Simple online tools can make or break your business
With Oprah and Ashton Kutcher introducing micro-blogging site Twitter to millions of people, there’s no excuse for you not to be using online tools to promote yourself or your business… that is, if you can get it right. Too often, social media campaigns and websites are bogged down by lack of clarity and self-indulgence, say web designer Kathryn Presner and content strategist Charlotte Riley.
"No one is interested in your giant spinning logo," says Presner, founder of Zoonini Web Services (www.zoonini.com).
Once you’ve got a great website, you can increase visitors using tools like LinkedIn, Facebook or blogs. "My advice would be to start small, and then consider adding more," Presner says. For example, start with Twitter or the Canadian version Identi.ca – what she calls "gateway drugs" into the rest of the social media world. "If you can handle Tweeting a couple of items a day in an effective way, then you could consider adding a blog and some articles to your site."
The danger in trying to do too much at once, she says, is that it can be surprisingly time-consuming. "If your last blog post was seven months ago, it doesn’t help you with the goal of appearing current."
Riley, founder of A.C. Riley Communications (www.acriley.com), adds an extra caveat about mixing the personal and the professional. "Whether you’re an entrepreneur or straight out of college and looking to be hired, HR managers and companies are looking at you. Everything you say can and will be used against you."
More and more companies are coming to smaller firms like these for their practical expertise and competitive pricing. "My business has not gone down, and I think the Internet is unique in that way," Riley says. "It’s almost reverse marketing, because people are on Google looking for your products and services."
Tanya McGinnity hosts monthly Montreal Girl Geek Dinners, (montrealgirlgeekdinners.blogspot.com) so that non-techies can get sage advice from women like Riley and Presner. "You can be a crafting geek, a knitting geek, an arts geek, and learn to use technology to promote yourself." Programmers can meet entrepreneurs who want to build sites, artists can meet designers who can advise them on how to improve the look of their online sites, and more.
"It’s less about being tech-savvy," McGinnity says. "It’s really more about community management and making sure you’re cultivating a following."
Deadly website sins that can kill your business
1. Image-only splash or Flash homepages
2. Investing only in paid advertising and not optimization
3. Spider-inhibiting design (i.e., frames)
4. No, or hard-to-find, contact information
5. Outdated information/obsolete links
6. Underlining things that aren’t links (or conversely not highlighting links)
7. Poor overall look
8. Spelling or grammatical errors
9. Confusing navigation
10. Too many large graphics, videos or other heavy files on one page
(A.C. Riley Communications and Zoonini Web Services)