You’d be hard pressed to convince me there’s a business out there that doesn’t need some kind of presence on the Internet. While I’ll admit not every business merits (or is ready for the commitment of) a full blown, flashy website, all businesses need to be findable and reachable online.
Know anybody who’s still rebuffing the need to be on the web? For some small biz owners I’ve encountered, the hesitancy boils down to fear of the unknown. We stick with what we know, and there are still business people who “know” offline marketing much better than they do online tactics. They perceive websites to be expensive money pits or techie mind twisters to maintain, or they discount social media sites such as Facebook and YouTube as dismissible teenie-bopper banter.
I’ve previously blogged about the fact that small business owners simply can’t disregard the realities of the web. It’s essential to get online lest you fall behind. So for you or any of the hold-outs you may know, here are a few practical, immediately applicable ideas to make the ‘Net work for you.
Create a blog and/or a Facebook page for your business.
There is no cost involved in creating a blog through a platform such as WordPress. Ditto that for setting up a Facebook page. For both these entities, all the tools are web-based and self-service. When it comes to building your blog or Facebook biz page, you can do-it-yourself and update likewise, as long as you have Internet connection. There’s no need to purchase or download software or any web page building tools.
I’ll give you fair warning. If you’re not well-versed in the ways of web page creation or blog lingo, you’ll likely feel a little overwhelmed as you first attempt to create your blog. There are many hints and ideas to help you out online; tap into them. Though blogs have innate limitations in terms of design options, you can select templates that accommodate multiple pages and customization.
Facebook business pages are fairly straight forward, but if you’re new to Facebook, it’s advisable that you get your bearings before you build a page. A business page is preferable to a Facebook ‘group’ if you’re goal is to create brand presence and convey information for customers.
And once you get the framework going for your blog or Facebook page, you can take your time to perfect and add on to what you’ve created.
Secure a domain name, and point it to your no-cost blog.
Whether you’re ready or not for a full website, by all means secure your domain name now, if you haven’t already. The great news is that you can point your branded URL directly to your no-cost blog (free WordPress blogs include “wordpress” in the URL). That way, you can give everyone a web address that best fits your biz, yet you won’t be fretting with hosting costs or monthly fees. The only cost will be the in the acquisition of the domain name. I did this for Small Biz Big Time. I secured the smallbizbigtime.com domain, and directed to my blog on WordPress. My only expense was in the reserving of the domain name, which I tackled as a one time fee through Yahoo! Small Business.
Make the most of free listings!
Countless sites offer free listings for business of all kinds. These sites often have built in functionality that makes upload of media very simple and provide areas for business owners to promote goods and services as needed. From Reverbnation.com for musicians to Etsy.com for creative artists, there are endless options for being connected and present. My husband is a voice-over artist, so he built a page at voice123.com/jpwilliams. Creating the page involved no cost, it is a great place to house his demos and pertinent information. It’s been immensely helpful whenever he’s needed to email samples of his work to potential clients.
Let other sites do the heavy lifting.
If you have video content that you’d like to use on any of your web pages, blogs or websites, start the process with YouTube or Vimeo. YouTube or Vimeo will handle file conversions so you don’t have to, and the sites even provide you with handy links and codes that you can embed rather simply anywhere you need them—from your blog to your Facebook biz page, wherever! Additionally, many sites build in options for creating customer lists, calendars, cross-branding updates, etc. (check out Blog111, for example), so you needn’t try to conquer all those options by yourself to include on your own website. Someone else has already done it for you; make the most of it!
There are so many layers to each of these topics. Please—email me your questions, and I’ll gladly delve further into anything you need to know more about, or at least I’ll point you in the right direction for more information. No matter what, it’s time to be more than a spectator on the Internet; it’s time for you to get on the Web and be in the game!