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With so many companies vying for visibility online, a small- to mid-sized business owner may feel that trying to outpace the bigger companies within their industry is a losing battle.
But you can easily keep up with larger companies’ branding efforts if you prioritize visibility and strategically plan ongoing news releases, blogs and social media content that is both interesting and educational to your readers and potential customers.
Making your company known as the experts in your industry takes a continued relationship with the people in your community; your online presence goes a long way in promoting this commitment. You can’t let your company’s news or advice go unnoticed or allow your blog to whither on the vine for lack of constant communication.
While most business owners understand the need to advertise in their coverage area, many don’t realize how added public relations from an active and engaged online presence can boost business. Keeping your opinions on issues relevant to your industry fresh or consistently offering your customers tips through online communication helps establish you as an expert in your field.
Tips to stay relevant
Here are nine tips to becoming more visible online and stay relevant to your community:
1. It’s the quality of your followers, not the quantity: Sure, we’d all prefer to have several million followers who hang on our every word, but most community businesses don’t have the pool of potential followers an internationally famous entertainer, athlete or politician does. A home services company in Roanoke, Virginia, or Las Vegas simply isn’t going to have the reach of a Beyoncé or a LeBron James.
This ensures that those who follow you are real stakeholders who support your company. If you have 20 or more followers who are so satisfied with your work, they are willing to sing your praises or share your articles, blog posts or social media comments, you have a fan club you can be proud of.
2. Engage with your followers: It’s also not enough that you have followers. You need to stay engaged with them to grow your visibility. Make time to review your social media posts, the comments in response to your blog posts, and your online reviews. Thank those posters who share your articles or answer their questions.
For online reviews, make sure you deal with any negative feedback quickly by posting directly to the commentor. You don’t need to go into detail, but assure them you will follow up offline. Showing that a real person or people are behind your online accounts boosts your visibility and breeds goodwill.
3. Use hashtags: In the online world, hashtags are how average people search for a topic on social media. If your plumbing company is offering tips on how to prevent piping systems from freezing in the winter, for example, be sure and include a hashtag of your city name and #frozenpipes to be picked up in local searches for this information.
Relevant hashtags are usually pretty easy to find by searching for them yourself. It also will give you an idea of how many people are searching for that topic and what topics are popular.
4. Use images: When scrolling through your own social media feeds, think about the posts you notice first. Unless the headline is earth-shattering, chances are those posts you gravitate toward are those with eye-catching visuals. The same is true of your own posts. You can either provide a high-resolution image of your own, subscribe to an image service and use their quality imagery or develop your own charts or graphic designs.
5. Post your news at the right times: While your post should include quality information, ensuring that it’s posted at the right time of day to get the most views is also important. Social media’s peak posting times are usually between 9 a.m. and 11 a.m., but you also should research your own posts to see what time your followers are most active. You may find that your online community is more active in the evenings or on weekends.
Experimenting with posting times is recommended to help you determine the best time to post your updates.
6. Share your own content: If you’ve recently given an interview on a local news station or written an article for a trade publication within your industry, share it! Post the link to the interview or article on your blog and your social media accounts. The more you share, the more the article or interview will be viewed — and the more you will be perceived as an expert in your field.
7. Share others’ content: Reciprocity is key to building your online visibility. The more you share others’ content, the more likely they will follow you and share your content. If you see a good article related to home services from a source you follow online, share it through your own channels. The more you engage with the people you follow and who follow you, the more your company’s insights will be shared.
8. Brand your company (and yourself): Make sure you and anyone posting on behalf of your company know your organization’s talking points and brand messaging. Many companies now also require all employees who post on social media as representatives of their organization to follow a set of rules when writing online. Make sure you and your employees are on the same page when sharing your company news.
9. Maintain your website: Make sure your website stays updated with your company’s latest news, offers and products or services. If you no longer carry XYZ product, take it off your products page. If you won an award this month for community involvement, post the information about your award promptly.
Your website is your welcome mat if you want to stay and remain visible online. You can’t develop it once and leave it to stagnate. It must be kept up to date for the convenience of your stakeholders.
Remember that very few people use the Yellow Pages in their homes anymore. When they need a plumber or an HVAC repairperson, they go online to find help. And they don’t stop at the list of related businesses in their area. People also use the internet to research companies before they make the call.
Studies have shown that between 70 percent and 80 percent of consumers research a company online before doing business with that company. If there is virtually no information about your company online, the information about your company is old or any bad reviews you’ve had have not been answered or resolved, homeowners are going to opt to research your competitor, who may have a brilliant online presence.
Staying visible online is no longer just for tech types or students; it’s now a part of doing business and should be a mainstay in your marketing plans.