No business should exist without a website or even a presence on social media. And with so many people shopping on their mobile phones, you’ll probably need a mobile strategy too. But it’s important to choose the right platform for you right from the start.

Social media; a quick guide

Social media may not cost you money, but it will cost your business valuable time. It’s important to ask yourself two main questions before doing anything:

  1. Where do my customers hang out online?
  2. Do I have the resources to create engaging content and manage a community here every day?

Here are some of the main platforms to choose from:

  • LinkedIn

If you mostly sell to other businesses, set up a company profile on LinkedIn, get all your staff to set up individual profiles and participate in group discussions. It’s a great way to network and carve out your niche area of expertise.

  • Twitter

Twitter is great for B2B and B2C companies and can help you reach influential people in your industry instantly and drive traffic to your website

  • Facebook

Facebook lends itself better to the B2C realm. A Facebook page should never stand in for a website (Facebook owns it and could shut it down at any point for many numbers of reasons), but it can build an online community who are engaged with your brand.

  • Pinterest

Pinterest is essentially an online scrapbook where you can ‘pin’ things to your board that you find online (like new product photos, for example). Other people can repin your photo or ‘like’ it, much like on Facebook.

Pinterest would suit a business that sells something that would lend itself to being photographed – the latest outfits from a clothing retailer or new dishes from a restaurant, for example.

  • YouTube

YouTube is the second largest search engine and can be a powerful platform –  if you have the budget and resources to create the content. Setting up your account is the easy bit, but creating truly engaging video content and getting people to see it is the hard part.

  • Google+

Google has been known to give websites with more +1s through Google+ a higher search engine ranking and is increasing looking at the authority of blog authors with a Google+ profile.

It’s worth setting up a Google+ profile for your chief bloggers and a Google+ business page, even if it’s only to rank highly in Google’s results.

Top tip: Even if you can’t be on all of the above, you can still add social sharing buttons to your website so people can share your content through their own profiles.

Which blogging platform?

Having a blog is crucial to drive traffic to your website by pleasing Google with quality, fresh content and engaging with your customers.

A favourite for corporate blogs, WordPress.org has customisable templates, lots of ready-made plugins and has been given the green light from Matt Cutts (Google’s premier authority) on how they rank websites.

Websites

If you’re just flirting with the idea of selling online, you could start off by selling your products on Etsy (which is best for handmade or vintage products) or eBay, which have limited or no set-up costs.

However, bear in mind you can’t really customise the look and feel of your page, and your customers could be lured away to other similar suppliers just as they’re about to click ‘buy’.

When you do decide to make the leap to a full website, these are the things to look for:

  • A user-friendly content management system
  • Built-in search engine optimisation (SEO)
  • Lots of pages for your products and multiple, secure payment facilities if you’re an e-commerce business
  • Easily customisable online templates so you save on professional design costs until you’ve started to make money
  • Widgets to make it easy to imbed your social media content and keep your site updated

Top tip: Consider how you’re going to power your electricity needs once you’re up and running. Npower’s small business electricity team can help with quotes and advice.

Mobile considerations

By the end of 2014, more people will search for things on a smartphone than a desktop computer. So when you come to design your website, you have to consider how it will look on a smartphone or tablet.

Top tip: The biggest design trend for mobile sites is something called responsive design, which automatically loads the optimal version of a website to suit the device it’s being used on.

Are you finding it hard to decide which platform is right for you? Tell us about your experiences – good and bad.

Jakub works for a digital marketing agency and provided his best advice on different website platforms and social media for business. This guest blog has been written for npower.

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