Monthly Archives: October 2012

Facebook etiquette

With the prospect of free promotion, Facebook may look like a marketer’s – and small business person’s – dream, but diving into it without an understanding of the unspoken “rules” of business Facebook pages can be highly detrimental.

Here are some tips to help you navigate the etiquette minefield:

It’s not all about selling: If the only thing people see on your page – or in groups you are involved with – is “buy, buy, buy”, they will “unlike” you before you can say “free steak knives”. Remember, Facebook is all about two-way relationships between a business and its customers. It’s OK to post the odd special deal, but these need to be the exception, rather than the rule. Ideally, you want your “likers” to engage with your page, so you need to offer engaging content.

It’s not “free” marketing: Good use of Facebook means a long term commitment.  So while it may appear “free”, it takes time is takes to establish rapport and build a good business page – and time is money. If you decide to add Facebook to your marketing mix (and it should NEVER be your only form of marketing) you need to factor in this time.

Dealing with negative feedback: The worst thing you can do is ignore – or delete – a negative comment. Yes, it’s frustrating to do all that work engaging with potential customers only to have a negative comment spoil your efforts, but if you delete, they may just go and post somewhere else where you have no control (like on a media outlet’s page). Instead, use it as an opportunity to show how good your business is at dealing with complaints and turning naysayers into fans. So respond calmly and constructively to the comment on the page, then take the conversation offline.

Obey Facebook rules: Yes, while it may seem that Facebook is a free-for-all, there are some rules that need to be adhered to, or your page may be deleted without warning. For example, competitions need to be run using third-party apps rather than on the page itself. You also don’t want to be reported as a spammer, so avoid tagging people in posts or photos.

To ensure your Facebook business page offers the best bang for buck, contact Direct Sites Online today on 02 9557 7623 or email info@directsitesonline.com.

What on earth is responsive web design?

Things move fast in world of information technology and the latest buzz is all about responsive web design. But what is it and how can you make it work for your business?

Put simply, responsive web design includes various elements – such as fluid grids and flexible images – which make a web site adapt to different viewing platforms, with different screen sizes and resolutions.

It means that people accessing the internet via smart phones or tablets have a user-experience that is comparable to if they accessed the same site via their laptop, PC or Mac.

With more and more people using smart phones and tablets to access the internet, responsive web design makes good business sense.

Australia has one of the highest percentages of population who own a smart phone – second only to Singapore – and upwards of 70 per cent of those people use their phones to browse the internet.

While there, they search for products, check out their social media profiles, take and upload photos and “check-in” via apps such as Foursquare.

There are many other advantages to using responsive web design when developing your site, mostly due to the fact that you can create one design and it will automatically adapt itself based on the screen size of the smart phone or tablet.

  • Save time and money because you won’t have to maintain separate websites
  • Each page will have a single URL and you won’t have to worry about situations where some sites link to your mobile site while other link to your desktop site, thus diluting SEO for both.
  • Your analytics reports will be more accurate as they will consolidate both mobile and desktop visitors
  • Social media sharing will be streamlined and, again, the statistics from Facebook, Twitter etc will be more accurate.
  • For the technologically savvy, responsive designs are easier to maintain as they do not involve any server-side components.

And if that’s not enough to convince you, Google has officially recommended responsive web design as its preferred way of building websites for smart phones and tablets.

Direct Sites Online specialises in responsive web design, call us today on 9557 7623 or email info@directsitesonline.com

 

 

Is your website user-friendly?

user-friendly website designJust because your website looks pretty and has all the bells and whistles does not mean it is actually doing its job and improving your business bottom line.

When it comes to websites, appearance is only one part of the puzzle – if your site isn’t user-friendly and doesn’t offer a strong call to action, there is no point having a site at all.

These days, the internet appears to be overtaking the Yellow Pages as the method people prefer for contacting businesses, which just goes to show how vital a business website is. How much longer will it be before phone books are even being printed?

So what determines the user-friendliness or otherwise of a business website? And how do you know if yours meets the criteria? The following qualities are a start.

Layout and structure

Is your site too busy, or too empty? Is the information presented in an easy-to-read format? Does it flow naturally? Is the relevant, current and important information positioned where it’s the first thing a visitor notices? You have about 8-10 seconds to impress a new visitor – you need them to be able to immediately understand what your business is all about.

Load Time

Slow load times are among the number one turn-offs for website visitors. If you site takes too long to load, potential customers will beat a path to your competitors. Things that affect load time include: large images, animation, videos and dodgy (read – cheap) hosting providers.

Menus

Most website content management systems allow for a variety of menus, which means that you can place menus at the bottom, top and even the sides of each page so people don’t have to search for what they are looking for. It’s also important to make the menu easy to understand. So use simple terms such as Contact, About, Services, Blog, rather than trying to be too clever by half.

Fresh content

If a visitor comes to your site and the first thing they see is a blog post from several years ago, they are not likely to stick around. In other words, content is king and needs to be fresh, informative, entertaining and accurate.

One of the easiest ways to determine whether your site is user friendly or not is by checking the bounce rate via your analytics tool. If it is higher than around 50 per cent, there is likely a reason people are leaving (unless, for instance, your focus is a blog and people visit to check for new posts).

If you are seeing a higher bounce rate than you would like, and you would like to find out how to make your site more user friendly, then call Direct Sites Online today on 9557 7623 or email info@directsitesonline.com

Why social media is more than a marketing tool

We talked before about how important it is to use social media as part of your marketing mix, and we’ve discussed how businesses can get the most from Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and more.

Now we’d like to show you how it can be so much more than a marketing tool.

  1. Customer service: It’s not uncommon for people to jump online when they have a question or grievance. This means social media is brilliant for engaging those customers and offering high quality customer service. You have the opportunity to resolve complaints and respond to queries quickly and efficiently. It’s like an online call centre, but much, much better.
  2. Brand management: Social media is a fantastic brand positioning tool. It allows a business to show the personality behind the brand, and when the perception and reality are one and the same, business will boom.
  3. Product development: Thinking of bringing a new product to market? Why not use your Facebook Page or Twitter feed to encourage input, incorporate it if suitable, and thank your likers or followers for their thoughts. People love to feel like they have been included.
  4. Public relations: PR is all about relationship building, and what better way to build a relationship with your customers than to have a true two-way conversation with them? Not to mention that more and more journalists are getting their news leads from social media and you can tap into this by following their tweets and inviting them to follow yours (and maybe like your Facebook page while they are at it.)
  5. Crisis and issues management: Hopefully, you will never need to use social media for this, but in times of business crisis (all your stock has been ruined in a flood, for instance), getting out on the front foot on Facebook and Twitter can diffuse the situation.

As you can see, effective and strategic use of social media can benefit your business in so many ways.

If you want to learn more, or need some help setting up or managing your social media profiles, give Direct Sites Online a call now on 02 9557 7623 or email info@directsitesonline.com.au

Seven tips to avoid a web design nightmare

With a raft of do-it-yourself content management systems and a proliferation of web-designers and developers, it has never been easier for a small business to have its own website.

But with this ease of access comes pitfalls that could turn your dream of a business website into a nightmare.

Thankfully, the problems can be avoided with a bit of planning and knowledge on your part. Here are some things to consider BEFORE you even begin to look for a web developer.

Branding

It is important to have your brand developed first, so that your website will complement this. If you don’t have a strong brand, there is a strong likelihood that your website will end up a bit wishy-washy as well, and will need to be started over as your brand develops.

Goal

What is the goal of your site? Is it to get people to call your company for a quote, to purchase via a shopping cart, to bring people into your bricks and mortar store or just as an online billboard? Your goal will go a long way to defining your website design and creating your all-important call-to-action.

Competitors

It pays to check out what your competitors are doing online. While copycat tactics are never OK, you can see what does and doesn’t work, and then borrow as needed. If, for example, everyone in your niche is using the word “luxurious” to describe their body lotion, then maybe that’s because “luxurious” works.

First impressions

You have about 8-10 seconds to impress a first-time visitor to your site, which means first impressions really do count and your images and design have to do a lot of work. Don’t rely too much on dull stock photos and instead look for ways to differentiate your business from the countless other small business bookkeeping services/wedding planners/plumbers/whatever that are out there.

Editing

Unless you want to pay your developer every time you change a word, it’s important to be able to edit your website yourself. There are many, many off-the-shelf content management systems – WordPress, Drupal, Squarespace to name just three – that are easy to edit no matter how much of a techno-idiot you may be. It pays to ask the developer what CMS they use and whether you will be able to make changes once the site is live (Direct Sites Online is a big fan of WordPress for our small business customers). Websites are not something you can build and ignore, they need ongoing adjustments if you want them to work for your business.

No Flash

Once upon a time, everyone thought Flash was the bees’ knees – all those cool animated graphics and flashing lights. Those times are gone. In most cases, Flash websites need some technical skills to edit (see above), but more importantly, Google and other search engines find it harder to index Flash sites than they do other CMS’s such as Drupal or WordPress.

Content

Ask whether the developer or designer has access to a content writer, or if they expect the client to provide content. Either way, make sure some of the budget is set aside for the all-important copy. Sure, the design might attract the visitor, but the content is what makes them stay and buy.

Let Direct Sites Online make your business website dreams come true. Call us today on 02 9557 7623 or email info@directsitesonline.com