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You Need an Online Marketing Strategy

John Doherty —  December 12, 2011
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In November I went to a meetup that was put together by a couple of friends of mine who are doing a startup that I think has some real potential. The title of the meetup was “Establishing Your Online Presence”. What struck me, though, was that not many people understand how to launch their online presence. The two people who spoke, who are both wonderful people who are doing cool things with technology, were both struggling to figure out how to get people to use their (I think) extremely helpful offerings.

If you are in the same boat, allow me offer you some things to think about that might benefit you.

1) Who is my audience?

Before you even think about marketing, you have to know who your audience is. This should be as specific as possible. Moms age 30-40 is a great place to start. Moms age 30-40 with kids is better.

1a) Where does my audience hang out online?

This one is deadly important for your online marketing for a few reasons. First, you need to think about your distribution channels. Are they active on Twitter or Facebook? If Facebook, start a Facebook page and engage with your readers/followers there. If Twitter, engage in conversation with them there. If they are bloggers (lots of moms are, by the way), get them to subscribe to your RSS feed. Second, knowing where they hang out online can help you out with getting links back to your site so that it can be found in the search engines. If you write a controversial article, encourage people to write a response on their own blog and to then link back to your site.

1b) What medium would connect with them?

If a tree falls in the forest and no one is around, does it make a sound? You could change this and say “If someone writes a post and no one sees it, does it matter how good it is?” I’d argue no. How are you going to get your content in front of people? Maybe it’s Twitter. Maybe it’s Facebook. Maybe it’s email. Maybe they are Kindle readers and you can automagically send your posts to their Kindle. Take these considerations into account.

Basically what I am saying here is that no one strategy will work for every site or project. Google+ is great for the technologically savvy at this point, and I think is a great place to be engaged because people there are very willing to share what they find on social networks. Facebook can be great for reaching the wider population, from cousins to parents and other friends. Twitter is probably the least useful marketing tool, depending on the niche, because there is so much noise. So tread carefully, try the different avenues, track it in your Analytics (look at where your traffic is coming from in Traffic Sources -> Sources -> All Traffic), and then focus.

Also, depending on where you are focusing your efforts, have an EASY way for the person to subscribe. It could be a Follow button for Twitter, a Like button for Facebook, or an email signup box. Regardless of what it is, the important thing to remember is that it should be EASY for them to sign up.

2) What’s my hook?

You have to  ask yourself why people would want to use your app/blog/service. After that, what is going to keep them coming back?

There are many different ways to keep people returning to your site, but all of them include engagement. For example, let’s say you have a service that allows you to put in your accomplishments for the day. So every day your users are sending in their accomplishments. If they’re not engaged after a while, though, most will leave. So how are you going to keep them coming back? Think about setting up goals, or a feedback mechanism for them to provide their thoughts to you,

3) How can I get my community/readers to spread the word, in a non-annoying way?

People often feel like marketing is annoying, and I would agree. It can be disruptive (think pop-up ads, and no that is not what I do), it can be jarring, and often marketing can make you want to do the exact opposite of what you want to do.

But marketing does not have to be this way! I would challenge you to come up with some interesting ways to ask people, nicely, to spread the word about you if they really enjoy what you do. One suggestion I gave to one of the presenters at the meetup was “On the bottom of your emails, include a line saying ‘Did this article touch you? Why not share it with one friend?” This way, they are not spamming their contact list, but they are passing it along to 1 friend who may sign up.

Try this starting with 200 people, let’s say. Suppose 10% of those people forward the email. 50% of those sign up. In one day, you have 10 new subscribers. Do this for 3 weeks, and you will have at least doubled your readership. DOUBLED.

Why would you not do it?


I’m always willing to help people out, both for free and as a paid consultant. Let me know what your needs are and we’ll see how we can work out a mutually beneficial relationship.

John Doherty

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I'm the new (as of October 2013) Online Marketing Manager of Hotpads.com, soon to be based in San Francisco. Previous to Hotpads I worked at Distilled for 2 years as an online marketing consultant. In my spare time I shoot lifestyle photography, explore new and interesting food in New York, ski, rock climb, and update my Twitter and Google+ accounts.

2 responses to You Need an Online Marketing Strategy

  1. I liked this article. I’m sharing it with my friends. :) Thanks!!