“Build it, they will come” Not a Good Business Plan

I have become a Meetup.com junkie lately. Social networking like Facebook and Twitter have their place, but in my mind nothing really replaces actually meeting people. Meetups can be about almost any subject and because I live in the wonderful metropolis of Chicago, there are a lot to choose from. Particularly in my chosen field of web design, there are a lot of subject matters and choices. The subject that almost everyone is hot on right now is social media and SEO. Any meetup that talks about how to participate in online marketing is a packed room.

For the small business owner the over whelming amount of information on these subjects can be intimidating, so let’s start with a small primer and understand why you should care.

Social Media – This includes things you’ve probably heard of like Facebook and Twitter, but almost anything online that you can contribute to (like YouTube or Wikipedia) counts. Most mere mortals use this kind of thing for personal enjoyment, but the growing thinking is that this is the new way to communicate and sell to your customers. 20 somethings have never used a phone book, they look it up online. And it’s not just 20 somethings anymore, the biggest growing segment on Facebook right now is boomer aged women. If you watch television on demand or like I do on the Internet, then your exposure to commercials is way down. But if I know my local business and connect with them on Linked In or Facebook, then I know what they are up to. Then as the theory goes, the friends of my friends also know what they are up to and the potential for a new customer is born. Small business competes with large on a more even playing field.

SEO – Search Engine Optimization is the holy grail of getting on the first page or 2 of Google. Not when someone searches for your business name, but when a complete stranger searches for the product or service that you provide. There are many ways to make this happen for your site and there are many experts out there that specialize just in this. This is where content has to be king. Pictures and art have a definite place in telling your story, but as far as the search engines are concerned, words are what they understand.

A really beautiful site that has just the right fonts and colors is just the beginning. If the content is not optimized so that people searching for your product or service can find you, then that’s all your site is – pretty. Most people build a site hoping to increase sales in some fashion. If that’s what you want, then your budget for the project needs to be more than just the design and coding. Without careful content planning and a marketing strategy that includes making it personal with social media and making sure that the search engines find you – no one will come.

Am I an expert in all this? Hardly, but I can direct you to some people who are. I’m the one who makes it all work and look good. But I am learning more all the time and trying to participate more regularly myself. (Which by the way is probably my next article – this stuff is time consuming, how do you manage it?) Adding recent and relevant content is something that Google loves too, one of the reasons we’re becoming a world of bloggers. So, I’ve done my bit, so help me out and do yours. Let your friends know about me and post this on Facebook or tweet it on Twitter for me will you? I’ll do the same for you.