Most small business owners know they need to have a website, but many don't take full advantage of all the digital opportunities available to them. This puts them at a disadvantage to larger rivals that boast a robust digital presence well beyond a website.
Do this first
Before you worry about all the other opportunities available to your company it's important to make sure your existing website functions well and is user-friendly. You'd be shocked by how many small business or personal sites have crucial errors -- sometimes as basic as having broken contact pages or missing addresses, phone numbers, and email addresses.
Give your site a critical once-over. Make sure all of your information is correct and that potential and existing customers can find everything they need. Don't force people to call you if they have a question and make sure that the hours listed reflect when you're actually open.
Your website doesn't have to be fancy or expensive. It should check off all the boxes when it comes to making sure customers can get in touch with you, visit your location, and understand what your business does.
Go beyond a website
Yelp, Twitter (NYSE:TWTR) and Facebook (NASDAQ:FB) aren't the only places it makes sense to list your business but they're the most important. Make sure you have an account on all three sites and that your information is accurate.
These are interactive mediums. Yelp allows customers to contact you and it lists how quickly you respond to their inquiries. Be attentive and make sure you get back to people in a very timely fashion. In addition, you should be proactive about reviews. Thank customers who say positive things and address the concerns of people who have critical things to say. Always stay positive and accept criticism as graciously as possible. Better yet, incorporate their feedback to improve your business!
Facebook can be used as a place to interact with your customers, share upcoming events, and promote a community around your business. Don't be overly promotional unless you're sharing something (like a sale, event, or giveaway) that benefits your customers.
Twitter, like Facebook, allows for interaction with customers. This microblogging medium is used by many companies for customer support and quick troubleshooting.
You'll want to monitor your business's Twitter account and respond to concerns on a near-instant basis. Interact with customers in a fun way by commenting on their positive remarks about your company and sharing them with your followers. Be careful, though, not to pander to younger audiences by using too much slang or going overboard with memes, at risk of being critiqued by followers and competitors. Embrace a genuine tone and strive to educate your followers about your business's mission.
Be active, not passive
The philosophy driving your digital presence shouldn't be 'set it and forget it.' Actively monitor your website and your social media presence. Consumers expect that companies to be responsive when they post things on Facebook or Yelp. If you take days to respond, you may well see your customers decide to patronize a business that gets back to them faster.
Consider training your customer service representatives on best practices online and task the department with responding to digital complaints and praise alike. Doing this right requires vigilance and there's a manpower cost associated with that. In most cases, it's worth it because these channels allow for easy, direct communication with your customers in a way that strengthens your bond with them.