Let’s get this out of the way—being a merchant on the vast expanse of the World Wide Web isn’t always easy. The trade-off to eliminating a storefront operation is a need to attract customers who would otherwise be clamoring for your products but have no idea who you are.
The good news is that a modest grasp of tech principles will set you on the right track. Your goal is to target key sources and sites that will get you noticed. Here are some strategies every e-tailing novice should observe:
• Are you a user of Instagram? If not, become one. This fast-growing platform of photo-sharing is increasingly used for commercial purposes, and with a jaw-dropping audience of 300 million worldwide Instagram users, it’s an incredible opportunity.
But true to form, talk is cheap, and these potential customers would rather see what you’re all about. Consider offering product samples to Instagrammers who flock to industry- or affiliate-centered accounts. Track those down using WEBSTA, a site that lists the highest-volume Instagram hashtags and users. Enter your search criteria (example: “pet accessories”) and pinpoint groups who may be receptive to a complimentary gift.
• The digital era is here to stay, but don’t forget the power of the press. Bloggers, especially, tend to attract like-minded followers who may want to hear what you have to offer. A simple Google search (example: “vintage clothing blog”) will take you to a litany of potential promotional opportunities. Hit each with your best pitch and watch your e-site draw new interest.
• Have you read it? It’s on Reddit. The Grand Central Station of Internet commentary resides here, offering mining opportunities to find out more about growing a thriving business, as well as sneaking in your own input through posts that “mention” your site and draw a host of followers.
• We’ve come a long way since our loved ones were reticent about using social media. Increasingly, the scope and age demographic of users has spiraled, making online communications a genuine “thing.” Encourage your family and friends to bolster your marketing efforts by posting your site on their pages, and offering a blurb or two promoting its benefits. The rippling effect means possible shares and re-shares, giving you free and easy publicity.
• Perhaps no social media platform has proliferated as quickly and extensively as Twitter. The instant communications platform is known mostly for news updates and celebrity squabbles, but an unknown benefit is free advertising for your e-site.
How do you start? Follow key people and organizations that relate to your products. Whether it’s hospitality, ready-to-wear clothing, or music-related sites, this targeted co-opting of someone else’s fan base it a perfectly legitimate—and successful—way to build your own business. Take advantage of uploading images to Twitter; not only are they easy ways to grab attention, but they are invaluable as a direct advertisement for your more graphically pleasing products.
For help in using Twitter to its full potential, take a look at Followerwonk, an app geared toward identifying and categorizing your followers on social media.
• Flattery will get you everywhere! If you’re blogging on your site, you already know the importance of personal communication and interaction with existing and potential clients. But here’s something you haven’t thought of: Engaging influence-peddlers within your industry can be a tremendous method of achieving new followers and customers by using the success-by-association strategy.
Consider featuring a key player in a blog post, and then forwarding it to your subject du jour. If it’s well-written and accurate, it just may earn you a new fan—and a mention in her or his own marketing communications.
The good news about this seemingly chaotic Internet jungle is its ability to inch you closer and closer to influential figures as well as hungry customers. With the right set of efforts, you can harness its potential and turn it into essential opportunities to build a client base. While nothing replaces a quality product—this will still be your ultimate objective—no offering is worthwhile if it’s unknown. Thanks to the web’s fairly recent social media craze, the concept once known as “word-of-mouth marketing” is now within reach at a head-spinning pace. Use it to your heart’s content.