10 mistakes local businesses make online

Mel Taylor is the founder of Mel Taylor Media, a consulting group that focuses on digital strategy and online marketing for local media companies and local businesses. He is a contributing writer to Business Insider and a veteran of Philadelphia TV, radio and newspapers.

The following is an excerpt from a recent conversation Mel had with 435 Digital.

Consumers now get over 50% of their media & information from online sources. Compare this to the fact that local businesses still only allocate 4% of their marketing budgets to online. Imagine when local businesses wake up to this disparity.

Increasingly, local businesses are moving online. That’s a good thing. Unfortunately, they’re making some mistakes in the process.

Some of the biggies are:

1. Jumping on the social media bandwagon without a plan.

Local business operators often think: “Oh geez, we have to get on Twitter! Don’t we have an intern who just graduated high school? Everyone’s on Twitter and Facebook. We have to be there too!” The problem is they haven’t developed a plan and a set of objectives. This is a recipe for failure.

2. Not sure which metrics are important.

You have to know and understand which specific metrics you’re following in order to judge the success of your strategy. Some important metrics are: customer conversions, purchases, increase of readership, opt-in emails collected, Facebook fans/Twitter subscribers, etc.

3. Using rogue social media gurus.

There are a lot of so-called social gurus out there who claim to be interactive experts. Sure, they can build a Facebook page, but they have no clue how to craft a social media strategy that works for a specific business or objective.

4. Having the intern do everything.

I’m not making fun of someone who’s between the ages of 19 and 21. But just because you can text on your iPhone or post pics on Facebook, that doesn’t qualify you to handle the critical online strategy for a business. Far too often, the business owner dumps off all that ‘icky’ web stuff to the intern or youngest person on the staff.

5. Not getting professional assistance to get started.

Most small business owners need some level of assistance, at least while they’re getting started in the online space. This early hand-holding and direction will make a huge difference in attaining goals and objectives.

6. Hiring web developers who keep the client in the dark.

It’s a dirty little secret of some web developers. They won’t explain all of the tools they’re using to build your site. They’ll simply say: “Just spend $5,000 so we can build you a really sweet Flash website.” They conveniently forget to tell you that your beautifully animated site won’t be seen by Google and it won’t display on your iPad or iPhone. Bummer.

7. Thinking “Me, me, me, me, me”– instead of sharing first

Often when somebody starts to tweet, they’re not sharing information or having a conversation. It’s all about them. It’s about what they think personally and what they are trying to sell. If you’re not going to share and be a part of a conversation, you’re most likely going to fail.

8. Mixing business with personal

I follow many people on Twitter that are experts at one digital thing or another. Ninety percent of the time they turn me on to something I wasn’t aware of. It makes me sort of bond with that person from a business perspective. But then all of a sudden, they’ll tweet or post something that pushes their personal thoughts on something like politics, sex or religion. It’s like your mother told you: these are the three topics you never talk about in mixed company. For some reason, people often forget this golden rule when online.

9. Not adopting “slow & steady wins the race.”

You don’t need to do everything all at once. You’ll burn out. Just do one or two things a day–build up slow and steady.

10. SEO is important, but content & conversation should play lead role.

Don’t automatically think that SEO (search engine optimization) is the most important thing. Example: Let’s say I find your site in position #1 on Google, and then I click through. When I get there and the site is confusing or lame, I’m outta there. I don’t really care how great your SEO expert is, and how high up your listing was on the search engine results page.

Tomorrow we’ll talk with Mel about a local businesses that “gets” online marketing and has the results to prove it.

-Tracy Samantha Schmidt