Many small businesses are struggling these days, whether you run your own bakery, hair salon, greengrocers, freelance designer, plumber, writer, even lemonade business, etc. Whatever it is, due to growing dominance and competition of the super markets and online businesses, traditional local business are are finding it tough. This is because, for some, they are being isolated and finding it harder to find customers and clients through the traditional methods, such as ads in the local newspaper, because more and more people are shopping online.
I am happy to say that times are changing; many small local businesses are now seeing the importance, benefits and potential to having their own online presence. Much of this has come about thanks to social media platforms like Twitter, Google+, and Facebook.
Small businesses are getting in on the act and creating highly targeted and localised lists of followers and fans that they can send regular updates and interact with.
For small businesses this has been a God send, with many small and struggling companies suddenly being saved by an influx of local customers who had been made aware of offers and special deals they were supplying. Deals that the new customers had no idea existed until they received some very short and free to do updates in their newsfeeds.
The power of social media is huge, couple that with an easy to use dedicated business site, then the doors for success are thrown wide open.
So why do I think small local businesses should have their own WordPress site alongside a social media presence? Well I’ll tell you…
WordPress is a content management system (CMS) that allows you to create your own website or blog. If you use Facebook, then you will find WordPress very easy to use, making it easy to set up your own site for your business! The range of things that you can do with your own WordPress site far exceeds the capabilities of social media sites on their own.
Personally I believe they should go hand in hand. Facebook, Google+ and Twitter are great ways for traffic generation and social interaction with your target market. Your fans and followers can be re-directed to your WordPress site where they can see and read more and get access to better information.
You can’t achieve the same results by only having a social media presence, you need your own website. Facebook allows you to create pages that are used primarily for businesses and you can add apps for different things including adding extra HTML pages and shopping carts, but it still looks like Facebook and is still limited in comparison to your own dedicated WordPress site!
WordPress only needs basic skills to understand how to use it and is very easy to create great looking websites for your business without the hard work of learning coding or the high costs of paying a designer to create a website. The small business owner can create their own professional looking site with the plugin & play, copy & paste, drag & drop style system that WordPress offers, and the best part is that WordPress is FREE!
The possibility of local businesses creating a quality looking site in their spare time (if they have any) at the fraction of the cost that can benefit them is right here right now.
There are some expenses that you need to pay for, most notably domain name registration and web hosting. A personal domain registration and basic hosting package can cost as little as £30 a year, tell me where else in the world can you have an information packed colour brochure style advertisement that can be accessed 24 hours a day 365 days of the year by anyone for £30?
Using local keywords and a localized domain names, for example; ‘thebigbunbakeryinbedford.co.uk’ or ‘koicarpkeepersincalifornia.com’, can greatly help with localized web searches. If you want a bakery in Bedford that makes big buns what would you type into Google!
To learn more about setting up your very first website/blog, read our ‘Get Started Today!‘ guide.
So What Are The Differences Between A WordPress Site & Social Media?
Social media is most effective when updates and posts are kept short. When you see that someone has written a long post on Facebook or Google+, how often do you click on ‘see more’ or ‘expand story’? Hardly ever I bet.
People within social media like to keep things short. Writing a short but straight to the point update informing them of a new blog post, allows your fans to be able to read what you have to say and if they so choose to read more, then they will be re-directed to your WordPress website.
Writing short but enticing posts has now become an art form, especially with Twitter where you have only 140 characters to work with. On Facebook & Google+ you can have longer posts, but not many users do this because they aren’t as effective.
In WordPress, you can easily write lengthy articles, add images, videos, audio clips, etc. in relatively the same way as social media sites. The big difference though, is that social media updates are only briefly available to your followers, whereas your WordPress content will be there for everyone to see forever (Unless of course you delete it) because it will be accessible via search engines.
Any posts, images, videos and podcasts that are uploaded to your WordPress site can be shared easily on your social media accounts with your fans.
Adding regular posts to your site makes it easier for search engines like Google, Bing and Yahoo to rank your content and display it in their search results, giving you more exposure over your competition in your area.
There are ways to monetize your social media, but they are not as successful as having your own website. People don’t tend to like buying directly from Facebook, Google+ and Twitter as it can seem unprofessional, but social media can still be very lucrative. An interesting fact emerged from a recent study that showed a Facebook fan (i.e. someone who likes your Facebook Page) is twice more likely to buy from your site than a non-fan. I imagine Twitter is the same.
Ecwid.com is a free to use shopping cart system that takes PayPal payments along with several others and can be added easily to both WordPress sites and Facebook pages, along with many other platforms. This allows you to monetize both your WordPress and Facebook page with the same products. Ecwid has an easy to use single account back office where you add products for sale etc. which will update both places at the same time.
How To Use Twitter For Your Small Business
Social media should only be used for traffic generation and engagement with your fans and followers. Yes, promote your products and do some pre ‘buttering up’ selling, but it must not be done at the expense of relationship building! The key to good business is the relationship you have with your customers and building a community around your site.
Firstly, you want to set up an account with the same name (or as close to) the name of your business or website. Fill out your bio section and about section in your profile with information about you and your business, including links back to your website.
Just like other social sites, you need to build a list of targeted and relevant people that you can promote your business to. Using a cheap and incredibly powerful piece of software like TweetAdder helps you set up your Twitter list building strategy on autopilot. The software can be set to search out people who have placed keywords into their tweets for example ‘I need money’ and then follow them.
When they follow you back the software will send them an automated message that can have a link back to your website or even an affiliate offer.
You can set it to follow the followers of people who are field leaders in your chosen niche or business. If the people that the software has followed do not follow you back within 3 days it will un-follow them, making space for new potential followers.
When you follow 2000 people Twitter enforces a follow ratio which is different for every account. Put it this way, if you have 100 followers you cannot follow 10,000. So it is a must that you un-follow as many people as you can that have not followed you back within 3 days.
If they haven’t followed you back within 3 days then they either will not follow you back at all or do not use Twitter enough for you to worry about.
The great thing about TweetAdder is that you can stack up Tweets in the morning and it will post them throughout the day, leaving you to get on with the rest of your days work.
Read our ‘TweetAdder Review – How To Drive Traffic With Twitter‘ post for more information.
The idea is to slowly build up a nice big list of followers that you can promote your business and products to. A word of warning, do not just promote yourself or your products, you will lose followers and those you do keep will be non-responsive.
Give them fun & inspirational quotes (these go really well and get re-tweeted the most), facts, tips and stories. Re-Tweet other people’s great articles that you find interesting in the same niche. People love it when you share information with them and not just trying to sell to them. You should rely on your WordPress site for the selling.
Finding great articles to share with your growing list of followers is easier than you think. Instead of having to trawl through Google searching for something good, set up Google Alerts and have new articles delivered to you in a feed.
Quickly go through the list, find some that look good enough to share, then use bit.ly to create a smaller URL, copy the article headline, add a few words of your own then Tweet the article to your list.
Every time you write a new blog post or guest post, or your business is offering a special deal, send out a Tweet to your followers directing them to your WordPress blog where they will read more and hopefully buy more.
A Quick Recap
Small businesses should have an external website! If money is short, use WordPress as it can be added to your domain and hosted on the server. It is very user friendly and allows you to take the control and saves you money.
Adding payment systems to a WordPress site is more effective than adding it to social media sites (Ecwid is great for WordPress and Facebook remember) and you can monetize your site in a variety of different ways, including by selling advertising space. You can chose what adverts you show, something you cannot control on Facebook.
Social media should be used to generate a following and drive traffic to your site. Use Twitter, Google+ and Facebook as they are free, popular and a great way to interact with your fans and clients.
It is also a great idea to use YouTube if you can create videos of your products and services. These can be easily linked into your WordPress site and social media sites, which again can be great for traffic.
Once you are set up and working with social media to send traffic to your new dedicated business WordPress site you should ramp up your ‘satellite’ sites by setting up a Tumblr, Blogger and WordPress.com sites, but that is something to discuss on another day!
But what do you think? Do you agree that social media and your own website is vitally important for your local business success, or do you believe that you can get away with only using one? Let us know your views & opinions by leaving a comment below.