Measuring its reach and impact is difficult, but keep a watchful eye on your web-based real estate.
It’s still easy to forget that when you post to your blog or publish a website or add your thoughts to a social networking site, almost anyone with an internet connection can see it. Our activity – our keyboard entries and mouse movements — seem similar to writing a document in Microsoft Word that only we can see.
But you need to keep that gargantuan potential audience in mind when you’re posting online. And you need to keep a watchful eye on your content-in-a-cloud so you can:
Evaluate its effectiveness, and,
Assess your company’s virtual image.
Both of which are good arguments for limiting your online exposure to what you can reasonably manage. Some say you’re leaving money on the table unless you’ve staked a claim on all of the major networks and some of the smaller ones.
But many prominent voices are backpedaling on that earlier advice, recommending that businesses focus their time and energy on two or three social services, maybe a blog, but above all, a well-designed, frequently-freshened website. Your online interaction should always link to your company’s main site, since it (hopefully) contains comprehensive information about your business, your products and/or services, and your sales pages (if you have them).
Good Insight from Google
There are numerous subscription-based services – and pricey consultants — that claim to be able to tell you definitively what’s working and what isn’t in your online strategy. Some provide useful metrics. But there’s a lot you can do for free, or minimal expense, starting with Google Analytics.
You may eventually find that you need more, and will want to pay for Google Analytics Premium, but start with the free version, which offers an enormous amount of valuable insight. You can analyze visitor traffic, learning, for example, what queries individuals entered that brought them to you, and what paths they took when they got there. Results come to you as reports, charts, and graphs.
The level of detail in Google Analytics — down to what browser or device type is being used – simply isn’t available free from any other source. The information it gives you not only sheds light on how your current strategy is working, but it also helps you modify your social media and website approaches.
Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that your social media strategy is successful because you have a lot of followers. The volume isn’t important. What matters is subtle endorsements: Comments, Shares, Replies, Retweets, etc. You might assign numerical values to those in order of importance and compare them week to week.
If you have multiple points of presence online (blog, website, active social media pages), use a different contact email for each so you can more easily track where sales or just questions and comments originated. If your business is big enough and can manage it, consider getting different phone numbers.
Google Analytics can provide some of this information, but you can do some detective work on your own. Using a PC that you don’t normally use to access your online sites, enter search terms and phrases that people might use to find you. Include geographical information. You can use the results to further hone your SEO strategies.
Your Online Image
Finally, your business must do some kind of reputation monitoring. It’s too easy for competitors or other detractors to do a lot of serious damage to your brand. If you have a lot of web real estate and/or little time, there are many companies that will provide this service for a fee. Reputation.com is one you should consider, but there are others.
You can do a lot of this on your own, but it takes an ongoing commitment. Malicious content can pop up and get spread quickly. Do these things, at the very least:
Set up a Google Alert for your company name and common misspellings.
Search occasionally for [your company name] and additional words like “scam,” “problem,” “review,” and “complaint.”
If the negative content has some truth to it, address it head on, and quickly. Should there really be a problem with your products or services, be honest.
Run searches on social networks for your company name, even if you don’t have a presence there.
Much of what happens online – bad and good — is out of your control. So carve out your cloud-based niches carefully, and don’t let them get away from you.