DIGITAL SKILLS FOR YOUR SMALL BUSINESS: Your first steps to online success

Your online goals
Just like every business has different objectives, you too have to clearly spell out your goals as to why you are online. This will help you set the right priorities and put your plan into place.

Going online can help your business build relationships on social networks, selling online, find new customers or even keeping existing ones.

For example, if getting more people into your salon is one of your goals, then telling them that you exist is one sure way of achieving this goal.

One easy win is listing your business in local online directories. So, when people look for hairdressers on search engines, or online maps, your business will show up.

You could build a website to share information about your business like opening hours, your location, your prices and the services you offer.

You could also set up a social media page- like on Facebook, Google+ or Twitter where you could post photos of your creations, offer special deals and really connect with your customers.

Marketing your online presence
Now that you are listed in online directories like, Google My Business or you have a social media page, a website or even a mobile app, you should then embark on marketing your presence online.  You’ll now look for ways to bring more customers to your virtual front door.
Let’s start with search engines. When people type something in a search engine, they’re letting it know exactly what they are looking for. If you offer relevant services and products, search engines will show your business in the search results. There are two main ways you can use search engines.

The first is Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) which helps you promote your business in the unpaid search results and the second is Search Engine Marketing (SEM), which lets you buy ad space in the search results. These help getting your site in front of the right people who are searching for your products and services.

The key to taking advantage of SEO is knowing what words people actually type in – the keywords. They are the most relevant words to your business. Understanding these will help you improve how you show up when these words are searched.

SEM, on the other hand, is when businesses pay to advertise to people searching for specific keywords online. Most major search engines use an auction system, where lots of different businesses compete to show their ads by bidding on the keywords they’d like to target.

Search is a great way to reach people, but we do lots more on the Internet. We read news, check sports scores, browse recipes, watch videos and generally browse lots and lots of interesting content across the web.

Social media sites – like Facebook, Twitter or Google+ – give another option for boosting awareness of your business. On many of these networks you’ll create pages or profiles for your business. You can then connect with lots of people by starting meaningful conversations and sharing content you’ve created whilst growing your business’ online social life.

There still, is more pretty important way businesses can use digital: email marketing. We’re not talking about junk email, or “spam” that clutters up your inbox, but sending relevant information and offers to people who have already said they’d like to hear from you. People may be requested to sign up, or “opt in” to receive emails from you. You can send coupons to people who have made an appointment on your site, advertise special events, or promote sale items.

Analyze and adapt
After going through all the previous steps, it’s important to make sure that your digital plan is geared toward the long haul. For example, set realistic expectations, track your results and adapt to changes in technology and your industry.

A crucial part of any online plan is to measure what you’re doing and make sure it’s working. This is called ‘analytics,’ and it can show you how people are finding your website and what they do when they get there. If you know what people do once they’re on your website, it can help you figure out if your investment in digital is working.

By tracking what people do on your site, it can help you understand what’s working and what’s not—so you can make changes and continually improve what you’re doing.

To set yourself up for success online, you will consider three things:

  • First, know your online goals – and set yourself realistic expectations.
  • Use analytics to track what you’re doing and how it’s working.
  • Always keep up-to-date and adapt to changes in technology and the industry you work in.

If your plan tackles all these things and you stay flexible, you’ll be well on your way.

 

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Stephen Dumba
E-zone School of Computing

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