Just yesterday, I saw a national, 30-second prime time TV commercial that invited viewers who wanted more information to “visit our YouTube channel.”
How cool is that? Thanks to technology and the social web, we are the media. We have more ways to get our product messages to potential customers. We don’t have to squeeze it all in a 30-second spot, a display ad or onto a highway billboard. With multimedia, we don’t have to fill web pages with too much text. Using video, audio and imagery, we can craft expanded messages and place them at no cost on sites for anyone to see and experience!
Before you start redistributing your ad budget, clue in on a key fact. In the scenario mentioned above, the company still invested in 30 seconds of national air time. I would’ve never known they had a YouTube channel were it not for that commercial. And their commercial had to be creatively compelling, or I would’ve disregarded the whole thing entirely.
You still have to invest in advertising and promotions to draw a crowd. Just because you launch a great blog or start a YouTube channel chock full of informative videos doesn’t mean the world will just happen upon them. You must still extend invitations, and in many/most cases, you’ll have to convince potential customers it’ll be worth their while to check out what you have to say.
And you better have compelling content when the crowd shows up. Content is always king, but there’s an even bigger, brighter spotlight on this truth online. If you put yourself out there, you need to provide as promised.
Here’s a suggested step-by-step for small businesses to apply these concepts. I’ll use “blogging” as an example, but this could apply to other online endeavors as well.
1. Start a blog and nurture it for a time. Don’t write one blog post and immediately mass email the world to proclaim it. Give yourself up to a month to establish a rhythm, get your groove in terms of content and make certain you’re really committed to it. Establish a protocol (i.e. – create an editorial calendar, enlist a team of bloggers, get some topics in the queue) so you sure the content will stay fresh. Ever seen a company blog that’s not been updated in a year? It’s not impressive.
2. Announce with direct communications. Start spreading the news internally first, with employees, your existing customers, vendors and perhaps a tight list of strong potential customers. Get your team on board and enlist them to become your word-of-mouth/click-of-mouse army. Use your existing connections to organically grow new ones. Make it easy for this ‘army’ to spread the news by providing them cut-and-paste links that they can quickly plug into their communications.
3. Get connected. Establish a presence on Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, Technorati—anywhere you can build community, share your content, get new ideas and field questions. Just as you gave your blog its due time before you started telling the world about it, tackle these social media tools in the same way (if you are new to them). Get a feel for how each of these mediums works so you create a persona and presence on them effectively. Look into Ping.fm and Friendfeed.com as methods of updating all your profiles at once, so that this aspect of your promotions is less cumbersome and easy to manage.
4. Get recognized. Over time, as you establish your content as useful and viable, look into earning recognition for the hard work you’re putting in. Winning blogging contests or getting listed on respected sites such as Alltop.com can really help boost your traffic. Seek out the chance to contribute a guest column in a trade publication, with a nice mention of your blog.
5. Consider targeted advertising. You can also jolt your traffic by investing in advertising. Again, this should come only over time, as you’re assured that you’re providing great content for new viewers. From Google Ads or Facebook ads to traditional placements to your targeted audiences, there are endless advertising options today, and many are relatively cost effective. You can set budgets and timeframes very easily with online advertising outlets such as Google and Facebook. Be sure to build in methods for measuring ROI to make sure your efforts are well-directed and worthwhile.
6. Give it time. Never compromise quality of content in the haste to get followers. Blogs and YouTube pages can be created in a matter of minutes, but reputations are established over time. You want relationships with root systems, and those don’t happen overnight.
Yes, it’s a whole new world, and we can all have a YouTube channel if we so desire. Yet I still see the guy dressed up like a sub sandwich on the street corner a few times a week, holding a giant arrow and comically waving cars into his shops parking lot. It’s not very technological, but I surely can’t help but notice him.
When it all boils down, we all have to something to say or something to share, and we need to get attention to get an audience—offline or online. Most of all we need to make sure what we’re saying or selling is worthwhile; that’s the best attention-grabber of all!