It is undeniable, the internet has changed the world of business. The advent of the smartphone and its wide adoption has been a part of the information revolution. People - customers - no longer use the phone book as the main source of locating products and services. They turn to the internet to find and learn about local businesses. If your business is not present, it can't be found.
A business without a strong online presence is a ghost business because it isn't visible to online search and it's future may be in jeopardy.
What constitutes a "strong online presence?"
In order to maintain a competitive edge in the marketplace, every business needs...
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1. A website.
Your website is your homebase on the internet. Not just any website will do, either. Vibrant Internet Marketing uses a website audit to help assess the strength of your website.
2. A blog.
That's right. Customers look for - and read - blog posts. Your blog is a way for them to learn more about your business, products and services. Blog posts also increase the relevancy of your products and services and boost your search engine optimization. A blog is a necessity in today's marketing world.
3. To register with Google Business Places, Yahoo! Maps and other online mapping systems.
Online web browsers are how mapping search engines find local businesses, which is the most common way potential customers look for local services. If you're not registered it is unlikely you will come up on the search.
4. A Facebook Business Page.
Having a Facebook Page that is properly managed is like having a Yellow Pages ad in the phone book years ago. People are more likely to choose a business with a quality ad than one with just their name listed.
5. A Twitter Page.
Having - and using - a Twitter Page well is like being at a networking meeting constantly. It's free advertising but it only works if you use it.
6. A LinkedIn Business Page
LinkedIn has been compared to being at a trade show. LinkedIn is a great place to make connections, learn what's new and establish your company's reputation. Without a presence on LinkedIn your business is out of the loop.
7. A YouTube channel or other video-sharing platform.
Cultivating and adding fresh content to a video-sharing platform such as YouTube, Vimeo, Howcast or other is like having an ad about your business running 24/7 on the TV. How can you pass up such great free advertising?
8. A Flickr, Picasa or other picture-sharing platform.
A picture-sharing platform is your company's way of demonstrating what it does, the events it sponsors and / or participates in. It is a way to build familiarity and rapport. Take the time to organize your images - put them into well-tagged albums and post captions that explain what the image is about (and who is pictured.) Don't forget to add alt-tags if possible - this will help to build your SEO.
9. A Foursquare Business Page.
Foursquare is a powerful marketing tool, especially for local businesses. Don't miss out on this excellent opportunity to attract and engage with your local customers!
10. All of the above accounts linked to each other.
Google - and other web browsers - depend on linkages to build SEO. Well worth whatever investment needed to install social plug-ins, make sure your business takes advantage of the strengthening power of linking accounts.
11. Online and offline marketing efforts integrated into one plan.
Customers engage with your marketing both online and offline. Consistency and seamless integration demonstrates that your business is organized and on top of things.
12. To measure the effectiveness of their online presence.
Any successful marketer will tell you that inital marketing efforts need to be tested, analyzed and actions corrected. This is a vital part of running a successful online marketing program. There are many excellent tools designed to help you do this, depending on what you are trying to accomplish and measure.
The sooner your business embraces the internet and learns how to take advantage of social media marketing to strengthen your brand, the better. If you don't you are placing your business at risk of fading away into a ghost business.