The online world presents a vast opportunity for businesses to increase their overall visibility and boost their sales, leads and inquiries. This goes for both online-only and e-commerce operations, as well as bricks and mortar businesses with an online presence. Much is made of social media, online advertising and building your profile – and rightly so! But as more and more businesses embrace online (albeit slowly), is it time to start pushing the boat out when it comes to your own online efforts?
I would like to explore some ways that you can seek to stand out from the competition, gain more admirers, and ultimately, do more business through investing your time wisely online.
# 1. Be An Evangelist
This one simply boils down to championing your chosen online medium, and showing the rest of them how it’s done. Tonnes of businesses out there today have Facebook pages, Twitter profiles, a LinkedIn presence, and some are active on question and answer community websites like Quora. Your time is very likely limited, so why not choose one single medium, dedicate the bulk of your time to it, and be seen as an outstanding example of someone using that medium to huge effect?
The network or channel you choose will depend on your business sector (for example Twitter is generally more effective for B2B, Facebook more for B2C) – but the point still holds. Be an expert and prolific user of one medium, and set an example for the competition to attempt to follow! This also helps you set a foundation for success across other online networks and platforms, should you choose to use them.
# 2. Be Different
Another simple but potentially very effective tip that can be summarised into one point – ‘what could you do differently?’ In order to answer this question, it may be useful to take a look at up to three or four core functions or operations that make up the main part of your business activities, and ask how you could give them that ‘digital edge’. One simple way to fast-track the ideas process is to look for what other businesses are doing that shows them thinking and acting differently.
One example I have seen recently is a clever use of Twitter by a taxi firm. When people think of booking or hailing a taxi, they may think of taxi booking apps, or perhaps the humble telephone call. But what about reserving a taxi via Twitter? And what about the taxi firm tweeting you when they are outside, and then thanking you for your custom via a nice tweet later on? Don’t forget that Twitter is an open platform, and some users may have thousands or tens of thousands of followers who will see their tweet in response to one of your tweets. After all, that was how I saw this innovative piece of social media marketing and communication in action.
# 3. Be Authoritative
Did you know that one of the main factors that makes Google rank your website in first or second position is how ‘authoritative’ it is? Well, the same goes for your online efforts. Just as websites are bestowed levels of authority, so are you! If you want to propel your business forward and get that digital edge, you have got to give yourself that same edge on a personal level to bring things forward. What that simply means is grasping the opportunity to demonstrate your knowledge of your business sector to those who are interested in learning and interacting.
Practically speaking, this means taking the opportunity to be active and visible wherever it is your audience spends time. Could you join an industry-focused online forum and give your advice for free on the bulletin boards? Could you jump onto Quora and join the debates? Or how about participating in the various LinkedIn Groups? The possibilities are endless. Just make sure to give willingly, without a ‘salesy’ approach, and always be courteous and ever-mindful that there is a real person behind the username. Think in terms of pulling people towards you by virtue of sharing your knowledge and expertise freely, rather than a broadcast approach of pushing messages and pitches towards them.
# 4. Be Relevant
The internet loves content – so be relevant and give people what they need. People are only too eager to soak up quality content that teaches them, inspires them, and helps them achieve their own objectives and goals in life.
For example, I enjoy reading a particular fitness-related blog on a regular basis, and check it at least once a week or so for new updates. The quality of content is very high, and the style of writing keeps me coming back for more. Not only that, but it also helps to form a positive association in my mind with the writer of the blog, in this case a highly-regarded personal trainer. This means that if I ever want to engage their services, I am more primed to consider this trainer/blogger than someone I have never heard from, as I am assured by the fact that the content they produce speaks to the confidence I can have in them.
Related: Content Planning: How To Get Started
# 5. Be Valuable
When you consider it, almost all of the things you buy, read, consume, enjoy and seek out have a common factor – they provide value. It is no different when carving out your digital edge. Provide something of value in a freely-giving manner, and ‘give more value than you capture’. In other words, the business of excelling online is not much different to excelling in ‘real life’.
Being generous with your time, expertise and knowledge should also be a natural part of how you interact and put yourself forward in the virtual world – and this can only bring its own benefits that extend far beyond the efforts you invest.
What are your top tips for achieving a ‘digital edge’? What is working well for your business and what would you consider trying that you haven’t explored before?