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Different Types of websites and their functions
June 17, 2019

Complete Guide to Creating Online Presence for your Small Business

The term global village was coined in the 1960s in reference to the interconnection between the peoples of different cultures through the media technologies that were available, migration, and international commerce. At this point in history, the world has truly become a global village with the internet as the market on which we trade information, goods and services, and culture. Google, eBay, Facebook, and Pinterest are some of the few platforms that have realized this term, global village.

As of April 2019, the number of persons who used Facebook as a social site was estimated at 2.32 billion per month.

YouTube and WhatsApp came in close at second and third with 1.9 and 1.6 billion monthly users respectively.

Internet World Stats estimated that as of March 2019, there were approximately 4.3 billion persons who use the internet every month.

To put this into perspective, if a business decided to primarily and effectively use the internet for marketing while targeting only 50% of internet users, they would be attracting customers into the billions.

Of course, in practice, it may be a little more complicated than the simplistic way it has been presented above. The point being, any business can take advantage of the internet by creating an online presence in order to target the ready-market that is available there. There are a number of different ways through which a small business may create an online presence and strategic ways the owners may take advantage of social media in order to create and expand their online customer base. This comprehensive guide will teach you how to create an online presence, maintain and consistently get customers through the internet.

Content

What is an online presence?

Why do businesses need an online presence?

Where can you build your online presence?

Ways to maintain and improve your online presence

Should you hire someone to do your online presence?

Conclusion

What is an Online Presence?

Before we go on to break down the ways through which a small business may create and expand their online presence, it is paramount to first understand what is meant by an online presence.

Online presence, which is also known as web presence, refers to the existence of an individual or a company on the internet. Essentially, it means that when you search the name of the company or the business on a search engine like Yahoo, you will find the entity as one of the results; even if on the last page of the search engine.

In the past, simply having a website or a blog was sufficient for an online presence. However, over the years, due to the increase in the usage and complexity of the internet, online presence now means not just having a website, but also aspects such as search engine optimization, social media marketing, blogging, and web analytics.

The need for this arose from the fact that customers are becoming increasingly specific with their needs and the specifications for their products. As such, it has become important that businesses customize their presence online in order to be just a simple phrase away from their customer’s search engine. To understand the need for online presence in general and the different aspects of it, let us use an example;

I am a customer looking to buy a large size bra and so far, I have been frustrated with the lack of bras my size. I do see physical stores selling excellent bras, some of which I would be interested in buying, but nothing really fit my size! I am also looking for an affordable pair as, well, my budget is a little tight. So, I decided to give this one more try on my search engine where I type out “Large size bra cheap and comfortable”. The location setting on my phone is also on as I have no interest in traveling far or paying fare just to get the bra I purchase.

As a business specifically selling large size bras or just having it in your portfolio, how does online presence help you and this customer connect?

Why do you need to be online in order to get this customer to buy the bra from you?

Why Businesses Need Online Presence

One of the biggest benefits that we have enjoyed from the internet is absolute convenience. From the comfort of your couch, you can buy another couch, get dinner, send your mother some flowers and then set a reminder to get entertained later on YouTube, just in case you forget that you need entertaining.

It is debatable whether the internet has made has lazier, but it is definitely true that businesses need to be online in order to take advantage of the fact that customers expect convenience when they are purchasing products and acquiring services from those selling.

Also, as with the example above, businesses that are online are able to attract their specific customer base much easier. Customers nowadays know what they want, and even if they don’t, they are likely to type out a number of words that are specific to the product that you are selling or the service that you are offering. Being online allows you to get the customer to the product as you could tag your products with the word the customer is most likely to type. If you are selling the large size bras that I am looking for, all you have to do is use these words on the description of one or every one of the bras that you are selling. A search engine will lead me right to you.

Through social media platforms, online presence enables businesses to interact with their customers one-on-one. The benefits of this to businesses cannot be understated; first, it gives the businesses a personal touch hence the customers better relating to them. Secondly, feedback is instant and can be used to improve the quality of the products that the businesses are selling and the services they are offering. The business can also use the platform to clear out any confusion there may be about the usage of what they are selling.

These customers are also availed to the wide array of products that you are selling or services that you are offering. As a business, you can communicate this by setting up your website to have a theme and web pages that represent the extent of your products. You can also showcase the specific, say, bags or cars that you are selling, in high-quality well-edited photographs that can be put up in your blog, website or social media platform. Customers are attracted by excellent aesthetics which breaks them in a little in your favor.

Also, did you know that you could run an excellent online marketing campaign for absolutely free?

Of course, you knew that; if you aren’t a business owner yourself who has used search engine optimization and other free tools available on the internet to do marketing; then you are probably a customer who may have been attracted to a business through their free online marketing program.

Marketing has become so much cheaper and actually, simply setting yourself up online can be done for absolutely free. As your business gets bigger and more complex, you can increase your audience and improve the quality of your marketing by paying professionals to do it for you.

Just as importantly, an online presence enables you to gauge your business against that of your competitors and determine where on the scale you lie.

What are your competitors doing that you haven’t done?

What is giving them an edge?

What are you good at that you can become the best at and absolutely outperform those you are competing against?

This is made possible with an online presence and customer feedback. Where do you think customers give their feedback?

From behind their screens, of course; this is why your business should set an online presence, in order to get to the money.

Where can you build your Online Presence?

You have decided to build an online presence for yourself; or business, after all, so far, this article has been pretty convincing through the advantages of online presence for a business that has been highlighted. The question then becomes,

Where do you start?

What do you do to get yourself visible online?

There is a variety of ways to establish your business on the internet. You can decide to set up a social media page where your customers come and browse what you are selling, then through a plugin, purchase the product or service right there. Secondly, you may choose to set up a website either by buying a domain or by using one of the free templates that are offered by the WordPress platform, which hosts about 25% of the world websites, or Wix, a reliable alternative. Shopify is one other platform that is used for building an online presence, and as the name suggests, it is used for opening online stores. You can also use YouTube through video optimization to establish and grow your online presence.

The choice of a platform for your business depends on the type of business you are running and the benefits that you are looking to reap from the online presence. Some of the most commonly used and reliable platforms are discussed in detail below.

The Use of Social Media

If your business is small or if other choices for creating your online presence do you more harm than good, you may choose to exclusively use social media. Some social media platforms where you can set up your business include Facebook and Instagram.

Social media accounts enable you to build an image for your company through posting customized content to get your customers engaged and to keep them updated on the products you are selling. One major merit with using social media platforms is that your customers are already there. 1.6 billion Social media users are staring at their phones daily; updating, sharing, discovering. To get their attention, all you need is a social media account.

Facebook and Instagram also give you the option of targeted advertisements for your potential customers. These advertisements lead your customers to your Facebook or Instagram profile, to your online store or to your website where they can scrutinize what you are selling. Plugins available for Facebook and Instagram also make it possible for your customers to make and pay for the product they are selling right there on your profile.

Setting up a Website

While social media may be sufficient for the online presence of some small-to-medium-sized businesses, it may be insufficient for businesses that are established and offer a wide array of services and products. Websites do not enjoy the same conveniences as that of social media where the customers are already present. For a customer to run into a website that is branding your business, they have to intentionally get their way to it.

However, the advantages of using a website together with social media or instead of it are still tremendous. For instance, a website provides more details on your products or services that a social media account would not have. Not only can they learn about the products that you are selling,

but they also purchase your products and pay using a range of payment gateways such as lipa na Mpesa online,

learn more about the business itself,

how it started, who the founders are and how it is structured.

Websites are a good space to brand and market your business and also to receive feedback and interact with your customers through the comment section. You can also update your customers regularly through the use of blogging articles.

A website may be created from scratch by a web developer or if you are working on a low budget, you may decide to use a website platform that offers free plans. An example is Wix.com and WordPress.

WordPress is one of the most widely-used website platforms in the world, and it is able to run both heavy sites as big as The New York Times and small sites like an online diary. WordPress allows you to do a variety of things, from creating an affiliate site to posting blog posts, for example, an entry to your online diary. WordPress also allows you to showcase your portfolio and run your online business.

Did you know that you can open an online store using this platform?

With WordPress, you can also customize the theme for your website by changing colors, uploading a logo, using the in-built social media plug-ins and giving your brand a tagline. At the same time, you can upload pictures, posts, and products in your online store, and leave the comment section on in order to interact with your customers. WordPress is available in a free plan which comes with a wide variety of themes that you can pick from. You can also choose to upgrade to a premium and other plans that you pay for in order to have the ability to customize your domain name and enjoy other advantages that come thereof.

If you are looking for a simple uncomplicated website platform that is also available for free, Wix is a good choice. Wix is especially useful for small businesses that have no need for complexities but are also looking for a powerful site that offers them flexibility. In a matter of hours, you can make a website on this platform and customize it to fit the story your business is trying to tell. You can also choose to customize the code of your website if you have the technical know-how. The main disadvantage of Wix is in its simplistic nature, and therefore may not be ideal for businesses that need a powerful platform to run. It is available for free but has the option of upgrading it to enable the business access its premium features.

Alternatively, your business may also choose to customize a website fully from scratch. For this to happen, you will need to have the relevant skills, or you may choose to hire web developers who are experienced in making the kind of site you are looking for.

One company where you can hire a website designer is Shara Solutions

Shara Solutions limited is one of the best IT firm that is best suited to provide the best web design in Nairobi Kenya. We use a range of the latest technology and cutting-edge innovation to develop the best website design for your business. Over the years, our company has accumulated some of the best Kenya web designers in Nairobi with full experience not only for developing a website, but also landing pages, SEO optimization, and social media optimization.

Using a YouTube Account

If your business primarily involves the use of videos or if you are looking to use videos to create your online presence, a YouTube account would be useful for this purpose. To take advantage of the services offered by YouTube business, all you will need is a Google account to set up your channel. On YouTube, you can upload reviews for your product and testimonials from your previous clients and customers or use animated backgrounds to sell a specific service or product.

Since YouTube is Google-owned, you can also take advantage of the SEO tools available on Google. This means that you can use keywords and Google Adwords, among other tools, to increase traffic to your YouTube channel. On top of that, YouTube allows you to manage your other social media accounts and sharing of videos all from a single interface.

Maintaining and Improving your Online Presence

Setting up your small business online is not enough; after all, you have competitors who are selling the exact same thing you are selling to the exact same customers you are targeting. You need to be able to expand your business by reaching more people online and have your brand identified by more people.

You have probably heard the expression “Content is King”, and when it comes to maintaining your online presence and improving the coverage, you need to be able to generate lots of content for your customers. There are several ways through which you can make this happen;

Being an Active Social Media User

As mentioned above, social media is all about taking your business to where the customers are and to do this, you need to generate high-quality content. If your business is selling bras, you need to constantly update your page with stock that has just newly arrived; some tips on correctly using bras; and where relevant, clearance sales that are aimed at moving stagnant products. This will keep your customers engaged and interested in coming back to your social media page every time they need a bra. A dormant account where posting is not done soon becomes obsolete, especially considering that your competition has very active social media pages.

Being an active social media user also involves you responding to any messages that may have been sent in the form of inquiries, comments, criticism, and compliments. Interacting with the customers that have messaged you give your business a personal touch that may be absent from other businesses. This makes them more likely to visit your social media page again or purchase something from you. Replying to comments on posts has the same effect of reassuring and engaging the customer as responding to private messages does.

Updating your Blog

Content is King, which means that if you have a website or a blog, you can maintain your online presence by regularly updating your blog with relevant posts. For example, if your business is involved in software development and you are running a website for it, you may choose to inform your potential customers of everything technology. You can have a blog post that talks about what the existence of UFOs would mean for the technology in this century.

Engaging article pieces also work to attract customers that would have otherwise not run into or visited your site. For example, a conspiracy theorist would run into the article on UFOs simply because he was searching for aliens and not necessarily a software developer. After arriving at your site, it may hit them that they do actually need to develop an app for their small business, not necessarily UFO-related. They are then more likely to turn into buyers of your service.

Guest Blogging

Guest blogging is also another way through which you can improve your online presence. This can be done in two ways; either by allowing guest blogs on your site or by being a guest blogger yourself for a site similar to yours. Essentially, this would involve contributing content as a guest blogger to another site; content that can be linked back to you. You can also allow content that is relevant to your site to be posted by someone in the industry that is similar to yours.

There are many advantages to guest blogging. Your personal professional network is expanded when you engage your competitors and other influencers. Secondly, you also get to stimulate your social media sharing and increase the traffic you get on your different sites. Similarly, you also get to create a reputation for yourself and your business among your peers and to your customers.

Improve your Search Engine Optimization

Simply put, search engine optimization is getting customers to visit your online profiles by taking advantage of the free results that are generated by search engines. The results on search engines are based on a determination of what is most relevant to the users. Therefore, search results that come on the first page of the search engine are deemed to be more relevant to the users than others that come in latter pages.

SEO can be done through manipulation of keywords that the customer is most likely to type out when searching for the product that you are selling. Remember the example I gave above; I typed out into my search engine the words ‘large size bra cheap and comfortable’. A business that is looking to use SEO to attract attention to their websites can do so by having these keywords in one or several of their web pages, or on their social media accounts.

When SEO is used together with directory services, it gets even better. When I type out those words into my search engine, I also switched my location on. When your business is listed in key directories site, you get to attract and even more specific customer base that lives around your area. This increases the percentage of traffic that is likely to make purchases after visiting your site.

Making your Website Mobile Friendly

Currently, the number of people who do visit the internet do so on mobile phones due to their convenience and the fact that they are cheaper than computers. It is therefore likely that your site will be visited by a good number of people who are on their mobile phones. To ensure that you don’t lose customers due to a complicated user interface, make sure that your site is both mobile and desktop-friendly.

Should You Hire Someone to Manage Your Online Presence?

This is a question that both startups and established businesses have asked themselves at one point or the other. Should you hire someone to do your online presence, through things like managing your social media accounts for you, or should you do it yourself?

There are quite a number of marketing agencies such as our company Shara Solutions with expert marketers in almost all spheres of online marketing.

We have expert

Social media marketers

website designers

graphic designers

content creators

SEO optimization experts e.t.c

There is no clear yes or no answer for this as it all depends on the point in its growth that the business is at. This is not to say that small businesses or ones that aren’t raking in a lot of profit should not hire an expert to run their online presence. Neither is it saying that big businesses should use outside help for their visibility on the internet. Instead, it is about how much benefit the business can reap from the advantages of hiring out and doing it in-house.

The advantages of hiring out experts to manage your online presence include the quality and consistency that comes with updating content and engaging customers. Outside experts are usually specifically dedicated to your social media pages and your website and updating and revitalizing the content on it. When you are running all aspects of your small or large business, you may become distracted and therefore not regularly engage your potential and present customers on the internet. Furthermore, compared to you, especially if you don’t have the relevant marketing skills or experience, marketing experts will produce content of high quality.

They are also likely to better track the efficiency and effectiveness of the online that your small business is developing.

How many new customers have you brought in since you put up an online presence?

How effective have your campaigns to get more visible been?

How much more traffic have you brought in since you put up your Facebook account?

All these are questions that you may be unable to answer but ones that an expert will respond to.

The main setback with experts is the fact that you have to pay them and with a small business or a startup, this may be far from ideal, especially if they are working on limited resources. Furthermore, it may take time for the business to pick up customers from their online presence, and this could prove debilitating for a business that cannot maintain the costs of the experts.

Therefore, the decision to hire expert help or maintain the online presence yourself should be based on the benefits that you will reap therefrom and the costs that you will incur. Make sure your choice is beneficial for your small business.

In conclusion;

Because of the wide usage of the internet and the sheer number of customers that are available there, an online presence is necessary for any small business. The question to ask yourself before signing up for any social media accounts or giving a call to that developer you know is, why does my business need an online presence?

Who are the customers that this business is going to attract on the internet?

After you have the answers to these questions, read through this article again and determine how to set up your business’ online presence.

Evans Kibet
Evans Kibet
Content Marketer and lead generation manager at Shara Solutions. Follow me on Twitter @naitwa_evans

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