WE NEED TO ADAPT TO THE ONLINE WORLD IN ORDER FOR OUR BUSINESSES TO SURVIVE DURING THE COVID-19 OUTBREAK.
We can still connect with our customers in a variety of ways during our forced self-isolation. Now, more than ever, is the time to support local business and each other as our face-to-face and brick and mortar operations grind to a halt. Some of us feel like there’s no hope, but by banding together and empowering each other to adapt to the change we can really fight for everything we have built. Adapting is what we do as humans, and in order to protect our livelihood we need to innovate for a more streamlined method of communicating our services.
If the online world is new to you, for whatever reason that may be, it may seem like a confusing and daunting task to learn its ins and outs. But there is a wealth of information out there, as well as professionals that are dedicated to helping you get up back up and running. The online space is all about familiarising yourself to your tools and network of communities.
Below, we have listed a few channels to think about to start you or your business on the right foot in the digital space. Combining the below channels in a holistic approach across the web will help you reach specific markets – but you need to make sure you’re giving each the right amount of attention it needs for their user base. The best way to start is by minimising your channels and focusing on your content.
GOOGLE MY BUSINESS
This is probably the first and most effective online presence you can start off with to secure a foothold in Google’s search rankings. It’s a free business service listing for Google’s directory that ties in with the Google Maps platform so you can literally put yourself on the map and show your customers how local you are to their community. It is usually the first impression new customers and leads see when they search for your business or service in Google.
The main areas you’ll want to complete in your business profile are your:
- Business Name
- Business Category, Description and Services
- Location (Either Local or simply your service areas)
- Trading Hours
- Contact Details such as phone number, email or a link to an enquiry form
- Your website
- Any social channels
We recently got in contact with the local legends and mates Wren & Windsor in Penrith to shed some light on using social media effectively during this time. Ainslie, their founder and all round social mastermind has some critical things to say about the space in these current times:
“Another free source of advertising for your business at the moment is of course social media. Not only is social media now a information channel which is used to distribute your messages, it is one of the most effective ways to stay connected and plugged into your own online community, which makes it essential during this time when you cannot physically be in your audiences’ presence each day.
A quality social media presence for a brand/business comes down to three key things, 1. Credentials – being the official source of information, 2. Connection – being a channel for open dialogue with your customers, and 3. Content – being candid and authentic about what you can, and also cannot do!
There are a range of social media channels out there and in this down time for a lot of us, the reaction is to get across as many of them as we can. However, not all channels are right for all businesses, and in times like this you should be focusing on ‘quality over quantity’. Start with Facebook & Instagram, and work on updating your profiles/bio’s as much as you can with new information that reflects your current trading patterns. From here, work on CONTENT! With so many eyes on social media at the moment it is very easy to get lost.
We humans have an attention span of 0.02 seconds (the same as a goldfish) so take this time to think about how you can make content that is fresh, innovative, personal and fit for the channels you are posting in, because if your content isn’t having an emotional connection to your audience, there is no impact, and without impact, you are simply white noise in the depths of the inter web!
When it comes to Facebook, 55% of users are over the age of 45+, making it an older skewed platform.Given it’s longer history too, Facebook is now a source of information/announcement based content vs its younger and more aesthetically focused sister, Instagram. What this means for you is that Facebook is the channel for you to update those credentials, and stay connected to your customers by updating them on the evolving situation and how this impacts you and more importantly, how this impacts them.
Generally speaking, the algorithm nearly always prioritises video content too, so think about how you can integrate video formats into your content plan over the coming months for maximum impact. One great thing to utilise out of Facebooks arsenal of tools is the ‘events’ functionality.
If you are able to pivot your business into an online medium, having a dedicated space for your customers to talk to one another and to you is crucial! Think about setting up an event for a class you’re running online, or an upcoming sale, or simply just to have a spot for people to share their thoughts more freely than they would on your actual page!
FUN FACT: What Facebook won’t tell you without twisting their arm (which I did) is that your organic reach, or the amount of people that are seeing your content from those that follow you’, is actually 2%! So if you aren’t making quality content on a good day you’re chances of being lost in the white noise are high, so now more than ever it is essential to put extra focus on exactly what content you are putting out there. Plus you have the time, so why not make a good job of it!
When it comes to Instagram, not only is she the younger sister to Facebook and therefore more well adapted with younger audiences < 45, she was created with the intent purpose of being a photo sharing platform.
Today’s version of Instagram is a far call from that original format with the presence of Stories, Direct Messaging and heavy influence of video, making the channel the most effective brand building tool in your arsenal. Yes, Instagram is there to build your brand and be aesthetic, which means planning and more specifically, ‘curating’ your feed. This may seem frivolous, and it is, but it’s frivolity that is effective because it’s what Instagram is there for! However, having an Instagram that ‘looks pretty’ doesn’t mean anything if the content that you are sharing is not relevant to you. The way to capture attention is by sharing content that is personal, authentic and from the heart, and again, video is a great way to share these messages to people in a succinct and meaningful way.
One of IG’s strongest features is the 24 hour “stories” feature which allows you to display images and video on your channel for a period of 24 hours before it disappears, or you add them to your highlight reel. This is where your content that isn’t professionally designed, presented or curated CAN live, because there is definitely still a place for it, it’s just not the role of centre stage! This stuff is REAL TIME EVIDENCE of your business that will humanise your brand and build trust and energy. We recommend that you dabble in ‘piece to camera’ stories too, where you essentially take a ‘video selfie’ of the message you’d like to share. They’re real, personal and highly effective for the day to day!”
Wren & Windsor are on standby offering free help and consultations to get you off on the right foot or increase your organic reach to your online customers with ads during this key time in online history!
SEARCH & BUSINESS DIRECTORIES
These are simple listings and descriptions of your business and services (like Google My Business) on directory websites such as the YellowPages.com.au for trade and services, HiPages for the construction industry and TripAdvisor for hospitality and tourism businesses just to name a few.
It is worthwhile researching the directories in your industry to know who the most effective channels are to get your listing online with. Just like Social Media, linking these pages to your other online avenues will increase the awareness of your brand and help your organic Google ranking as well. These usually don’t need to updated regularly like your socials but they may need to be monitored over a period of time to ensure that they are still active and providing some sort of value.
A website is your online shopfront. It is your complete owned and branded presence where you can control everything about what your business is with ultimate flexibility, limited only by your investment, to really show what your business is about. A well built website that functions as a powerful hub for your brand is what gives you the edge over the rest. It’s where you can show that your audience will be in good hands if they decide to contact you.
This is the space that needs the most consideration, as a poorly built website that isn’t looked after can drive away potential business and taint your presence. A website that is designed specifically for your industry and audience, that is well looked after in terms of its software, design and content will perform at its peak and continue to bring you business as you grow. It should be the central hub that your social media channels and directory listings link back to, so your customers can engage on your home turf.
While the importance of your website is considerable, it doesn’t have to be a big and scary task. There are multiple approaches you can take, depending on your outcomes and budget, that can bring in a good deal of value to your business. Even a basic, clean, well designed one page website can offer a customised and 100% branded insight to your business. This is why we obviously recommend hiring a professional such as us at SIMPLE MEDIA to help you plan for your website and get you online with a completely branded online presence. However if you have the time, and your budget is not there, considering a DIY approach with the American corporate giants of WIX and Squarespace is not a bad choice, just make sure to set aside the time to plan your attack, your content and brush of on some design skills.
Or you can use our network to find creative and media professionals in Sydney’s West to help you with any sort of web strategy.