I run web design courses in various shapes and sizes, using mostly Joomla and WordPress as the underlying framework. Students often ask me why they need to go the extra mile. Is a basic website not all they need?
My answer to this question often depends on the sophistication of the audience.
Before I answer this one let me clarify something quickly. I operate in George, which is in the Garden Route, where the typical web design student is a small business owner that sells to real people within the local area, and not to online customers.
In George the typical small company either has a website or wants to get a website. That’s pretty much as far as it goes. There is no strategy around most websites, it is simply used as a shop window or brochure stand. Convincing these SMME’s that a web presence is about a two way dialogue with your customer is hard going, let alone trying to explain the importance of keeping the twitter discussions flowing.
For me the crux about having a online presence is having the opportunity to open a conversation with your market. This means having the ability not only to push out content to potential customers, but also to hear back from them, and to gauge the market response to your initiatives and offers.
Together with SEDA we are running an e-marketing course that helps SMME’s find their way around the online world. It covers blogs, twitter, facebook and many more topics. I try to make it clear that online marketing is not about pushing brochures out via web pages or unsolicited mail, but rather opening a dialogue, listening and responding.
This is all fine and well I hear you say, but often this strategy falls flat simply because companies do not take the conversation seriously. It requires constant attention and focus. Shouting without listening is as pointless as listening without acting.
Maybe it is time for the Garden Route small business sector to realize that there is a bigger market out there, that it is worth pursuing, and that the effort and investment needed to go there is worth it. Problem is most of these small businesses are so busy running their business they do not have the time or ability to drive their online conversation.
How about the idea of a social media agency that manages your online reputation on your behalf? Are there any online players in the region willing to take on such a mentorship / curatorship role? I think this could be a great additional service for those small companies only now emerging into the online world.