I was recently speaking at the Fashion Institute of Technology here in New York City about all things entrepreneurship, buzz building and public relations and one of the tips I gave this class of future entrepreneurs was born from an actual experience I had earlier that week. The tip is important, the way it impacts your business is mighty and fixing it can begin this weekend, so let's dive in! What we're going to focus on today is the path that leads (or doesn't lead) prospective customers, partners and even the press to your website and what they do (or don't) find along the way. I call this your "digital trail" and to start our chat about it I'll share some anecdotes that actually happened to me over the past month that proved to me it was a pressing topic to discuss:
I was so excited about a new small biz product a friend was raving about that I went to find it and purchase it. Searched for their social media feeds so I could "get to know them" digitally, and could't find them anywhere despite putting in different varations of their company's name. Nada. After finding their website I looked for the links to their social feeds there as well, which was a struggle. Finally found them, and they went to social media accounts that did not have a uniform name, and also were not using the exact name (or a close enough varation) to the company. #DigitalTrailFail!
I was introduced to a freelance writer by another entrepreneur and wanted to get a feel for her work right away. Googled her and I struggled to find her website. It was not in the first three options pulled from search. Finally found it and could find no links to her social feeds, no examples of her work, and only a contact us form and a brief, impersonal bio. If I was a potential customer I would move on pretty quickly, and as a curious non-customer, I did as well. #DigitalTrailFail.
I was chatting with an expert who is also an online service provider. After she told me about her latest project I was so excited for her I hopped online and went straight to her website and clicked on the "Blog" tab. It hadn't been touched in months. I went to her newsletter sign in so I could stay up-to-date on her company news and adventures. Couldn't find it. For someone hoping to promote and connect I was hitting too many dead ends and deemed it another #DigitalTrailFail.
I was so excited about a new accessories design I discovered that I started following them on social media, and after hooking into their Twitter I started reading through their feed to get to know them. It was only then that I discovered they had a snarky side that was engaging in some unpleasant Twitter battles online, that were in a tone that didn't "connect" with their brand's image.
Here's the thing about Digital Trails:
Everything you do or do not do online is working for or against your business - even as you sleep! People are searching for you, your service, your product, without you knowing who they are or when it will happen. Potential customers, partners, reporters, producers and interested parties like me are checking out your social feeds, looking for your blog, trying to sign up for a newsletter or hunting for other clues from you on your website.
You need to be highly aware, strategic and up-to-date in terms of everything you put out online - personally and professionally. You need to make it impossible for people not to find your social feeds, your links to them from your website, your newsletter sign in (if you have a newsletter - if not, please create one) and your contact information. Once they find you they are judging you and your brand based on what you say, how you connect with others, what values and opinions you're sharing and the way you present yourself. Some entrepreneurs tell me they'll update and "audit" those parts of their business "when it matters" or they'll get around to it "when I make it big". Well guess what? It matters right now. Your time to make it big is NOW. Don't fake it until you make it, make it until you make it, and get making it right now!
I encourage you to visit your website this weekend and see it with fresh eyes, Google yourself online, pop over to your social feeds. Now look at them as if you were the press contact that could make or break your brand or a potential customer. What will they see, how will they feel? Are the crumbs that make up your digital trail leading them back to a brand story you can be proud of? Are they leading them back to anything at all? What simple tweaks could strengthen your digital trail? Best of luck buzz building trailblazers!