Every small business has a website these days, right? Well, not quite. And even for those that have an online presence, stats show that many are failing to take advantage of social media and other online channels.
A 2021 poll shows that 60% of UK SMEs were still not using social media effectively in order to grow their customer base – and this was well into the COVID-19 pandemic that forced many online. Even more surprising to those of you who have been digitally connected for years is that
No online presence means financial and reputation loss
Many businesses are losing money and failing to fulfil their potential due to their lack of an online presence too. A Wix study found that small and medium sized businesses in the UK are losing out. In fact, the website builder found that up to £35,000 every month is potentially being lost due to small businesses failing to have a useful online presence.
At the time of the study, it was found that 40% of all businesses in the UK still have no online presence at all. And of the 60% that do, 30% of those businesses are not totally digital, nor are they taking advantage of the benefits of a strong online presence.
In a world that has been knocked about by the pandemic, it’s even more vital to have a strong online presence. Businesses need to be digitally viable in order to build their brands, manage their reputation both off and online and increase their customer base.
Why a website is nowhere near enough
The kind of online presence we’re talking about goes far beyond a basic website, although this should be the starting point for every business. Probably the easiest way to define an online presence is how accessible it is to people online.
Can customers put your brand name into Google and find you straight away? What if they Googled your sector, rather than your name? How high would your business show up in the results?
Around 97% of consumers head to Google to find out about a business or a service they need. Without a strong online presence, it’s far more difficult for all of these consumers to find you. This is why it’s essential to have a strong online presence.
Use social media effectively
Aside from a professional and well-designed website populated with optimised content and useful information, you should also be visibly active on social media platforms. These two elements form the basis of your online presence.
Beyond this, your business should be listed on Google Business Listing, Crunchbase, relevant sector-specific sites, LinkedIn and anywhere else that can concisely display relevant contact information. When this digital base is in place, you can find the right online tools to create the kind of digital space that will work best for your business.
Whether you want to work on increasing opportunities for virtually connecting directly with customers or grow an online presence for a specific demographic, there are loads of tools available. Platforms such as WhatsApp, Zoom, TikTok or Instagram can all be used to successfully boost your online presence.
The pandemic stripped away the traditionally important physical connection between brands and customers and forced many businesses to create and manage their online presence. We saw owners of all kinds of companies find a way to pivot online, including gyms offering virtual fitness classes and restaurants switching to home deliveries.
Even the property sector, which is often slow to digitally transform, switched to virtual tours online. Between 2019 and 2021, according to Experian Economics, there was a 600% increase in virtual home technology use in this sector. And, furthermore, Experian says that the business world has experienced a decade’s worth of digital acceleration in just two and half years.
Learn lessons from the impact of the pandemic
Crucially, those that failed to adapt and embrace the digital sphere during the worst of the pandemic, suffered. For example, Primark lost around £1.1 billion worth of sales in the three months of the first winter lockdown in the UK.
Primark had long extolled physical retail over selling online and subsequently had zero e-commerce capability when the unthinkable happened. Of course, Primark won’t struggle to recoup these lost sales, but it’s a good lesson for small and medium sized enterprises on the importance of a strong, digital presence.
Having contextualised why it’s so important to build your online presence, the team at Igniyte has plenty of advice on how to do so. Here are the basics, but obviously this only scrapes the surface of what’s achievable and what you can do with the right kind of partnership. There is real strategic skill in crafting an online presence that actually works for your business. Randomly setting up profiles on social media is not enough, and without a coherent online reputation strategy, your business can be in danger of losing man hours and wasting money.
5 ways to improve your online presence and why each matter
Below are five basic ways that you can enhance your business or brand’s online presence.
- Master search engine optimisation
We’re assuming you have a website (if not, that absolutely should be the starting point!). We’ve seen just how important it is to have a website, but if it’s not optimised correctly, it won’t be doing your business as much good as it should.
The bottom line is, you want to be easily found by consumers searching your sector or for a service in your sphere. When crafting content for your website, it’s important to understand SEO and write it accordingly.
Ensure also that the website is optimised for mobile, and that all information is accurate. All of these steps will mean your website is more visible to customers on their Google search. And they will also increase the chances of said customer clicking through to see what your business is about.
- Develop a useful content marketing strategy
Content is one of the best ways to boost a company’s online presence. At Igniyte we work with our clients on devising a content management strategy that works for their short- and long-term goals. Content includes all kinds of assets, ranging from videos shared via social media, to White Papers and thought leadership blog content.
Disseminating them across carefully selected digital channels works to boost your online presence in every potential useful area of the digital space. The idea is always to get more eyes on your business website, and this kind of content management does just that.
- Don’t neglect video marketing
These days, video marketing is an essential part of any successful digital marketing strategy. The lessons learned throughout the pandemic on how best to engage with customers and potential customers should now be built on, and video plays a key role in this.
- Allow your brand values to shine
Social media is immensely important for brands and businesses to create trust with customers. Stats show that 78% of consumers want brands to properly use social media to communicate with them. The idea of digital connection is now mainstream across every sphere: personal interaction and consumer decision making.
However, it’s also important to ensure that social media use suits your customer base, rather than taking a scattergun approach and potentially wasting resources curating unnecessary channels. For some businesses, this means sticking with the originals (LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook), while others find they get more mileage from TikTok or Snapchat.
- Embrace online reviews
Businesses can’t escape them, and therefore should fully embrace online reviews from customers. Today, online reviews have essentially replaced the ‘word of mouth’ traction that brands used to get and are trusted by a huge percentage of customers.
And, for businesses, it offers an accessible and affordable way to boost your online presence without too much time spent. Remember that around 87% of consumers check online reviews before making a decision to spend their money – they’re that important.
Consider hosting reviews on your own website or link through to an independent reviews’ platform. The way you interact and respond to reviews is also important so be sure to stay visible. Responding in the right way to any negative reviews can work wonders to turn the situation to your advantage and increase trust with existing and new customers.
At Igniyte, we have years of experience in developing strategic online spaces for clients that boosts their online reputation, sales, and future prospects. Contact us here for more information.