Josh Brown 0000-00-00 00:00:00
Put away your phone books everyone, that's not how people are found anymore. In the ever-increasing digital age we are in, the phone book is out and Facebook is in. I'm sure all of you have people in each ear telling you where you should be on the Internet. Facebook, Google, Twitter, Yahoo, etc. Everyone claims to be an expert and everyone says you're doing something wrong. So who can you believe? I don't think anyone got into this business for the social media and Internet advertising aspect of it, so I don't think anyone should be expected to have all the answers when it comes to your Internet presence. I'm also not claiming to have all the answers or to have the best combination of ideas that will provide success for you. All I'm here to do is break down the different options you have and list what I believe to be positives and negatives about each. What I can definitely tell you is that having a Web presence is incredibly important, especially with the incoming generation. You'll notice that a lot of your customers are having younger employees flood in, and with that will be the expectation that if they want to find something online, you'll be able to help them. When you think about the companies you like to deal with, what is the one constant? For me, it's that they're easy to deal with. I want a company with ease of use. I want to easily find out all the information about them, read user reviews and then have a clear and easy way to use or buy its product. Here are your options for where to focus your Web presence and some positives and negatives about each. Google Obviously Google is the starting point for most Internet searches and where your presence can make or break you. A Google search of "plumbing wholesalers" brings up 11,800,000 results. You're not the only company out there, so how is anyone supposed to find you? One bright spot is that Google is actually making that easier for you. If your customer is searching for "plumbing wholesalers," Google will use its geo-tracking system in order to list the wholesalers that are closest to them. This immediately takes a lot of the work out of your hands. You still have some decisions to make when it comes to your placement on Google's results. The first option is organic results. These are the non-highlighted links that come up. These are free to have and you can raise your position in a variety of ways. Being able to be one of the top organic results is important because most people trust the organic results to be based off merit and not based off paying for the space. If you're having trouble getting your company to the top of the list organically, that's when option No.2 comes into play. Google offers an Ad Words program that enables you to pay to show up on certain results. For example, you could pay Google to show up on the first page every time someone searches for "faucet" or "boiler." The more common the word, the more expensive it will be. This is a good option for people with very little Web presence who are looking to change that. It gets your name in front of customers and will result in hits. I must warn you the incoming generation does not trust blatant advertisements. Yelp Yelp.com is a great website for finding local restaurants, hotels, bakeries, movie theaters and just about everything else. The main benefit of looking a company up on Yelp is the ability to read user reviews. Personally, I use Yelp for every restaurant or hotel that I'm looking to stay in. So how can we use this to our benefit? First of all, you need to claim your listing on Yelp. Most companies, whether you've set it up or not, are already listed. Claiming your own listing results is you controlling the information that your customers see. On Yelp you can list your address, phone number, cross streets, your website and basically any essential information for your company. When someone is looking up your company, they want to have all the information they can possibly use to make an educated decision. After you've claimed and set up your listing, encourage your customers to leave feedback! I wrote an article a few years ago about the importance of customer feedback and how difficult it is to get it.You can reference that past article at www.supplyht.com for different ways to incentivize your customers. Positive reviews are the most powerful way to spread information on your company through word of mouth. People trust other people a lot more than they trust you. Yelp helps you use that to your benefit. Facebook Facebook is a tricky one for me. I think Facebook has a lot of advantages for people and is obviously one of the most-often visited sites in the country, but it's still having a difficult time trying to monetize in any meaningful way. Most people skip over the targeted ads and tend to ignore promoted posts. Here's where it gets tricky. You still need to be there. There is no excuse for your company not having a Facebook page. It's an easy way to get information out to customers and you can constantly post and speak directly to your audience. Getting "fans" and "likes" is an arduous journey of its own, but if used correctly Facebook can be a new and exciting way to interact with your customers. Many companies use Facebook as a blog and will post interesting tidbits about the products they carry or the industry as a whole. It's a difficult avenue to break into, but if you post interesting and informative content it will be very beneficial to your customer relations. Twitter Twitter is another company that has yet to find out how to monetize its business. It's a growing social media outlet and is popular with most celebrities and sports stars. Someone is going to find out how to make money out of it. For companies in our industry, it's just another form of reaching out to your customers. Many people use it as a customer support system. If someone has a problem, they Tweet at you and you fix it. Seems simple enough. Twitter has yet to become integral into any company in our industry but if it continues to grow, you'll notice that your customers and your employees will all have a Twitter feed. If you manage to keep yours professional and informative, it can be another major benefit to you. Everything else In order to keep a consistent Web presence there is far more work to do beyond Yelp, Google, Facebook and Twitter. But having a clear message on those avenues will certainly be a start. Beyond those, there are an incredible amount of landing pages that could have false information, such as Yellow book, Manta, Yahoo!, CitySearch, Super Pages and the list goes on. There are companies that have services so that you can target all these different landing pages and have one clear consistent image, or you can take on that task by yourself. The most important thing about having a Web presence is having a clear image. You don't want someone to get confused when visiting your website, Facebook page, Twitter account and your Yelp reviews. You want them to learn something from each page. Joshua Brown is director of sales and marketing for Metropolitan Pipe & Supply Co. In Cambridge, Mass. Josh is the fifth generation of a family owned business and has been in the industry for more than a decade. He worked most jobs at Metropolitan Pipe and also spent two years on the showroom side of the business at Metropolitan Bath in Reading, Mass. To contact Josh with any questions or comments please email email@example.com or call 617/492-6400.
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