? If you’re like a lot of business owners, you haven’t. You spend your days wearing many different hats, handling everything from accounting to ordering to marketing. If you don’t have a dedicated marketing person, then brand building might be a low priority – but it shouldn’t be.
The truth is that even if you don’t have a website, online store, or social media presence, you have an online brand. Recent research shows that 80% of consumers research brands and products online before making a purchase. With that in mind, here are some tips to help you build a solid online brand for your business starting today.
Tip #1: Make sure your listings are consistent
The first thing you need to do, even if you don’t have a website, is to check out your listings online and make sure they are consistent. Your name, address and phone number – also known as your NAP listing – plays a big role in how easy it is to find you online. Even if you have a professional website, inconsistent NAP listings can affect your rank on Google and other search engines. To give you an idea of how nitpicky these things are, keep in mind that even something as simple as having “Ave” on one listing and “Avenue” on another can be a problem. Pick the format you want and then stick with it.
To ensure that you catch everything, do a Google search and then check specific listings that you think might be relevant. For example, even if you have never claimed your listing on Yelp, you might have one there. The same goes for Google My Business and local business directories. It might be time-consuming, but make the effort to go through and claim everything.
If you search a promising directory and find that your business isn’t listed there, find out how to get it listed. Citations, even if they’re just a listing of your NAP, can help to build your online profile and attract people to your business. Keep in mind that it may take a few days or even weeks for your new or updated listings to appear.
Tip #2: Optimize for mobile users
2015 marked a turning point in online search. It was the first year that mobile searches outpaced searches done on desktop computers, a trend that is expected to continue going forward. Combine that statistic with Google’s recent “Mobilegeddon” update – and the promise of more such updates to come – and there is no denying that you have to make your business easy to find for mobile customers if you want to succeed.
If you have a website, then the best option is a mobile-responsive design – one that automatically detects the type of device being used to view the site and adapts accordingly. Such designs ensure that mobile users won’t have to scroll horizontally to read your content, or have to deal with trying to hit a teeny call to action button on their screen.
It’s not enough just to make your site accessible on mobile devices. You also need to do user testing to ensure that your pages load quickly and respond well to user activities. Mobile users are notoriously impatient, and a page that takes more than a few seconds to load will likely see a high bounce rate. If you have a WordPress site, making it mobile-responsible should be easy. All you need to do is choose a mobile-responsive theme for your site. However, if you want a more detailed overview of what is required to get your site mobile-ready, click here.
Tip #3: Network with other local businesses
The #LoveLocal movement is gaining traction online as a way of encouraging people to buy from local and small businesses. One way to build your local reputation is to take the time to network with other small business owners. They know better than anybody else how difficult it can be to keep a small business afloat, and they are often very eager to refer customers to other local businesses to keep the community thriving.
Consider visiting Townsquared and seeking out other entrepreneurs and business owners in your area. You can establish yourself as an authority, learn about other local companies, and even build partnerships and referral sources.
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Tip #4: Use social media effectively
There’s no denying that social media use is high – and getting higher every day. If you aren’t already using social media to build your brand, then it’s time to get serious about it.
A well-thought-out social media strategy can help you connect with existing customers and attract new ones. People love to connect with their favorite brands, but it’s important to remember the “social” in social media. Nobody is going to follow you on Facebook or Pinterest in the hopes of being hit with a barrage of aggressive sales pitches. Your social media content should follow the 80/20 rule. 80% of what you post should be interesting and relevant content that provides value to your followers, and only 20% should address your specific products and services.
Certain industries and businesses are better adapted to some social media sites than others. For example, if you sell an aspirational product that lends itself well to being photographed, especially if your product appeals to women, then Pinterest is a great choice. Facebook is still the most widely-used social media site, and the most versatile. Instagram and Snapchat are highly visual and tend to lend themselves to marketing to young people.
Whatever sites you decide to use, make sure to post regularly and always keep your brand in mind. The voice you use on social media should reflect how you want people to perceive you.
Tip #5: Stretch your ad dollars by focusing on paid social media advertising
Finally, if you’re on a tight budget and don’t have much money for advertising, consider using your dollars wisely by advertising on social media. Ranking for top keywords on Google can be difficult, and the competition (and the cost) is high. Social media advertising is very affordable and versatile. You can target your ad so that it reaches one of two groups: your followers and their friends; or a chosen group targeted by demographics and interests. Research shows that users are most likely to make a purchase when they have repeated exposure to a company or brand. Every time a user sees your ad, it increases the likelihood that they will eventually buy from you.
Advertising on some social media sites is still rolling out and not available to everyone, but Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter all have well-established programs. You can run a Facebook ad for as little as a dollar a day, and they provide free analytics so you can see how your ad is performing.The bottom line is that you have an online brand. Whether you are managing it properly is another question. By using the tips provided above, you can claim your online brand and build it into something that accurately represents your business – and you.