Understanding your digital presence can be overwhelming. Having control of this environment can seem out of your reach. The purpose of this article is to educate you on the basics – what avenues comprise your digital presence and how each might serve you.
Your digital presence is the sum of all of the spaces online where your story and your information is available. This might be a combination of spaces which you are aware of and control – your website for example. This may also include spaces you might not be aware of — directory and review sites, perhaps.
In this article I will outline the 3 categories of avenues available in the landscape of your digital presence and the possible ways in which each of these can serve to advance your organization’s objectives.
Will you need all of these right now? Perhaps not.
The mission today is not to stress the need to use all channels. You likely do not need them all.
Rather, the goal is to gain a firm understanding of the landscape available in order to know your options as you develop your priorities and strategies for your digital presence.
Why Your Digital Presence Matters
With nearly all Americans now online and nearly half of all consumers making decisions based on online data, the digital frontier is more important than ever before.
Your potential clients are influenced by your story online. Having a good or bad digital presence can have material impact on your reputation, your revenue, and ultimately, your long term success.
Further, many of these activities can offer low cost forms of marketing – a great value for the impact.
The Top 3 Avenues of Your Digital Presence
When you type a search for yourself in the Google search bar – often a number of options come up. I’ll define the categories of these options and how each might serve your objectives.
This is the place to start and should rank high on the list of your Google results. The website is unique among your digital presence, as it serves as the backbone from which all of the rest of your identity is built.
Really, your website is the only real estate online you own outright, and have the possibility to control 100%. In every other channel, you can see yourself as a renter – while you are there, you must play by the rules laid out by each respective channel.
Further, I advise clients not only to start here and ensure it’s a strong backbone — a mobile friendly, fast loading website with current, relevant and unique content, stunning images, that does a solid job of sharing your best stories, most dynamic achievements, your mission, vision and values… but I take it a step further and recommend that the website deserves to be the place where your content resides and from which your content is shared.
What I mean by this is – you own your website and the content on it. Google will want to serve the most unique, relevant and consistent content. Right now (save for youtube results, and Google+ results which Google owns) the search engine will promote results from search engine friendly websites above content that originates from Facebook, LinkedIn or review sites. Further, content published on social sites may or may no longer be owned by you.
To boil this down, you write a great article to engage your target audience. Where do you publish it first? And where do you share it after? My argument – for the best bang for your effort – publish first on your website’s news or blog page. It resides on your website. Then, from your website, broadcast the link to your social sites, which will direct readers back to your website where they can read it, find other articles, engage other information and get to know you better.
If you only are able to spend time on one thing, and do it well – ensure you have a fantastic website which delivers consistent, relevant and unique content to engage your target audiences.
Your Directories & Review Sites
The next place thing you probably find in your results are channels where you have a directory page, or sites that collect reviews.
The difference between the two is that a directory has information about you – a listing site, like yellow pages, the local chamber you belong to, etc.
A review site may have similar information as a directory – information about you – hours, address, pictures, but the purpose of a review site is to collect people’s reviews of their experiences with you. These are the Yelp, Trip Advisors, Angie’s List, and Google+ reviews. Your Facebook Page – although must be addressed as a social media site, is increasing in prominence on the list of review sites.
First, directories – they are easier to address – conduct a brand check, log in and ensure your logo and information are current. Identify any other opportunities the specific channel makes available and use them! In some you can add a photo gallery, offer a deal or coupon, add product information or menus. Take advantage of the best each directory offers.
Review sites take more work, but are more important. Reviews of people’s experience strongly influence the behavior of your target audience. You must both deliver quality products, services and experiences – while implementing successful processes to request reviews from your happy clients. Identify the moment in your client lifecycle when they are happiest, and ask then to share their positive experience – and be specific — ask them to use your target review site.
I recommend if you only have time for one — focus on Google+ reviews since it will have a disproportionately high impact on your search rankings.
Also – remain active on the review sites to manage your reputation — respond to negative reviews, offer to take an action to ameliorate the situation, and ask for an update to the review. Challenge yourself to do what it takes to change your negative reviewers into your advocates. (I know, easier said than done! It’s really common to take negative reviews so personally it limits and impacts your behavior to the reviewer.)
It’s hard work but important. Review sites, although not invincible to fraud, strongly influence behavior. Consumers want an unfiltered view of the experiences you deliver, and review sites are where this can be found.
Your Social Media Sites
Social media sites offer a unique storytelling opportunity. Not only is your information available on these channels, but the time based character of posting offers the ability for you to share relevant, unique and consistent content to your target audiences to build a following, engage an audience around a conversation of interest and establish yourself as an authority in your industry.
People read what’s interesting to them. Sometimes what they’re interested in reading happens to be marketing — intended to influence, inform, educate with a specific targeted action as a result. Social media channels are great avenues for this.
Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, and others offer opportunity for posting content of varying shapes, sizes and lengths. Twitter limits number of characters, but Twitter’s algorithm serves all posts to followers. Instagram is a photo sharing channel. The posts on your organization’s Facebook Page will not naturally reach all of the folks who like your page… but their paid targeting can greatly expand the number of eyes that see each post.
They also offer varying audience sizes. Each channel offers opportunity for paid marketing some way or another. I recommend each client take the step to sign up for the paid marketing accounts, if only to gain access to the powerful analytics available to see how your content is performing, post by post, and modify your approach based on this.
One other note about effective content on social sites — you might prefer to avoid sharing other folks content because you feel you’re promoting a competitor. I’ll advise – the algorithms that measure your relevance increase your authority as your share interesting and relevant information, especially from other reliable sources. Share other people’s stuff, it benefits you.
I’d advise if you only have time for one social site, depending on your industry, stick to Facebook – it’s the biggest audience with the best targeting, its reviews are increasingly rendering on Google search, and it’s versatile in terms of content and target audiences. Especially if your services are fun, or your products are cute, pretty or otherwise something that people engage as recreation or interest. Event venues, artists, dog groomers, home builders, boat rentals. People go to social sites to socialize and check in on their interests… they are not shopping.
I hope this article has served to layout the basic landscape of the avenues available to you in identifying your presence online and why that matters. Happy marketing!