Are you making the most of your online presence or have you been giving your competitors the upper hand with clients and prospects?
In this digital world, businesses are constantly competing for the attention of consumers, be it to find product information or advice and tips that could ultimately lead to a purchase decision. So it is no longer enough just to have a website or a social media account. There is so much more you need to do to ensure your clients and prospects are visiting your site versus others.
If your clients or prospects had a question about their finances or wanted product information and went looking online, where do you think they would go? Just think about it for a moment...if you aren’t sure where they are going, then they are probably typing their question(s) into Google and visiting someone else’s website – in fact potentially one of your competitors’ websites.
Let’s look at some facts on social media usage...
Australian consumers and social media
The Yellow Pages Social Media Report 2012 (produced from a survey in March of over 1,000 Australian consumers and nearly 2,000 Australian businesses), showed that 48 per cent of consumers that follow a particular brand online want product information and 41 per cent are seeking tips or advice. This suggests that with the right content, there is an opportunity for businesses to build relationships with these information-seeking consumers which could ultimately lead to sales.
It is also worth noting that blogs and reviews have a notable influence on buying decisions according to the report, with 68 per cent of social media users reading reviews (almost 12 on average), before making a purchase decision.
Australian businesses and social media
The report revealed that in the last year, average social media spends increased and the proportion of small businesses with a social media presence increased from 14 to 27 per cent.
But despite the above, a quarter of small businesses have no strategy to drive traffic to their sites. In fact the research indicates that only 22 per cent of small businesses with a social media presence actually update their social media activities on a daily basis.
In essence, this research suggests that businesses are more focused on establishing, maintaining and updating their social media presence rather than driving people to it through regular social media activities and the delivery of regularly updated content. This is surprising given how much consumers rely on the information they can find online to help them with their purchase decisions.
Advisers and social media?
According to Beaton IFA Market Pulse research conducted at the end of 2011, an estimated 48.5% of advisers used facebook and nearly 40% of advisers use linkedIn. Then in February 2012, Zurich asked more than 600 advisers about their increase in usage of social media channels. 36 per cent of advisers said they would start using or increase their use of Facebook, 60 per cent said the same about LinkedIn and 20 per cent about Twitter.
View the June 2012 Zurich social media infographic.
The importance of an online strategy
According to the Yellow Pages report, 30 per cent of small businesses intend to spend more on social media and 58 per cent of small businesses expect to spend the same versus last year. And on top of that, 72 per cent of small businesses believe that social media investment will contribute to an increase in sales.
So clearly the importance of social media as part of the sales process is acknowledged, it is just that some businesses are not maximising this channel and as a result are potentially losing opportunities with prospective customers.
A robust online strategy will help you compete with the businesses that are already doing well in this space. These businesses (approximately half of them, according to the report), are using social media to:
Build relationships with customers
Generate leads; and
Market their products and/or services.
And according to a Loyalty Zone survey conducted of advisers in 2010, advisers who use social media are using it for communication, advertising/promotion and networking.
Clearly these channels present many different opportunities for interaction with users, even if you only pick a few to start with. It’s important to keep your strategy simple and easy to maintain, especially as updating content on social media sites can take time. Here are a few steps you can take to start maximising your online presence:
Determine the business objectives for your site
Consider your audience(s) and what information they need online
Identify key activities to drive traffic to your site; and
Develop a regular content schedule that will support those initiatives.
Remember, the ultimate goal is you don’t want to risk your clients visiting the sites of your competitors so make sure you think about developing an online strategy and start encouraging your clients and prospects to come to you for the information they need.
Six tips for building your online presence
Search Engine Optimisation – analyse keyword search data to develop a clear picture of what keywords you should have in your pages
Google maps – users can search for a local business and your details will pop up
Start a blog – give users a reason to return regularly to your site
Social media – Embrace it for branding opportunities and to post compelling content
Backlinks – Get other sites to link to your site to improve your search engine rankings. This could include writing a guest blog on an industry website
Analytics – Track what your visitors are doing and where they are coming from.