Archives for September 2012

Small Businesses: The Importance of Having a Dynamic, Useful Website

We’ve all been there. You hear about a great restaurant/store/online business that has a new, exciting product or idea. You go to visit their website, hoping to see what the company is all about. You arrive at their URL. You start clicking around only to find little information, blank web pages, and no real purpose to the site. This can be very disappointing to a consumer.

In the new era of social media, sometimes companies (small businesses in particular) can find themselves relying more heavily on a Facebook presence and not cultivating a great website. While Facebook is free and easy to update, businesses should not forgo a website just because they have a useful Facebook page. Many consumers still prefer the “one-stop shop” of an actual website.

Here are some tips on important things to include in great, customer-oriented website:

Basic identifying information. This may go without saying, but it’s surprising how often businesses leave the most basic information off of the front page of their site. Some important info to have would be the name of the business, the physical location (if applicable) the hours of operation, and concrete contact information (lots of companies choose to use the “Contact Us” form, but an actual name to call or e-mail is much more personable). Some additional information that can be helpful to have on the very first page of a business site would be a blurb about what exactly the company does, and even the name of the CEO or top management. This way, consumers have a way to identify with the business.

Serves a purpose. A basic website that gives out company information, location, etc. is a huge step in the right direction. However, to keep customers coming back to your site, it must serve a purpose to your consumer base. For example, a site for a restaurant could have the ability to make reservations right on the web. Some restaurants have even added the ability to place an order online. For a clothing store, it’s ideal to be able to order online. Even something as simple as a short game, a request form (for new products, etc.), or a virtual suggestion box are all good to keep people coming back to the site again and again.

Great design. Simply put, a website should be pretty to look at! Most consumers who are savvy enough to seek out a company website are also savvy enough to know when little to no time was spent on the design. You know that old saying about eating with your eyes first? This is absolutely applicable to web pages. Customers are likely to spend less time on a site that isn’t visually stimulating. If you don’t want to hire an actual web designer, there are many free programs available online that can help novices design an aesthetically pleasing website.

Having a website with these qualities will no doubt increase your customer base. It’s also a great way to get a new business established. A strong online presence will help draw new eyes to your product or service. This is especially beneficial to small businesses that are trying to get off the ground!

Mega Totka

Megan Totka

Megan Totka is the Chief Editor for ChamberofCommerce.com. She specializes on the topic of small business tips and resources. ChamberofCommerce.com helps small businesses grow their business on the web and facilitates connectivity between local businesses and more than 7,000 Chambers of Commerce worldwide. Megan also specializes in local business news.

@markwschaefer951/9 sharing valuable Twitter info on @vocus804/8 webinar

Mark Schaefer is well known in the Social Media circle as a blogger, author, and educator. His two books, “The Tao of Twitter” and “Return of Influence” were both best-sellers. He definitely has his finger on the pulse. Yesterday, Vocus presented a webinar, “Twitter Power in One Hour” that featured Mark. Vocus is a leading provider of cloud marketing software. It turned to be a fruitful hour with a lot of buzz.

Twitter, unlike any other social network, has so many complexities that stem from 140 characters. So now matter how well-versed you think you are with Twitter, inevitably there is always something new to learn. There was some learning happening yesterday.

Mark started off the presentation with a chart that showed aged-based user statistics.

Twitter User Demographics by Age

Source: Pew Center for Internet Research

As you can see, the demographic 18-49 make up almost 50% of the Twitter users today. Teens (12-17) account for a surprising 16%. Recently Twitter CEO Dick Costolo told the Los Angeles Times that international has been exploding, and that Saudi Arabia saw growth of 3,000 in June. The numbers continue to rise.

Mark is a very good story teller. He shared an amazing story that exemplifies the power of Twitter and networking. Mark had been watching a Steelers game with Twitter open a few years ago. A girl named Michelle Chmielewski, attending the Univ. of Pittsbugh at the time, casually sent Mark a Tweet regarding the game and communicated that she was a Steeler fan as was Mark. SteelersAfter the initial connection, Michelle sent Mark a message asking if he would take a look at her blog. Mark obliged. Mark was impressed with her site, especially the video work Michelle had created. At the time Mark hadn’t really scratched the surface with video, and he asked if she would be interested in doing some work for him. While excited about the opportunity, Michelle had an issue. Her old video camera wasn’t up to snuff. Mark asked how much a new one would be, and Michelle replied “four or five hundred dollars.” Mark took a shot, and purchased the camera as he was impressed with her talent. Michelle did some great work for Mark’s site, and eventually was offered a great opportunity with Uber Paris as a Community Manager.

On a couple of occasions Michelle was asked by companies if she knew of anyone that could help with their marketing and social media strategy. Michelle replied in both instances, “of course I do.” Both times Mark had scheduling conflicts, but highly recommended two others that successfully completed the work. This is connection is really blossoming for both Mark and Michelle at this point. Mark and his wife were taking a trip to Paris. Mark reached out to Michelle, saying they would be in Paris. She said, “great, I’ll be hosting a party for Blogger’s in France right next to Notre Dame de Paris.” Who is going to say no to that? By the way, this was the first time they met in-person. That night Mark met Greg, a French blogger, that was very well know in France. He wrote his blog in French, so he hadn’t gained exposure anywhere else. Greg was looking for a work visa in the US, and asked Mark if he could write a recommendation. Mark came through again, and Greg was on his way. All of this ignited from one simple non-business tweet about the Pittsburgh Steelers. You can’t make this stuff up. Listen, everything went right here, but it really shows the possibilities of Twitter if done correctly. Below you’ll see all business results that were born from the tweet.

Mark Schaefer Twitter Slide

Source - Mark Schaefer

Mark spoke about three key factors that lead to a successful Twitter experience. You must first deliver meaningful content. Give your Twitter audience something valuable. The next key factor is to have targeted connections that purposely active, relevant, and continuous. If you don’t target correctly, you’ll run in place. Finally, you must practice authentic helpfulness. Many drop the ball here and only participate in one-way communication. In the story above, nobody was trying to hard sell anything. You’ll generally enjoy success if you are “giving” on the social media playing field.

Another great idea that Mark provided was to hold onto the favorite tweets from others that mention you in a positive light. Any tweet that has the pom-poms out for you should be kept. Print screen, crop, and save. As Mark pointed out, these tweets make for great testimonials. Just fantastic.

Mark Schaefer testimonies

Source: Mark Schaefer

Very well done Mark and the team at Vocus. Be smart, and be active out there in Twitterland. Opportunity awaits on Twitter, make it happen.