If Facebook was a country, it would have been the largest and most powerful nation ever to exist. With an active user base of 2.6 billion people, China the largest Sovereign today would pale in comparison and its GDP would far exceed that of the USA and China combined. Facebook is a clear example of how powerful the digital world, which was authored by countless geeks in the university dorms, corporate research offices, and domestic garages, has grown to be. Since the dot.com bubble of 2001, the digital world has grown in leaps and bounds such that for all businesses the choice is no longer about participating or not but on how effectively they can participate. This article focuses on three areas which are digital presence, digital presence audit, and digital presence analysis, and how a business can effectively apply them.
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As the name suggests in our day-to-day vocabulary, digital presence is about how your business appears and exists online. Before we delve into elements of digital presence, let’s first take a look at a few benefits of online existence.
Benefits Of Digital Presence.
- Brand awareness – Before customers can trust and buy your brand, they need to know it first, this is called brand awareness. Most companies spend huge amounts of advertising money not to make an immediate sale but to introduce their product and brand to potential customers who can patronize it in the future. Brand awareness is the first step in building a solid and premium brand, this is how important it is. Digital platforms allow the company to present its brands to potential customers at a very low cost.
- Brand Recall – For customers to choose your product on the shelf, they need to recall/identify it, and this a result of brand awareness. Customers need to interact with your brand several times before it sticks in their minds such that they recall and choose it. Digital platforms allow for several interactions between your brand and your potential customers.
- Touchpoints – These are areas or times a customer interacts with your business or brand. the more your brand interacts with customers the more trust is built and the chances of them preferring it.
- Death of Brick and Mortar – As the internet continues to penetrate our society, consumer buying behavior is changing. More and more people, even in the so-called ‘third world countries, are feeling comfortable with online purchasing. This spells a disaster for inflexible brick and mortar businesses because every dollar spends online, is a dollar less for the brick and mortar. In a space of fewer than 3 decades, Amazon has grown into the world's largest shop, producing the richest man in the world and dwarfing the countless century-old retailers and sending some to the corporate graveyard.
Elements of Digital Presence
- Website – Think of your website as the business's online native page with other digital presence elements acting as the embassies that serve the interest of the native home. Being the centerpiece of your digital presence, your website must encapsulate all the relevant information concerning your business. One advantage of a website over other elements is that it allows your business to shape the narrative due to the control it gives the admin over what goes on the site. In the initial stages, a website can be used as the information hub, but as the business grows and gain confidence online it can be transformed into something big. A website can be used to accept payment from customers, it can also be used as a full-blown e-commerce store that can take orders, process payment, store customer information, etc. Payments can be handled through third-parties or can be handled in-house. For a full-blown e-commerce store with all necessary capabilities, a business can use platforms like Shopify.
- Social Media – Most people are now citing social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook as their primary source of news. Personally l rarely open a newspaper but l am always updated on current affairs by Twitter. Smart Marketing is not going where customers used to be or where senior executives like to be but where customers are. A lot of smart companies have shifted their advertising spending from print media and television to social media because that’s where people are. An average person spends more time on the smartphone screen than a television screen, making social media a powerful tool for reaching customers. Your social media pages can act as embassies that represent your website and directing people to your site. It can also be a powerful tool for engaging customers on a human basis and building powerful customer communities. Customer loyalty is more assured when your customers belong to a community of your brand, they cease to see your product as a product but rather a part of their lifestyle, for example, Harley-Harley-Davidson Davidson implemented this strategy with Bikers and it is reaping healthy rewards. Social media is more of a two-way communication channel, it’s imperative to be listening and engaging.
- Content – Content is the soul of your digital presence for it is what engages your prospects and customers. Content comprises things like a blog post, videos, infographics, etc. Through content you can engage your potential customers, educate your market and address their pain points. Before creating content you need to come up with a buyer persona and understand the buyer's journey. It’s imperative to create content that addresses the needs of your buyer persona and speak to each of their stages on the buyer's journey. This content must be promoted and disseminated through platforms used by your buyer persona. Promoting your content through Facebook when the majority of your customers are on Twitter is a sheer waste of time.
Having touched on the benefits of digital presence and its elements, let’s move on to digital presence audit.
Digital Presence Audit
Occasionally auditing your digital presence is an essential part of online business for it opens you to new and existing realities. From audits, you can get valuable insights that reveal your strength and weakness as well as opportunities and threats. A digital presence audit, if done effectively can do well in informing and refining the strategy for the next period of operation. Let’s look at how to audit the elements given in the above section
- Website – It is imperative to check the Search Engine Optimization (SEO) performance of your site, for this affects the ranking of your site in Search Engine Result Pages (SERPs). Furthermore, it is vital to check the speed at which your site takes to open because the more time your site takes to load the fewer people will be patient enough to wait and visit it. The majority of people are accessing the internet using mobile devices hence it’s important to have your website optimized for mobile usage and have good loading speed on mobile devices. You also need to know key drivers of traffic to your website so that you promote them and eliminate what is not working, this is revealed through an audit. A website audit also shows the performance of your content and each page, which are very valuable insights. Services like Ubersuggest, Google Google analytics, Google console, etc can help you in auditing your website.
- Social Media – The basic tenets of marketing, which are segmentation and targeting are important for social media. The idea is not about just having a huge following but having a following that matters to your brand. Marketers should avoid the temptations of growing social media platforms for the sake of numbers but should look for increasing value by communicating to the right audience. The first step in a social media audit should be checking if your pages and handles are communicating to your target market. Followed by checking your performance with your targeted segment. An effective audit also reveals the type of content that your audience is interested in. Google Analytics also shows the type of social media content that is driving people to your website, which can help you when formulating your content strategy. The level of engagement on your pages is also an important metric to watch for it shows how people interact with your content.
Digital Presence Analysis
Closely related to digital presence audit, this is an exercise meant to determine who your business is perceived online. It’s more like taking stock of all the elements of your business about online activities. Here are elements that can be examined under digital presence analysis:
- Current visibility, there are millions of businesses and billions of content pieces online today, your business needs to be piercing through the clutter and reach the right audience, at the right time, through the right platform, and with the right content. Businesses should undertake a comprehensive study of how visible are they on the online platforms.
- Brand Consistency, there is a need to ensure unity of strategy across all online platforms. It will be confusing to your target market if your Twitter handles and your Facebook page sends different signals to the world, brand consistency is key. Online platforms can be used to enhance and preserve brand image but if not properly handled a brand can be soiled.
- Competitor activities, a business strategy formulation session can not be complete without competitor analysis. Businesses should constantly check how their competitors are handling their online affairs. Constantly checking your competitors enable you to quickly note changes in the market and adjust accordingly. Secondly, competitor analysis exposes weaknesses you can exploit in beating them in the race for the customer dollar. Digital platforms can be good tools for gathering business and market intelligence through listening tools like google alert.
- Keywords analysis – These are phrases and words used by people or your target market when searching for solutions offered by your industry. To be easily found online, you need to incorporate these keywords in your content that you publish. Please note that it’s not a matter of stuffing keywords in a blog article because search engines are now super smart and they can notice it, but rather a matter of intelligently using them in providing value through content.
- Social Media analysis Under this section, analysis is about consistency and integration so that your speak the same message and project the same image.
It’s my opinion that the internet and the digital world are still in their formative stage and it’s not too late for your business to claim its rightful place. It may seem overwhelming at first but the best way to eat an elephant is to go mouthful by mouthful at least it chokes you. There are a lot of digital marketing courses offered for free online that can prepare you for the solemn mission of taking your business digital. As the influence of the internet continues to grow a huge chunk of marketing activities would be contacted online, the businesses that emerged I scratched from the Covid19 pandemic were the digitally literate ones.
This article was written by Nicholas T Mushayi a consultant at Industrial Psychology Consultants, a business management and human resources consultant company. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org