Small Businesses Need to Get Online and Understand Their Audience

Apr 29, 2013

Breakout session on online strategies at America's Small Business Summit at the Omni Hotel in Washington, DC. Photo by Ian Wagreich / © U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

The Internet may be ubiquitous, but small businesses are still challenged to make online work for them. At a break-out session at the America’s Small Business Summit, experts dished out advice about online and social media strategies.

Soo Young Kim, marketing head for Google’s Get Your Business Online noted that 58% of small businesses do not have websites despite the fact that “1 in 4 searches has a local intent.” “You want to be found when people are searching locally,” Kim advised.

Kathleen Dorsey, Founder of Global Results, an online marketing and strategy firm based in Baltimore, MD, said that being online “brings credibility” to a business.  “People are online, they’re looking. They’re searching,” she said. In short, to succeed, you need to be found.

Aman Devgan, Vice President of Marketing for Web.com, said because of budget and time constraints, small businesses need a carefully thought out online strategy that understands the audience they want to reach.

While social media can be effective and garnered the most questions from the audience, the panelists advised that other, more-basic online strategies should not be forgotten. Kim noted the importance of business websites working well on mobile devices. “Is it thumb-friendly?” she asked.

Dorsey noted the importance of Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and keywords. “Do not do SEO without knowing the keywords your audience is searching for,” she advised and recommended Google’s keyword analysis tool.

All the panelists agreed that companies should take small bites of the huge social media pie instead of swallowing it whole. Dorsey noted that you must understand where your target audience is online. For example, LinkedIn is great for making business-to-business contacts, while Pinterest and Facebook are better for more-visual, consumer products.

By properly aligning business goals with the target audience, online strategies can be beneficial to a small business’ growth.

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