2015 has rolled in and the days before YouTube, Facebook and the World Wide Web in general are fast becoming a faded and distant memory. The old "we had to walk to school barefoot, in the snow" line is being replaced by "we had to go to the library to do research and had to send actual paper letters". So, why is this so important, why is the web so vital for business and even individuals today? I think, by now we all agree businesses should have some form of website, even if it is just for customers to find your contact details. Is it worth investing in more than the basics or are the brick and mortar structures in the real world still of much more value?
I happen to think an online presence is becoming vital, here's a few reasons why:
- Your online profile & website add legitimacy to your business and your brand & go a long way towards defining you. One of the first things we do nowadays if we want to find out something about a business is Google it, the more influence you have in what people find when they do that the better. Your website is your online portfolio and your golden (hopefully) first impression.
- Competition: this one is a double sided coin, businesses have probably never had more competition with the expanded reach of the web which means the flipside is also true. You are now able to reach far more customers than ever before.
- Trust is built online: the good old "Word of mouth" marketing is being brought online with reviews and real-people opinions stated on social media. In addition, multiple views of your business / brand builds trust in your potential customers.
- More and more people are looking to make purchases online: Worldwide online retail as a percentage of total retail in the US and the UK is already approaching 15% and although South Africa has been slower to pick up on this trend it is growing rapidly.
- Social media profiles are becoming an expectation: many big businesses do a huge portion of their PR on Facebook / Twitter and other Social Media platforms, it offers an extremely cost effective, wide reaching way to deal with their customers. It is engaging, community building and allows the company real insight into their customers view of their brand.
- Industry reputation: you'll improve your recognition within your industry and establish your credibility in your field. Writing consistently and engagingly online naturally increases your following, your brand and subsequently your profitable leads. Interacting on social media, sharing industry posts, commenting on your industry peer's posts and writing your own content all build up your brand.
Creating an online presence is a lot like renovating your house: the cost depends on the features you want to install and, I'm afraid to say, the time investment is nearly always more than you anticipate. But... before you go running for the hills, just start small with what you can manage and build from there. As you start to see the returns the time and effort will become tangibly worthwhile.