You have a beautiful business that you love. A cute brick and mortar shop nestled on a bustling street or a snug office set-up in a corner of your own home. You’re ready to take the next step and build an online presence to help you grow. But it's overwhelming and scary. To be honest, you probably think it’s a tad crazy out there in the online world. We’re with ya, friend.
But it’s time to face the music and boost that online presence anyways. Because your audience is wandering the world wide web looking for you, but it's as crowded as a Friday night subway ride down there. You need to stand out in the crowd in order to help them find you. And it starts right here, with your online business presence.
Step One: Get Online
That’s right, we’re starting easy. Power up the old computer, double click that internet icon, and start searching for businesses that are similar to yours. Peruse their websites and social media accounts and take note of what you like and dislike. Snap photos or screenshots as you go for future reference. Think about everything from language, color palate, tone, layout, fonts, and photos.
Now think back to any websites or social media accounts (that aren’t in your field of business) that you’ve loved as a user/buyer/customer and note the same likes and dislikes.
Before you know it you’ve got a vision blooming for your own online presence. You just have to...
Step Two: Organize & Make A Game Plan
Break out the markers, the highlighters, the stickies, the giant pad of paper you purchased when you thought you’d take up painting again, and map out a game plan!
As you create your vision, ask yourself these four questions:
What’s the vibe and personality I wish to convey?
Dark and brooding brewery? Cozy and eclectic plant shop? Sweet and lively bakery? Show this vibe on your website AND social media accounts. Choose colors, language, photos, lighting, and graphics that match.
Aside from having a website, (which is a must!) which social media platforms do I want to be present on?
Our tip is to start with instagram and facebook. These platforms are easy to use and, honestly, the most likely place your clients are looking for you. Besides Google, but we’ll get to that later.
How much time, truly, do I have to commit to social media each week?
Not sure? Test run it before you click ‘create account’ and premake your first TWO WEEKS of posts. Note how much time and effort it takes you and decide if you need to create more or less posts. (hint: if you’ve got the $, you can always hire a content manager or copywriter) We know two weeks is a lot, and maybe you can only test a week for now, but baby, you’ve got to start ahead so you’re not behind later.
How will my visitors navigate these sites?
What will they read, see, and click through? Does it feel easy and natural? Will they leave with an impression of who my business is?
Step Three: Make Friends With The Google Gods
There’s no avoiding it. Google found a +900% growth over the last two year in ‘near me’ searches. Plus, they found that 76% of local mobile searches for something nearby result in a same-day in-store visit. You want to be that coffee shop, stationary store, craft goods place that pops up on the ‘near me’ search.
To do so, you need to create a Google My Business Account for your business. It's free and helps people find you online! You can manage a blurb about your business, set your hours, add photographs, ensure that you appear on the map, and more.
It also helps to have a mobile friendly site so that, when someone is walking down the block searching for pizza near me, they can click on your website right away and find the menu, dining options, and more!
Step Four: Yep, You Guessed it, SEO
Just like the almighty Google, there’s no avoiding SEO, aka, search engine optimization. It refers to how high your website, blogs, landing pages, etc., are listed on search engines like Google. If you’re buried on page 18 of a google search, chances are your audience won’t be able to find you. At which point your online presence is zilch.
We recently wrote an entire blog on website SEO, so check it out for an indepth look at how to optimize your website for proper SEO. We’re not saying you won’t ever be able to rank on google without doing this SEO overhaul, we’re just saying it’ll yield results!
Step Five: Show Your Businesses Personality
Get active on your newly crafted social media accounts. Remember to stick to the vibe you chose (within reason, we all grow through time) and be consistent with language, colors, and style. Post regularly on both your feed and story (for instagram) and maybe go behind the scenes in a facebook or instagram live! We definitely want to see how that delicious S’mores ice cream is made.
Hop on videos to show your lovely face and give tips, chat about your day at the park with your pup, or answer client/customer questions! Just don’t take yourself too seriously, we’re on social media to enjoy ourselves and keep up to date on businesses that we love.
Step Six: Develop Relationships
With your audience, other businesses, and neighborhood groups.
Start engaging and building relationships with your audience by replying to their comments and DMs, liking and reposting their posts at your shop or with your products, and maybe even feature them having a blast on your story.
You can join facebook groups where your audience and other businesses hang out to join conversations, reply to reviews and comments on your Google My Business account, or tag other local businesses in your stories and posts to share the love.
Step Seven: Make A Must-Read Mailing List
They love you, now they’ve gotta keep up on everything! Special offers, blogs, horoscopes, funny memes, you name it. Start a mailing list on your website, at your front desk, or through natural conversations with your clients.
At first the emails might just be promotions going on or updates on the newest menu item, but someday you might have monthly newsletters or quarterly blogs to pump out. It’s great to start this newsletter right away to get the ball rolling. I might not have woken up dreaming of a veggie dog, but once I saw that mouthwatering pic in my inbox I thought of Hannah’s Hot Dogs all morning until I headed over on my lunch break.
Step Eight: Automate So You Don’t Lose Your Damn Mind
The online world has grown so very much and there is just too much shit to do on your little computer without the help of more robots to post, email, and send reminders for you.
Yes, I know automation software and computers are not actually robots. But I don’t care. I like to imagine tiny robots inside my laptop that run around and automate Top Knot’s stuff for us. It’s cuter that way. Aliens, microscopic cats, slimy worms, whatever works for you, dudes.
Anyhow, there are automation softwares where you can schedule your instagram and facebook posts. Check out Planoly and Hootsuite, depending on your needs. Planoly cheap and quite pretty, but if you are going to have a lot of social media accounts Hootsuite has tons of features.
Then there are email automation systems that will send newsletters, thank you emails, promotions and more to your mailing lists. Mailchimp is typically the go-to for this + they have a free version!
Building an online presence for your small business means far more than just having a website. It’s creating a personality for your business that shines through the virtual world, capturing the attention, hearts, and hopefully maybe even the wallets of your audience.
The era of the phonebook and Sunday paper ads are long gone. Your online presence is the way people are going to find you. Your website, instagram, or facebook is the first impression someone’s going to get of your business so make it welcoming and inviting, but most of all, make it unmistakably your business brand. Because while you may be small, your personality is big!