Did you know that 33% of Irish SMEs don’t have a website, while 22% of SMEs are completely offline with no website or social media presence? In this digital age, these are significant percentages and missed opportunities. The majority of consumers will do an online search for the products and services they wish to buy, making it essential for your business to be online. People no longer look up the Yellow Pages for a business, they Google it. If you aren’t online, how will they know how or where to find you? With regard to Irish consumers; 71% are more likely to buy from a business that has a website, with 54% saying that they would shop with a competitor if a business is not online. These staggering statistics make it all the more unbelievable that 1 in 5 SMEs report no online presence whatsoever.
What is an Online Presence for Business?
Anywhere online that your business can be searched for and found is your online presence. It's your whole existence on the web and other parts of the internet. Your online presence includes:
Any social media your business uses - Twitter account & tweets, Facebook page & updates, LinkedIn profile
Reviews of your business that are posted online
YouTube videos of your business
Why Should Your Business Have an Online Presence?
If you have a well-designed website, you instantly look more credible as a business. If you have no website or social media presence, customers will wonder why. More and more people use the internet to search for products and services. Without a website, potential customers are more likely to go to your competitors who do have one.
Having a website makes it a lot easier and quicker to update information on products or services. You can also easily update customers on new products or services, upcoming events, promotions and news. It’s also simple and instant to update outdated product or service information.
Having a website doesn’t mean you’re disconnected from your customers. It’s quite the opposite, in fact. You can tailor your website to include a section on FAQs, share articles or newsletters or even create a blog. This type of personalisation will allow the customer to connect to your product or service.
A website is available to regular and potential customers 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, all year round. This is especially helpful as people can view your products or services outside of business hours.
Websites are a great way to showcase your products or services. You can include a photo gallery, testimonials and showcase what makes your business unique from competitors.
Providing information to customers can be time consuming. A website allows you to provide detailed information on your website, about your products or services.
Helps Your Business Grow
Ultimately having an online presence is instrumental in business growth. As you can see from the reasons above, having a website gives you an advantage over competitors and improves customer’s experience with your business. For more insight into why an online presence effects the growth of your business, check out our article ‘Why Having an Online Presence Can Help Your Business Grow’.
How to Build an Online Presence:
Create a website
Start a blog/social media profiles
Build an e-mail list (optional – this is more important for some businesses than others.)
Be active on social media
Manage your reputation
Tips for Building Your Online Presence
Make sure your online presence accurately represents you and your business. Make sure your website and social media stays professional without being overly formal. If you wouldn’t say something in a conversation with a customer, don’t say it online.
Don’t Neglect Web Design
Having a website that looks nice and is easy to get around is naturally more appealing to customers than one that isn’t. Think of it like the layout of your shop or restaurant; it should be easy to navigate and make customers happy to stay longer. Obviously, the content is the most important element of your website, what you are promoting and saying is paramount but don’t neglect the look in pursuit of this.
Take Your Time
Don’t rush to release your website. Both design and content are important when it comes to your website. Customers notice silly mistakes, so it’s important to take your time building your website and get it right.
Keep It Updated
Keeping your website up to date, not only keeps it relevant but also shows that your business is still running smoothly. If a customer is on your social media and the last post was two years ago, they are probably going to assume that your business has shut down.
For more tips when it comes to creating your website check out ‘How to Improve Your Online Presence: The Dos and Don'ts’. This article gives you a really good foundation for creating a stellar website, and even links you to a handy website grader that gives you some idea of how your current website is performing.
Elements & Cost
As mentioned above the design of your website is important. You want your website to reflect your brand and look appealing. First impressions matter and if your website is the first impression a potential customer has of your business, you want it to have a positive impact. This probably means hiring a professional to design and build your website for you.
Websites are technical constructs and as such require numerous background technical aspects. At a basic level, you need to buy a domain name. This is the URL that allows people to visit your website. You also probably need to look into a Content Management System (CMS), whether your website is mobile friendly and some sort of website hosting.
The security of your website is crucial for various reasons. You don’t want your website to be hacked or your customer’s information to be compromised. This is why you need to invest in security features like an SSL Certificate and general code maintenance.
On average a website will cost anywhere between €1000 and €7000. Again, this will vary depending on what features you want on the website. A website can be expensive to set up, but the benefits are worth it in the end. For a more thorough breakdown of the individual elements (including some of the main technical and security elements) and what you should expect to pay for each ‘The Costs of Building an Online Presence for Business’ has a good indicative list.
Build Your Online Presence Using Social Media
Learning how to use social media for restaurants or cafés should be on your list of essential things to do. A huge 88% of people were influenced by reviews and online comments. With so many hospitality businesses already online, it’s normal to feel overwhelmed and unsure how to stand out from the crowd. In this article you’ll find some best practices on building up a social media for your business.
Create an Online Voice
The first step is to figure out what type of tone you want to show your audience.The tone you use should be reflected in the type of content you share. Don’t be afraid to use hashtags but stay away from slang terms.
Use Customer Content
Customers may tag or share your business in photos or share your location on social media. This is free content that you can reshare with your followers while showing that your restaurant is popular.
Show Off Employees
Showing your employees on your social media is a great way to show your business as a friendly place to eat and work. This shows you care about your employees, thus humanizing your business to both customers and potential customers.
Find out more on how to start using social media for restaurants and cafés by reading our article here.