As a small business owner, you hear it again and again: “Your company needs to have an online presence.”
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But that’s a broad statement—and with so many guides navigating you to the easiest way to make your website searchable on Google (GOOG) or the best way to approach Facebook (FB), a lot of the advice becomes not-so-helpful-noise.
Tech entrepreneur Alex Zhardanovsky, who has already started two successful startups including a multi-million dollar online ad agency, gives some pointers on the less-than-obvious things entrepreneurs should be doing.
Create a Facebook Fan Page
“The nice thing about Facebook is if you spend money building a fan page, you have an audience that doesn’t go away. So when you compare it to traditional advertising where you spend money to get a click to go to your site, once that click is there, if they click the ‘close’ button, they’re gone. With Facebook you’re able to build a relationship with customers and potential customers for free," he said.
This is the link to create a fan page: www.facebook.com/pages
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Advertise on Facebook
If you do opt to advertise on Facebook, Zhardanovsky said the less likely your ad is clicked on, the higher the cost of placing the ad. “That’s why it’s really important to place an engaging ad with an interesting picture,” he said.
One advantage of advertising on Facebook, Zhardanovsky said, is you can target a very small market, so if you’re a wedding photographer, for instance, you can pinpoint the ads to people whose Facebook status is marked “engaged.”
He also explained you have the choice whether the Facebook ad links out to your website or to your business’s Facebook fan page.
He recommends the latter.
“The most important thing that you can do is build a relationship between yourself and the customer and the way that you do that is you create a fan page, post interesting content and once people start interacting with that content--they are much more likely to buy your goods or services,” he said.
And if advertising on Facebook sounds too overwhelming, Zhardanovsky recommended a company like Alphaboost --which he has invested in--to assist you.
“The company helps you build better advertising, so they help you understand what kind of ads you should be running.” He also said if you don’t want to spend money on a third party, look at your competitors and see what they are doing for hints on what works.
This is the link to create ads that can either point to the fan page or to an outside page: www.facebook.com/advertising
Pick your Strategy: Facebook or Twitter?
Unlike the common assumption that every business should have both a Facebook and Twitter page, Zhardanovsky says that’s not necessarily the case.
“I was in a cab this morning and the ad in the cab said, ‘Follow us on Facebook and Twitter.’ I think they should just pick one and focus their energy there."
Zhardanovsky also said while he thinks Twitter is a great tool for following celebrities and news, he doesn’t think it’s a great tool for small businesses to reach people.
Making your business ‘Googleable’ is crucial—and so are Google ads
“People always say, ‘I never click on those ads at the very top or the ads on the side,’ but guess what? Google did about $40 billion in revenue last year and all of that were people clicking on ads. So those ads are very effective.”
Zhardanovsky said even if your site is high up on the "organic listing," the more ads you have on the page, the more likely it is that people will visit your site.
The link to advertise on Google is: www.google.com/adwords
Google Analytics: A free and useful tool
“Google Analytics is a free tool that enables you to see where your visitors come from--what parts of the country, how much time they spend on your site, how many pages they interact with--and where they are likely to leave your site.”
Zhardanovsky said the information helps you to better understand what is working well and what isn’t working so well.
Think about giving discounts on your site
After spending money to get people to your site, give them something, said Zhardanovsky.
“So a person clicks on your ad and now they are on your site--now what? You should be offering them a discount or some sort of premium for coming to your store,"he said. "You’ve already spent that money getting that potential customer to your site—now give them something, a reason to come to your store.
Your website should have a blog
“Again, the most important thing is to create that relationship. And the way you create that relationship is you provide content," said Zhardanovsky. "So if you have a website about anything, you should have a blog on that website because you have to think – if you spent money to have someone come to your site, your next goal should be to not spend money to have someone come to your site."
Zhardanovsky recommends Wordpress, which is free and has templates that look professional.
"And if you provide content that’s interesting on your site, people are more likely to return,"he said. "And that really is the Holy Grail, getting people to return to your site for free."