Promoting Online

Arts London Image Library

The web is a powerful marketing tool and can be used to advertise and promote businesses, services and products through individual’s websites, news and blog sites and via social media.

A website, blog or online store is a good way of establishing your presence. Connecting these sites to social media networks can send your message a lot further and help you reach more potential customers.

Websites

Planning a website

Decide what you want to achieve with your website and start thinking about how you want to present the content.

  • Draw your ideas out on paper at this stage.
  • Look at websites you admire or those of people who do similar work to you. Make a note of the aspects of their sites that you like to use for inspiration and ideas.
  • Then plot out what pages you will need. This should include a home page, contacts, biography, products, projects and anything else you think will be relevant.
  • This will help you decide whether to have a website or a blog and how to present your information. You will also need to consider a domain name and find out whether it is available to buy.

Building a website

There are two options for building a website:

1. Build your own, which gives you complete control over the design, layout and content.

Considerations:

  • Building a site is a time consuming process and how long it takes will depend on experience and your skillset.
  • You can host it yourself, too, but you will need to make sure the server is well maintained because if that falls over, so does your site.
  • You might consider having your own website, designing it yourself and hosting it elsewhere. Web hosts charge a fee, usually monthly, and you pay for the space you need. You might choose from services like Amazon S3, rackspace, justhost.

2. Work with a designer and a developer

Considerations:

  • Think about what you want on the site, research designers and see who creates work that might be suitable.
  • Good designers and developers deserve to be paid properly.
  • You might be tempted to pay a friend to do this – if you do, be aware that you need to modify your relationship if you are doing business together.
  • Make sure you communicate what you want clearly.

Blog services and alternatives

Blogs are a good platform to present you, your business and your work or ideas. There is less freedom to create exactly what you want but enough flexibility to change the style and alter templates to suit your needs.

Wordpress is popular for both personal and professional sites. There are two versions – wordpress.com or wordpress.org.

Wordpress.com is a free service that is hosted for you. You can pay for more space and design flexibility when you need it, so if you are learning, this is a good way to start.

Wordpress.org gives you much more control and you can add your own code to create a design that suits you and your work. You also have to host this yourself and you need to know how to keep your site secure. Differences between wordpress.com and wordpress.org can be found on this page.

There are other free blogging platforms such as Tumblr or Blogger. You can also build a free site with a service like Google Sites (where you can also create wikis). Another option is a service such as Squarespace. It is a paid for service, but you can create slick looking websites with no technical knowledge.

These types of service allow for mobile responsiveness. Mobile access to sites means people can use your site on the go, like an extended business card.

If you have several social media sites tie these into your website. Consider an online business card service like Flavors or about.me where you can add links to all your favourite social places.

Site standards

Remember, content is king. Make sure your writing is clear, without spelling or grammatical errors. Include relevant images.

Social media

Social media is crucial to marketing and social media platforms allow you to share and connect for free. They also offer advertising opportunities at a price.

LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram are popular with both businesses and individuals. Visual platforms like Instagram tend to be popular with creative businesses who work in visual art, fashion, advertising and design.

Setting up a profile

Set up a page about you and your business and keep it professional and separate from your personal accounts. This is where you can publish work, add links to your blog or website, and promote yourself.

Choose the sites that are appropriate and relevant for you. Having a dormant account could have a negative effect.

Networking

Once you have set up these networks, you will require some dedication to build an audience or gain followers. There’s a fine line between promotion, conversation and maintenance, so here are some tips to help you get that balance right.

  • Once you have set up a profile, look around for people who might interest you. You are probably already connected to friends who use these spaces to chat and socialise.
  • Use existing connections to make new ones, and introduce yourself to like-minded people.
  • ‘Follow’ or ‘like’ relevant businesses to make sure you receive industry news and can connect with relevant services or individuals.

Content

Your professional social media profile should provide content that is relevant to the industry you are working in.

Avoid repeat posting. You want lots of people to discover what you do, but if you post the same thing over and over again, it is considered to be spam. A quick look at a profile where the same content is repeated can make you seem like a promotional robot rather than a human being.

Monitoring & statistics

You can follow metrics of your social media platforms – the statistics which show how many followers you have and how they use your pages.

  • Keep an eye on which posts, links or content are shared by a large number of people or generate a lot of comments.
  • Making a note of what works and what doesn’t can help you choose what content to share and update.
  • If you have a social media account, you need to monitor the feedback that people leave for you.

When to use social media and where

If you decide to run several accounts you should consider applications like Hootsuite or Tweetdeck. These tools enable you to run a number of accounts at the same time and keep track of all the conversations on a busy day.

You need to think about the timing of your posts. At what time of day do your posts generate the most attention or the biggest response? If you are aiming at a market in the country where you are living, it doesn’t make sense to post content in the small hours of the morning.

Aim for daytime or down-time hours such as lunch, when people are more likely to have a moment to go on to social media.

There are tools to help you time your posts when approaching an international audience who are keeping different time. SocialFlow and Buffer allow you to set up a timer to post content when you think it will gain most audience

Genuine personalities

Depending on your industry or service, having a balance of genuine personality and professionalism within your social media profile is effective. Promoting your passion and the story behind your work helps to engage people.

A social media account that simply adds links to your shop or website for no other purpose than promotion can seem empty.

Starting out with just a few followers is a good time to experiment and see what works well for you.

Explore and research

Social networks are an opportunity to research.

You might find people who are presenting themselves in interesting ways online. They may play with the visual design of their pages or the timing and methods for updates.