There was a time when just having a website, or an active presence on social media, pushed a business from good to excellent. Working on the online components of your business was seen as a way to elevate yourself above your competitors, increasing your revenue and expanding your customer base. But times have changed, and today, these aspects are no longer desirable add-ons — they are essential components of any business that wants to succeed.
Most companies are beginning to understand that in today’s digital world, it’s not enough to have a website or a social media strategy. You need to have up-to-date, active accounts that are also aesthetically pleasing and enticing to visitors. Most importantly, your website and your social media need to complement each other as pieces that make up your overall company branding.
Website design is critical because of one simple fact: a poor design will eclipse any and all outstanding content you have on your site. All of the hard work you might put into crafting the perfect wording or sharing relevant information will be useless if people who see your site can’t navigate it, or see it as visually unappealing. In short, they’ll leave. Most people will not put up with trying to make their way around a poorly designed site, as they’ll decide the result isn’t worth it.
That’s why customer ease of access should be your number one consideration when designing the site. How easy is it to find your website (is the URL simple and easy to remember)? What’s the first thing prospective customers see when they get to your site? How will they navigate — is there a header, or a sidebar? Are the pages placed in a logical order? Can they get back to the homepage easily? Is the “call to action” (such as a “buy” or “contact” button) visible (and highlighted on the page)?
When you’re building an aesthetically pleasing design, you want to remember that less is more. A site with a simple homepage that has a background image (or color) and text that stands out is more attractive and more comfortable to navigate than one that has a dozen different elements all demanding the viewer’s attention. Think about the strategies that you can use to highlight your call to action. For example, making it have a bolder font or be outlined in a bright color (whatever works with the visuals on your page). You want to make sure that it’s obvious what you want people to do.
You should also think about what you want the navigation to look like. Is your website scrolling, or do readers have to click through to different pages? Finally, think about how to optimize your site on mobile devices (which involves resizing everything to fit a phone screen). This adjustment can often be made automatically, but you should still think about how you want it to look.
Building an excellent social media strategy depends on the platform and the product. To start, consider the number of posts — Facebook and Instagram should be once (or no more than twice) per day, while Twitter can be much more frequent. Sites like YouTube should be about once per week.
There’s also the style of content. For example, Facebook should be medium-length with complete sentences and correct grammar, while Instagram can be much longer and incorporate emojis and hashtags (don’t use hashtags on Facebook if you don’t have to). Twitter language should be much shorter. You want to avoid emojis and use fewer hashtags.
You should also think about the different types of content that you are pushing out on each platform. You shouldn’t always post the same thing to all of your accounts. They are each meant to be puzzle pieces that together make up a complete picture of your company. This means that they should engage users in different ways.
For example, Facebook is great for sharing articles, posting videos, creating events, or announcing big pieces of news about your company. Don’t use Facebook for excessive photo posting, as that’s Instagram’s domain. There, you should highlight different ways your products can be used, happy customers or cool behind-the-scenes shots from your business.
Twitter is for retweeting accounts you follow that relate to your industry (or are essential to your followers), as well as sharing news about your company and any links to media on YouTube or your website that you want to share. YouTube is excellent for tutorial videos and how-tos that customers can then apply to the products they buy from you.
It can be easy to feel like once you have the two previously mentioned components — a well-designed website and competent social media strategy — you can stop there and call it a day. While these are significant “to-do” items to check off of your list, they’re not enough on their own. Your website and social platforms need to work in tandem to provide customers with a consistent image of your company, and to reinforce each other to drive engagement and conversions.
Let’s get this question out of the way, for those who are curious: what’s so crucial about branding anyway? The short answer is consistency. Customers who are presented a unified, well-thought-out and polished vision of your company are more likely to see it as a legitimate business and to associate it with specific products in their minds. You’re not selling a product or service — you’re selling a brand, and both your website and social media need to be components in building that brand.
As an example, take such simple visual elements as color scheme, logo and font choice. These may seem like superficial design options, but they’re crucial in building your brand because they are all tied to emotions that customers experience when they look at them. If your website uses bright, poppy colors and quirky fonts, while your social media uses darker, muted colors with more standard fonts, viewers will see a disconnect between the two. Are they supposed to feel happy and excited when thinking about your brand, or serious and intellectual?
Another issue is the association with your product. One of the benefits of branding is that when a customer sees your logo or color scheme, they will automatically remember what you are selling, and that association converts people online from clicks to buys. But that process is interrupted if viewers have to balance conflicting portrayals of your company from different accounts online.
In the end, you should think about branding as the driving force behind all of your decisions online — so think long and hard about how you are going to make your social and web platforms look unified. The colors you choose will depend on the product or service you are selling as well as the image you are trying to portray, but the main idea is that it should be consistent.
Consistency is also vital regarding conversions, because your social media accounts should drive engagement on your website, and vice versa. Your site may have an online store, or just contact information for customers to reach out to you and get a quote or order a service. Either way, there’s a call to action there. Your social media should amplify and promote these calls to action. Otherwise, what’s the point of reaching higher numbers of people through Facebook or Instagram?
Social media is especially important because it’s often how people see products or experiences that they then recommend to their friends. As such, it’s critical that you have links to your social media that direct people back to your website if that’s where you want them to go.
The reverse is also true because it’s a self-reinforcing system. The more you get people to go from your website to your social media, the more engaged they will be with your brand, and the more likely it is that they will return to your site (or follow a link on social) to buy what it is you’re selling.
You should use your site to promote social media in several ways. Start by having a social media toolbar through which viewers can easily access your different platforms, like Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Tumblr. Then, take advantage of the website space to tease and link to any social media promotions you may have, like giveaways or Facebook Live sessions.
You can also embed individual social feeds, like your Twitter or Facebook posts, as a sidebar so that visitors to your site can see what you do on social when they are on your homepage.
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