Saying that the Internet has gotten bigger since its humble beginnings is surely an understatement. From the handful of sites of the early 90s to the more than 1 billion we can visit today, the Web has expanded in spectacular fashion and has given us access to anything and everything we can think of. From a user point of view, this is undeniably fantastic. From a business standpoint, however, reaching the targeted audience sometimes feels nothing short of a miracle.
That’s because Internet users have changed their behavior rather radically, especially when it comes to buying products and hiring services. Users are scattered all over the Web and finding them requires some practice. This means that businesses that are trying to deliver their ads to potential consumers must know and understand what people do on the Internet to succeed. Are you in this position? Here are some things you should have in mind if you’re to find your clients on the Web.
1 – Go to social-networking sites
Although it might feel obvious at this point, it’s good to remind you that you shouldn’t neglect social-networking sites when designing your business strategy. Chances are your business already has a Facebook page and even a Twitter account but your plan shouldn’t end in just having them. You have to pay attention to them and try to develop a community around your brand if you want to reach your clients.
Social media stats categorically back this up. Up to 74% of Internet adults use the different social-networking sites spending 23% of their online time checking them. As anyone would expect, Facebook is the biggest of them all, since 71% of Internet users have a profile on Mark Zuckerberg’s site. With such numbers, it’s fairly safe to say that your targeted audience is likely to be on Facebook. However, don’t be surprised if your core audience isn’t there: shifting Internet habits impact the group-usage stats. Facebook has suffered from a recent teenager exodus that left the platform with a more mature audience.
The biggest beneficiary from this Exodus? Twitter, which has been slowly but steadily growing among young people, especially among well-educated men. Thus, the microbloging site cements its fame as the other major social platform, even when the numbers show that it doesn’t even reach the podium: its 19% of all users leaves the site in the 4th place below LinkedIn’s 22% and Pinterest 21%. Why the fame, then? Because it’s popular among teenagers, the age group advertisers like to target the most.
Of course, those numbers shouldn’t be decisive for your digital strategy. Perhaps your business needs to target young women, which makes Pinterest or even Instagram as the perfect platform for you. On the other hand, if you’re looking for a place to establish professional connections, then LinkedIn is the way to go. Obviously, these stats should only serve you as a starting guide for your digital strategy and for planning according to your budget. From there, be sure to measure your results along the way to confirm you’re on the right track or if you need to change or adjust your plan according to those results.
2 – Don’t forget about blogs and message boards
While being in social-networking sites is almost mandatory for any business, you shouldn’t forget about other online platforms where you can also establish a relationship with your targeted audience. Authority blogs, on one hand, and message boards, on the other, are great ways to find potential clients and be in touch with other people within your industry or field.
Authority blogs are an amazing place to do so. If you’re able to pinpoint the most popular blogs within your niche, you might be able to find people already interested in your services or products (as well as establish fruitful connections with other professionals). These blogs will be perfect to display your ads, answer people’s questions about your field and even submit guest posts to benefit from those blogs’ authority.
You surely might be asking yourself ‘OK but how do I find these blogs?’ It’s easier than you think. For instance, you can use alltop.com to search the most relevant topics currently being discussed in your field and the sites in which they are being talked about. You can also use Topsy to find such links but also to find influential tweeter within your industry. Follow them and watch them closely to learn which sites they respect and use – and do so yourself.
Message boards also serve the same purpose – even if you feel that the last time they were relevant was during the dial-up heyday. These boards have mutated into something different and more dynamic than you remember: think of Reddit or public Facebook groups to understand what we’re talking about here. To find the appropriate ones, take advantage of
Google: search for message boards, subreddits and open groups to identify them!
Keep in mind, though, that message boards are intended for shameless promotion – in fact, direct advertising is considered spam practically every time. This means that you’ll have to become an active member of the community by commenting, sharing ideas, discussing hot topics and, finally, submitting your contents.
3 – It’s all about mobile
While mobile devices aren’t exactly a place where you can find your clients, you surely have to consider them as a relevant factor when approaching your audience. Given that 63% of adult cell owners use them to go online (and that 34% of them will use such devices almost exclusively to surf the Web), knowing how to serve ads to such audience is crucial now – and will be vital in the future.
This doesn’t just mean that you’ll have to learn how to ‘fit’ your ads and your entire content strategy to smaller screens but also how to identify the mobile-related opportunities. Think about it: 74% of adult smartphone owners (ages 18 and older) get location-based recommendations from their devices while 12% of them check in different venues through a geosocial service such as Foursquare.
What does this mean for your business? That your site, social accounts and related information should be prepared to serve the needs of mobile users. Own a restaurant? Be sure to have an updated Google + account that shows your location. Have a Facebook page for your store? Complete your entire profile so that mobile users find you when looking for nearby services like the ones you offer.
Like we said above, these are just some starting tips you consider when designing your digital plan. Once you have outlined your strategy according to these considerations, you’ll have to keep up with the ever-changing habits of Internet users and, especially, of your core audience. Though you might feel that certain social sites and blogs are the place where you have to be now, this doesn’t necessarily mean that will stay that way for long.
Knowing where to find your clients doesn’t just require a thorough starting analysis but rather a well-executed plan that combines a planned kickoff with detailed and periodic monitoring of all your actions and their results.