The importance of your brand’s online footprint

By Jonathan Crowl

Nowadays, most businesses maintain some form of online presence, even if it’s as simple as a rarely updated website. However, that brand’s online footprint is usually composed of things beyond its control. Business listings in search engines and other directories, online reviews and social mentions are just some ways your brand can appear online, even if you have nothing to do with it.

There are already plenty of reasons to invest in that footprint, but this threat of unauthorized content presents a cautionary tale for anyone who ignores their brand’s reputation on the internet. It’s possible that no harm comes from being inattentive. On the other hand, inaccurate business information, social media criticism and negative reviews can all cause serious damage to your company’s bottom line, and you might have no idea how it happened.

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That’s the most obvious risk brands face when they dismiss the internet as a viable marketing channel. However, there are plenty of other reasons why an online footprint is vital, and they all revolve around your potential to generate more business for yourself.

The case for establishing yourself online

Whether you like it or not, consumers go online to find companies they want to do business with. It’s not just big retailers, either: Outside of online retailers, your customers are doing online research to find restaurants, travel packages, real estate agents, plumbers and so much more. Thanks to the rise of local digital marketing, even mom-and-pop shops have tangible ways they can benefit from an online presence.

It’s important to think of this presence as its own marketing vehicle. Beyond directly driving conversions, an online footprint is vital to building and strengthening your brand. Reputation management is a core component, but your online presence also establishes credibility. Consumers are able to research you, vet you and judge for themselves whether you’re an authority worth doing business with.

You can also use that online presence to show why you’re the right choice. What do you offer that your customers don’t? This can range from touting your unique skills, your unmatched expertise or even using a promotion to sway undecided consumers.

The important thing is that when your prospective customers go online to search for the products or services they offer, they’re able to find you. Brandfolder recommended looking at your online presence as if you are one of your customers. Based on what you find online, would you want to work with this company?

A constant work-in-progress

It’s clear that a brand’s online footprint is essential. The tough part for some business owners is coming to terms with the time and resource investment. Websites, business listings and customer reviews are all assets that largely maintain themselves after the asset has been set up, but other important parts of that footprint require constant updating — not just daily, but sometimes throughout the day.

Blog content is a simple way to establish authority and reach relevant consumers. However, this content also gets old, loses relevance and gradually loses its ability to drive traffic to your site. The same is true of social media. There is a constant need for brands to stay active through these social channels, or else they risk losing their audiences. Even if their organic social reach doesn’t decline, the loss of social engagement will be tough to build back.

The good news is that for resource-limited organizations, these costs are often scalable and accessible in terms of financial expense and time commitment. Facebook and Twitter are free to join and use for brand promotion — you may not get the best results doing it yourself, but you’ll likely get more out of social media than what you’re putting in. The same goes for writing a blog and updating a website.

An online presence isn’t optional for most companies these days, but you can take comfort in the fact that investing in that presence will pay out dividends for months and years to come.

Photo by: iStock