We all know there is no shortage of websites. For years business leaders have been building them. They spend loads of money. They put a task force in place to ensure the website rocks and can impress shareholders. The executives and marketing team dream of their beautiful website that will bring them lots of customers. You know, “that website, the one everyone will love”. They dream of email opt-ins, increased hits on their website and fancy reports they can show off to any and all stakeholders who will lend an ear.
Keep dreaming people! It's not about the website, not about the buttons. It's what you do with it, how you build it and what you do with the technology to inspire, educate and connect with your audience that will make you the web superstar you always dreamed to be. It's how you can connect with your audience that determines if your website it just another dud, with a pretty face.
So what is a business leader to do? You read this and you think, “great this is another one of those blog posts where the writer is going to tell me I am doomed, I need lots of cash and that if I don't have it, I am a dud and so therefore, my website will be a dud!”
If this is what you were thinking you are wrong. I am going to give you some real tips you can implement. However, you can't skip most of them and expect to be successful. If you do, yes you will be one more casualty in the sea of ded website wanna be's.
So here goes…
26 tips to Build a Social Savvy, Dud-Free Website!
1. You need a business platform, not a website. First things first. The need for a “website” is dud thinking. Although for simplicity sake I am going to use the term “website” in this blog post, a business platform is what you need. The difference is a business platform includes the integration of your social world. It includes integrating social networks with your website. It requires a plan, goals and objectives. If you are simply wanting to build a website and be successful in the online world, keep dreaming. Go ahead, hire the agency who can give you the cheapest “website” with the tweet and Facebook buttons. Sorry, that's not going to get you out of “dudville” peeps.
2. You need a social owner. If you haven't taken the time to learn social media or hired someone who does, chances are you are destined for dud with a pretty face. Don't put the web guy in the back office in charge of your entire website project. Yes, he may be able to code it, build the infrastructure and give you some great advice. However, it's important that you include an internal champion and tyrant who understand the social ecosystem of today. They need to know more than how to download the latest facebook and Twitter icons and ask the web guy to add to the website. Your entire website should be designed around an integrated plan that we'll talk about in a minute.
3. Hire external help if needed. If you don't have the resources internal who understand the social landscape, then tap into the knowledge and help from an experienced agency or consultant. Don't waste time on getting 20 different quotes from agencies trying to find someone who will do your project at the lowest price. Instead do your best to find an agency or consultant who can best support your goals and objectives and be willing to work on a longer strategic plan with you. If all they care about is the website then chances are you could be left in the dust with nothing but a pretty face. Any good agency or consultant worth hiring for your new “social savvy website” project will able to help you build a plan, set goals and integrate it into the rest of your business.
4. Assimilate the SGGE Team. This is your “Social Go-Get-Em'” team. They need to be different than the last team who created your dud website. Pull in some fresh perspective. If you are leveraging an outside agency or consultant include them on this team. Don't leave them out and expect them to deliver you more than a dud with a pretty face. Do your research and ensure you have proper coverage from all stakeholders and teams that need to be represented within and external to your business such as partners, influencers etc.
5. Focus on the people. This means to start with your audience. Yup, you got it right. Do NOT get in a room and start planning your website layout, bells, buttons and whistles before you know who you want to talk to and why! Who do you want to visit your website and what do you want them to do when they get there? What are you going to talk to them about and why? Why should they care? Who are they? What inspires them? What keeps them up at night? What knowledge do they need to improve their business and their life? How can your products and services help them? How do you stack up to competition? Why should they visit your website two times three times or at all for that matter? Select the best social engagement technologies and tactics based on your audience and goals.
6. Build your plan. The purpose of this post is not to help you write an entire plan for your website. I'd have to ask a lot more questions and know much more about your business than I do. I will tell you that you must “plan yer plan and work yer plan” as grandma use to say. If you don't know what you're building then you'll wind up with something that looks and smells pretty but wont' do a whole lot for your business. Take the time for this stage as the return on investment (ROI) will be exponential as you move into later phases.
7. Set goals and objectives. What do you want to accomplish and why? How will you know you succeeded? How will you know if you have a dud or a social savvy business machine? What metrics will you use to measure success? Be realistic with goals and be careful not to oversell to stakeholders as you may not make it past the next layoff. If you are working with an agency and they don't want to sit down and talk about your audience, plan, goals and objectives before coding then RUN fast! Without goals and objectives you are destined for “dudville,” sorry!
8. Integration should become your favorite word. I see many business leaders raise an eyebrow of concern when I mention the word integration. They think integration means time and money. Yes, it may take a bit more time up front. However, what is your option? Random Acts of Marketing (RAMs)? Without an integrated plan you are 100% guilty of RAMs, sorry! The ROI on building and execution an integrated plan is exponential as it enables you to see benefit across multiple mediums, audiences and social platforms.
9. Be relevant to your audience. Design and build for your audience. Don't force fit your audience into your website. Take the time to talk to them, ask them what they would like to see on your website. Do some research and see how other sites your audience is engaging in are built. Don't copy them. Make yours better! Have a plan for how you want your audience to engage with you.
10. Create a brand experience. One of your top goals should be to create a brand experience for your audience. What do you want your audience to feel when they visit your site? Do you want them to feel warm and fuzzy? Or do you want them to feel educated and encouraged to make a fast decision now? Much depends on your market, products or services offered, audience, market positioning and more. How exactly are you going to inspire them to come back? Why should they care that you exist? What can you do that inspires them to bookmark your page, retweet an article or click thru to a social platform? Having a Facebook or Twitter button alone isn't going to do it, sorry.
11. Inspire the “double-click”. Give me something on the top layer that inspires me to double click and engage with you more. If you don't inspire me on the first layer, you will never get me to the double click. Earn my click, please. Chances are if you can't earn my double-click on first visit I am unlikely to return.
12. Be realistic with time, budget and resources. Know your priorities and which ones fully support your goals and objectives. You nay have set an awesome plan with great goals and objectives. However your budget and resources may only support half of what you would like to do. Be realistic with what you ask of your team, partners and hired agency or consultant. Scope creep will not set you up to succeed. If the last agency you hired cancelled the project because you ran out of budget then don't repeat the cycle with the next agency. Don't set a plan but be thinking in the back of your head you know you'll be able to add more features in later with the same budget and schedule. Know and stick to your priorities the best you can.
13. Engage socially as you build your website. If you are new to social media, don't wait until your website launches to get social. Leverage the time you are building your site to become more familiar with the social ecosystem. Research how your audience is engaging in social media? How does their tone differ across different platforms such as blogs, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and more. What social media networks does your audience spend the most time on? Why do they spend time there? What are the seeking? What knowledge are they consuming and why? What knowledge are they sharing in the form of retweets and shares on Facebook or LinkedIn? Focus on your audience, not yourself during this phase.
14. Consistency is key. Your brand, tone and message must be consistent across platforms. This includes colors, logos, backgrounds and everything impacted by design and layout. It also includes the tone of your message and the exact message you deliver. Context is important. How are you delivering the message.
15. Be authentic and real. There is only one you, one brand that is you. It's simple, be that person. Be that brand. You are not your competitors. Be yourself and be proud of it. Don't plagiarize them. Focus on the unique value you can offer your audience and go from there. You can never go wrong with this approach. Following in competitors footsteps usually leads you to nothing but a price war with you losing as you have done nothing to differentiate yourself from other market players. Focus on the authenticity of your communications and building relationships with your audience.
16. Social relationships are the ultimate dud buster! Social relationships are the life raft thru technology changes and more. Focus on the people and the relationships you have with them. Inspire your audiences to connect with you deeply. Inspire them to want to know you, to want to learn from you. Once you have their interest, invest in keeping them inspired. Help them grow their businesses and their life. You can never go wrong by investing in the people who learn from you and who help make you successful.
17. Plan for change. Be dynamic and flexible. Technology will change. Tools change and people change. What is a tweet is a twit tomorrow. As mentioned above, keep relationships and your audience at the core and ride the wave of change in your online business. Build the platform so it can be easily modified as technology and the social landscape changes. I love WordPress for this reason. It's easy to drop-in widgets and modified content whenever and wherever I need it.
18. Leverage a variety of mediums for content delivery. Don't be afraid to include video, photography and audio into your content delivery plans. Video doesn't have to be big budget to be effective. We have fostered relationships with our audience and won many new clients from a nice mic and a simple webcam style video camera posted on top of my computer monitor. Take a flip video camera to your next company or networking event. Snap photos of and film your partners, clients and friends. Post the videos on Facebook, Twitter and write a blog post on such. Leverage the different communication mediums to drive integration via entertaining content across different platforms.
19. Don't be everything to everyone. Focus on relevancy to your core audiences versus trying to be everything to everyone. By focusing on your audience, building your plan and setting goals and objectives you are going to minimize the risk of trying to do such. I have worked with many corporate executives who have the late night dreams of their websites and online platforms being everything to everyone. This is simply not realistic nor is it feasible for most business budgets I have seen. Prioritize your audiences and set goals for each major market segment.
20. Bake engagement into the DNA of your online platform. Make it easy for me to connect with you on all of your platforms. If I'm on your website it should be easy for me to click thru to your Facebook page, LinkedIn and Twitter accounts. If I am on Facebook, your website should be readily accessible. Same goes for all major platforms for which you are integrated as part of your master “dud-free” plan! I shouldn't have to search for a Facebook button. It should be right in front of my face, seriously!
21. A website is one venue to the social world, not the only stop. Remember in social media, the focus is on relationships. By inspiring your audience to engage with you on other platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and more you can nurture relationships with them. Make it easy for them to engage with you in your entire social world, not just your website.
22. Don't be afraid to ask me to do something! As long as you focus on inspiring, educating and connecting I an likely to share my email address with you and more. Note, I will only do this with the expectation that you are going to continue to inspire me. If I sign up for your email opt-in but never get an email from you or only get spam I'll question your intentions and value. Don't be afraid to ask me to join your Facebook community. Tell me why I should. Why should I follow you on Twitter?
23. Every good website is not a website but a blogsite. Even if you've never blogged, add one. In addition to the benefits it can bring to your SEO, SMO and more, a blog is one of the best ways you can connect with your audience. It's a way you can communicate about anything you want to and engage your audience. As you increase your readership your blog subscribers can become your bread and butter. Content is a must on your website and a blog is a great way to keep your website fresh and filled with content that connects with your audience. If you lack the creative writing skills within your organization, hire a copywriter to get you started. I have found when working with businesses, once they get started they realize they have much more content than they thought they did. As a start you can write about your events, industry happenings etc. Client and partner spotlights also work great and enable you to engage your partners and clients early on in the development and launch process.
24. Don't be afraid to tell me why I should listen to you. If you have credentials, have won awards, are a best-selling author, yes include them in a nice way on your site. However, don't let this be what your entire site is about. If you have certifications tell me such but also tell me why I should care. Good example are the IT consultants who service small business owners. Many think that sharing only their certification acronyms are going to get my business. Wrong! I personally want to know what they know, that they know how to fix my technical problems. I also want to know I cant trust them in my office. So, for this example sharing testimonials might be the best way to tell me why I should listen to you, not your credentials that I don't understand or know what they mean.
25. Perfection is enemy of good. Newsflash: Your Site Will NEVER be Perfect or Done! Accept this fact and move on. Stick to your priorities and focus on your audience. Your results will be far better if you are realistic with what you can achieve within your real budget and resources. Plan and execute missed features in the next release. You don't have to get it all in one swoop. A recipe for disaster is considering a website “done” when it launches. Launch is only the beginning.
26. Shit happens, even online. Things will go bad at some point. The site will crash. It might be slow. The wrong content will get loaded. A link will be broken on the day of an email blast. If you institute a “Random Act of Marketing” scenario you're likely to see far more issues than if you take the time to build and execute an integrated plan. Build your plan, your team and execute the best you can. Learn from your mistakes and always strive for the next best level. Half of your success will be based on attitude. If you have a positive attitude you are more likely to inspire and connect with your audience which is the key to success.
So, were you thinking this post was going to give you all of the technical details to build a social savvy website? Sorry folks, the only way to build a social savvy website is to be social savvy. Any good web developer or agency can build a website. Build a business platform that works when you don't. Start with your audience, a plan and goals and objectives.
The only way to be social savvy is to connect with your audience. The only way to connect with your audience is to know them, inspire them and add value. Do something that makes them better as a person, better as a business.
Build your “website” with a focus on what you can do for your audience by communicating, engaging and inspiring them. Do this and you're almost guaranteed to be “dud free”.