This article was first published in the October 2012 Ireland edition of Accounting and Business magazine.
For many ACCA members in business, the use of the internet has expanded beyond their website. The use of mobile devices and social media has created more avenues for business to target, inform and sell to consumers. While you may not be Lady Gaga with her 28m followers on Twitter, Irish businesses would be remiss to ignore the growth of social media. With over 100,000 users of Twitter a day in Ireland, getting your business ‘trending’ can only increase your brand awareness among Twitter followers, not just in Ireland but globally.
An interesting case is that of Irish life-coach, Sinead Duffy. She has amassed over 1.5m followers worldwide, with clients paying for coaching sessions via Skype. She built her business via concise tweets under her @GreatestQuotes account and is placed as the number two Twitter user in Ireland. Facebook’s Timeline (news feed) exposes brands not only to their fans but also their friends. In the UK, fans of shopping website ASOS are 3.6 times more likely to visit the website than non fans, while friends of fans were 2.7 times more likely to visit ASOS. Added to this, there was an 130% uplift in purchases on their site over the four weeks after the ad was first exposed on Facebook. The instant nature of social media allows for communicating directly with new and existing customers. While there can be challenges due to the real-time nature of social media, most issues can be cleared up quickly. Little wonder then that industry experts are predicting social media will be used more and more as a business tool.
Being on a social media platform, which is generally free of charge, does not negate the need for a website. To sell your products, or to get the full details of your business and its activities across to the public, a well-constructed website is essential and should be mobile enabled. Over 75% of Irish consumers use the internet to research and find products yet, as of 2011, only 21% of Irish businesses were e-commerce enabled. Recognising this, a government scheme was launched in 2011 to help Irish businesses rectify this situation and open up their markets globally. The scheme provides for free website creation and one year’s free hosting. To get more details visit www. gettingbusinessonline.ie
Your website is a reflection of your business, so it needs to be creatively designed with informative content and give the user a reason to return. The user also needs to be able to find you. There are over 600m websites globally and Google searches fall prey to brand bidding, which is the purchase of key words that will drive traffic to a website. This is not only limited to Google. The biggest issue is that anyone can buy a word, therefore competitors can buy a word that is synonymous with your brand and direct search traffic away from your site. Florists Interflora found themselves confronted by this issue recently when retailers Marks and Spencers bid on the Interflora trademark, meaning that when a consumer searched for Interflora, M&S would appear in their paid searches. A key learning from this is to protect your brand name and make sure you bid on your own brand and associated words within paid searches.
Monetisation of your website is the means to maximise the earning potential of your website, not just your business services, but also using advertising. Your website can charge for banner ads with a fixed fee, can use Google ads (although you have little control of the types of ad that can appear), and you can agree a click per view rate with the advertiser. However, advertisers are looking more and more for a return on investment (ROI) from their spend. This is where affiliate marketing comes into play
Affiliate (performance) marketing works by having a publisher (website) place a banner or link in a prominent place on their website in order to direct traffic to that site. Tracking is put in place behind the link, which, when clicked, will capture, up to a set number of days, any purchases made. A commission is earned by the publisher simply based on sales achieved.
For this relationship to work, a publisher needs a site that attracts strong viewer traffic. For any online business, advertising can play a strong role in generating income. In particular, for reference websites and news blogs, having a strong mix of advertising formats can fully monetise your website venture. However, be mindful not to clutter the pages as this can cheapen the look of your site.
As the internet business model evolves, partnerships that would never have been envisaged due to geographical constraints can now work together over the internet in a mutually beneficial way. However, affiliate marketing is not the panacea for making profits. Unless publishers offer websites that consumers really want to use and revisit, advertising in any form will not work for you. Long-term, advertisers will look elsewhere as they seek to maximise their ROI.
Three things to keep in mind when considering maximising your monetisation potential:
- Make it worth the advertiser’s time. To ensure a decent ROI for them, make sure your website has strong informative content, to ensure high volumes or repeat visitors.
- Protect your business from brand bidders. Have Facebook and Twitter accounts and use these on a regular basis to tell followers what you are doing. Use social media sites that complement your business.
- Be mobile enabled. Research has shown that the use of mobile devices will overtake desk-based searches by 2014. eBay sells something every two seconds via mobiles and 49% of all Paddy Powers bets are made from mobiles. Also, due to the small size of the screen, advertising can be more effective. Use a mix of regular advertising and affiliate marketing (most affiliate networks are free to publishers), keep offers updated on a regular basis, use rotating ad banners if you have space constraints, and remember, text links on average work better then banners.
Darryl Bannon is an MBA student and consultant.