Assess and Improve Your Online Communications
August 14, 2020
In today’s business climate, it’s more important than ever to assess and improve your online communications. Improving basic tools like your website, social media presence, and email marketing can help your business put a stronger foot forward.
Evaluate How You Present Your Business Digitally
As the old chestnut says, “You never get a second chance to make a first impression.” In a business climate that is more digital than ever, your first impression is probably more likely to be virtual.
Consider where and how customers might be meeting you and interacting with your brand – your website, elsewhere online, social media, email, text, phone, print, and so on. Also consider the form: image, video, audio.
Now think about what the “first experience” is and consider if it’s how you ideally want to be represented. If you find yourself compelled to explain or defend why your current experience is the way it is or why it’s not as ideal as it could be, you may be onto something that might benefit from improvement.
Be sure to evaluate both the presentation and ease of interaction. Each is equally important.
Assess and Improve Your Website
Assessing and improving your website is an ongoing discipline that successful businesses employ. Advances in technology, programming, and devices demand that businesses stay current in this area or risk having a less than optimal user experience.
If it’s been over a year since you’ve stepped back and evaluated your site, it might be wise to do so.
Take an objective look at your website – its appearance and functionality. Below is a preliminary checklist of things to evaluate to see where you and/or a website expert might need to put some attention.
Overall Appeal: Appealing graphics, visuals, and easy-to-read copy are important. Few people have tolerance for long, complicated, or visually unappealing pages. Make sure the language and visuals feel current and true to your business.
Navigation: Keep it simple. If it takes more than a few clicks to get to anything important, think about what might be simplified.
On a broader level, you can get a good deal of information from page analyses available in Google Analytics, including mapping of visitor behavior throughout the site (here’s how to set up Google Analytics). Also, watching someone who is unfamiliar with your site navigate it can be very informative.
Mobile Optimized Design: Data shows that it’s more and more likely that the majority of user interaction is on a phone. So look at your site on a smartphone, tablet, and desktop. If your site doesn’t look or function well on a phone, you may need to address your site design.
Load Time: If it feels like it’s taking too long for a page to load, it’s probably too long. Few have the patience to allow a site to load – it should feel instantaneous. There are ways to decrease load time, including reducing image size or using more updated script.
SEO: SEO is something most everyone has heard about, yet few can explain simply. Mastering SEO can be never-ending, since search engine algorithms are constantly changing. SEO tools and/or experts can help you know where to start and where to focus first. A list of popular SEO tool you or your SEO expert might consider can be found here.
Focus on the Appropriate Social Channels
Not every business needs to be on every social media platform. Focus on the appropriate social channels for your business. Where is your target most likely to be active? Look at the overall demographics of a particular platform to help you decide. Another simple way to triangulate where to focus is to look where your customers are active and where your competitors are active.
Many times, there are a few key social media platforms for an industry. You can focus your efforts there. On other platforms, a small presence may be enough. However, be sure to let those who find you know where they can interact with you more or find more information.
Create a Social Media Communication Plan
Once you decide where to focus, create a communications plan, including hashtags and tagging policies, so that you can build your audience.
Later.com explains, “Using relevant, targeted hashtags on your posts and stories is still one of the best ways to get discovered by new audiences. And this can translate into more engagement, more followers, and more customers for your business (for more in-depth strategies, click here)”
Consistency of Voice
As you execute your plan, consistency of voice, as well as regularity in posting is essential. Remember, every post on social media is communicating something about your brand and your business (and it may be the first time someone is introduced to your business/brand).
Interact with Followers and Build Your Contacts
Social media is only as good as your contacts and followers. If you’re putting time and resources into social platforms, make the effort to connect and interact with the clients and influencers in your industry.
Remember that social media is social. The most successful brands and influencers not only post regularly, they interact with their followers via sharing, reacting, and commenting.
Be sure to respond to comments and @mentions in a timely manner (within a day, if possible). Keeping the dialogue going and reinforcing activity will help to garner more response and interaction in the future. A quick click to see who is behind a comment will often reveal if they are truly involved with your message/business or someone with more mercenary intentions.
Look at industry leaders and what accounts they are following, as well as who your competitors are following. If you find appropriate followers who are not among your followers, start interacting with them by following and/or commenting on their posts. A simple “like” is a start, but may not be enough to ignite an online connection – especially if your “like” is one of numerous likes.
For more in-depth tips, Todd Clark of Hootiesuite outlines 14 Social Media Best Practices You Should Follow in 2020.
Email and Direct Marketing
Relationships and contacts continue to be important in every business. Last century’s influencers guarded their Rolodex as a source of power, connectedness, and sway. While the Rolodex is a thing of the distant past, contacts have never been more important. Do not underestimate the power of an up-to-date contact list.
Email lists may feel vintage, but they can be powerful, targeted ways to communicate news, broadcast updates, and continue connections with people important in your industry. Eblasts and newsletters are cost-effective ways to reach the people who want to hear from you.
Make time to enter the most current email you have for contacts, paying special attention to your core target. Most email programs will alert you to bounced emails (those emails that are undeliverable).
USPS mail may feel even more vintage, but it too can be a memorable way to get your message noticed and remembered – especially if it’s executed in a special, distinguished manner. Make sure your list is current. You don’t want your efforts wasted by arriving at an old or defunct address.
Combine Efforts for Stronger Results
A classic Harvard Business Review case study found that on average, the combination of email and direct mail provide stronger results than using either mail or email alone. Blue Mountain Media provides further tips for using direct mail with email marketing.
Analyzing performance is important. How else will you know what is working and what isn’t? Take the time to look at analytics and interaction with websites, social media, and e-blast campaigns. This will help determine what’s working best and what’s not. When you identify what is effective, you should be sure to incorporate that element or approach in future efforts. You can also eliminate what’s less effective.
As mentioned above, Google Analytics can help with analyzing website activity. Buffer offers their list of the top 25 social media management tools for creating and tracking. E-blast programs like Constant Contact or Mail Chimp provide reports on e-blast campaigns, including open rate, bounce rate, click-through, and more detailed segmenting.
There are as many ways to assess and improve your online communications, as there are companies to help. If you are looking for NoMad resources to help support your online efforts, below are two neighborhood experts that can offer their expertise and services.
Hudson Creative helps clients increase traffic to their website and convert users searching online into actual customers, Offering a proprietary process to build, track, and improve ROI, Hudson Creative executes online marketing strategies that reach target audiences and increase online traffic.
SocialCode is a leading digital marketing partner that turns the possibilities of digital marketing into performance. Its team of 300+ SocialCoders and partnerships with nine of the world’s premier digital platforms, can grow with any business at any size.
(by Keith Gordon)