How to Create an Online Presence for Startups
By: Sunny K. | September 1, 2019 | Marketing Strategy
We all know that you need an online presence to build your business, sell products or build brand recognition.
But the most important thing is determining how to do it and how much it will cost.
Making sure you maximize your time and money on the correct platforms in the beginning is essential.
NOTE: In this ten-minute guide, We’ll look at five different methods of setting up an online presence. For each one, we’ll break down the cost of investment, explain who should use it, and the pros and cons involved.
Mapping out the correct plan from day one is very important. You have a business or idea and getting it out into the public the best, quickest and most cost-effective way can help launch your business in the right direction.
Don’t waste your time and money on multiple platforms before realizing you could have spent less money and reduced the hassle if you’d just done the research and chosen the right route in the first place.
This is the guide that every startup should have when starting out and creating an online presence. A no-nonsense tutorial that helps you figure out which is the best platform for you.
That’s the key here. There is no perfect way to set up an online presence, only the right one for your goals and ambitions.
At a quick glance, here are the five ways to create an online presence that we’re looking at:
- Social Media:
Because not everyone needs a website.
- WordPress site:
An intermediate-advanced website building platform with complete control.
A simple, beginner website builder for portfolios and blogs.
Simple website builder specifically for online stores.
A must have for brick and mortar stores.
Which Platform Is Right For Your Online Presence?
1. A Social Media Page
Some businesses and individuals don’t need a website. It’s a hassle and can be counter-productive.
Sometimes, a Facebook page or Instagram account is the best way to build an audience, connect with people, and keep them updated. These are platforms that your customers are already familiar with and there are 1.6 billion active users waiting for you!
But before you go and sign up for every social media platform it’s critically important to know which platforms you should be on. Each platform takes time, creativity and a lot of effort to create content and monitor.
Certain characteristics such as age, income, location, and education can help you determine which platforms your ideal customer may be on. If you are not sure which platforms you should be utilizing, check out this article that goes into depth, Social media demographics to drive your brand’s online presence.
A cafe or restaurant, for example, could operate with nothing more than a Facebook or Instagram profile. They could upload new pictures, keep the menu updated, communicate with customers, promote events and highlight special offers all from one place.
They could even use a Facebook to take reservations. A website in this case might just complicate things and split the audience. Instead, focus on building one powerful channel and strong online presence.
Additionally, Facebook has an excellent advert platform, so you can target an audience and drive them straight to your page.
The downside of only having a social media page is that you’re at the mercy of their decisions. If Facebook changes their algorithm to limit your reach (which they do regularly), you may have to pay to connect with your followers.
You’re also limited in terms of design. You can upload images and headers, but the confines of Facebook or Instagram’s layout may be frustrating for some.
Most importantly, if you want to sell something, Facebook isn’t ideal. Although plugins are available, Facebook regularly changes which plugins it allows, therefore your shop could be removed without notice.
2. WordPress Site
WordPress is the best choice if you want your own website with complete control and flexibility. WordPress powers over 25% of all websites out there, so it’s a reliable, and a respected platform. It is one of the best ways for growing companies to easily scale their online presence.
You can do just about anything with WordPress. Build an online store, create a portfolio website, post blogs and content, build an affiliate site. You can host adverts, collect email addresses, make money and run an online business all from one place.
It’s easily scalable as well. It powers some of the biggest sites on the web, including The New Yorker, Techcrunch, Variety, Mashable and Time Inc, but it works just as well for a personal blog.
WordPress sites are customizable, so you can personalise your online presence with any design or style you like. WordPress comes with a host of free templates (or ‘themes’). Each can be tweaked to your preference or a pro web designer can create something completely unique from scratch for you.
All this control and flexibility does, however, come at a cost. Although WordPress itself is free, the architecture that comes with it isn’t. You’ll need a web host (this is essentially a piece of internet real estate your website sits on) and a domain name, www.my-website.com.
Choosing a good web host is as important as the website itself. It contributes to load speed, security and performance.
Creating and maintaining a WordPress site also requires an element of technical skill. WordPress claims you can set up and install within 5 minutes, but getting your site up and running can take a significant amount of time based on your requirements.
There is a learning curve and it will consume a great deal of your time, especially if you want to tweak the design, update it regularly and improve performance.
If you like the sound of having your own website, but don’t want so much hassle and have enough technical know-how/time, there is another option, Wix.
Pros – Simple, drag and drop design, easy setup.
Cons – Limited options compared to WordPress.
Cost of setup – Free, but it’s worth upgrading to the premium plans for a personal domain (starting at $4.50).
Learn more – Consult a Web Developer
Wix is similar to WordPress but without all the fuss. Granted, it’s more limited, but not everyone needs a complicated list of features.
The beauty of Wix is its simplicity. They take care of hosting, storage, performance and all the technical stuff behind the scenes. You can just log in and add content.
All the templates are drag-and-drop, so you can lay out your website without any coding whatsoever. The free templates are generally more stylish than WordPress, which will appeal to freelancers and creative professionals.
The Wix templates lend themselves to simple portfolio sites and blogs and that’s where it thrives. Wix does offer the mechanics for setting up an online store, but WordPress or Shopify (coming up next) offer a better platform for e-commerce.
All in all, Wix is a great option for simple portfolios and websites run by those who don’t want too much hassle.
The downside is that you’ll have less control over the back-end of your site and overall performance. You may also find it trickier to integrate advanced features like shopping carts and email signup forms.
Shopify, as the name suggests, is made especially for online stores.
Design and layout is simple and straightforward. Again, there’s no coding required so you can get up and running in no time.
The real beauty of Shopify is the integrated e-commerce features. It automatically handles payments, shipping rates, taxes and order tracking. For an additional fee, you can also use their built-in marketing service and integrate the software with a real-world store to simplify your accounts.
The alternative to Shopify is using WordPress with a plugin called WooCommerce. In general, WordPress & WooCommerce works out cheaper in terms of transactions and flat costs. However, you’re paying for simplicity and ease of use.
The downside is that you have less control over the underlying architecture of your site. This is where WordPress and Woocommerce are more flexible, but with that comes additional work and maintenance.
5. Google – Google My Business
Google is a key staple in today’s technology based world and having a Google listing for any physical location business is a necessary to establish an online presence.
Luckily, creating a Google Listing and managing it thru a Google My Business Account is free and simple to setup.
It does require a new business or listing to get verified thru mail or sometimes phone number prior to being given access to create a new listing or even manage an existing listing.
It’s a simple step by step process to setup your listing and you can even get alerts of any new reviews or suggested changes to your listing. Easily manage several locations or even have multiple roles/locations of listings.
There is no one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to an online presence.
A complex website isn’t necessarily the best answer for you, especially if you’re just getting started. There are shortcuts and easier options such as a simple social media account or a straightforward portfolio page.
Don’t invest in a tricky website if you value simplicity. But equally, don’t constrain yourself if you’re building a genuine digital business.
First, decide what you want from your online presence. Second, match the platform to your needs. Third, use active promotion to build on that online presence. To recap, here is the line up for all five platforms.
Free, simple & low maintenance
Less control over design & also changes
Complete control & unlimited potential
Cost of maintenance, tech skill needed
Simple, drag & drop design, easy setup
Limited compared to WordPress
Simple, quick online store setup
Pro features are expensive
Free, simple & powerful