Typically, when it comes to social media, a particular question is brought up time and time again: “Will it really benefit my business?” Because all businesses are very different, it’s hard to come up with a “one-size-fits-all” type of answer. However, if you asked me, I’d probably say “absolutely!”To help you figure it out, let’s go over what social media is.Social media (SM) is web-based technology used to interact with others. Basically, it is a way to share information through the internet via a group with commonly shared interests. Most of the time, it begins with a person creating content like a video, article, blog or audio then relaying it to a SM network like Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, or LinkedIn. Once this information is released, then others share it as well with additional comments, content or sharing it themselves.Right now, different types can fall into 1 of these 5 categories:Wikis: User-created content that also allows users to add, edit or comment as well as vote on quality. (Wikipedia)Networks: Profile creation sites where people can join groups, add friends, comment, share and network. (Facebook, MySpace, and LinkedIn)News: Sites that are informational-based where users may comment, like or dislike and share information. (Digg, Reedit, and Newsvine)Media Sharing: Sites that are based on the uploading of different media such as photos, videos or music and in turn, others can view and share. (Flickr, YouTube, and Vimeo)Social Bookmarking: These sites are for those who want to bookmark content they really enjoy. Other’s can view their bookmarks according to topic. (Stumbleupon and Del.icio.us)Should my business be a part of this?All businesses main goal is to gain new customers or clients. If you are planning on having a web-based business or interact in the internet world, SM is a valuable tool to drive these customers or clients to your site. However, for social media to really work, you have to first concentrate on your content. Your website has to present valuable information, services or products in order to gain customers at all. If you’ve developed a great site that is user-friendly with valuable information, then it’s time to get people there.What Can Social Media do?Boost your Brand: SM is basically a free way to promote your brand, company image, services and products. The downfall is that it takes time, and if you aren’t willing to stick with it, then you shouldn’t waste your time starting it.Defining your Audience: creating accounts on different SM sites (and keeping up with it) can help you gain an audience, either that you didn’t think about before, or one that you’ve always wanted. It is also a great place to get help with feedback, testing new products, and promotions.Boost Search Ranking: When you publish content on your SM sites, it automatically increases your visibility in search engines which in turn, leads to more customers. Also, with the sharing of content, others share it too. Some great advice is to always remember what you’re saying reflects on your business or products, so use your wording wisely!There’s a catch, right? How much does Social Media cost?Social media costs time. It doesn’t cost money, even though some sites do offer premium accounts for more visibility and advertising, but for basic accounts there are no out-of-pocket costs. The main factor is having enough time to keep up with it daily or every other day. If you don’t have time to do it, hiring a virtual assistant to do it for you is always an option, and a great way to start your social media campaign.Just remember, focus on creating an intriguing and interactive website and then jump into social media! It will most definitely help you spread the word! If you think you don’t have time, set up a daily schedule to help manage your time or hire a social media virtual assistant!
So, you’ve finally decided that you need a web site for your business? Well, there are a few key-points to remember BEFORE you make one of the most crucial decisions for your business.Choosing the right designer for your new business web site:When it comes to choosing the right web designer for your web site, you should always shop around first to check out all of the available options. There are many web design companies out there to choose from. And most of them are pretty good at what they do.Always ask to see samples of a web designer’s previous work and examine their portfolio. This will help you get a better feel for the style of sites any particular web designer is capable of doing. Most of the time, web designers have their own unique style and you can easily spot which designs they’ve done in the past. I mean, it’s similar to any other artist’s style; you can definitely spot their previous works based on the general layout, color scheme, and over-all visual appearance of the sites.Experience is also a key factor here. Just like any other craft, web designers get better with experience. So naturally, you’ll be better off by choosing a web designer who has more experience under his or her belt.Another key point you should define is whether or not the web designer can make you a 100% custom web site. Or will it be just a basic template web design that 100’s or even 1,000’s of people already have across the Internet. Pretty much anybody these days can create a basic HTML web page in Microsoft Word or Publisher and change the title of it to reflect their Branson business. But you must ask yourself: “is this really what I’m looking for”?Web sites that are truly custom built will stand out more the rest of the basic template web designs that so many people are using these days. A custom web design will catch the eye of your potential customers and show them that you have a really professional web presence and you mean business.A lot of web designers these days choose to do the template web sites for one of 2 reasons:It’s cheaper to use a basic template web design. They might be lacking the necessary skills needed to develop a fully custom web site. Whatever the case may be, make sure you go with a designer who is capable of creating a custom web design for you. It will inevitably cost you more for a custom site. But it is totally worth the extra money spent. Trust me, in the end you will be much happier with your web site if it is a site that’s unique and created for just your business and not everybody else’s.Communication with a potential web designer is also critical in the development of your web site. You need to be perfectly clear and define your goals up-front, before you actually sign a web design service contract with a designer. Make sure you know what you are getting for your money and make sure you get it in writing! I have a 9-page web site design contract that I use every single time I design a new web site. Included in this contract is an itemized list of all work that is to be performed during the development of the web site. Things like the exact number of pages, the exact number of graphics to be designed, whether or not I need to create a logo, the estimated time before completion, whether or not routine site maintenance will be performed after the site is 6 months or 1 year old, etc.Defining these things will help you in the long run and will also make sure you and the web designer are on the same page.I also use what I call my “web design planning worksheet”. This worksheet gives “milestones” or deadlines for each phase of the web design project. Things like “In 2 weeks the general layout will be done” and “2 weeks after that, the site will be coded and launched” and then “In one moth after the web site is launched, we will evaluate it to see what needs to be adjusted”, etc. (these are just examples, by the way. the details included in one of my actual worksheets gives exact dates and more specific milestones).And what about the web hosting for your new web site? Usually, a web designer will provide some kind of insight as to which hosting company they recommend. Web designers in general have a preference for a hosting company that they know will be a good choice for your web site and they should assist you in making this selection.Fortunately, we have our own web server here at Digital Spiral Web Design so we can do all of the hosting ourselves. This is very beneficial because we can make sure the web server stays up and running and if there is any maintenance that needs to be performed on the server, we can do it ourselves in a timely manner. Plus, we will always cut a deal for our web site hosting services to any new business who chooses us to do their web design.Will your new web site require any specialized web programming? Well, the answer to that question is based solely on the needs of your Branson web site. What kind of site will it be? Does it need a shopping cart for e-commerce? Will you be implementing any special web applications or online forms for your viewers to fill out? Will it be a web site that requires your viewers to fill out registrations and sign up so they can login? If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, then chances are you’ll need a web designer who can also program.Web developers and designers must be skilled in the art of web PROGRAMMING (something that is very different from regular web DESIGN). Web programming involves the implementation of different web programming languages like JAVA, PHP, Flash, SQL, or.NET. All of these web programming languages need highly skilled individuals to code them and develop web programs with them.I personally love PHP! I use it for pretty much everything. I won’t go into the details of PHP in this article (I would have to write an entire book about it to cover all of it). But with PHP, I can create pretty much any web application that is logically possible.So, make sure you choose a web designer who is also capable of coding any special functions that your new web site needs. This decision needs to be discussed and gone over by any potential web designer you might use to create your Branson web site.And finally, you should always check with the potential web designer’s previous clients to make sure they give him or her a good reference. Remember: it just like any other service. You need to verify a web designer’s references and make sure they can do what they say they can do.So, just to summarize all of the tips I’ve mentioned:Ask questions, questions, and more questions before you choose a web designer. Clearly define your goals from the beginning. Ask to see the web designer’s portfolio and samples of their previous work. Make sure they can help you with choosing a web hosting provider. Get documentation to show exactly how many pages will be included in the project and the estimated time before completion. If your Branson web site requires special web programming, make sure the designer can handle it. I hope this article helps anybody who is getting ready to have a new web site designed. A good web site can really do wonders for your business!Here at Branson website design, we specialize in affordable custom web design for all businesses! We also offer very affordable pricing for our web hosting services. If you would like to know more about our services or to see our web design portfolio, visit our main company web site at the link below. We offer affordable custom web designs!