Marketers and communicators want to position their brand and area of expertise as top of mind with their audiences. Few can dream of becoming as pervasive as the internet, a tool that was virtually non-existent before the 1990s and is now part of daily life for most people.
I was doing print publications for a large school district in the 1990s, when I decided to put that content online. The result was one of the first school districts to have a website.
Back then, we had a lot of ideas and dreams for what the internet could do for marketing and communication and had to apply a lot of creativity to present even the most basic information. The technology needed time to develop. An equal challenge was creating online literacy among the people we wanted to reach.
First Impressions Are Created Online
Today, I have a digital marketing agency. The conversation with clients and potential clients is all about what can be achieved. Now. Today. Our audiences are online, every day, and are eager for us to deliver the online experiences they expect.
The digital world is now the place where most people get their first impression of a brand. Neatly presented storefronts and carefully crafted print materials are replaced by an online world where we expect every brand to have a compelling presence. We look to their websites, social media and online directories and form an opinion.
In addition, we are generally most influenced by what others have to say. We look to reviews and comments to decide if a product is worthy, where to go to eat, what services to sign up for, and much more. The virtual world is a key influencer of our daily reality.
The internet has created a marketing and communication tool that no brand can ignore. Successful businesses and organizations build strong, two-way relationships and nurture them on an ongoing basis online.
Strong Online Brands Connect with Customers
A successful online presence is built in a way that establishes credibility and connects with the target client. Brands need a consistent and compelling online presence that informs and engages. Design, words, images and more need to create a consistent experience for people who will likely connect across several platforms.
Brands Must Manage Many Online Storefronts
The internet provides multiple access points. There are websites, discussion boards, social media platforms, directories and more. Your audience can first connect with you in a variety of ways. Brands must embrace these multiple virtual storefronts and ensure each makes a worthy first impression.
- Website: The business website is the online location where a brand has complete control over look and feel, messaging, and engagement. It is the place to drive anyone who is interested in your business, products and services. For this reason, the brand website—viewed from desktop computers as well as mobile devices–is the most critical component of your online presence.
- Email Marketing: Email still gets the most attention and engagement among all online marketing options. To remain relevant to the target audience, a brand must develop a way to regularly share information by email.
- Facebook: With the largest (by far) number of active daily users in the United States and beyond, Facebook is the social media channel that no business can afford to ignore. Users span all age groups and demographics. Consumers are on Facebook, likely every day.
- Social Media: There are literally hundreds of social media channels. It is important to identify the ones that are used regularly by the target client and have a credible, active presence on each.
- Community networks: Consumers look for third-party confirmations before they make purchasing decisions. Businesses must tap into community networks to understand the conversations and share information when relevant.
Across all these virtual storefronts, businesses must provide content that meets the needs and interests of the target audience. It is not enough to sell online. Customers expect brands to help them with their interests and needs. They expect businesses of all kinds to engage with them, inviting their ideas and comments and reacting when they take the time to do that.