Research shows that 45 percent of small businesses have an insignificant Web presence of their own.
That can create obvious problems: Customers won’t be able to find you easily in a Google search or, worse, they’ll find a negative review of your business.
For example, if a local restaurant doesn’t have a website, Yelp can come in as the first search result, running the risk that an anonymous, negative review is the first thing a potential customer will read about the restaurant.
But there’s another conundrum for small-business owners: Many of them are trying to skip a step by going straight from having no Web presence to social media greatness.
I’m talking them out of it one by one. Here’s why:
At their most basic, websites are content storage for your business. For a retail business, the content is the products you sell. For service providers, it’s a description of the services you provide.
Social media sites are far better equipped to broadcast information; however, they’re not that great at storing it in any meaningful way. Your website is your story, written your way. It’s your opportunity to define your strengths in a compelling way. Don’t you want that to be the first thing your potential customers read?
The goal for a Web-savvy business is to launch a sustainable, scalable website that can grow and help seed social media sites like Facebook and Twitter.
Here are the steps you should follow to help make that happen.
1. Reserve a unique domain for your website. Keep it as short as possible and memorable. I use the site GoDaddy.com, but there are others out there. If your preferred domain name is taken, add your city or state to the beginning or end. For example: www.iowaicecreamstore.com.
2. Set up a simple website. I recommend using WordPress, which is a flexible Web platform that is typically used to create blogs. Using WordPress from the very beginning of your project enables you to easily add a blog or other social content later with plug-ins. This is not a task for beginners; get some help if you’re uncomfortable.
3. Create content and update frequently. Start a news page on the front page of your website or, better yet, a blog. The key is to keep the content fresh so that your customers will keep coming back to see what’s new. Fresh content is also a key ingredient to helping search engines find your site and rank it higher on results pages.
4. Now you’re ready to create a Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn company page. Use the links from your website to direct people to more information on the company site you created.
5. Constantly remind people that you offer information on other platforms. For example, “Find us on Facebook and Twitter,” with icons prominently displayed, should be posted to your website and in your print ads.
Keeping the content fresh on a website is another thing to do on your busy list, but it’s worth it. Your website will become the best lead-generation tool in your arsenal.
A version of this post originally appeared on the blog Public Relations Princess.