You have seen others do it.
You have your business systems in place.
You have heard the numbers.
You know that in order to get to the next level you need to get online.
And it’s not optional.
Although it’s daunting and terrifying, you have done the basics:
- You have registered a domain name
- Setup social network accounts
- Got your website design
- You keep your content up to date
- And so far you are keeping clear of murky online marketing schemes.
Obviously, you get that this is how the world works.
For many small business owners it’s like starting another company (let’s be honest once you have a website it’s a publishing company).
But you aren’t seeing the results that were promised.
Your web traffic and engagement is pitiful or nonexistent.
Why? This is a question on the minds of many small business owners, freelancers and entrepreneurs.
The truth is you have been misled, you are not just starting a website, you are starting a self-publishing company and just like any companies there are processes that will make or break you.
Here’s a list of five areas that you need to consider you as you setup your platform.
What Do You Want To Achieve?
Adding a website to your business model is a huge step. If you want to leverage the huge market opportunities that exist to increase your reach, having real estate online is a necessity. It’s not just for blue chip firms and NGOs.
Most small business owners are kept away from the internet because they think that it’s something that’s too difficult and needs a lot of money in order to do.
Here’s the truth. You don’t need humongous budgets for you to start sharing your message. You think you need a big budget because you have to reach seven billion people and find them on every available platform. But as you start on your journey understand that smaller is better.
When you setup a website what is your intention? Is it because it’s trendy? Something that you can add to your business card and contact details so that you can be seen to be among those who “get it”.
You need to have a clear goal about the function of your platform. You can treat it as an accessory or if you are serious you can treat it as a business platform (remember a website is a publishing business whether you acknowledge this fact or not).
It can also be a great tool for market research, building awareness and authority.
The function of your platform isn’t to ego stroke yourself to cloud nine. It’s not about garnering more likes and followers than your competitors. Community and relationship should be the keywords that determines your goal online.
Granted, building relationships and authority takes a bit more work than we think but that shouldn’t cause you to shake with dread.
Give people a reason to trust your voice. If it’s creepy to stalk people in real life then entrepreneurs and small business owners should understand that the creepiness is amplified a thousand fold.
So make sure that your goal isn’t to creep people out but to provide value. .
You Don’t Need To Be On Every Platform
‘Over a billion websites and growing fast. Almost three million blog posts are published daily.’
Digest that stat for a second.
No wonder small business owners get flustered and some give up before starting.
You are told that your only chance of standing out is to get on as many platforms as possible.
You need to choose a platform for your message. Are you going to be on Facebook, on twitter and or will you have your own website? Are you going to be all over the place or do you need to be discriminatory? Does the fear of missing out cloud your judgement? Not all platforms are equal.
The advice is that you have to be everywhere to be seen. But the better tactic is to be where your audience is. So your content creation and platform selection will be determined by this instead of a hit and miss strategy of signing up for everything. The choice of platform also determines the medium of your message.
The ‘be everywhere and be everything’ approach produces fractured focus. If you are everywhere there is the chance that your fractured approach. Building online this way leads to failure and you will have a negative perception of the internet.
You need to find where your community hangs out and create products and services that help them. No one builds a shop in a deserted space.
But there are many who believe that they have to set up in every nook and cranny so that they can be seen. They have no strategic end goal. Without focus you can get exhausted trying to learn the rules of every platform that’s available online. This is one of the reasons why many first time entrepreneurs/business owners feel they don’t have time. It’s more pragmatic to choose a few and see what works.
As a small business owner having your own website is essential. Other people’s platforms can disappear overnight without warning. Having your own real estate protects you from this tumultuous changes. Building on other people’s property doesn’t have long term guarantees and it affects how you grow and interact with your community.
Are You In It For The Long Term?
When it comes to content creation, business owners think that they’re not creative enough to generate good content and great websites.
The platform that you build should be about your community. You don’t need to get online and shout as loud as you can so that people will pay attention. You will have their attention when you provide them with something valuable and they will share with other people.
You don’t have to be a great writer, extraordinary speaker and a world-class filmmaker to create remarkable content.
You can learn to create content that will be helpful if you aren’t in a hurry.
Taking a take a long view of your business gives you a good shot at being effective and helpful online. If you don’t have the resources and skills to get online you can acquire them. If you don’t have time to learn then you have to be willing to pay other people to do it for you.
Your content creation strategy must be built upon the fact that people learn differently. It mustn’t be a one size fits all content strategy. If you don’t want to eliminate segments of your audience consider delivering your message in audio, text and video. This is daunting when you are starting out but as a long term tactic it will work.
There are some who advice that in order to get to the top, you must make as much noise as possible so that people will be drawn to you. And when they are drawn to you they will listen to what you have to say and see you as competent and authoritative.
This is misplaced. But it might work, initially, because of the “bullhorn principle” which perpetuate the stereotype that people who talk the loudest have more ideas, are courageous and therefore are more competent.
This is what politicians practice (already not a great strategy by association). Just out shout your opponents and you win.
But shouting the loudest doesn’t work online. There are multitudes who are shouting themselves hoarse but still they’re not being heard because they don’t get what works.
It’s not about being the loudest so that you can be the leader, it’s about being the wisest so that you are beneficial to other people.
The goal to “out tweet” and “outpic” each other in order to get high ground creates an opportunity to be dishonest. You are forced to compromise your message because you are trying to capture everyone’s attention. A message that attracts everyone is a hodge-podge of ideas.
There are many experts all with differing tactics. It’s important you understand your market and pick the right strategy and in most cases you will need to do a lot of tweaking to see results.
Intention Determines the Amount of Time You Have
You are in this for the long haul. Building an audience isn’t overnight. Take a long term view when building relationships. It’s easy to get seduced by the pressure to produce viral content.
The promise or the deception of the internet has been that success is instantaneous.
You write a blog post, you make a podcast or a video and the expectation is that you become an instantaneous internet hero.
This thinking gives rise to trends. Trendy is easy, shareable and fashionable. Trendy puts you on the cutting edge and on the path to the top of the information dump. But trends last until the next secret or long hidden hack pops up and dislodges the temporary emperors. If you want to standout then make sure that your content helps the people in your community. Your goal is to provide value.
Time and strategy are determined by the goal. It takes patience, the principle of growing a business doesn’t change just because you are online.
You can use hacks to get millions of eyes and ears to focus on your trendy message. But this works until it doesn’t work. When people realize that you tricked them, they won’t want to have anything to do with you. Dishonesty is a problem online and you don’t want to destroy the thin thread of trust that might exist between you and the prospect.
Hashtag warriors and SEO ninjas bombard people so that they have their attention but it turns people off because most people have developed avoidance techniques that protect them from getting sucked into the tornadoes that tend to be work of hashtag warriors.
You need to have interesting content that’s helpful for your audience. Remember that helpful for your client doesn’t have to draw a million likes it just has to help people achieve their goals.
At the same time you are forced to create a contrary message so that you take on the big guns or you edit the big guns message and claim that they either sold everyone short or they forgot an important principle, hence they are incompetent. This approach means that there are a multitude of unproven ideas, shallow and inadequate solutions floating around the internet.
As a freelancer, entrepreneur or a small business owner your number one concern should be on the audience. Authority and trust are gained over time, so don’t get seduced by the promise of instant success.
Entrepreneurs, freelancers and small business owners tend to go to extremes its either they invest too much or too little on their platform. Research might seem mundane and boring but its important part that will provide you with the statistics to measure user engagement and the value you are providing to your clients.
The process of developing relationships is a process of refining. Taking note of what has brought results even if they are minimal and focusing on that so that you can scale and make it better. This is a patience that is not encouraged by the instant results culture of the internet.
How to Really Make Them Bend the Knee
You don’t need the whole world to be your rabid fan, follower and customer. It sure would be nice but don’t get demoralized when your competitors have more likes and followers than you.
As a writer I have heard other writers ranting about how people don’t appreciate their work and don’t buy their books. On the other hand, there are writers who are thriving.
The difference is that the former wants to please the critics and get rave reviews that will get them shortlisted for Book prizes. On the other hand, the latter are providing services according to the market.
The problem the first group has is entitlement. This is a dangerous attitude if you want to make it either online or offline.
No one owes you their time. Maybe, they don’t like your product or service. What are you going to do? Are you going to force them to go against their nature so that they can buy your product, force them to “bend the knee” or are you going to answer the needs of you clientele?
Cranking out lots of content doesn’t result in authority, trust and relationships. More doesn’t mean helpful. If your strategy is linked to pumping a lot of content your will lose.
The quality of your content is the key. Quality is judged by whether you answered the questions of prospects.
Evergreen content will get your message across better than trendy ideas. It works because it provides solutions. When you create evergreen content you have plenty of time. You aren’t under pressure to fit your message to a particular zeitgeist.
But when you want to create content that answers the existing trends you definitely don’t have time because online trends are capricious.
It’s better to answer the needs of the market than to try to teach them to think like you. Your work might not get you a Nobel Prize for literature but it will provide sustenance.
As a small business owner, freelancer or entrepreneur re-frame your mindset. It’s not about you.
People don’t care about your woes but they will care if you overcame your woes.
Your story must be part of the journey to a solution not a distraction. When you incorporate it as part of illustrations you will gain authority.
Put the needs of your community first. Maybe when you provide solutions, you will get rabid fans, followers and customers.
The internet represents a great opportunity. It can be very rewarding but at the same time it exacts great punishment on those who don’t pay attention.
Small business owners should utilize it and not see it as a mysterious tool that can only be understood by a few.
The goal(s) will tie in the strategy and determine whether you have a long term impact or you ebb and flow with each new trend.
But it’s up to you how you approach it.