I’d say “yes” and “no”. The internet has provided us the opportunity to operate a business model that can compete with the big corporate giants that are able to outspend and outemploy more than we ever could. The internet allows us to expand outside our local market and sell to people all over the country–or even around the world, if that is our goal. Yes, the internet has definitely helped us grow our businesses.
My answer is a resounding NO! That is why, even though we have the knowledge and capability to do so, we don’t incorporate most of these new techniques in the websites that we own and seriously want to convert. And the reason is simple. These are gimmicks that are intended to make a website look “professional”, “up-to-date” and “cool” . But, in reality, except for the “under 30 age crowd” (which are only a very small minority of my customers), most customers dislike them. And, unless they are incorporated very carefully by someone who understands search engine spiders very well, most search engines dislike them even more.
Many users of the web are technically-challenged. That’s true of even many of our gift basket company owners. They don’t understand all this new-fangled stuff and prefer to avoid it. But it’s all too easy for a webmaster, who enjoys adding this type of glitz to a shopping website, to convince you that it’s the thing to have if you want to be “up-to-date”. But what is much more important is how does it help you convert visitors to buyers? Does it make more money for you?
If used correctly and you have the time to spend on it, social media has its place and can help to a degree. Social media doesn’t yet come close to competing with search or email in terms of effectiveness. But marketers are still asking themselves whether that is because social media is ineffective or simply because, despite the hype, a huge percentage of people online aren’t actively or regularly engaged with social media sites and channels.
By social media, I’m referring to Facebook, My Space, Linked In, Twitter and the many others out there. These social networking sites can be used to promote your business. I use them for that purpose. But they are just a tool and are not nearly as effective as other means of driving traffic to your website. There are ways to automatically post your blog posts on your Facebook wall and as a Twitter. But you have to understand how they work and how best to use them. And learning that takes more of those precious minutes.
Forums and Blogging are two other forms of social networking that can be very effective.
How much time do you have to spend on all these sites? When I asked the members of my Gift Basket Network what their biggest problem was, the most frequent answer was “Not enough time in the day to do everything that needed to be done for their business”. Add to “not enough time” such activities as posting “I’m going to my son’s ballgame tonight” on your wall on Facebook or “Today is a beautiful day. Just don’t have time to enjoy it” as a Twitter post and what do you have? Not more traffic to your website, that’s for sure. You’ve just deducted precious minutes from those hours that were already filled with your “have to do” list.
Blogging, posting on related blogs, and posting in forums can help build your business…once again, only if used correctly. A blog, that is built specifically to drive traffic and is properly optimized, is a fast, effective, and efficient way to communicate with your customers and prospects — just as I am communicating with you. It can make you “real” to those customers and help them to get to know you as a person. It can also be used to sell products if done right. But you need to know the techniques necessary to do it. Posting on blogs, that are related to your website and have good search engine visibility, can help your own website’s seach engine optimization by providing valuable links to your site. And you don’t have to have any technical savvy to do that.
Forums that are related to your industry can’t be beat for effective communication with others in the industry. In the gift basket industry, there are a number of them that you can participate in. You need to be selective and use those that are used by others who have information to share. But, as with anything, you must give in order to receive. Just signing into a forum, reading what others have shared, and signing out is not enough. You need to contribute as well if you hope to receive that info you must have when the time comes and you’re desperate for an anwer to a question.
Post Foods ran a Shredded Wheat ad recently that asked this very question about progress and answered the question with:
” Honestly, what thanks do we owe progress? We’re up to our necks in landfill, down to the wire on resources, and climate change is out to get us — or at best leave us with a nsasty sunburn. Historically, civilizations are destroyed by progress. Just ask the Pharaohs…”
And, just as the ad went on to say, “That’s why at Post Shredded Wheat, we put the “no” in innovation”, we, as owners of Gift Basket Network have also said “no”.
I created Gift Basket Network about six years ago. One person (me). One ingredient (professional gift basket company owners that wanted more traffic to their websites). One website. It was simple to navigate. No add-ons or plug-ins. Heck, it was even built in basic html and optimized following the severe requirements of the search engines. We didn’t give it a fancy name or a lot of glitz. Our market was not the gift basket company owner. Our market, at that time and still is, the potential customer who is ready and willing to buy a gift or gift basket and is just looking for a place to do it.
We market to the gift basket company owners in other ways. One of these was in the form of Gift Retailers Network after we had clearly established Gift Basket Network one of the top gift basket directories on the web. This blog that you are reading right now is another way that we market to you. It is our way of demonstrating to you that combining the tried-and-true methods of internet marketing with a few carefully selected “social networking” methods is using progress to build your business.
Does it work? History has proven it to be true so far. But time will tell.