Getting Your Business Online: Social Media Integration
I hope that by following this series of posts about getting your business online, you’ve been persuaded of the benefits of building a website for your small business, and I’ve helped you take the first necessary steps into this brave new world of broader promotion, improved customer service and more sales. In this final installment in the series, I’m going to tackle another area, social media, where Canadian small businesses can greatly improve on those same three fronts. I will show you why and how to properly integrate your website with social media networks.
Why integrate social media?
Now that you’ve built a good website that helps potential customers find you, and maybe even lets them buy from you online, why not expand your reach by also talking to your marketplace on the social media networks that consumers are increasingly using to find companies that sell the goods and services they’re looking for?
Besides driving traffic to your website, social media is proving to be highly influential when consumers are looking for more information about a product or service, including where they can buy it. A Vision Critical survey of social media trends show that 29 per cent of Pinterest users, 38 per cent of Facebook users and 22 per cent of Twitter users have made a purchase after sharing or favouriting a product on social media.
Which social media channels are right for you?
The answer to this question is a bit different for every small business. At a minimum, though, you should probably be active on Twitter and Facebook, which are the two most dominant social media networks on the planet. One statistic I saw recently estimated that more than half of all Internet users — that’s more than a billion people — are on Facebook. Another source said the Facebook behemoth has 750-million users while Twitter, meanwhile, checked in with about 250-million users. Most important for you, though, both are networks where your website content can be easily shared both by you and by your customers.
If you are a professional services company, like a lawyer’s office or an accounting firm, then LinkedIn is an obvious place to be. It is uniquely suited to showcasing expertise and subject authority.
Referencing back to the series-long example we’ve been using of Celine’s Bakery, her new website will have plenty of attractive photographs of her mouth-watering baked goods so it is natural for her, and for other businesses with good pictures, to be on image-oriented sites like Pinterest and Instagram. Pinterest, in particular, ranks right up there with Facebook and Twitter in terms of buyer influence.
Linking your social media accounts
Linking your own social media accounts to your website, and vice versa, is a fairly straightforward affair. On your website, be sure to include links to your social media accounts in prominent places on your front page, your contacts page and elsewhere. Similarly, be sure to feature your website address front and centre in all your social media profiles. In this way, visitors to your site will know how to connect with you on their favourite social media network so they can keep up with news you share across those channels, while all your followers will have a quick and easy way to get to your website if you tell them something of interest on social media.
Make your content shareable
Even more important than linking to your social media properties, however, is making your site easy for visitors to share across the social media networks they use. This can be a powerful way to build and expand your audience, even if you don’t actually have an account on the social media network being used by your visitors.
There are any number of plugins to WordPress and other popular web platforms that will display buttons allowing your visitors to share a page, a picture or even a quotation or other excerpt. Some of them are specific to individual networks, like Twitter or Facebook, while others aggregate sharing buttons for a broad array of social media networks and content aggregation sites.
It’s important, in the first instance, to make your content worth sharing. That usually means it should be interesting without being overtly promotional. A lot of companies are encouraging sharing by isolating specific elements of a website page and literally inviting their visitors to “share this.”
Keep track of things so you know what’s working
I covered website analytics in a previous post in this series. You can use analytics to determine which social media networks are doing the best job of referring traffic to your website. And, if you use aggregated sharing plugins, you can also track which content elements visitors are sharing most often, and on which social media networks. It’s important early on to experiment with different kinds of content on various networks to see what really works well, and to revisit those experiments periodically since the social media landscape is so dynamic.
The bottom line
The key point this series of posts has been trying to make is that a website for your business is, in many respects, just like your actual business. Your website should make it obvious to visitors exactly what your business is all about. Your website needs to be easily found by people looking for the goods or services you sell. Your website can be marketed across all kinds of promotional channels, many of them costing very little. And your website can help you reach new customers. If you need some help getting going or taking your website to the next level, you can contact an expert service provider.
Unlike your actual business, however, your website offers at least a couple of distinct advantages. One is the ease with which its performance can be measured through analytics. And the other, the subject of this last post, is how the power of social sharing can greatly enlarge the footprint and reach of your website.
How has social media integration with your website worked well for you? Please share your experiences in the comments section.