If you’re like many small businesses, you try to keep up with technology and follow the latest new “trends”, especially when it makes sense for your business to do so. But – how do you know which online “trends” are only fads, and which ones are actually useful for business? Although the answers may vary depending on whom you ask, here are a few stand-out online trends that we think are worth watching – or implementing – in 2011:
Mobile devices like smart phones, PDAs, Blackberrys, iPads, etc., are everywhere – it’s been reported that more than 90% of the U.S. population today has a mobile device! Businesses have already started to take advantage of this emerging trend by developing mobile websites, apps, advertising, and mobile marketing initiatives to help them stay in touch with their customers anytime, anywhere.
- Social Media
As the use of social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter continues to grow, businesses will have even more reason to build a solid social presence for interacting with customers and potential customers. Businesses want to be where the customers already are, and right now, they are on the social networks. In addition, businesses get a tremendous SEO benefit from their social networking efforts, because search engines now index the social content found on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, etc.
- Online Marketing
Online marketing includes a wide range of initiatives today; from specialized websites and landing pages, to email marketing campaigns, to marketing on the social networks and mobile marketing programs. There are many low-cost or no-cost online marketing initiatives, making it affordable for most businesses today regardless of their size. Online marketing results are also measurable, and can be tracked via any number of criteria (number of clicks, search terms used, number of opens, number of page visits, etc.), making it easy to track successes and identify areas that may need improvement.
- Content Marketing
You’ve heard it before – you must continually provide value to your customers, Fans, and Followers, and one way to do that is to provide lots of useful content on your web pages, your blog, on your Facebook Custom Tabs, in your LinkedIn posts, and in your e-campaigns. Write articles in your area of expertise, and submit them to quality online syndication sites. Create how-to guides and videos that can be shared socially, or put together an online Resource Library with whitepapers, presentations, e-books, etc. Search engines love new content, and it keeps visitors coming back as well.
- Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
Getting to the top of the search results page may be harder today than it used to be, but now is not the time to hide your head in the sand! Features like personalized search, real-time search results, and instant previews may be changing how users search the web, but it does not change the need for your website to be optimized properly so it can be read and indexed by the search engines, and ultimately found in the top search results.
So no matter where web technology takes us in 2011, these five trends are solid, tried-and-true initiatives that you can implement today to help your business stay ahead of the curve and (hopefully) ahead of your competitors!