Thanks, Charles – that is really something to think about. Like everything else, your marketing works better when you use the right tool for the job. I think Facebook, a blog, a website, e-newsletters, and other communication channels all have very different uses, and they can be integrated into a solid electronic marketing constellation.
The website is the foundation of any electronic marketing. It is a permanent place for company information, such as service offerings, staff bios, testimonials, portfolio work, and articles. While it’s important to regularly keep your website updated (do as I say, not as I do – mine is terribly out of date!), this is a more permanent platform than the others. One strength of the website compared to the others is that you have a lot more control over your message. You can take down old content, edit material, and add new information at any time. You can organize your content so it’s intuitive for your visitors to find what they’re looking for – and it’s important to design your navigation carefully. To paraphrase Steve Krug (Don’t Make Me Think: A Common Sense Approach to Web and Mobile Usability) you need to do the hard work so your clients don’t need to. Once people are at your website, they should be able to browse around for whatever information they need about you and your business. All of the other electronic marketing vehicles should point back to your website.
A blog can be a component of your website, or freestanding. If you don’t feel ready to build a whole website right now, a blog might be a good place to start. You can write short (or long!) articles, post links to other blogs, websites, and news stories, and post pictures, video, and graphics. A blog is a great place to casually communicate with your audience and to express the personality of your business. Some blogs focus on tightly defined subject matter, some can be much broader. Because blogs are do-it-yourself platforms, most of us can get content up instantly, without having to involve a developer, so it’s much easier and less expensive to stay current.
Another nice feature of blogs is the ability of readers to post comments. This is optional – when you set up the blog, you decide whether or not to accept comments, if people need to be logged into an account or if they can post anonymously, and if you want to moderate the comments before they go live. I moderate mine because comments can be computer-generated spam.
When you build a blog (actually, this is true for everything we’re discussing here) you need a plan to get readers. Your website and blog can link back and forth to each other, and there are other ways to let people know you’ve updated your content. Fresh blog content can be “pushed” out to subscribers in a variety of ways. I send mine out in an email newsletter. I like MailChimp, but there are many good services that help with distribution while keeping me compliant with the CAN-SPAM Act. I will also post it on my business Facebook page, on LinkedIn, and possibly on other publishing platforms.
I have two Facebook pages – a personal page, with friends, and a business page for Kim Schlossberg Designs, with people formerly known as fans (Facebook doesn’t use that term anymore, but we don’t have a new name for people who like a page, so I’m going to use it here for clarity). I want to keep my personal page friendly and, well, personal. I try to keep any mentions of business very light – so my friends are sure to know what I do, but with no real marketing or selling. I don’t know about you, but I’m pretty irritated by people who try too hard to sell on their Facebook page, and I’m doing my best to avoid that. But, on the other hand, I had several people who I mainly know through Facebook ask about hiring me to do design projects for them, and I wanted to help them know more about what I do.
Along with my own articles, I post a lot of industry information about design, advertising, marketing, social media, and occasionally articles about non-profits and small businesses on my Facebook page. Anything I think would be a helpful resource to people who like the page. They can comment on the various articles, and sometimes, interesting discussions begin. Not everything that goes on this page is also on my blog. It could be, but I’ve been keeping the more casual, brief notes on Facebook only. Please visit it, and like it if you find it helpful or interesting.
I believe the primary business value of most of these platforms is awareness. Years ago, in the corporate world, I realized that every time I walked around the office (to the mail room, coffee pot, whatever) someone I’d bump into would say, “I’m so glad I ran into you – I need to ask you to do such and such for me.” They might never have gotten around to looking up my phone number to call, but since they saw me there, it was easy to ask for my help.
Today, if people get my newsletter in their inbox, or see me on Facebook right when their need for marketing services comes up, or when a friend is looking for a referral, they can simply send a message – as easy as flagging me down in an office hall. The key is to be available when they’re looking, and I think an electronic presence, handled well, can do that beautifully.
All of these channels are cross-linked and together create an effective marketing constellation. I try to think through how relevant content might be to each audience, and link accordingly.
For most of us, blogs, Facebook and email newsletters are free or close to it. You could hire someone (like us) to set up your Facebook pages, or to customize and personalize your email or blog templates, but there are usually templates that work pretty well. The biggest commitment on any of these is your time to create the content. They are all meant to be do-it-yourself publishing vehicles. But, that being said, our writers would be happy to help out or even ghost-write your articles and posts.
This is the mix I’m working on for my business and my readers. You might come up with something different for yours.
There are many more ways to stay in touch with clients, prospects and friends, that are not covered in this article, but things to consider: hard copy newsletters, client events, face-to-face networking, trade shows, and good ole’ fashioned stay in touch phone calls. These are topics for other articles.
I’d love to hear about your experiences navigating your electronic marketing constellation.