Definition of Online Presence Management
Online Presence Management is a new discipline of managing one’s organization, brand or personality on the internet. The internet has brought about many opportunities for organizations to increase their exposure to customers. Broken down, we have three elements; online, presence, and management. Online is to make the distinction of the practice related to digital marketing channels and not print nor physical display advertising. Presence is the behaviour of being present in a place or thing. While Management is dealing with and deliberately controlling or influence the outcomes of activities.
pres·ence /ˈprezəns/ : noun. the state or fact of existing, occurring, or being present in a place or thing.
Historical Context of Presence Management
In the nineties, companies like eBay and Amazon were pioneers in ecommerce, figuring out how to earn money selling products only on the web. Soon after, brick and mortar stores got into the game, not wanting to miss the opportunity and click and mortar stores were born. This was an internet experience where publishers put their content on the web and users were readers.
Around the break of the century, the dot-com crash exposed the unsustainable business models and left us with a leaner set of internet businesses where cash flows aren’t forgotten. The web 2.0, as it was called, started with tools that allowed common web users to also write on the internet. Website building and blogging tools allowed users to publish content, and not long after came the platforms of social networks (Friendster, MySpace, Facebook). The expanding capacity of networks meant social networks would turn into multimedia sites and YouTube gave us the ability to be social and share videos. Here to, we saw websites that give customers a voice , Yelp was started in 2004, and Twitter in 2006, and an ability to broadcast their opinions.
While I don’t generally like to use the term Web 3.0, we have seen shifts in how users engage in the web in recent years. Today, social features are “table-stakes” and we’ve added mobile capabilities whose applications are an entirely new breed of customer interaction. We have also seen a shift toward more personalized services, portable tools integrated with local / physical products and services.
Many of us had not realized the extent to which these technologies would impact organizations and brands. One study in 2010 showed a one star rating difference on Yelp may change the revenue of Bay area restaurants by 5-9%. Since 2010 we’ve had numerous improvements in tools and far greater access to the web (smartphones). If that weren’t enough, there are now dozens and in some markets hundreds of websites that in one way or another, post business listings and have give users the ability to share reviews. Add in the social, mobile and localization trends, now you’ve got yourself a diverse mix of factors that change the way customers find businesses they want to work with.
Scope of Online Presence Management
Hunch Manifest defines Online Presence as the cumulative organization and brand activity across all internet channels. Management of your online presence is the process of 1) knowing where and how you show up 2) controlling on-site factors with the intention of achieving goals and 3) influencing factors off-site.
Internet Presence Management is the process of controlling or influencing the Web presence, or Internet-based channels of an organization or company, with the goal of increasing that entity’s online presence and overall internet efficiency.
Today’s Presence Management requires you to consider your factors under your control (e.g. your website)
- Web design factors
- Content Marketing / Blogging
- Search Engine Optimization
- Email marketing
As well as factors that are exist beyond the control of your website across the rest of the internet:
- Internet Advertising
- Social Media Marketing
- Reputation Management
- Directory Listings
- Internet [Industry / Support] Forums
Web Design Factors
Modern websites need to accomplish several tasks. They need to explain what your business is, what products and services you offer and make it easy to order and contact you. Accomplishing this may mean reviewing your website for ease of navigation, its appeal to your eyes, is the content easy to read, are the font’s consistent, images used appropriate, avoiding use of Flash, is it responsive design (reformatted display on mobile devices), does it have Calls to Action in good locations, links to your social media pages?
Content Marketing / Blogging
Is your website using a content management system that makes it easy to update the content, to post news, share blogs posts and to share interesting content?
Search Engine Optimization
Did you and your web designer do keyword research to help you title key landing pages and HTML headers? Did you structure your information in a hierarchy to help navigation with breadcrumbs? Have you the opportunity to provide structured data (Schema.org) for topics that may generate rich snippets? How about Twitter Cards and Facebook Open Graph integration, are you controlling how a shared page shows in those social networks?
Email marketing continues to provide strong value for organizations. The secrets to email marketing is the intersection of 1) a great list of people subscribed to your emails 2) captivating content that drives actions (online engagement, purchases, etc). Growing an email subscriber list can provide a push notification reach to your audience and so long as you provide some value to them and don’t oversell you’ll get the results.
Pay per click marketing, search engine marketing and more generally paid advertising on the internet is important to business success as well. Advertising platforms such as Google Adwords, YouTube, or Facebook all large channels with broad customer reach but just the tip of the iceberg. Paying per click may make sense for you business, particularly if you have some spare capacity (e.g. clearance, under-utilized team) or you have special deals coming up (e.g. St Patricks Day, Back to school specials) and the more proficient advertisers know the exact return on investment for each click so you know how much income you make for each click.
Social Media Marketing
Social media is one of the most interesting aspects of online presence management. On the one hand, the voice of the customer has never been stronger. Customers can easily and publicly give you feedback, reviews and criticism that used to be hard to come by. Customers can influence others on these platforms, reviews or brand interactions may be seen by their friends and followers, so that “word-of-mouth” has come alive online. Marketing in social media is a challenge to know what is the return on investment, tracking and placing a value of actions in social media often tend to tracking vanity metrics, and optimizing for business outcomes (e.g. increase referral sales) is not that easy without a dedicated social media staff running campaigns.
Websites like Yelp, Google+, OpenTable, TripAdvisor or Foursquare have created a panacea for customers to review the business they interact with on a daily basis. Keeping on top of the reviews of your organization in multiple locations can be time consuming. Add to that fact, every month there are new websites that track reviews in which you may be the subject. Sometimes there is niche sites listing only lawyers, or only for your city. All of these websites that allow reviews to be posted provide an opportunity for you to get glowing reviews or to be slandered. When customers see these, it does have an impact on their purchasing decision.
Similar to Reputation Management, you also want to be included in your niche directory listings, or specific geographic directories. Users, unaware of your business want to find your products or services, may simple search for your business type + directory to get a list. If you’re not listed there, and your competitors are then they’ll get the lead. Do you know the directories that are relevant to your organization. Do you know even just the 5 to 10 key directories you really must be in?
Internet [Industry / Support] Forums
A great opportunity to engage with your customers is to establish your own customer forum and to find online communities where customers gather to talk about your industry. Maybe it means going to Contractor Talk, finding the forum if you’re in sports, ethically sourced clothing, or video games. If you are a business consultant then the forums of LinkedIn Groups are for you. While you may think of these as places to pitch your wares, think again. These forums are usually moderated and outright sales may get your banned. There are opportunities to add value to the conversations, providing advice or responding to comments about your business which builds trust in you first, then gets you leads as they follow your author profile to your site.
Another factor to consider in your online presence management is if and how you show up within mobile applications. Increasingly users get their information needs met through domain specific applications, such as searching for nearby open house using Realtor, searching for pizza near you on Google Maps, or WhatsApp where recommendations may be shared among friends. Getting your company listed in these applications is one challenge, and being involved and engaged in these user actions is another. Definitely an area interest and an opportunity for improvement in practice and tools.
Online Presence Balancing Act
Influencing off-site factors, such as directory listings or social media platforms, are key to your an online presence. They can be treated as separate channels, a way to draw in customers and providing a place where conversations, feedback and mentions give the sense of a two-way conversation. Understanding how they are part of your sales funnel, how word of mouth marketing is affected by your presence on Google or Bing make it difficult for small businesses to really know what’s going on.
Add in management of the various on-site factors like web design, content marketing, search engine optimization, pay per click marketing then you can create a positive presence that is capable of producing long-term results. The internet should no longer be thought of as just a different advertising channel, but rather its only one that also compliment every other print or offline channels.
While you may inclined to reject that several negative reviewers on Google have an impact, you may simultaneously complain about changing market conditions, declining customer engagement or fewer referrals. Ask yourself, are these really separate concerns?
Today’s successful business understands this about balancing online presence management:
- The internet is a large rapidly changing marketing channel
- They are willing to learn how to better leverage online opportunities
- Accept that they can’t stay on top of all these factors on their own
- Ask for help figuring out where get maximum impact