The Four Pillars of an Internet Presence: Pillars Three & Four
October 19, 2010
By Wendy Williams
In the first article of this series, “The Four Pillars of a Robust Internet Presence for Small Businesses,” printed in the November/December issue of Focus, we talked about the changeable content on your website being the ground zero for crafting the business message you wish to share and reviewed the strategy for putting this message out into the world within a different context by sharing links out via social media channels. In this article, we talk about the second two pillars: eNews programs and personal interaction.
The eNews program. T his method of communicating with your audience can reinforce the outreach from the first two pillars, but add a level of permission-based and direct messaging into the mix. It can be the most powerful channel, if done with a few important strategies in mind.
Not everyone reads your blog, and not everyone subscribes to social media
The first thing businesses must accept is that no matter how much effort you put into blog posts and conversing with your audience on social media, much of what you have to say will slip through the cracks. People hunt and peck around the Web for information they want, and you are lucky if they manage to discover your site. A good eNews program, however, has the ability to turn all this effort into a narrative, driving your audience to your website so that nothing really slips between the cracks. On top of that, is MEASURABLE.
So how does an eNews Program Work?
Once you decide how often it makes sense to send out an eNews program, the best plan is to populate it with content (articles and posts) you have already created on your blog. Thus, your eNews becomes an aggregated email that highlights everything you wish to share since you sent out the last eNews. So if you decide to include a blog post you wrote or want to share a conversation you had about a topic on Facebook, you simply include all the links in your eNews. Everyone who receives your eNews has REQUESTED to receive it, which is a great reason to make sure you are sharing material they are going to be delighted to get in their inbox. One example of a service that can manage an eNews program is Constant Contact. The metrics in the back end are great as they show you how many people clicked on which links, how many people “opt out” and don’t wish to hear from you anymore (this can be an important clue that you need to think about the eNews using the perspective of your audience a bit more), and even how many people forwarded the eNews or shared it via social media. It’s great data.
In most eNews programs, such as Constant Contact, there is also an option to attach a URL containing your newsletter in the eNews. This is an important option to consider as you can then copy the url into a site such as bit.ly (which also utilizes tracking information) and put this optimized link into a Twitter post and on FB for sharing. For example, one of client only has 200 subscribers, but they get over 350 page views of each eNews because of the sharing on Twitter and Facebook.
How often should a company send out an eNews?
This is an interesting question to consider. If you send it out too often, without something compelling at its core, your eNews can quickly be regarded as “junk.” The rule of thumb would be to send an eNews out as often as you have something important to say (from your customer’s perspective, not yours). For many businesses, I think it is safe to say that quarterly will work well. For a business that has a lot of scheduled events, perhaps monthly would work better. One client, a Fish Market, sends their eNews every Friday. It seems like overkill in theory, but it works because the primary mission of the eNews for this particular business is listing what perishable items are available each weekend.
The fourth pillar focuses on your personal interaction with customers and employees. It doesn’t require any sort of technical know-how, but rather it focuses on reinforcing the existence of your online presence by talking to your customers and educating your employees about the website, blog, social media channels, online assets such as video and the eNews program. Everyone needs to be on the same page, so they can be “in the know” and share information about your website and these various tools. In fact, invite customers and employees to participate If you can involve your customers and employees (using contests, opportunities to post on the blog, writing testimonials to share), all the better.
In your place of business, make sure you include information about your online destinations with a sign-up sheet for the newsletter, your website address printed on your business cards, stationary, envelopes, printed advertisements—even things like refrigerator magnets and pens—as well as other collateral material. If you visit tradeshows, make sure you distribute items with this information printed on them to let people know where they can go to get more information about your business.
Even though this fourth pillar seems pretty simple and obvious, it’s amazing how easy it is overlooked.
Four Pillars Work Together; Reinforce One Another
The Four Pillars of a Robust Internet Presence work because they all reinforce one-another. Thus, your website has an eNews sign-up. Your eNews has links back to the site, and also out to your social media profiles. Social media amplifies the message you wish to put out into the world by making it shareable and recommended between friends.
Wendy Williams is a new media specialists at Eiler Communications, Ann Arbor.