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Sunday, July 8, 2018

Minding Your Business-Key Marketing People in a Digital World

Presented On US Sports Net By Yahoo Small Business!
By: Sallie Leblanc

Fifteen years ago, when a business decided to invest money in advertising, typically this meant buying ad space in a newspaper or magazine, creating print mail ads, or buying air time on the t.v. or radio.

But that was then, and this is now. Unless you have been living under a rock, most of us realize that advertising has moved from traditional, to the completely fast-paced digital world of social media.

The internet has been a game changer. So what are the rules to this new world of digital advertising world, and how can business stay competitive? It can all be very overwhelming, especially if you are just starting a new business, or you are lacking the man power or time to fully invest in digital marketing. Digital marketing, unlike traditional marketing, does have one huge flaw unlike traditional advertising. Digital Marketing is extremely time consuming! And to really do it right, you cannot do it on your own.

But before panic ensues, I am going to try to break it down into a few easy steps, in hopes that I can somehow relieve your anxiety. Think of it as "Social Media Marketing Help 101". There are a few key people who can manage your business in this digital world, and make your business a powerful player on the internet and in the social media world. These are not ALL the people who work in social media, rather the four key players who can launch your business.

#1) The WEBSITE company

Yes, it is obvious, but you must have a website to do business today. Businesses without websites might as well not even be open.

Think back to the days of yellow pages. If your business was not listed in the yellow pages fifteen years ago, there was a good chance Mrs. Jones was not going to find your air conditioning service when her A/C unit blew out in the 100 degree summer. Well it is the same thing with the internet. No website= no business. You cannot have one without the other.

But many of you are taking the cheap route and hiring just about anyone to create a website. Yes, we know who you are! You are the one who hired your college kid's friend to throw up a website, and then this same kid disappeared and left you high and dry with a website that is still dated with a December 2009 calendar. While December 2009 might have been a good month, it is doing nothing to help market your company. Possible client's assumed you went out of business and moved onto the listing underneath you.

And a bad website design can actually hurt your business rather than help it.

Lesson: Invest in a well designed website run by a real company from day one. Trying to take the cheap route will cost you more in the long run.

#2) The SEO Optimization Specialist

SEO, what? SEO, who? Search Engine Optimization is the process of improving your ranking on the internet so your website shows up at the top of a search page. Basically this means when you do an internet search for, "Pet Stores, San Diego, CA", an SEO specialist can help your link for "Susie's Reptiles and Fuzzies" show up higher than "Doug's Dog's and Cat's" . You are more likely to be found and receive business.
SEO optimization is tricky, and time consuming. There are many rules for how to rank high in Google, and many times the rules change.

So how do you find an SEO specialist? Today most website designers are also SEO specialists, so make sure when purchasing your website, you are also comfortable with their SEO capabilities.

Lesson: The common person does not have the time or energy to play the SEO optimization game, nor do they care. Get your website guy to do it, or contract it out.

#3) The VISUAL's company

I realize I lost you many of you on this one, but stay with me. Your Visual company is the people or company you hire to enhance your website through visual elements. Your Visuals company would include your commercial photography, as well as your video. As most of you should already know, consumers are visual!

Yes, I know, I know, many of you think you are photographers because you bought that high-tech camera down at the Big Box store and you can do some really funky stuff on Photo Shop, but I am sorry to tell you, you are not a photographer!

And, if you insist on buying those cheap generic stock images just to fill in the website space, how does the consumer really know you are a real company and not just some random person in a foreign country who threw up a website?

Recently I posted an ad on craigslist for a website designer. I got multiple replies from professionals who had active websites, but these websites were almost all text, splattered with some cheap stock images of office buildings. As I looked closer, I realized their "Contact Us" section had a 1-800 number. And as I looked even closer, I realized there was a possibility this company was not even in the United States, and was most likely in India.

Professional photography can never be replaced by amateur photography or cheap stock images, which can make a company look small or fake.

"I see so many people who try to take the cheap way out when doing their photography," said Sallie LeBlanc, owner of Visual Advantages, LLC, a commercial photo and video production company in Dallas-Fort Worth, , but they always pay for it in the long run, either by losing customers, or by having to re-shoot later with a real professional."

Your visual company will partner with your website designer to finish your website, and make it stand out from the other thousands of other websites. Professional photography can engage your customer, create a brand, and can even make a small company look huge!

Now let's talk about video. Statistics show that the more engaged your customer becomes in your website, the more likely they are to become a customer. With video, you are not only engaging your customer, but you are teaching them! Many times it is hard to explain a product or service over the internet, but video can bridge the gap between a consumer quickly clicking though your site, and one that is actively learning about you and what you can offer.

Lesson: Consumers are visual. Professional photography and video can make your company's website or social media look stellar, as well as engage your customer. Don't whip out your digital camera or camcorder, or plug up your website with cheap stock images. Leave the visual elements to the professionals, and develop your brand.

4) The Social Media Manager Ahhh, Social Media Manager! A title of a person who did not exist so long ago. A title you may not even recognize.

Social Media Managers are the ones who continually update your website so consumers do not think you went out of business. They write your blogs, tweet for you on twitter, run your Face Book, and stay up to date on your competition. They may also create polls on Face Book, or organize live events. Your Social Media Manager may even take on the role of PR Rep by writing Press Releases, on occasion.

Social Media Managers are the cohesive unit between your live business, your website, and all your social media outlets.

But many people put social media on a back burner, thinking it secondary, and hand it off to an intern or friend with no vested interest in their company.

Recently I was on the Face Book page of a local restaurant who posted that that they had a "buy one, get one free lunch special" coupon on their website . All of the Face Book fans flocked to the website lusting after that free plate of pasta, only to find an expired coupon from a year ago. A restaurant employee later told me their Face Book fan page was being run by a student, in another state.

Lesson: Invest in a Social Media Manager if you do not have the time to tweet on Twitter, post on Face Book, or blog your little heart out. This can be a full-time position for larger companies, or for small business, this could simply mean a small monthly fee for a contractor who is off site but dedicated to promoting your brand.

Also, I would highly recommend finding someone local, who keeps up with current events in your city, rather than farming the job out to a telecommuter. And sometimes your website guy may try to take over this role, but it is better to let him focus on what he does best, the technical side of your website and SEO !

Social Media Marketing may be new territory for most businesses, but with the right people in place, you can be an active competitor. Most businesses will never reach their greatest potential until they are actively optimizing their social media.

If you make the time to find the right people to create and manage your website, SEO, visuals, as well as social media communications, it will be time and money well spent.

Once you have these companies and individuals in place, be sure and introduce them to one another. Together they can be a well oiled machine that can drive your business to the next level.

Sallie LeBlanc is a photo shoot producer and photo stylist in Dallas- Fort Worth, TX.

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