The online presence of your brand stinks. There. It’s the truth. Okay, maybe you’re one of those few who have got it right. You’ve got thousands (or more) of RSS subscribers, thriving email campaigns that support your sales process and you also manage to keep both your existing and potential customers riveted to your social media accounts.
Unfortunately, you’re a minority.
There are more bad websites out there than anyone can dare count. The days of gaming Google with SEO are gone. Creating a huge pile of content (text, video, images… or anything else) is no more a guarantee that you’ll be successful in your online endeavors. So what is it then? What’s changed? What are the things that smart companies are doing different than others? Here are a few things that you’re probably doing wrong.
1. Your online presence is not human
People online don’t like brands that sound “corporate”. A regular Internet user today can sniff a sales pitch from across the Pacific Ocean. And why wouldn’t they? After a decade of spammy emails, overreaching sales letters, badly conceived product campaigns, painful ad popups, and what have you.
Smart brands don’t sell online. Smart brands don’t tweak their content solely to appease Google. They share interesting things and empowering content. They talk about movies and culture. They joke with people on Twitter. They post weird pictures on Facebook. In short, they’re human. So before you hit send on that great new product of yours which promises to, “Solve all their problems,” stop and think again. Do the people you’re sending it to even know you?
2. Your focus is on page views and not audience
If the number of people who visited your website is the sole benchmark you’re going to judge your web properties by… you might as well not measure anything at all. Page views in isolation is a useless metric. It literally tells you nothing. Nothing except that X number of people visited your website. What did they do after landing on your page? What did they click? How much time did they spend on the website? Those are a few good indicators of how well you’re doing. But I’ll go ahead and say that you’re still just looking at the tip of the iceberg with web analytics.
What’s your brand’s Klout score? How well is your brand graded on Peerindex? What is your reach and engagement on Facebook (and not just the number of likes)? What’s the follower/following ratio on your Twitter account. Now we’re getting somewhere. Even after you’ve got your finger on the pulse with all this data, just staring at numbers will get you nowhere. It’s how much you learn from that data and put to practice that’s important.
3. You don’t use smart tools to get things done
One of the many things I love about technology is the new ways it opens up to do the same work in better, different ways. I’m writing this story using a software called Dark Room, which blanks out your entire computer screen and creates a focused environment where you’re not disturbed by anything and can simply focus on writing.
There are many such smart apps. For instance, Diigo bookmark service allows users to highlight or bookmark anything on the Internet, and later access from multiple devices — making it a great research tool. The buffer app allows online marketers to schedule their social media updates on Facebook and Twitter to increase post visibility. Yammer allows teams to collaborate on projects in a much better way than is possible with email. Even something as simple as Google Reader saves users from the trouble of visiting various websites and instead brings all that content in one screen.
These are just a few examples of smart apps, there are many more out there, for all things imaginable to stay better informed, collaborate better and get more done with less input.
4. You think quantity equals to scalable results
Setting an editorial plan to churn out 100 pieces of content in a day won’t get you far if all those stories are dull and uninteresting. In recent days, the shift in online marketing has shifted from search driven traffic to social driven traffic. In fact, Google now penalizes websites which carry overly SEO optimized content. If you need an example to prove this point to you, look at Pinterest, a smart combination of user generated content coupled with the right sharing tools has ensured that the website went on to become the raging success that it did.
Social has to be a big part of your strategy today. Cracking social is not an easy task because it’s still in its nascent stages. There are people who have answers, though no one has all the answers. A shift in thinking is needed to do this right. That shift in thinking comprises in understanding that if you’re going to make your web properties successful, you have to start paying attention to the sharability of content and its probability of going viral – and not just a blind focus on SEO. You’ll regret if you miss this train.
People notice quality. Especially people online. When someone lands on your page, in a way they’re doing you a favor – they don’t have to stay on your page. You need to give them a good reason to hit that share button.
5. Your team doesn’t get social media
Would you trust a team of bookkeepers with a fire rescue mission? I’m guessing you wouldn’t. Then why would you do that with web content? If you’re thinking that this is an absurd parallel, think again. Book-keepers don’t know anything about either fire or rescue. Similarly, if your web content team understands neither social nor media, chances are high that you’re not going to get very far.
According to the 1/9/90 rule of web content, for every 100 people that are part of an online community, 90 will stay dormant and just lurk around, 9 will engage in active discussions, and only 1 out of 100 will actually create content. People in your team need to among those 1%. They have to be passionate about the web. About communities. About social networking. Some recruiters have now started calling them, “Digital citizens.”
These are people who have put in time and energy trying to understand how content works online in the 21st century. These are also the same people who are actively co-creating this new web.