Numbers don’t lie: There are 4.1 billion Internet users in the world. Over 4 million blog posts are published on the Internet every day. Over 500 million tweets are sent every day. Over 5 billion Google searches are made every day. There are approximately 1.94 billion websites in the world. And not surprising, Google is the world’s most visited website, followed by Youtube and Facebook. And statistics from 2019 show that there are 3.2 billion social media users worldwide. All of these numbers continue to grow.
OK, so now that we have that out of the way, what does this information mean to you? Hopefully not much because your business is already engaged in social media and has a strong online presence that stems from an awesome and responsive website, strong search engine optimization, and active content.
But, since I am all for information reinforcement, and even more interested in keeping up with the most current site and social practices, let’s establish some baseline strategies and become better acquainted with some solid information from some of our top marketing professionals; NY based firm Enormous Creative is a powerhouse when it comes to generating brand awareness across numerous platforms. CT tech company GoNation has taken digital marketing for small businesses a step further by creating their own high-tech platform which puts the business in the driver’s seat while engaging the consumer. And Box 8 Creative in New Haven is the creative team behind developing well over 100 food and beverage brands throughout New England. You heard it here first!
There are no excuses for not having a thoughtfully designed and fully optimized website these days. The competitiveness of the web design industry has made it much easier to engage with talented and accessible web companies who truly stand out as being client and result-focused. Same goes for social media managers. We are functioning in their generation’s wheelhouse after all. Be sure to work with a company that not only evolves with their industry but who has experience with your industry. In the case of my firm, we’ve kissed quite a few frogs along the way, but ultimately have found our princes who are innovative, fearless, communicative, and meticulous about what they do, and they specialize in the hospitality industry.
We see websites becoming far more streamlined knowing that retention is low – is less best?
Enormous: If done correctly, less can be more. A website has all the information a visitor will need, but if it is not obvious for them to navigate, then we lose them. This is why many websites have become very streamlined or simplified. Balancing functionality and aesthetics is the key, and we only have a few seconds to make an impression before the visitor moves on.
Our goal is to get them interested and to dive deeper into the website. The experience must also be effective on all devices. On average globally, nearly half of a website’s traffic takes place on mobile devices. Having a streamlined experience on mobile is beneficial due to the data and screen limitations that those site visitors may have.
What’s your tactical approach when creating a website for a restaurant?
GoNation: Because of social media, smartphones, and the speed of the web, customers are being trained to expect easy access to every type of information. Restaurant menu items, events, accurate hours, and photos on are no exception. So why is it so difficult to find this information and so challenging for the business owner to update it? Traditional technology and current methods of building a website do not focus on the critical data that the consumer desires. Therefore the simple needs of a restaurant website are not met. We have designed a platform which organizes restaurants’ most important information so it can be accessed and shared easily. We focus on three simple principles when we create a restaurant website. First, the site has to be mobile excellent. Second, it must showcase and promote brand experience. Third, it has to have real-time content that can be easily updated. And of course, having the best SEO is required, as no site should function without that. Our technology is built to incorporate that on autopilot.
How best to maintain brand integrity across both site and social platforms?
Box 8: Today’s customer is more visual than ever. You need to sell your company at every visual touch point. Your website should be able to convey your concept, style, and energy directly from your homepage. Your site, physical space, and social media platforms all need to have the same feel. Matching and supporting icons and graphics, style of photos, and messaging are important. Consistency is the key to brand recognition and ultimately brand loyalty.
Where do you feel most websites and the process in creating them tend to go wrong?
GoNation: Websites can go wrong in many ways. From lousy design and not meeting the necessary standards in SEO, to poor user experiences such as sites with PDF menus, unprofessional photos, and stale information because it is too much work to update the website or the “web guy disappeared.” Owners have been wronged too many times by big companies and local developers. Here are a few lessons learned every owner should adhere to:
1. Always put the domain name and all social media accounts in your name under an email you plan to always have access to. NEVER let anyone own your domain and always have the login info safely stored.
2. If you are paying more than $1,500 upfront on a single restaurant website, you are burning money.
3. PDF menus and jpeg images of a menu are outdated. Customers do not want to spend their time stretching documents to read what you are selling. Nobody wants to download a pdf to their android phone. PDFs should only be there for supporting real data as an option and for desktop viewing or printing.
4. Build the best mobile experience first, and then worry about a desktop. If you are not mobile, you are losing money.
5. Take the time and accept the costs of creating great content. High-quality images, quality designed logos, videos, and so on. This should be incorporated into your business plan and budget. A million-dollar restaurant to build is no good if you can’t promote it!
6. Use a professional cloud email service and email marketing program. Avoid housing your business email on a company’s personal server or allowing your customers’ email addresses to reside in someone else’s database.
How important is running monthly analytics for both site and social?
Enormous: Performance analytics is a powerful resource. Being able to look over data and see what pages or posts are receiving the most engagement, or the times of day that visitors interact with a website or a social post, allows us to improve upon our performance and be ahead of the game as site and social creators and managers.
This is where being old school will indeed get in the way of your competitive edge and will have you struggling to stay relevant in an evolving industry. No longer a point, shoot, and post platform, social media has proven itself to be a driving force for influencing consumer decisions.
There’s some buzz about social media platforms taking the place of traditional websites?
Enormous: Websites will always have a place. Social media is a great form of engaging with your audience or promoting your content, but a website is the foundation of your business that keeps it all together. Using both platforms in tandem with each other creates the ultimate weapon to make your business truly shine for SEO and Google rankings.
What are some common brand missteps within social media platforms that can dilute your brand?
Box 8: I’ve seen so many great brands diluted by showing the wrong versions of their brand marks as their social icons. The customer needs that visual recognition (consistency!) to be carried throughout all forms of communication. The biggest missteps are cropping a logo, which often happens within an Instagram icon. Another big one is forcing a picture of a dish or restaurant space to fit within an Instagram or Facebook circle which is just far too small to give the proper visual link to your brand identity. We always take a recognizable element to tie them all together whenever possible, such as an icon or brand mark.
What are some dos and don’ts when posting to social media?
Enormous: DO know your platform. Between Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook, the way to engage or post content is different. Twitter is about real-time engagement and updates; Instagram is all about the imagery, Insta-Stories, and how to effectively use hashtags (while this is obvious, many people still don’t use the right hashtags or use too many broad hashtags); and Facebook is a bit of a combo between the two (No hashtags though. That’s not as effective on Facebook). Having an image with less text means that you will be able to reach more people to look at your posts/boosted posts. Speaking of which…
DO utilize promotional tools. Boosting content is the cheapest form of advertising in the market. Being able to customize how you are going to promote a post on Facebook or Instagram makes all the difference.
DON’T focus so much on the number of followers or likes you have – DO focus on building a quality audience. You want to attract and appeal to people who are genuinely interested in your business and its offering and who have the geographical capability to become an actual customer.
DON’T sweat the haters. Most people just want attention. Ignoring them speaks louder than engaging them.