Hindsight is 20/20 and foresight is priceless
No one who’s been in business long is a stranger to the cold hard reality of experience. Sooner or later, we all think, Why didn’t I think of that sooner?
A great many of life’s lessons are obvious in retrospect, and the truth is no one is going to succeed if they’re going to let the fear of those inevitable failures paralyse them. So the goal for all of us is to learn from our mistakes, yes, but whenever possible to learn from others’ mistakes, instead.
We at First Site Guide are going to help you out with that bit, by pointing a few of the problems you might not have considered, if you’re going to be starting your first business site.
1.What you need to know about site design
The first thing you need to think about is site design. It’s tempting to put in every bell, whistle, and shiny thing that’s new and trendy in the tech world. Take a deep breath. Then don’t do that.
Form has a place, and that place is the background
There’s nothing wrong with having a pretty site. Your site should absolutely have a clean, professional, feel. Cleaning up how a site looks is fairly cheap and easy, rebuilding a site that looks good but doesn’t do what it’s supposed to is a very expensive proposition.
Focus on function
What your site really needs to do is whatever it does and that’s it. So if you’re selling something, your site should be optimised to sell things well. If you’re goal is to build up subscribers for marketing purposes, then you should be focusing on your marketing funnel. The point is, you can add functionality for your userbase later, but you’re never going to have a userbase to begin with.
Moreover, if you plan on selling any part of your site or brand later, your prospective buyers will be far more interested in the functional elements of your site than the metaphorical wallpaper.
If customers are confused or tired of waiting, they’ll leave
The painful reality is that users are generally unwilling to wait more than five seconds for a website to load before they leave. So, if your expensive flash video on your homepage is stopping it from opening within a couple of seconds, well, it’s actually driving your visitors away.
The same goes for confusing user interfaces. Your first priority should be making it easy for users to do whatever they’re there to do. If people can’t figure out how to get from Point A to Point B, they’re going to head to Point Somewhere Else.
Yes, that’s simple. Yes, that’s obvious. Funnily enough, almost everyone messes it up on the first try, anyway.
Related: How To Secure Your SME Website
2.What you need to know about content
Content is often overlooked, even by large companies. It’s the sort of thing that’s perennially foisted off on an intern, or tacked on to someone in PR’s workload as an afterthought. That’s a borderline fatal mistake.
Short content is less useful for driving views
For one thing, people and search engines show a preference for thorough, well-organised, long form articles. For another, fewer people link to the shorter articles. So you’re looking at fewer organic views, and fewer referrals compounding your troubles.
Strong content is better than no content, no content is better than weak content.
Keeping a dependable schedule is a good idea, but not at the expense of quality. At the end of the day, strong content is better than no content, but poorly-written, incomplete, or overly generic content will not just fail to bring in subscribers and repeat viewers in many cases, but cost you subscribers in the long term.
Better, by far, to establish a sparser regular schedule of quality posts, than to try for the optimum number of posts, but fail on quality.
3. What you need to know about social media
Social media isn’t exactly the “next big thing” anymore, but it’s pretty well cemented itself as a big thing for the foreseeable future. There are some things you’ll want to keep in mind when getting ready to jump into using social media for website promotion.
It takes some level of expertise to do right.
Some people are good at social media, some people are bad, most people get better with experience. Most social media accounts out there don’t attract very many followers, and so their impact is limited. You need to have someone onboard who can expand readership and avoid costly missteps.
Expertise costs money and/or time.
Expertise doesn’t just come out of nowhere, though. You’re either going to need to pay a specialist or invest your own time (or an employees) in developing expertise.
For that reason, you might consider which social media platforms you want to utilise at all, and whether it might make sense to specialise.
You might not need one of everything.
So, rather than just creating a gross or two of social media accounts, bundling them up, and assigning some random person control over them, you might consider what you intend to gain from each social media site you want to create a presence on.
We’ve established that social media is going to represent an investment. Why invest in something without a plan for eventual payoff? You might still want to snag your company’s name by creating accounts, but that doesn’t mean you actually need an active account on every social media platform out there to succeed.
There are drawbacks to social media.
Huge drawbacks. For example, handing the new intern the Twitter feed might seem like a good idea, but, well, it’s not. In the hands of someone who doesn’t understand the ins and outs of social media, Twitter is, at best, going to be a net wash for your company… and a single malicious or unintelligent tweet can be a PR disaster. So, basically, having a social media account in the hands of a novice is a large risk with a low, low, potential for gain.
The challenge is half the fun
Are there potential problems we haven’t covered here? Oh, heck yeah. One of the simultaneously fun and frightening aspects of the ongoing explosion of technology in the world is that there are always new and exciting ways to either get ahead or fail miserably. Which one you do is up to you, up to luck, and, well, up to how well you anticipate the problems which don’t even exist yet. Good luck.
Putting The Brakes On Insta-Fakes
A huge following means nothing where there is no trust.
Is it possible to buy friends? In the realm of influencer marketing, some brands seem to think it is. Let’s call a spade a spade: paid-for likes and shares create what is essentially a fraudulent illusion of high product endorsement.
“Sponsored” tags embedded deep within posts’ comments sections are inevitable. And because higher following means more attention, everybody feels the pressure to keep up. However, once an influencer is exposed as excessively using bots to generate traffic, they are black-listed. So it’s a catch 22 for brands who lack true grit. Most importantly, consumers value brand authenticity. A huge following means nothing where there is no trust.
Keeping it real is the new deal
Brands may find themselves treading a fine line, because influencer marketing has gone mainstream and is highly lucrative, bringing in almost $2 billion revenue in 2016, often delivering an 11x higher ROI. Of course, paid endorsements are almost old school now; they are common practice, and marketers have come to depend on this tactic.
32% of marketers say they cannot live without them. Nevertheless, there needs to be a balance between showcasing high-end popularity, but also communicating brand experience from everyday people. Relatable feedback builds connections between consumers and brands. Trust in a brand is invaluable in the long term.
Living the dream?
With great power comes great responsibility. If you could buy likes and followers at a vending machine, would you? Well now you can, in Moscow, via credit card none the less. This seems a far cry from the good old days of word of mouth brand recommendation. What happened to an endorser epitomising what the brand stands for, having actual connections to and experience of the brand? Consumers want true stories, relatability, and can tell the difference between what’s hot and what’s “bot”.
New measures are being taken in an attempt to weed out fake media frenzies. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has sent “reminder letters” to some major influencers due to inadequate disclosure of bought advertising. The FTC now requires that more restrictive guidelines be followed, including disclosure in the first three lines of text of a post. Sanctions of up to 20 years have been imposed for inadequate disclosure.
One suggestion is to shift the focus to incentives for disclosing paid-for sponsorship; for example, boosting posts that make disclosure. Instagram is moving towards a standardised disclosure process. Posts may soon include a tag disclosing paid partnership which also allows partners to view data relating to engagement.
Bot spotting is easy for the savvy consumer. Extreme peaks and lows in comments and engagement disproportionate to the number of followers per user generally indicate misleading marketing ploys.
Instagram has unfortunately created the perfect environment for “pod problem”. Some influencers use Instagram’s algorithm to increase their visibility in Instagram’s Explore tab. This is done by joining with other influencers in a mutually beneficial relationship to make daily comments on each other’s posts. This increases engagement numbers and visibility. False brand competition and, ultimately, a disconnect between brand and target market are the undesirable results.
Related: The Launch Of Instagram TV
The most vital element in the brand-consumer relationship is authenticity. This is not a new concept, but it is refreshing to step back and recognise what matters. Brands with foresight see further than likes and shares. People want integrity and ethics from brands that are relatable to real lifestyles and needs. Quality brands will generate engagement because of what they stand for, without the need for grandstanding.
All we can hope is that with any new trend, the kinks get ironed out and these #ad posts get less #annoying and more #authentic.
Crisis Management: Fail To Prepare, Prepare To Fail
The secret to a successful reputational risk management programme depends on leaders’ ability to move with agility as they respond to the immediacy and uncertainty of social media-fuelled crises.
The always-evolving communications environment has intricately linked reputation management with the digital world, and executives must now realise that brand perception functions more like a real-time trading desk with 24/7 news, social media and online conversations shaping brand perception without the participation of organisations.
Put simply, managing your reputation must be an active, ongoing strategic investment that starts well before any risk or crisis begins. Plans and procedures will prove useless if introduced as a crisis erupts. Preparedness planning needs to start at executive level with reputation management practices being built into the fibre of every business at every level.
The secret to a successful reputational risk management programme depends on leaders’ ability to move with agility as they respond to the immediacy and uncertainty of social media-fuelled crises, which cannot be overstated as social media gaffes are occurring faster than we can write case studies to learn from them.
Establishing a preparedness programme
Handling a reputational challenge or crisis effectively starts with recognising the warning signs early. With an established programme, guidelines and procedures in place, your organisation can keep its finger on the pulse of conversations. This allows you to begin what’s known as the OODA loop (observe, orient, decide and act), quickly and nimbly during a crisis.
Recent data shows that 28% of crises spread globally within one hour. The very action of participating in a crisis exercise helps build “muscle memory” and organisations that effectively navigate a crisis are ones with detailed crisis management plans that they are familiar with.
Establishing protocols and systems ahead of a crisis, and then testing and training on them provides discipline and structure.
If the first time you’re reading through a crisis plan is during an operational or reputational crisis, you’re going to be behind the curve and with the pace of today’s digital age, it will be hard to recover.
Related: 10 Laws Of Social Media Marketing
Building a digital foundation
In times of crisis, reaching out to those who count the most to your organisation is critically important. This goes beyond determining who has the most followers on social media as people often confuse influence with reach. The former can be defined as the degree to which someone can inspire others to do something.
To prepare, first identify core groups ahead of time: loyal fans, industry influencers, key opinion makers such as journalists and bloggers, and those who aren’t fans. Knowing potentially negative influencers such as those who might be sceptics or critics is equally important as knowing positive influencers.
Consider online monitoring to be your first line of defence to gauge messages about your organisation. When set up in advance, this monitoring provides an understanding of your overall perception and it allows you to adjust quickly to conversational trends.
There is no “one size fits all” content strategy for a crisis. The sooner you can identify and engage with those who matter, the sooner you can begin tackling the situation directly.
When you’re at the centre of an unfolding risk, you must demonstrate a strong voice to counteract the forces of social and traditional media that will quickly shape the narrative. Press releases and news conferences are insufficient to meet expectations for content that exists online.
Leveraging strategic content within the context of a crisis forces you to question how you are engaging your key stakeholders and audience beyond a simple text response.
Your owned media properties, particularly your website and social channels, serve as critical tools to provide information that frames the issue from your perspective, addresses misinformation and, if necessary, apologises for a situation with a clear action plan.
Our goal, as a leading communications marketing agency, isn’t to teach an organisation how to simply tweet through a crisis. Rather, we expect our clients to walk away with first-hand experience of working under rapid-fire crisis conditions that mimic an accurate scenario.
There’s a great deal of nuance around effective crisis and reputation management, including what corporate responses are suitable for different crises. Don’t go it alone. Invest in a partner, which has a deep understanding of the complex variables that have a long-term impact on the public perception of your organisation.
Five variables to address ahead of a crisis
- Who have we maintained consistent relationships with? You must make friends before you need them. Develop a list of important online and traditional stakeholders and maintain steady communications with this group during the quiet times.
- What is your threshold for who is influential? Be aware of the fact that there are people who reside outside your list of key stakeholders who are nevertheless influential and could have an impact on your business.
- How quickly does a conversation need to build up steam to warrant a response? The internet and social media now reflect thousands of smaller voices who can find each other and amplify a message. Recognising how conversations gain critical velocity is imperative to gauge when to respond and a crisis partner can help in this scenario.
- What is the timing of your response? You don’t always have all the answers and that’s okay. Often, a community just wants to know that you’re listening to them.
- Where will you publish a response and notify stakeholders? Sometimes, a response on Twitter, or Facebook proves sufficient, although other platforms such as a website or a blog helps to frame issues more comprehensively. A crisis partner will help determine the best way forward.
Why You Should Sort Your Social Media Policy (Like NOW!)
Strong social media policies are needed to prevent such behaviours and should always be considered when setting up and expanding your business.
With 2 billion active users on Facebook alone, sharing our toils, tribulations and triumphs online is becoming second nature. There are, however, downsides to the rise of social media. Habits online have the potential to affect your work and your business if not monitored appropriately.
Recent research combining a survey of 2,000 UK respondents and analysis of work-related Twitter posts has highlighted the behaviours of employees online that could lead to damage for the businesses who employ them. Strong social media policies are needed to prevent such behaviours and should always be considered when setting up and expanding your business.
The Risks of Social Media
Lost Working Hours
The average person now spends 25 hours a week online, with almost two hours a day (116 minutes) being used to browse social media platforms.
With so much time being spent online it’s almost inevitable that people will habitually reach for their phone to check Facebook during the working day. The survey research suggests the average person spends 52 minutes procrastinating every day, with most of this time being spent on social media.
Across the working year this amounts to 225 hours lost per employee, a total of 7 billion lost hours from the UK working population of 32,344,000. Failing to set clear boundaries of when employees can use social media in the workplace may cost you a lot in the long term.
15% of employees say that they have previously shared something negative about their work online, and a further 5% said they would do so in the future. This means that one in five workers think it is acceptable to take to social media to air their grievances with their company.
The volume of tweets found in Twitter analysis that contain negative work-related phrases illustrates how widespread the problem of employees complaining online is. In 2017, 8,186 tweets containing phrases such as #ihatemyjob, #worksucks and #hatework were sent, a 43% rise on the volume of similar posts in 2015.
It is not only negative posts from employees that pose a risk to your business – they might also be inadvertently sharing confidential information. Off-hand comments on social media about what they have done with their day may lead your employees to unintentionally reveal information about a client, future plans or other information that you would not want in the public forum.
This could result in lost business if a client feels their security has been compromised or may give your competitors important insight into your working practices, which they can use to their advantage. A clear policy on what is acceptable to post in relation to work will help prevent these risks.
How Can a Social Media Policy Help?
Social media policies should be issued and explained to all employees. Their purpose is to ensure proper usage of social media, in a way which will not negatively impact on your business.
A social media policy can set out when usage of the platforms is appropriate and what employees can share with regards to your company. The policy may not guarantee adherence, but it does allow you to set out proper practice to all your workers in a clear, accessible format, which can be regularly consulted.
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