Embracing the digital future

By the time you have finished reading this sentence, Google will have processed 40,000 search queries (that’s more than 3.5 billion searches per day) being made by internet users just like you. That is a vast amount of information being circulated, read, shared and talked about, all online.

While a lot of this traffic may seem to be people searching for the latest celebrity gossip or the most up-to-date sporting news, an equally vast number are consumers searching for a great deal, great service and a business which can deliver both.

The use of the internet as a way of finding, researching, booking, ordering, conversing with companies and even paying for products or services has fundamentally changed the way business is done. And this change happened quickly – in fact, within the lifetimes of most of you reading these words.

Consider, for example, the hardware people use to access the internet. The personal computer arrived on the scene in the 1980s, while the smartphone dates back only to the early 2000s.

And what about the World Wide Web? The correct term for what most of us call ‘the internet’ (hence the www at the front of website addresses – and, indeed, the word ‘website’), the Web was invented  in 1989 although most people wouldn’t have known of its existence until well into the 1990s.

All this technology, and the accompanying breakthroughs in software development that enabled the online publishing of information, has changed forever how people interact with each other. The way people utilise the internet to obtain the information that influences their key purchasing and decision making, and the opportunity this represents for businesses looking to take advantage of the new habits of the Australian consumer, has become known as ‘digital disruption’.

It may sound like just another bit of nerdy terminology, but ‘digital disruption’ describes pretty well the incredible changes new technology has had on the way business is done.

And it is BIG business. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), the estimated value of internet income for businesses is nearly $270 billion.

For an owner-operator, the challenge is to embrace the changes and the opportunities that digital disruption offers – ignoring the changes that are taking place within the Australian community is to hamstring an enterprise from the start. As the proprietor of an automotive-related business, the way in which you deal and capitalise on digital disruption is more important than ever.

But what do you need to do to ensure your business remains relevant?

Invest in a website that works for you and your customers

A website that is responsively designed across all desktop and mobile devices is critical to any business looking to compete in the digital economy. It is the most crucial piece of the digital marketing puzzle and does something your bricks-and-mortar business cannot – it seamlessly operates 24-hours a day, seven days a week, spruiking your products and services to potential customers whilst capturing new sales and marketing opportunities.

Today, the amount of mobile traffic (people who use a smartphone or tablet to browse content online) accounts for more than half of total internet traffic, highlighting the importance of ensuring your website provides an optimal viewing and interactive experience across a wide range of devices, from desktop computers to mobile phones.

Employing the power of social media

Social media is an extremely powerful communication tool when leveraged to suit the marketing and advertising needs of your business. Facebook, the leading social media platform, has 1.65 billion monthly active users and shows no signs of slowing down.

While it was initially used as a way for friends and family to stay in touch and share photos and other personal content, Facebook has evolved and is now a fully integrated marketing and advertising platform that is equally popular with business owners as it is with personal users.

Being involved in the vast Facebook market is not that difficult or expensive (joining is free). The trick is providing something that will attract customers to your Facebook site. The old adage that ‘content is king’ works here, for it is content that fuels Facebook’s engine and is what keeps customers engaged.

But what content is the right content?

Social media users on Facebook are very particular about what they choose to engage with and building relationships is key. Customers are interested in seeing and hearing what a business has to say and this is where content is important.For example: the team at your workshop or dealership recently participated in a community event. During the event, some really great photos and videos were taken by members of your team. What do you do with these photos and videos? Well, these become your content.

Take the material and upload it to your Facebook business page with a touch of positive sentiment. For example, you might say: A massive thank you to our entire team who rolled up their sleeves and participated in the annual community fundraising event last weekend. Together we raised over $10,000 – what a great effort.

This form of content marketing is digital public relations 101 – engaging the social media audience in a manner that reflects not just the daily happenings of your business, but also your community and the great people within it.

‘Hard sell’ advertising rarely works in this environment – that is what a website is for – and the more engaging the Facebook content, the more likely users will ‘like’ your presence and click through to your website to determine if it is providing the products and services they need.

Though engagement with consumers through the use of thoughtful content is vital, Facebook does offer the option of paid advertising too. A highly targeted, and incredibly good value, lead generation tool, it can help businesses capture sales opportunities by focusing on, and feeding ads to, other Facebook users on the basis of their geographical location and interests.

Of course, Facebook is not the only social media platform out there and others – such as Twitter, LinkedIn and YouTube – are all extremely popular and can help a business thrive online.

Twitter, for example, is great for sharing information (in 140 characters or less) and has a community of more than 300 million users. Also offering a paid advertising option, it is unique in that a lot of traffic can be generated directly by a business’s followers for free. All it takes is for one ‘influencer’ with a significant follower base to re-tweet content and it could potentially reach thousands.

LinkedIn is a business-oriented networking service that allows its 400 million users to connect with other professional individuals and businesses. While similar to Facebook, its focus on professional networking gives an organisation more room to grow business-to-business relationships.

As for YouTube, the social media platform that started as a place for people to share funny videos has become another useful business tool. Video content is incredibly popular and with the proliferation of smart technology and devices that come armed with a camera, documenting what a business does and making that available online is priceless. With four billion people using YouTube daily, this content will certainly find a few viewers!

Where next?

We are in a period of great change when it comes to how we communicate with each other.

According to the ABS, 86 per cent of households in Australia have access to the internet and, on average, people spend 10 hours a week of their personal time online. That’s a lot of people spending a lot of time ‘surfing the web’.

As for businesses, the ABS reports that 98.4 per cent of businesses had internet access but only 48.6 per cent had a web presence and a mere 34 per cent had a social media presence. That translates to more than half of Australian businesses missing out on the opportunities afforded through having an online presence.

Websites and social media are vital channels in helping businesses to get their message out to a public that is spending more and more of its time online. By creating more avenues to communicate you are actually strengthening your business capacities.

Social media, and the internet’s ability to connect your business with a vast audience, is here to stay. Embrace it.

The MTA Queensland can help if you are interested in finding out more about establishing an online presence for your business. Email us at info@mtaq.com.au for more information.