It is no secret, both potential and current clients are increasingly using the Internet to assist them in making both large and small purchasing decisions every year. According to a comScore report, the average North American topped the global charts for the most time spent online, averaging 45.3 hours per month.
If businesses are worried their product or service is missing the eyes of potential clients (even if they have a website), this news does not get any better. Of the tens of millions of Internet users, it was reported they habitually view more than 120 web pages per day. What is even more interesting is the same report shows there was a consistent 10 percent rise in mobile Internet year over year.
This is important simply due to the manner in which people are accessing the Internet—every once in a while via a large desktop computer to carrying the Internet wherever they go and actively commenting and interacting online.
Examining the rise in mobile Internet use
Along with e-mail and voice communication, mobile device technology such as cell phones and mobile tablets use social media technology such as texting, ‘Tweeting,’ and web-linked apps such as Facebook, which inform others of one’s purchasing decisions and the impending results.
Since this type of information sharing is mobile, the consequence is that it is done whenever and where ever one chooses. Usually, this means the emotional motivation to react to one’s experience is made without the filter of time.
Facebook users know the social networking service is flooded with personal opinions and rants. Current and potential customers post their opinions on everything from their experience at the supermarket to a video of someone cutting them off in the parking lot. Rating and commenting on such experiences, as well as the service and quality (even if it is subjective) has never been as popular or convenient as it is now, and this trend is growing. These days, it is accepted and expected that everyone can, will, and should share their daily consumer activity and opinions online to be retold and re-shared over and over again.
This is how Facebook makes money. Big business thrives on this information to make major purchasing and stocking decisions. Just pick a large grocery chain and check out the number of ‘Likes’ on their Facebook page with regards to their newest products. In this same manner, local and smaller businesses that do not have the same kind of proportionate exposure could suffer.
Some may not like this
Business owners should ask themselves where their company is on the Internet marketing landscape. Some may feel like they are under a rock since the only way people get to learn things about some businesses is through conversation, business cards, ads, and/or lawn signs. Others may actually feel relieved as being under this stone they feel as though they have control over what people think and know about the company due to the limited Internet exposure. Either way, the tools of technology at the consumer’s disposal, along with the far-reaching access of the Internet, can provide consumers with enough information to allow them to form an opinion about the company, and possibly its owners. Do not forget, a simple conversation can turn into a ‘Tweet.’
Further, the video of the truck, which cut off the car in the parking lot, could have captured the company’s name, logo, and phone number or a sign on the lawn with dying grass and plants can be easily photographed and posted on another popular social media pages. Believe it or not, this type of exposure is a form of advertising that will play a role in the consumer’s decision between different landscaping companies when they plan to spend money.
Even though these situations are subjective, consumers believe they are keeping businesses honest when posting such comments and videos. These methods are relatively new and are not going away anytime soon. Like it or not, in a good way or bad, social media will not let companies hide under a rock for long.
As service providers, the attempt to stay relevant in a commercial industry via word-of-mouth and a sign on the lawn in an ideal neighborhood is not good enough to generate and maintain interest. For some, the fear of multimedia and mobile Internet exposure, or the anxiety over unregulated criticism, is enough to keep them off of the Internet radar. For others, however, the lack of technological understanding, or the expense of remaining relevant on the Internet, is enough to prevent them from crawling out from under the rock.
All is not lost
Some business owners do not mind their company being out in the open on the Internet landscape where they get exposure, reviews, and referrals from multiple websites. Some companies only have one website, which is all they need; however, how do these business owners know if the investment they made in developing a website is generating interest? Better still, what can they do about it?
What does a company know about the visitors to its website? Tools such as ‘Google Analytics’ can provide loads of information about those who are visiting the company’s website, including what web pages referred them and when. This data can help shed some light on a recent advertising or mailing campaign, including its rate of success. Businesses can measure this information as well as compare, for example, February’s visitor data against May’s to help determine which month was more successful for launching a media campaign.
Correlating additional data such as number of visits, time of day, and what type of device was used to view the website, can tell business owners whether more people are using tablets or desktops. Time of day web traffic will show when visitors are browsing a company’s website, whether it be at work with a lessened attention span, or from home where they can focus on written content. Information such as this can also tell a business owner if and when it becomes necessary to upgrade the website to be compatible with mobile devices, and/or contain more images rather than text.
It is also important to locate the business on Google maps. Not necessarily to let customers know where the office is, but more so because they want to know if the business is local and if it is supporting their community. It is surprising in this global economy how many people believe (for good reason) that a local company feels more responsibility to local customers.
The saying “If you can’t beat them, join them” resonates with social media. Create a business Facebook page, but keep any personal pages unattached. This is especially true if there is content received and sent, which some may find offensive. The built-in controls allow modifications to be made in addition to controlling the extent of the page’s exposure.
Getting followers is easy, and followers have friends. If the company has a portfolio worth sharing, keep a business profile on Pinterest and Houzz.com. Many homeowners and businesses browse these sites regularly for ideas and commonly call those whose images reflects their work. These websites are keyword searchable; therefore, it is important to be descriptive about the company in as many words as possible so those who may be remotely interested can find the company easily. These online communities are free and Internet users will thrive on the uploaded images that most already have of their work.
For those who do not have a portfolio, but have mobile Internet access and do not want to share their ideas (images) with just anyone, there are many websites available where free photo albums can be created online. These sites offer the convenience of making albums where photos can be uploaded and viewed from anywhere. For those businesses, which upgrade to a paid subscription, some accounts even offer photo editing options. For example, Flickr.com is one website, which allows users to post photos to either a public or private audience, and organize them into categories called ‘sets’ and ‘galleries.’
Remember, every type of web presence requires a certain amount of upkeep to attract and maintain dedicated, positive feedback.
Maintaining a company’s presence on Facebook or other social media websites means regularly updating project photos and telling stories, which keep visitors coming back. All comments, whether about the company or others, should be positive. Studies indicate a positive experience from a website or media exposure keep people interested and garner return visits, while negative comments turn people off, even if the comments are from those purporting to expose the poor workmanship or habits of a competitor. Making someone look bad does not always make another company look better.
Companies worried that ‘big brother’ is watching should keep in mind that he might be. However, this time he might be in the car next to a company truck wondering if the business has a good reputation. To find out, he looks up the company online to see some project photos or to find comments and reviews. Depending on what he finds—good or bad—he might end up telling his family and friends all in a span of five to 10 minutes.
Those companies that give people something good to talk about will have the upper hand. Those which do not are leaving the company’s image in the hands of those that will either form an opinion on their own or worse, cannot find any information on the company at all and forget that it even exists.
This article was written by Gary van Eijk and originally appeared on Pool & Spa Marketing [link].