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Making your web presence work – By Rob James

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How do you ensure you don’t spend all day addicted to counting likes, replying to messages or posting general rubbish?

When you know how to do something, it’s almost unimaginable that others struggle with the same topic. I had a conversation with my partner the other day. She was pulling her hair out trying to organise her website, social media and email platforms. It all seemed so easy to me, but it did get me thinking.

She runs a pet shop. It probably has a great deal in common with many car workshops: It’s her business, she has a database of over 2,000 customers, she has accessories for sale (parts), she has a veterinary practice in the shop (maintenance and repair), she has a poodle parlour (valet) and, of course, pet foods (oils and consumables). The business has repeat customers, walk- ins, emergencies, booked appointments; just change dogs for cars!

She had a domain name (that’s your www. bit) and had paid a web development company £400 to upload a static copy of her business card to a home page, which included a ‘contact us’ button which went to a Hotmail address.

She had set up a Facebook page but wasn’t sure what to do with it, and the same went for Twitter. In short, she knew she needed all these things to communicate with her customers but, in reality, everything in her business continued as if none of these platforms existed.

I suspect many of you are in a similar fix. How do you go about finding someone reliable to put this together for you? What should you expect to pay? What should you expect the website and social media to do? How do you ensure you, or a colleague, don’t spend all day addicted to counting likes, replying to messages or posting general rubbish? If you have a decent web presence, you want it working for you and not vice-versa; it is a tricky tightrope to walk.

TARGET LOCAL CUSTOMERS

What do you want from your internet presence? Let’s face it, it is the World Wide Web and your marketing activity should be concentrated to the geographical area in which you operate and one could reasonably assume that this is fairly local – maybe within a 20 mile radius. What’s the point of having somebody in Michigan following you on Facebook or Instagram, they are hardly likely to book in for a service!

GIVE YOUR PHONE NUMBER PRIDE OF PLACE

Your website should be at minimum, a brochure-type website. By this, I mean that it should at least be a static advertisement for all the facets that make your business what it is. People in your town or nearby should be able to find you easily on Google and then get an understanding of the services you offer, hours of business and a feel for how you do things. It will need contact information and a highly visible telephone number and, as stated, this really is a minimum.

DRAW IN BUSINESS WITH TAILORED UPDATES

Keeping the website fresh is also important and you can do this by submitting posts – let’s call them news. News is what you would tell your mates in the pub after work, if you think they will find it interesting then tell your customers and potential customers. It might be you have a promotion, special offer, or experienced something out of the ordinary.

WORK ACROSS THE PLATFORMS

Do you need Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.? It is worth considering all three, but I’d say Facebook at least, to start with. So many people use social media platforms that you would be foolish to ignore them – it is a really valuable tool for distributing information quickly to your audience. Make sure you limit your posts to items that are relevant to your business. You will have direct messages sent via these platforms, treat them as email; reply swiftly. With the correct set up for your website this can all be managed from one location, i.e. you do not have to duplicate your effort. Write your news for your website and let that repost across your social media platforms.

HOW MUCH DOES IT COST?

It depends on the complexity of what you want to achieve. I found a company that built a new site for my partner’s business. They linked all the social media accounts and gave her a handbook that she understands and has quickly mastered keeping her website fresh. We paid for hosting and the domain names which came to £80 for 12 months and a further £200 to link the social media accounts.

In the next few editions, I will go into more depth with how to get the best out of social media; explain the different platforms and help you create online marketing activity that can be effective, not just in terms of responses from prospective customers but cost too.

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