How small businesses can use content websites to succeed in today's social-saturated web

Just a few years ago when a small business or organization (SB/O) needed a website, it was a relatively easy proposition. If they were smart and a little ahead of the curve, they would have used an open source content management system (CMS) to build one – something like Joomla, Wordpress or Drupal. They would have built half a dozen pages, known as a brochure website, selected a professional template and launched.

They might have then done some search engine optimization (SEO) to make sure that they were found in Google, worked on getting some backlinks and tuned their keywords.

That would have been enough.

Now, unfortunately it's not.

Traffic from GoogleGoogle is still the #1 way that people will find your content, but word of mouth is becoming more powerful – driven by that tiny Facebook Like button.

Now, your SB/O website's content exists in a conversation. People on the web are not consumers like they were 4-6 years ago. More than ever before they are now active participants, talking, blogging, Tweeting, Liking and Stumbling their way across the web.

They always have been of course, but in the last few years there has been a tipping point of social media saturation. Just like faxes.

I call it the “fax effect”. If you were an early adopter of Facebook faxes, there weren't many people to fax, probably just a few people. But as more and more people got faxes, there were more people to fax, and it became more important to have a fax because all your friends did and you were getting left out.

Your SB/O website needs to be Social Media Enabled. It needs to be able to take advantage of social technologies like Facebook, Twitter and Mailchimp. This isn't just putting 54 social media buttons on all your pages – that just looks desperate and gets you untargeted traffic consisting of 20 year old IT professionals.

Social Network OutpostsTo be Social Media Enabled your SB/O website needs to connect with your Social Media Outposts. Your Facebook page, Twitter account and Uservoice page, etc. These are your outposts marking your presence in the networks that are important to your stakeholder demographics.

To be Social Media Enabled your SB/O website needs to push and pull key content to and from your Social Media Outposts. This probably means its powered by a CMS so that these external networks can be easily integrated into your content and conversations (you did use a CMS didn't you?).

Content is pushed to your outposts so that people can have conversations about it. Conversations are pulled to your content so that it enhances and validates the content.

The Difference Between Conversation and Gossip

The word we have mentioned the most so far isn't “social” or “network”.

It's the word that makes the difference between people having a connective conversation about your SB/O and just random gossip.

It's content.

When many people think of creating a website for their business, organization or self, the first idea that comes to mind is the standard “corporate” style site consisting of basic “about” information, followed by a contact form.

Truth is, those kinds of site have limited value. The proof is, of course, in your own online behavior. What kind of site do you visit most often? I bet you find content sites more useful and therefore visit them far more often.

We like to keep abreast of news, read tutorials and how-to guides, be informed and entertained.

You might be thinking to yourself that you are not interested in entertaining people and that you are more interested in where the profit lies.

This is a good point, but in fact content sites are very profitable, and I will tell you why:

  1. A traditional site is more expensive to promote and generate exposure for, content sites can be promoted more easily, and for free through social networks

  2. Search engines love content as much as human beings do

  3. Content sites are linked to voluntarily by other sites, traditional sites are harder to gain links for

  4. People are much happier to tell friends about great content rather than corporate websites

  5. Old fashioned websites give visitors no reason to return, content sites create loyal, repeat visitors

So a content website is easier to attract people to, and more naturally creates return visitors and is easier to connect to today's social networks. But there is more …

Content sells.

Think about it, what do you find more persuasive? An advert leading to a long pushy sales letter or well thought out articles that you return to over time, delivered by an expert, who explains and educates?

So now we agree that content sites are superior to the traditional, thin, corporate style site

And we agree that content sites are more able to immerse in highly interconnected social networks on the web.

In this Social Media web landscape, it's actually business as normal, as it has been for hundreds of years.

Successful businesses have honest conversations about their products and services to people that are interested.

The content-driven, socially connected, web presence simply lets the small business do it better than ever before.

Over the next few days we'll be talking about how the marriage of a sophisticated content-driven websites and Social Media technologies can make your small business or organization more successful.

There are basically 3 stages

  1. Build a content-driven website

  2. Establish your social media outposts

  3. Link everything together with web apps

For the more practical, you can think of these in a different way:

  1. Create compelling content

  2. Push your content to social vehicles used by your consumers

We'll look at all these stages in the next few days as we continue our series of blog posts about "Making Social Media Work"

 

But Isn't This All Old News?

You might have read this far and though to yourself you have heard all this before. Social bookmarking has been around for a few years now. Why all the sudden is social media important? Wasn't it already?

The reality is that before 2010, social media was still really in its adoption phase. Sure Brittany Spears had lots of followers on Twitter, but real customers that made a real difference to small business were still indifferent.

Now however, Facebook has reached 500 million users and has made the tipping point I described in the "Fax effect".

In 2011 you WILL have to figure out how to immerse your web presence in social media, and you'd best be doing it with compelling content.

 


My Artisan Web is a Vermont based company that is committed to lightning fast websites that are securely hosted and completely supported. Although we live in a rural area, we are technologically clever and always up to date with our services, coding, and design recommendations.

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