Social Media, “you ain’t all that”…and websites your not “and a bag of potato chips”.


The title is a stretch; I think I was looking for anyway to quote Dr. Evil. You are probably thinking, “what the heck is this idiot rambling about this time.” Put simply, social media and a great website are nothing without a great product and great customer service.

To start, I am a web designer and I use social media a lot for learning, networking and connecting with communities, friends and colleagues. I also understand people who don’t like social media or don’t understand it. I am not going to debate that here, I am just saying…so with that said on to Social Media and websites.

Many social media “gurus” and “experts” will tell you that if you don’t have a social media strategy, if you’re not on Twitter and Facebook, you’re missing out. Most web strategists and designers (like me;-) will tell you that if you don’t have a great website, if you’re not selling your product on the web you are missing out. For the most part I would tend to agree with both of these opinions. Most companies could benefit from a well thought out social media strategy. Yes, most companies should have a well put together site and if possible your products should be available for search and or purchase. I could take this tangent and talk about all the reason why, but instead I wanted to point out a company that doesn’t really do either, but that I LOVE!

Total Wines. If you are not fortunate enough to live near one then I am truly sorry for you. For you all, Total Wines is the Costco of wine shops. They literally have every bottle of wine ever made (okay may be I’m exaggerating a bit). The stores have a HUGE selection of wines, beers and most have liquors as well. Not only is the selection awesome, the prices are cheaper then Costco. Needless to say I think they have a great product.

Other then prices and selection, when you go into a Total Wines (or at least the ones I have been in) the staff are amazing. You never have a staff member walk away after eye contact like many other warehouse stores. When they engage they make sure that you find what you are looking for. Their customer service goes beyond the normal since all of their floor staff have intimate knowledge of the wines and can recommend based on your tastes and price range. Great customer services.

As far as I can tell Total Wines has no presence on social media. No Twitter followers, no Facebook friends or fans, no LinkedIn connections and no MySpace what ever they have. If you visit their website, uh..well…umm, well (sorry guys) it SUCKS. Put in a nicer way, it leaves me wanting more. No product search, no ecommerce, and heck the navigation doesn’t even work in all browsers. Guess what? I DON’T CARE. I still LOVE them.

I hope by now you see where I am going with this rant. I know what some of you are thinking (besides you just wasted 5 minute of your life you will never get back). Total Wines could improve their customer interaction by initiating a social media plan. They could increase sales by improve their web presence, for sure. My point is they don’t HAVE to.

So at least one company tells social media and websites to “talk to the hand because the face don’t want to hear it anymore”.

Does your website take forever to load?

website design, load time
Well say good bye then…to your costumers.

Let’s start by doing a search for your product or service on the search engine of your choice. How many results show? Probably hundreds of thousands of pages listed. That’s how many pages are competing for your customers visit.

It is hard enough to get a customer to visit your site, but what happens when they get there. Does there browser sit and spin? Chances are that customer is GONE. Hitting the back button and heading to the next website in the search results (your competition).

This tragedy can be avoided by following some best practices.

Page Size
As a general rule your default page (the first page a visitor sees) should be no more the 50-60k. That means the physical size of the html (ASP, PHP) should be rather small. The smaller the page, the faster it loads.

Image Size
All websites need images to enhance the aesthetics, but don’t over do it. If you site is all images it will significantly increase your load time, not to mention the SEO (search engine optimization) issues that presents. All images on a website should be optimized for the web, compressed as much as possible without losing resolution or pixilation.

Flash and Animation
OK, everyone loves web animation and it has grown leaps and bounds over the last years, but don’t over do it. That fact is not everyone has the latest version of Flash. Believe it or not, not very one want to see how clever you animation is. Most people want to find what they are looking for as fast as possible and most animation gets in the way of that.

Disclaimer
I know that more and more people have faster broadband connections. I know that the browsers are getting better about “forcing” users to upgrading and therefore stay compatible. Even with all that, in my opinion, you should target the development of your website for the “lowest level” of compatibility. Concern yourself with the users that don’t have a 10MB pipe and the latest version of Firefox and you’ll make more of your customer base happy.

Let me know what you think.

Your website sucks, in my opinion, IF…

 
your website sucks, if.
You should know your website sucks, if your customers can’t find your site or they can’t find the information that they are looking for. Sad, but true, there are several business I frequent in my home town (the beautiful Greenville, South Carolina) that I have to type the URL into the address bar in order to find their website. Why even have a website?

Not Search Engine Optimized (SEO) and Listed?
Your customers should not have to search very hard to find your website. If you type your company name into a search engine and you don’t come up (at least) on the first page, you need to smack yourself (or SEO person/company). This is the minimum that SEO should do for your site. Really (depending on the competitive nature of your vertical), you should have multiple targeted keyword strings that you have top results for. Think about what your customers would type in a search engine if they were trying to find your product or service. Type those keywords into Google and see where you are ranked. If it’s not on the first page, again, have a conversation with your SEO team (you don’t need to smack them this time, just a stern talking to). Some keywords are VERY competitive and it can be difficult to get on the first page (usually short-tail keyword strings, one or two words), but long-tail keyword strings should be targeted first anyway.

Can Not Find Information Need?
So now that your customers can find your site, can they easily find the product or information they are looking for? Many studies show that web visitors will only click a few times before they go somewhere else to find what they want. In my opinion, a customer should NEVER be more then two clicks from any page on your site. You can have all the beautiful flashy designs you want, but if your navigation structure is such that customers can get the information they want…see ya! They are off to your competitions site. Make sure that you use a Site Map (good for SEO too), and that your navigation is clear and easy to use.

Why do so many companies not have a good web presence?

I come across it all the time. I here a reference from a colleague or see a reference to a company but when I go to get more information (Google them), I can’t find them on the web. Some times I find their website and it is a static page saying “website coming soon”. Is business really so great for these companies that they don’t feel the need to have a web presence? For some, that’s probably true. They are the best at what they do and make a living on referrals and word of mouth. For ever company in that position, I say “congratulations”. But even for those lucky companies that have all the business they can handle, I still say that you should have an updated web site. I would much prefer to turn business away then the alternative.

 Ok, I break this problem into to broad categories: 1) companies that have bad sites. 2) companies that have no sites.

 What is a bad site?

I will deal with this in more depth in a later post, but for now in sum, if I can’t find the site (you need SEO) or the information I am looking for, you have a bad site. I am a professional IT and web guy, if I can’t find your site or information on your business, you’re in trouble.

You REALLY don’t have a website?

Getting a web presence is easier and cheaper then ever. There really is no excuse for not being on the web. Start with a free blog (wordpress.org) if you have to or better yet hire a web design company. 🙂

BTW, a little side rant “…coming soon!” only works for so long. After a few months you can’t use “soon”. I have seen companies leave that message up for years and I know because of the Way Back Machine tells me.

To Blog, or not to Blog, that is the question.

To Blog or not to Blog?

Recently I was discussing an interesting topic with a colleague; should every one blog? If you are in the web design or search engine optimization (SEO) industry you know the benefits. Blogs are a great (and cheap) way for companies to easily communicate with customers. Search engines love blogs; it is a major component to many of the SEO campaigns we initiate. Much of the news and information we get these days come from blogs. So the question remains, should every one blog? My answer is NO.

In a frenzy to “stay current”, clients come to me and ask how to start a blog. I generally have a few questions I ask them:

What is the purpose of this blog? The first question is easy. “I read that we can provide information about the business and offer another line of communication with customers.”

What will the content be? The first hesitant answer generally is to the second question. “Well, we can talk about our business and our latest news, I guess.”

Who will be responsible for updating this blog? The third question is the most uncomfortable. “Well, I can put the content up, and my assistant and ummm.”

The reality is sometimes it is better not to blog. If you have the content and resources, it can be a great asset for your business. Many small business, especially these days, just don’t have the time to create content. If like many blogs (including this one:-) you don’t keep it updated, it doesn’t really serve its purpose.

This rant doesn’t even address whether or not a blog fits the company’s business model or if a business is ready for this type of communication with the customers.

I would really welcome feed back on this topic…I could be totally wrong.