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What an Online Presence Consists of in 2011

September 9, 2011 | Nikki Bisel

With technology rapidly and drastically changing the way businesses communicate with their customers, what exactly is it that your business needs these days to attract new customers and retain your current ones?
Ten years ago the only thing a small business needed online was a website.  In our current digital world, however, the stakes have risen.
Here's what your company needs to maintain its online presence:

  1. A website that not only provides helpful and useful information but amply connects to other networks online.
    WHY?  You need to let your customers and leads access information about your company, products, services, and specials in the most convenient way for themselves.  For someone who checks Facebook more than Twitter, your Facebook Page announcements are extremely useful.  For the lead who pays more attention to LinkedIn, you better be updating your company's page with up to date contact information and specials.  Make it easy for people to connect with and follow you.
  2. Active social media accounts.
    WHY?  It's not enough to own the social media accounts associated with your company's name -- You need to be updating them as well.  What looks better: accounts that were created but never updated or active, helpful accounts?  Social media is increasingly important in connecting with customers and potential customers, search engine optimization and search engine rankings, the interconnectedness of your online presence, and the generation of online leads and conversions.
  3. Multimedia.
    WHY?  The Internet is an amazingly versatile tool, why not utilize it?  Don't just fill your website with dummy text; create and post videos, interviews, articles, whitepapers, portfolios, tips, links, and interactive media.  You have a chance to truly connect with leads and customers in a multitude of ways, why not take advantage of it?
  4. Reputation management.
    WHY?  This one is simple - pay attention to what others are saying about you online.  If you can find something online, anyone can.  Create and save searches on Twitter for both your name and your company's name.  Set up Google Alerts to notify you when your name appears in search results.  Maintain a good online reputation and don't give people the opportunity to form an incorrect, preconceived notion of what your company is or who you are before you've had a chance to influence them yourself.
  5. Online marketing.
    WHY?  "By 2015 SMBs will allocate 30 percent of their marketing budgets to traditional advertising (down from 52 percent in 2010), with the remaining 70 percent going to digital/online media (mobile, social, online directories, online display, digital outdoor), performance-based commerce (pay-per-click, deals, couponing) and customer retention business solutions (email, reputation and presence management, websites, social marketing, calendaring/appointment-setting)." - BIA/Kelsey
  6. Business solution and process applications.
    WHY?  The Internet allows small businesses to play in the world that big corporations have been in for decades.  Web software is more affordable, more customizable, more efficient, and more accessible than either Mac or Windows software has ever been.  Custom web software and intranet structures can change the way you run your business at a completely affordable price.  Tie these applications into your website and social media accounts and, before you know it, your company is connected inside and out to your customers, clients, and partners.
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