What I’m going to say here flies in the face of much of what I have been posting here the last few years. It may not be what you want to hear, but it’s the truth. Most people don’t care about your website and you might be wasting your time working on it, but there’s something you can do about it.
The Main Idea
Imagine you’re at a party with a couple hundred attendees at a nice house. You know people at the party, but there are a lot of strangers as well and everyone seems to be having a good time.
You just bought a new exotic car that you just want to show off, you know your friends are going to love it. You even want to show it to some strangers too, maybe make some new cruising buddies. How will you get the most attention possible?
There are a few ways you could do it, with varying results.
Option 1: Leave the car at your house and invite people to come over and see it.
If you choose this option a few might decide to leave the party and come check it out. This would most likely be either your loyal friends and people really interested in the car. You might gather up a handful of people to go with you, but it would be a fraction of the overall attendees. It’s not that your car isn’t awesome, it’s just that people are already at a party having a good time, so why would they want to leave?
Option 2: Drive the car to the party and invite people to come outside to see it.
This method would be much more effective largely because it’s more convenient for them; all they really have to do is go outside and take a look. It requires a small commitment and it’s easy to back out of, if your car sucks they can just go back inside to the party. This method would get far more people than the road trip to your house.
Option 3: Set up some interactive cameras in your garage and pipe the feed to your iPad.
Now you’ve got the home run idea. You break out the ipad and start showing off the system to your friends. Your friends are enthralled by every angle of your beautiful Italian masterpiece of a car as you play a couple videos of it driving and show some specs on it. People start to crowd around you to see what everyone is looking at.
Not only are you showing off your car, but using a neat gimmick to do so. You’re giving people all the information you could give them from your garage, yet they never had to even leave the room. Commitment consists of peering over at an ipad, they don’t even have to set their drink down. People see other people looking at it and they get curious too, next thing you know you’ve met tons of people more interested in your car.
Not only did you show off your car to a bunch of people, but you’ve actually added to the fun of this party.
If you haven’t caught the parallels yet, your website is the car, and the party is Facebook. Social Media is the party everyone is at, do you want to keep trying to drag everyone to your house? Nobody cares about your website until you’ve pulled them in.
Who Visits Your Website Now?
If you’re like most websites most of your visitors will fall into one of these groups, especially if you’re running an eCommerce site. Let’s use a site a Home and Garden store as an example and take a look at the type of customers they might have.
Hardcore Visitors - These people check your site religiously looking for new products, deals and more. They love your site, they love your brand and company. They tell everyone they know about you and are often early adopters. They know what you have in your store better than you do.
The Regulars - These are the folks who are constantly involved in projects and frequent your website to check prices and see what kind of specials you have. Like the hardcore visitors they like your company and go to you first.
Tire Kickers - We all know the type, these folks are just looking at the pictures on your site and maybe sending you an email or calling you just to ask countless questions. They aren’t going to buy anything and they are most likely reading your website from 3000 miles away.
Information Seekers - These are the people Google sends you, they’re looking for what you sell, how much are you selling it for and where are you located. What are your hours? This is some of the information they’re seeking and many of them will turn into customers if you give them what they want.
So you might be asking yourself, Jeremy why did you say nobody cares about my website then tell me about all the people who go to it? The answer is simple: out of all these people the amount you can truly engage with is very small. If you set up forums, how many people would sign up and start participating? How many would get their friends to join?
If you answered a fraction of a percent you’d be correct. In all my years of experience I’ve never seen more than about .3% of a site’s audience sign up for their forum or message board. This is because they simply don’t care enough. These people might be interested what you charge for a bag of barkdust, but they certainly aren’t going to sign up for your forums and visit your website every day. It’s not like it’s Facebook or something.
So what do you do to get them to care?
This one is pretty easy but requires you to change your outlook on your whole web strategy. Instead of thinking of your website as a hub that you need to draw people into, reverse it a little. You need to create a social media presence, especially on Facebook and Twitter, and start focusing on that first.
Yes, you heard me right, you need to focus on your social media presence and think of your site as a simple endpoint, or a “get more information area”. Your new strategy should be:
Create a Page on Facebook
Suggest it to all your friends
Put it on business cards and signs
Sign up for Twitter and link it to Facebook
Do daily or weekly updates to the page that get people engaged
If you focus on your niche, you can come up with a lot of things to say on a Facebook page. You could talk about your barkdust prices but that’s just going to get people to ignore you. You could ask them to come into your store every day, and you’ll be ignored.
They don’t want to be sold something, they want to be talked to.
You need to start engaging people, and that’s going to mean you have to give them a reason to like your page. Provide tips on gardening, show pictures of beautiful yards and offer to answer questions and help out with projects. Start Q&A sessions that get people talking. Make your page active and alive, and get more people to sign up and join. Use this is your great magnet and then direct them to your site when they’re ready to buy.
Reasons you should focus on Facebook (or Social Media in general).
There are a few quick reasons why you should focus on your Facebook page. It’s the easiest way to build a following you wouldn’t otherwise reach.
They are already there. No signing up for accounts, giving out an email address or anything. Easy as can be.
People sign on to Facebook every day. They would never go to your site daily but you can still reach them every time they’re on Facebook.
There is a level of trust already established with Facebook. If you were bad they wouldn’t let you be there.
It’s easier for them to share things with their friends, who are also already on Facebook.
Others can see you interacting with customers. Provide good customer service and everyone sees it.
Take advantage of herd theory - people tend to go where everyone else is going.
People can interact with you via their smartphone.
This goes for Twitter as well. Twitter users are on it all day every day and your message is just a quick tweet away. This is a great way to attract new fans to your site. Like the iPad in the living room the people are already there, and it takes very little commitment. Web forums and messageboards are dying. The ones that exist now will be the last standing and they’ll die off too (or switch you to Facebook logins) so forget about that noise. Even comment systems are going to Disqus or Facebook comments, the simple fact is it’s harder every day to get someone to sign up for your website and participate.
Instead of thinking of your site as the hub of your efforts you should shift your focus to social media for a while. This doesn’t mean you should neglect your site or build a crappy one, it’s just that your focus should be on interacting with people. Utilize your captive audience that shows up every day. Get them interested in your product and let everyone see them interested. Then funnel them into your website when they’re ready to buy or want more information. You start to build the relationship long before you ask them to give you their information.
I have run several tests on this over the last year and found it to be true - this is the new marketing. Forget SEO and buying links, start talking to people who are already there, and already at the party. What’s more difficult: getting people to go to your website every day, or getting people to go to Facebook everyday?
Good luck, and start rethinking.