Many people are seeking to build their online presence, grow business and increase website traffic. I continually get questions on what to do to create better online success in social networking. Being that I am an entrepreneur, small business owner and have had rather extensive training in sales & marketing, I guess I took a lot of knowledge for granted as “common sense.”
So as I began to search the web to see what others had to offer on this subject, I found that either most of the so-called “experts” told you the obvious, had no clue as to what they were talking about, seeking to simply get your name or email address (making you part of their numbers) or were just trying to sell you something. So I decided to do what I could to share some essentials in growing a business whether it’s on the Internet or an actual “brick & mortar.” The truth is that the same rules apply! (BTW, you may want to save this article or bookmark it since it will provide you with very helpful resources and links.)
1. Location, Location, Location! – As anyone knows who’s ever started a business, your location can either make you or break you. In the real world, ideal locations are on busy intersections, popular malls, high-income neighborhoods and easily accessible spots. Likewise, in order to have a successful online website or business, your location is of the utmost importance. The difference is that in the cyber world your location relates not only to your web address name but to all the links that help to direct traffic to your website. In other words, you need to have links to your website in the places with the most traffic. You also need to be in as many directories, forums and blogs as possible. Don’t try to spend a lot of money paying someone else to do all the work for you. Simply dedicate some time daily towards adding worthwhile links in the most visible locations. Here are some “must have” social networks you need to be a part of: Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn, YouTube, NetLog and Flickr. Visit 1 S.O.U.L. (www.the1soulwithin.com) for articles guiding you on techniques to maximize your presence on these social networks under “Development.” Also, join the site and you can add a link to your website and post your business info for free!
2. Money Buys but Enthusiasm Sells! – One of the first lessons in sales is to always present your product or service as if it was the best thing since sliced bread! I’ve seen average sales people sell mediocre products not because it was so great but simply because they seemed to love it so much. Buyers are often times buying the “person” and not so much the item. Go to any car lot and the most successful sales people are consistently the one’s able to convey their enjoyment to the buyer. Besides, if you’re not excited about your business – who else will be? Always present your company with colorful words, slogans, logos, humor and videos. Here are some other great sites for uploading your videos: Vimeo, Break, Funny or Die, 12 seconds, Daily Motion, Joost, Seesmic and Smotri. Search for the1soulwithin on YouTube to see how to make your video go viral.
3. Money, Sex & Lies! – This little rule many people may not like but it is continuously used because it works! One consistency in society is that people are always looking to get ahead. So the business that comes along and supposedly shows a person how they are going to “get rich” can thrive in any economy. More times than not the business may truly be getting rich but they’re doing it off your naivety and ignorance. These are why there’s a new MLM that pops up every other day. Sex is also always a consistent “trigger” to get people to buy a product. Just look at any commercial, video or the Internet (i.e. porn industry). Even if the product has nothing to do with “sex appeal” many people still use it to catch the attention of the buyer. And last but not least there are many businesses that will straight up lie through their teeth to get your money out of your hands. They will make all sorts of promises they not only can’t keep but truthfully have no intentions of even trying to keep. Now let me be clear, by no means am I advocating these strategies. I personally believe in karma and “what goes around comes around.” Although, you may get ahead in the short term, I am confident that your “success” at other people’s expense will be short lived… ask Bernie Madoff! The reason I mention these 3 “taboos” is because they do work but they obviously don’t coincide with all business missions. I personally run a “spiritual network” but still recognize how certain subjects always seem to draw people’s attention. The key is to tastefully & tactfully incorporate these taboos in ways that may catch a buyer’s eye initially but in truth may be redirecting the potential buyer towards your product or service to hopefully improve their lives somehow. An example of this may be that I believe yoga helps to develop a person’s spiritual life. However, because yoga also helps to strengthen the body and mind it has beneficial side effects that may enhance a person’s sex life. A person who may not be interested in greater spirituality may be interested in better sex and thus interested in purchasing your product or service making it a win-win for both parties. Figure out how you can use these “taboos” in a way that is professional and in harmony with your company’s objectives. One effective technique is to post “controversial” discussions on blogs and get people to offer their comments. Some great sites for Social Bookmarking and Blogging are: Vox, Yedda, Reddit, BackType, Disqus and Intense Debate. Of course you should have your own blog as well…
4. It takes money to make money! – A lot of people think they can get rich without spending a dime. Unfortunately, this just isn’t possible. The simple laws of capitalism don’t allow for it. Either you have to have a job that generates income that you can then filter into your business or you have to loan money from a bank for business startup or you already have considerable resources that you own. Either way, something doesn’t come from nothing. But since most small businesses can’t get loans from a bank on a risky venture then you have to be smart in where to spend your money. Depending on your budget you should always prospect at least three competitors for a product or service. If possible question customers already using this product to get their opinions and experience. Lastly, when starting out don’t overlap promotional campaigns all at one time. Experiment with an email blast, perhaps then a pay-per-click or online advertising. Use whatever tracking tools or analytics available to see what you got in return for your money. Sites like Yahoo, Google, Dmoz, Yelp and Facebook offer pages that will help you to target markets while controlling your budget. These will take time but through careful spending and review you’ll come to find out what works best for the dollar. Of course none of these things work better than good old “word of mouth.” Always be your own #1 fan and try to get your customers to say good things about your business as well.
5. Be King of the hill or should I say Pyramid! – This essentially means that when possible you want to find a way to get others to speak on your behalf or promote your business for you. Many people don’t like pyramid businesses and think of them as scams. The truth is EVERY business is a pyramid. The government, Microsoft, Exxon, Harpo etc are all pyramids. Of course the person at the top of the pyramid may possess the greatest power and influence but they still have someone to answer to and that person is the customer. The most effective strategy is to try and find a way to make your customer part of your pyramid. In other words, how can I get a customer to have a personal stake in the success of my business? Perhaps a free gift, discount, coupon, recognition, article or special privilege may inspire some customers to become a spokesperson for your business. Be creative and think of idea that may coincide with your company’s mission. Sites such as LiveJournal, HackerNews, Gawker Media and Mahalo Answers are helpful in this sense.
6. Be one of a Kind! – This may sound simple enough but is actually a challenge. Let’s be honest there aren’t new inventions falling out the sky everyday. And it’s difficult to be different as a small business owner when there are so many already established businesses and large corporations to compete with. The key is to first be passionate about what it is you do. And then do it uniquely in a way that hasn’t been done before. This is when you have to trust your instincts and allow a little bit of your “craziness” to shine through. Don’t be afraid to be you. You’re the only person in the world that has your experiences and perspective so share it with the world. If you’re not the creative type then find a friend or professional who is and ensure that your company’s logo, name and image stands out! Then blast yourself through all the live online feeds like Twitter, Friendfeed, Lijit, Utterz and Jaiku.
7. It’s not what you know but who you know! – This rule is becoming true r than ever. As the world becomes a smaller place and as technology makes things easier and more accessible, there comes a flood of people jumping on every new idea under the sun. You can have the greatest idea, resume or cause and it still may never take off without the help of the “right” people. This is where meeting new people, networking and nurturing relationships becomes imperative. Everyone that you meet in person or on a social network needs to ideally become a friend or at least an acquaintance. This can only be done if you come across as sincere and genuine. When you’re in a position to help another, you should do so. You never know how the favor may be returned one day. The people that know you thought of them when they were in need will (hopefully) remember you when they may be in a position to help you. Also, depending on what your business is then you should surround yourself with people (even if just virtually) who share the same passions, interests and goals. Don’t underestimate the “small fries.” The people who may not seem to have a large following or fan base may be the next person on Oprah!
8. If it sounds too good to be true … then it’s not! – It never ceases to amaze me the scams that come along that people buy into. There’s always that next “get rich quick” scheme that is going to make your rich or help you achieve your dreams. There are companies that claim to even “guarantee” you the results. Of course after they’ve gotten your money they kindly show you the fine print that somehow exempts them from their so-called “guarantee.” The bottom line is if someone really had such a great idea wouldn’t their first customer have just taken the idea for themselves, repackaged it, undercut the original provider and then sell it as well? Go back to rule #3… People LIE! One of the best ways to avoid getting ripped off is to simply type in the businesses name along with the word “scam” or “fraud” or “reviews” and see what you get from the search engines. Of course some companies have even gotten hip to this little technique and therefore attempt to beat unhappy customers to the punch by inundating the Internet with their own “pitches” to denounce any complaints or claims of scam. But if you do your diligent work you’ll find all the answers you need.
9. Persistence pays! – As the famous saying goes “Rome wasn’t built in a day!” Warren Buffet, Bill Gates, Oprah Winfrey, Ray Kroc nor any other entrepreneur became successful overnight. This is why it is important to find something you are passionate about. Hopefully, when you truly enjoy what you are doing then it shouldn’t feel like work to you. If you focus on presenting your business or cause in the best light, with professionalism and consistency then you’ll already be a success in your own heart. When you love what you do it will show to your fan base and the financial success will come in time. A large portion of companies fail within the first year while something like 90% fail within the first five years. Be flexible, adaptable and consistent. Hard work does pay off!
10. Patience is a virtue! – When you’ve laid the proper foundation for your online presence with websites, social networks, social bookmarks, links, videos, forums and blogs then it becomes time to let it “marinate.” It takes time to show up higher in the search engine rankings and for other sites to come across your business and want to promote or link to it. Link exchanges are helpful. And links directing towards your site gets you higher in the search engine rankings. Also don’t be lazy. Take the time to effective tags and keywords. Check to see what competitors or the leaders in the industry are doing. It is also important not just what you do online but what you do out in the real world. Put some signage on your vehicle, pass out business cards, make attractive flyers, join the local chamber of commerce, and go to local festivals, parks and social organizations. Don’t be overbearing to the point that people want to duck when they see you coming but be conscious enough to “plug” your business when appropriate and in such a way that may help the person your are meeting for the first time. Good luck!