Technology

How to Sex Up Your Small-Biz Website

Having your customers come to you, rather than having to go out to find them, may be a better (and more cost-efficient) way to do business.
David RosenbaumJanuary 31, 2013

Caitlin Jewell, co-founder and creative director of Silverscape, a digital marketing agency, is also co-owner and marketing director of craft brewer Somerville Brewing, which makes Slumbrew beer. Given that Jewell runs a business that designs websites and helps companies market themselves online, and also uses those skills to sell her own beer (with co-owner Jeff Leiter), it’s not surprising that she tends to have strong opinions about both websites and online marketing.

“Some companies say their product or service is inappropriate for Facebook. That’s shocking to me,” says Jewell. “C-level executives, CFOs, they’re on Facebook. Facebook is a news aggregator for a lot of people, not just kids. It’s shocking to me that businesses don’t make information about themselves available where people [almost a billion worldwide] are going to get it.”

When asked about the return on investment for using social media — always the finance executive’s first question — Jewell responds that “engagement is a necessary step to [sales] conversion; consistent engagement is necessary to recurring revenue.” Not to mention that having customers come to you through search, blogging, and social media (inbound leads) is far more efficient than going out to find them through direct mail, trade shows, or telemarketing (outbound leads). In fact, according to a recent study by marketing-software provider HubSpot, inbound leads cost organizations 61% less than outbound leads, which amounts to an average saving of $211 per lead.

Not surprisingly, Jewell’s first tip for small businesses that want to optimize their online presence is:

  1. Use social sites and make them visible. “There are different platforms; different ways to communicate,” she says, citing Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter, Pinterest, and, of course, Facebook, among others. You don’t have to use all of them; different businesses have different customers, and different social platforms appeal to different audiences. Jewell’s Slumbrew customers, for example, skew young, and consequently she loves Instagram. “Its user base grew quickly and they’re highly engaged,” she says. “It’s easy for businesses to do, and there’s no cost.” A fan of your product takes a picture. A simple application programming interface (API) can be used to make the picture automatically show up on your website and your Facebook page. Twitter is tied to Facebook, so Facebook posts can be made to show up as tweets, again automatically. But, Jewell says, it’s “shocking to me how many organizations use these social tools but don’t make them easy to find.” Her advice? Make sure your social-media options are highlighted on the top half of your website page.
  2. Be discriminating. People, especially small-business owners, are busy running their businesses. They can’t spend hours writing blogs or posting to Facebook. “If you can’t monetize it, it’s a mistake to spend that much time on it,” allows Jewell, suggesting instead that business owners pick a few platforms they like and are good at, and work on those. And make sure you bring whatever you do on social networks onto your company’s website. “Use API tools to pull your most recent tweet onto your website’s home page,” she says. “This will encourage more Twitter followers.”
  3. It works if you work it. Jewell emphasizes that although you don’t have to play in all the social-media sandboxes, you need to provide the ones you do choose to play in with a consistent flow of fresh content that you then can pull onto your website. An untended garden goes quickly to seed, and so does a company’s website. “Don’t post for the sake of posting,” she cautions. “Do one a day at most, but make sure it’s great content.” Jewell suggests building an editorial calendar for your business’s events that can help guide you in creating content you can feature on your website: holiday offers, new-product introductions, trade shows, conferences, and so on. “Keep a bullpen of interesting content for specific days,” she says. “I’m working on my summer social-media schedule right now.” If you know in advance what subjects you’re going to highlight, it removes the stress of coming up with ideas on the spur of the moment.
  4. Bring a snippet of your blog onto your home page. “A shocking number of companies have blogs but no teasers for them on their websites.” Jewell says a sentence or two on a business’s home page will help the blog get more views. And she advises that the blogs have social-media share badges connected to them; that, too, will increase page views. “People complain that they have no time to blog and that no one cares and they’re not seeing an ROI. But they’re not promoting the blog, not teasing it, not giving it a point of view, not giving it a chance,” says Jewell.
  5. Add video. “If your website has one video on the page, I’ll tell you where people will click first,” Jewell says. “Video is so engaging.” For one Silverscape customer, a financial-services company, Jewell did an interview with the CEO that lives on the firm’s home page. “You can see from the numbers and qualitative feedback from prospective customers that the numbers are really good from the video,” she says. “Put a portion of your marketing budget [in video]; it’s worth it.” And while video today is still time-consuming and somewhat expensive, Jewell foresees a time when it won’t be, a time when it will be easy to upload high-definition video from camera phones to hosting sites such as Vimeo.