The Internet is hardly new. Yet, many companies do not effectively market themselves online. Building your web presence is a key factor in any successful marketing effort in today’s marketplace. But how do you know if you are going about it the right way? What’s the best way to start? What’s the difference between a blog, chatroom and a forum? We’re here to help you out with some of the basic concepts to effectively market yourself on the web.
The first thing you need to understand are some of the key words and terms used in today’s websites and marketing efforts. We have compiled a brief basic outline of the major ones below.
Threads – This is the series of comments multiple participants contribute on a new subject that someone posts online in a forum.
Moderator – This is a member of the forum that helps keep the forum running properly. These individuals are not always employees of the site and usually don’t get paid. They help enforce the rules and regulations of the site.
Webmaster – This is the individual that keeps the website up and running. This individual is associated with the site either by ownership or as an employee. They can handle most aspects of the site. They usually pick the moderators.
Chat room – This is a virtual room where individuals can communicate in real time with each other. Anyone who joins the room after something is said doesn’t see what has been said in the past. This is a real time chat only, much like Yahoo’s or AOL’s instant messenger.
Forum – This is an area where members can interact and converse with each other. Messages are posted to a board and people can respond any time they want. These messages stay active for many months or even years.
Blogs – These are personal websites consisting of regularly updated entries displayed in reverse chronological order. The most recent entry is at the top. Some sites allow for users to respond to the entry while others don’t.
Click-through Rate [CTR] – According to MarketingTerms.com, the click-through rate is the average number of click-throughs per hundred ad impressions, expressed as a percentage. It is important to distinguish what a click-through rate does and does not measure. The CTR measures what percentage of people clicked on the ad to arrive at the destination site. It does not include the people who failed to click, yet arrived at the site later as a result of seeing the ad.
Unique Visitors – According to Wikipedia, the free Internet encyclopedia, a unique visitor is a statistic describing a unit of traffic to a website, counting each visitor only once in the time frame of the report. This statistic is relevant to site publishers and advertisers as a measure of a site’s true audience size, equivalent to the term “reach” used in other media.
Hits – According to DefineThat.com, a hit is how many times a resource has been accessed over the Internet. In other words, the number of times people access a page or its graphics during a certain span of time. It differs from page views since hits encompass any element of a page. For example, if your page has five graphics, the page would receive six hits each time it is accessed, one for the page and five for the graphics.
Now that you understand some of the key terms, let’s talk about how they work in relation to your web presence. For a retailer, the web market is a complex market that holds great rewards, but it also has quite a few pitfalls. Let’s take a look at some of the scenarios you may be faced with.
I’m invincible because there are no consequences or I know everything.
Blogs, chatrooms and forums are filled with people claiming to be experts. They are happy to tell you all about whatever it is they’re supposedly an expert at, and they’ll argue if they feel you are wrong, regardless of whether there is proof or not as to what you’re saying.
Everyone is allowed their view and those that are right, are always going to be right. Please use caution when marketing yourself through these outlets as it is sometimes very easy to become offended or get into an argument with another user and that won’t boad well for your company image. Always keep in mind that you actually are the expert, even if they think they are.
I advertise on more than 1,000 websites.
Just because you’re spending money to place a banner ad or another form of advertising on a website doesn’t mean you are spending it wisely. Internet advertising should be viewed the same as print or TV advertising. What most people don’t understand is that how many hits the website gets is absolutely irrelevant—especially in tracing your ROI [Return On Investment]. The most accurate way to track your website traffic and the return from your advertising is by calculating the number of unique visitors as well as keeping track of your click-through rate.
I advertise on the five largest forums on the Internet.
That’s a typical response we hear when talking to retailers about their web presence and marketing efforts, and it’s great that they are making that effort to get out there. But, advertising where the traffic is doesn’t mean that it is the right traffic for your company. And, if it’s not the right traffic, then it doesn’t matter how many people see your stuff. Their traffic won’t convert to sales, and you will not be getting the ROI you’re looking for.
These days, there is a chat room, forum and/or blog for almost every make and model out there. Just because you are advertising on a Ford forum, it doesn’t mean that your 1994 ½ to 1997 Power Stroke customer is on there. Look around and see if you can find a website dedicated to your particular segment. If not, then you might have to expand it a little and look for a site dedicated to the 1994 ½ to 2003 Power Strokes.
Now that you know the pitfalls and have chosen the right site to contact, now what?
Once you have identified a site that caters to your audience [this might be a number of different sites], contact the webmaster and see what they will do for you. Many times they will set up threads dedicated to you, allow you to post releases, announcements and information on any sales you are having up on the website. Most sites do not allow non-advertisers to post these items. Some sites will also change the color or font of your text so it stands out and draws additional attention from its users.
Take advantage of these sites. Advertise, but also interact with them. These sites enable you to deal directly with your customers, and they provide a rare opportunity to interact with them directly. This may mean setting a couple hours aside each day to interact via the web with them, or it may mean hiring someone to handle this for you. Whichever way you go, there are a few things go keep in mind.
Don’t become the used car salesman.
Do not constantly beat people over the head with your products and services. Let people know what you have and what you sell. Then, chat with them and help them out. Listen to what people are talking about and looking for.
Sometimes these conversations will actually lead to the next big thing. Listen to why people recommend other shops, and then address these issues. If you are into drag racing, interact with people in the drag racing areas. You don’t need to constantly say, “I have this for that,” and, “I can do this.”
Congratulate someone when they have a great showing, and become a leader in your chat room, and people will naturally turn to you for all of their questions and needs.
Let people know what projects your shop is working on. Post pictures and detailed reports on the success or failure of the projects. When working on a project vehicle or promoting a new product addition to your line, look for someone well respected on the site to work with. See if they would be willing to test the part for you. This will not only drive traffic and interest to your company, but it will help give you more credibility as many people view “the experts” on these sites as actual “experts.”
Offer group buys
A great way to increase sales is to offer a group buy special only to that particular site. Let them know if a certain amount of people from this site buys the product, they will get a deal. Work with the webmasters and moderators to set this up. Sometimes the best way to get the word out is in a newsletter, and other times they will just post a new thread.
Watch and track your ROI
So you have been spending a ton of time and effort marketing yourself online. Are you getting any return? Make sure there is a way to track what sales have come from each site. If you have done your research and you are talking to the right audience, talk to the moderators and webmasters to see if they have any suggestions as to why you’re not bringing in the sales. They may have ideas or different ways to help you market yourself online. This can only be accomplished by interacting with the members of the forums. Webmasters and moderators won’t have any suggestions other than to interact with their forums if all you do is place an ad.
One Last Note
Be very careful of chat rooms and blogs. Chat rooms are very hard to regulate and comments don’t say up very long. So to effectively market in a chat room, you have to stay logged in and remain active. Bloggers are a very volatile group. They are not regulated on what they say. So, if a blogger gets offended or upset with you, they may and often times do say what they are thinking without restraint. This can be very damaging at times. The opposed is also true. If they truly believe in you or your products they will be generous in supporting you.