I run Social Media workshops and have done for the past 6 years and in this time I have trained hundreds of people. Yet it never cesases to amaze me how many people want to start using Social Media applications when plainly they need haven't put the digital marketing building blocks in place. B2C companies want to create a Facebook page but haven't sorted out their primary web presence, B2B's want to set up a Twitter account when they have no idea who is looking on their website or where they came from. I decided to come up with a checklist of 9 Things an SME Should Do Before Using Social Media and encourage you to read them and, if you can, add some more ideas in the comments section.
Build a Decent Website - it goes without saying that you should employ a designer/developer who knows how to build websites - that are attractive, easily navigable and can be picked up by the search engines. On the Digital Marketing Planning module we teach, we discuss the idea of customer acquisition and conversion objectives and look at how you should be focused on targeting the RIGHT audience (through Search Engines, Social Media, Directories, Online PR, etc) and sending them to the RIGHT website.
Your website should tell people who you are and what you do. Navigation to products, services and company profile should be clearly visible and easily reached. Don't forget the mantra of Steve Krug, website usability expert: Don't Make Me Think. To a certain degree you should design your website like others as quite possibly customers may be searching sites of the same genre. Don't forget that powerful solutions can be built yourselves by using tools like WordPress, which are designed to be spidered easily by the search engines.
Consider Calls To Action (CTA's) - let's assume that you have managed to get the right customers to your web page, what next? What do you want these Highly Valuable Visitors to do? As a business you should know what you want customers to do on your site and you may also consider where people may be in the buying process - viewing, researching, evaluating, buying or post-buying. CTA's may include contact forms, phone numbers, email sign-up forms, downloadable pdf''s, buy buttons, reserve buttons, call-back facilities, product evaluators or even calculators. They may include Social Media share buttons and widgets, product videos, press packs, images and much more. Their inclusion should signify that you have carefully considered your target audience and thought about their needs and expectations on arriving to your site.
Do your on-site SEO - have you thought about the content that you will display on your website? Do you actually know what keywords people are using to find your site? Have you used online tools like Google Suggestion Tool or Google Trends to discover words? You will need to think about creating high quality page titles, using keywords that your target audience may type in to Google, headlines which match and content which follow the theme. You will need to pay attention to the use of keywords in anchor text (though not for the page you're on), image alt attributes, meta description and the URL. And make sure to keep away from keyword stuffing!
Do your off-site SEO - this is primarily achieved by people linking to you. Through company websites, blogs, news sites, directories, associations, even Wikipedia. You also have to add in to the mix social media and online PR. Ideally, people will want to link to you for the quality content and relevance of your site. They will, hopefully, link to you using anchor text, which looks like this: Social Media Class. You may want to use tools like SEOMOZ's Open Site Explorer to discover what your competitors are searching for and start speaking to those who rank highly for your targeted keywords. Here are some top tips from SEOMOZ on the subject:
Get your customers to link to you.
Build a company blog. Make it a valuable informative and entertaining resource
Create content that inspires viral sharing and natural linking
Find directories or listings of relevant resources.
Add your site to Google Webmaster Tools - tell Google that you're the owner of your site. All you do is add a html page to your site, a html tag or connect your analytics and your site will be verified by Google Webmaster Tools. This resource allows you to upload sitemaps to Google, view 404 errors, find out who links to you and a whole lot more. It also allows you to control which sitelinks you DON'T want to appear in Google searches for your website. Webmaster Tools also allows you to add sitemaps of your website.
Google Places for Business - if people use a Keyword + Local Search word, e.g. "Cardiff Hotels", they will probably be served up with a SERPS page that has a few organic listings at the top (under the Google AdWords) followed by around 60 7 Google Places listings and then more organic listings underneath. People are increasingly clicking on these listings to get to website content. Make sure that you have claimed your Google Places listing and added descriptions and content. You may also want to encourage your clients to leave reviews on Google reviews, too - these will display when you type in your local searches.
Google AdWords - OK, we've completed all of the above and we still want more traffic. Well, Google AdWords could be the tool which will help you get to those customers who your SEO and Google Places can't reach. It can also help you target people in different countries and help you entice customers away from your competitors. But beware! You have to carefully plan and structure a Google AdWord campaign and think carefully about what you want to achieve. AdWords are triggered by keyword searches, in much the same way that organic listings are, and work on the principle that the advertiser only pays when their ads are clicked - the cost of each click can range from a few pence to upwards of £20 or more for high value words.
Set up Google Analytics - if you're driving traffic to your site, you will want to know that it is the right traffic and to find out what people are doing on your site. Google Analytics is an application that allows you to see where people are coming from, what keywords they used, what countries they're from, and what they're doing on the website. It lets you know which keywords resulted in which sales, where people came out of your website and which online activity works best for you (Google Organic, PPC, Email or Social Media). Every digital marketer needs to have as much information as possible to tell them how their online presence is working and Google Analytics does this - for FREE!
Email Marketing - we mentioned customer acquisition and conversion before, well Email marketing is one of the key tools for customer retention and extension. With your website presence you should be able to develop a quality database of contacts - from people purchasing, downloading documents, trialling your products, enquiring or just adding their name to your email list. These are people who ave taken the time to learn/buy/understand your business and its offerings and they are also people who will listen to you. Email marketing is one of the great tools of digital marketing and, when used correctly, can deliver huge rewards to your business.