The trick to internet marketing and promoting your brand online is, and always will be, interaction. You have to catch your audience's eye, hold it raptly and keep them happy enough to spread the gospel of your products and brand. In marketing jargon, we call this type of customer a “promoter.”
To borrow an “Apple-ism”, you need to surprise and delight your customers. The best way to do this is to provide intelligent, useful content for them, actively engage your customers and have dedicated personnel to handle (and actionably resolve) questions and concerns. Additionally, your website must be easily found and sharable through search engine and social media optimization.
Thus, the ideal formula is:
Relevant Content + Visitor Engagement + Optimization = Visitor Loyalty, Conversions and Customer Satisfaction
This is especially true of companies online. Brick and mortar businesses have the advantage of tangible experiential marketing and more chances to right problems as they arise. Given how little time most web visitors spend on an average website (often as short as 15-30 seconds), they are conditioned to immediately seek a substitute site if they cannot quickly accomplish their goal or obtain quick support in the event of a problem. The result is lost sales and potential bad will – a negative for any business model.
Publish useful, relevant content.
As many marketers say, “Content is King.” However, there are many types of content other than the written word for your followers and visitors to interact with that can have greater impact, depending on your industry. For example, Brafton has reported that more than 34 billion online videos were watched last May – a testament to the meteoric rise of interactive content. To figure out the best blend of media for your audience, reach out to them. Ask them on Twitter or Facebook what they like viewing on your website and give them more of the same. If you spend the time to cater appropriately to your visitors, you will benefit in increased dwell time, greater sharing and, ultimately, more conversions.
Listen to your followers and actively engage them.
In my opinion, the “listening” portion is where many businesses fail in the online space. As with any relationship, there must be a two-way flow of communication. If your company chooses to take part in social media, you must be committed to it and dedicate resources to its maintenance. Consider social media another aspect of customer service, retention and outreach; in many cases, you can reach people more easily (and cheaply) on social media than you can through traditional mediums like the telephone and direct mail.
A great example of a business that pays attention to social media and leverages it appropriately is JetBlue. Did you know they have a dedicated Twitter account, @JetBlue, to assist customers with flight issues or general questions?
Optimize beyond everyday SEO
If you want to go the extra mile and make your content and website pages extremely sharable, here are a few tips:
1) Embed open graph tags in the header of your web pages
2) Implement a social bookmarking bar or strip near your content for easy sharing (like Digg Digg for WordPress)
3) Use a service like http://dlvr.it to tweet and share your new content as it is published