I suspect that the title of this post will be enough to tick some people off. While my first instinct is to apologize for that, what is real is that there are people who are functionally illiterate in the world. It’s a fact, not a condemnation. In fact, those who are able to overcome such a deficit in an information centric world are to be commended for their ability to persevere and beat the odds.
What I am referring to specifically here are businesses that are not using the Internet the way they should are essentially functioning with a severe deficiency that threatens their very existence. I don’t think I can stomach one more business person saying that “We get all of our business by referral”. Maybe you do but how many referrals have crapped out because when they checked up on you online they found either an ill-conceived web presence or none to speak of at all.
Let’s make sure we are on the same page here. Web presence is more than just a web site. If you do not have a web site in this day and age then you are likely headed for the business ICU. There is hope for you but only if you get off the mark now, as in today.
Web presence today is about getting your business involved in multiple online channels that people use to make their purchase decisions. I wrote today over at Marketing Pilgrim about a report done by Nielsen that tells us how the world is rapidly shifting from an online perspective. People use the Internet in varying ways and can be categorized as searchers, portalists or socializers. There is a significant shift toward the social net that is changing how we do our business of life thus influencing how we should be doing business.
Here’s a bare minimum requirement for those who don’t want to be classified as functionally Internet illiterate.
- Strong web site – If your site looks like it’s stuck in the 1990’s then it implies that your business is as well. Less people enter a crappy building even if they know the owner because it’s, well, a crappy building. Show some pride and invest in your Internet business location (hat tip to Steven Wagner of Dealer Ignition on that concept).
- A blog – Sounds trite and clichéd but it’s because it is true. A blog simply shows your depth of knowledge about your industry. Not having one means that your competition can show their depth of knowledge (even if is not as deep as yours) and win business from you. Don’t have time to blog? Then you lose. It’s that simple.
- Local search presence – Go to www.getlisted.org and see if you are actually in control of your local business listing in the major engines. If not, get on it. It’s like letting the Yellow Page people write your business description and marketing materials. In other words, it’s just bad practice. Once you have claimed your listings optimize the heck out of them.
- Facebook fan page – Don’t think your customers are on Facebook? If you would like to roll the dice and figure that of the 300 million users there isn’t someone wondering if you are in there as well you are mistaken. (Note to self here – My existence from a business standpoint on Facebook is atrocious. That needs to change.)
- Twitter presence – Maybe; maybe not. There needs to be some homework done to see if this is the right place for you to be spending your time. We’ll discuss the details some other time.
- Basic search engine optimization – Most businesses don’t even do the basics of keyword research, proper title tags, keyword appropriate content and a handful of other best practices. Do the basics if nothing else so that people can find you when they are looking for a solution.
So, there is my literacy test for businesses. If you are not doing all of the above then you are just getting by. You do not have all the skills to be at the top of the heap. Of course, there are some that can get there by sheer will and determination but that is the exception not the rule.
Don’t let your business, no matter what the size, be functionally Internet illiterate. You have complete control on this one and if you are not meeting minimum standards then it’s your fault. If you are not meeting these standards resolve today to give yourself the luxury of educating yourself and becoming the business that you know is there. You can do. You better because no one else will do it for you.