Day in and day out I am looking at how professionals and small business owners interact online.  Most of the people I have discussed this with think they are doing a ‘pretty good’ job of managing their social media presence.  Some even think they are doing a much better job at it than their competition.  But the vast majority still insists that they get little to no measurable results from their efforts.

Yet, media sources and marketing experts tell us that a strong internet presence is key to the success of most businesses, particularly as smart phones and tablets increase in popularity.  How is this possible if the small business owners disagree?  What do the experts know that the businessmen don’t? The answer is pretty simple.  It’s all in how you use it.  Just like an expensive skillet doesn’t guarantee that your scrambled eggs will come out perfect, an extensive [and expensive] internet presence does not guarantee financial success for your business.

So, what’s a small business owner to do?  Read on for some of my suggestions about how to improve the value of your online profiles and listings.

1.   1  Create an identity.  Decide what your business is about.  Carefully choose the words and images you use to describe it.  Select the colors which best represent your brand image.   Be consistent with this and use the same words and pictures in multiple profiles.  The search engines will appreciate it, and you’ll improve your chances of being found online.

2.    2. Define your audience.  Although it might be easy to convince yourself that ‘everyone’ needs your product, it is fairly unlikely that 75 year old gay vegans in Michigan are going to frequent your hip-hop fried chicken emporium in Seattle.  Use this information to maximize your exposure to your audience.  Driving fifty local carnivores to your website daily will probably get more results than you’ll see from 1,000 vegetarians who live on another continent.

3.   3.  Complete your profiles.  Most sites [ Manta, Facebook, LinkedIn to name a few] offer you an opportunity to display some information about your business.  Use the information from Step 1 above and post it in each profile, if possible.  The more complete the profile, the more likely it is to get and retain visitors, and the more likely you are to capture a new prospect or customer.

4.    4. Add, connect, follow and join.  If you have a business connection on LinkedIn, send them a friend request on Facebook.  Follow them on twitter.  Join their group[s].  Like their Facebook ‘fan’ page.  And so on.  Just like in real life, more common ground usually leads to stronger relationships.  Stronger relationships usually result in more productive interactions.

5.   5.  Engage, interact and appreciate.  Post relevant information on your website, in your blog, and through your comments on your various profiles.  ‘Like’ the posts made by your connections and friends.  Re-tweet messages of interest.  Your audience will start to see you as more of an expert in your field, and less as that annoying guy who posts “It’s Monday. Call me for an insurance quote today!”

6.   6.  Network, promote and reciprocate.  Build a small army of like-minded professionals who will be even more aggressive at supporting your efforts from Step 5 and expand your reach even further.  Promote their links and posts through your contacts.  Place reciprocal links on your website or in your profiles.  Everyone will benefit.  Why do you think offers an affiliate program?

7.   7.  Reap the rewards.  It will take a little time for the results to manifest, just like it takes time to grow an oak tree from an acorn.  But be patient and keep watering.  The rewards will amaze you!

If all this seems too daunting for you to undertake alone, consider engaging the services of a small business marketing consultant.  They already know how to work the system, and it will more than pay for itself before you know it.

More info on this and other business topics can be found on my website at .

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