How to start an online business – Part 2

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So in a recent blog post titled ‘How to start an online business over a weekend‘ I let you know that I am starting a new business and all the first steps I took to get the ball rolling.

Three weeks on, here’s what else I have been doing as I start a new business so you can follow my new start-ups journey and hopefully pick up some tips along the way.

STEP 8: Search for available social media usernames at namechk.com

Whether you are using multiple social networks or just one (or even none!) it is a good idea to secure all the usernames associated with your brand. To find out whether my desired usernames were available I went to namechk.com and searched. It’s free, quick and easy to do. Given the huge number of businesses and usernames already snapped up, to be honest I was somewhat shocked that the exact username I wanted (awardshub) for my new start-up were readily available across all the networks I wanted. Knowing they were available I set off to nab them…

STEP 9: Grab an email account at gmail

If you are starting an online business, you need an email address. Plain and simple. In fact if you’re starting just about any business these days, you need an email address. I would advise anyone to go for a gmail address first up. Why? Because even if you don’t have your domain name purchased, even if you do and haven’t purchased the email hosting yet, you can still keep things progressing with your dedicated @gmail address. You will need to be providing an email address that is up and running and able to receive emails to verify items in the next steps, so gmail is the way to go. No hold ups. Perfect. To get your gmail account go to www.gmail.com. By the way, they’re FREE. No gimmicks. No ifs. No buts.

STEP 10: Set up Twitter

So does a start-up business really need Twitter you ask? I’d have to answer with an emphatic YES! I know that Twitter will be my easiest way to build a community, and fast. It will also be my way to encourage people to come back to my site by posting enticing micro-blogs aka tweets and more meaningfully headlines so people know what is going on the site.

If you want to better understand Twitter’s capabilities and practical applications for business, check out this range of free videos on Twitter for business produced by The Creative Collective’s social media specialist, Zoe deLuca here.

To ensure I am putting my best foot forward on twitter here are my top tips:

1) Change the profile picture from an ‘egg head’ to an image related to your business (in my case, my logo) as soon as possible. Otherwise you will continue to look just as that – an egg head!
2) Write a short, meaningful profile so people can check out your Twitter presence and have a really good idea of who you are and why they should follow you. I’m giving a little away here but my well crafted bio is: “Free global online resource which allows you to identify what business awards you might be eligible for. Great for business awards organisers & businesses.”
3) Careful selection of your location. Personally I don’t want people to know which suburb I am in, the general area is fine, hence my reason for choosing ‘Sunshine Coast, Queensland’ as my location.
4) Background – whilst you can choose a generic twitter background, you will look so much more professional if you can create and upload something that is professional looking and brand consistent. I’ll admit I had a little help from my team on this one (specifically cudos to Jag Quimby). You can see what he came up with here: twitter.com/awardshub.
Note, my intention is to amend this to use the background real estate effectively by including contact details and more info at a later date, but I don’t want these to be public until I am ready to launch, so for now its just generic and brand consistent.
5) Follow a few people – I’ll go on a wild ‘following’ mission when I’m ready to launch, but for now I followed just a few people/organisations on Twitter that are really relevant to my business, in this case, business awards organisers!

STEP 10: Set up Youtube

For now, this was more a case of securing the username than anything. I can see big potential for using YouTube for this business to encourage people to submit their business awards speeches and testimonials however in my mind there are other more pressing business priorities right now, so with the username successfully secured, I’ll leave that project for another day. 🙂

STEP 11: Set up Facebook

I predict Facebook will also be hugely important to this business start-up, so naturally I went to the front page of facebook.com and clicked on the ‘Create a page’ link featured under the sign up form. Please note this point if you are setting up a business page on Facebook – a business is not a person and should not be set up as a profile. If you do set it up in this way, Facebook can and will shut you down. Save yourself the heart ache and loss of friends on Facebook by getting it right from the outset.

See this great post from The Creative Collective’s social media specialist Zoe DeLuca with more details on why this is so important.

Given my business is set to be global and did not fit any of the industries listed in the drop down options as I progressed through the Facebook wizard for setting up a business page, I’ve opted for a Company/Organisation out of the options and as a sub category Company/Organsiation. Careful selection of these is key.

Just as in Twitter, here are some more top tips to getting a good start on Facebook:

1) Change the profile picture to utilise the real estate. You have 180x540px (as of February 2011) to play with so use it! Whilst I have a brand (created in step 2 on the first blog post on this topic here), I’m in a hurry to do other stuff so for the time being have set up profile picture that says ‘coming soon’ thus building anticipation. Note, I still don’t even really have ‘a business yet’ – there is no website live. Note how I am building anticipation and getting my foundations laid for a good launch before I open my doors for business.
2) Write a short, meaningful ‘about’ piece so people visiting the page have a really good idea of who you are and why they should follow you. My Facebook bio is the same as my Twitter (important to be consistent here too):
3) Info – the more you can give here the better! Note I’ve included contact details, a mission statement, a company overview + more.
4) Photos – as I don’t have any yet, we’ve installed a clever (jag)
5) Get likes – As I’m keeping this launch on the passive down low, I’ve hand picked some of my nearest and dearest to ‘like’ me as a first priority, with a target of 25 likers so I can secure my Facebook vanity url i.e. http://www.facebook.com/awardshub by clicking on the link invite friends featured on the right hand side as a link (see image). When likers weren’t coming through as fast as I hoped, I called on a Facebook Group I belong to, Queensland business who have a policy to assist one another get to 25 likers so we can secure vanity URLs. See the group here. Thanks to them I secured my 25 likers in no time and then move on to secure my vanity URl from facebook.com/username. Important note: you can only choose and apply a vanity URL ONCE so be careful in your selection!

STEP 12 – Brief to developer

With all my social media affairs taken care of (note how early in the piece I’ve done this and the exact steps I’ve taken – it is HUGELY important), I’ve refocused my attention on the build of my website. With the design having been completed at step 3, I wrote a page long brief to my developer providing him with a layered psd file which he will now integrate with my nominated CMS content management system). I’ve chosen to go with Business Catalyst, the world’s leading multi-function Content Management System (CMS) from Adobe.  As a company, we’ve been a partner of Business Catalyst since 2009 because Business Catalyst websites include everything most people need to run a successful online business including content management system (CMS), email marketing, customer database (CRM), ecommerce features, FAQs, members areas, forums, affiliate programs and more, all in the one system!
We are however well equipped to provide website design and development services on a wide range of other website platforms including Drupal, WordPress, and Joomla and choosing which system to build it on was a big decision. I made my decision by getting super clear on what I wanted the site to look like, function like etc and discussing this with our web developer before I committed to anything.

Choosing a web developer is a hugely important part of the process, and I am blessed to have several to call on as part of my team. I meet so many business owners who opt to get friends and family build them a website, or who opt for the cheapest company they can find, only to discover that if you pay peanuts you generally get monkeys. Time and time again, we have hard luck stories come to us where the cheap website they paid for ended up taking 12 months to build, or never produced any traffic or leads or sales, or for whom they can’t contact the company any longer as they’re no longer in business. Buyers – beware!

If you are looking to work with someone who can deliver you a website on brief, on time and on budget, talk to us!  We have stacks of experience in building quality websites, just check out our portfolio here.

Conclusion

Now that my social networks are secured and my developer is briefed, I expect my integration (the combining of my website design with the website platform) to take around a week. In the mean time I’m busy writing pages of content for the website, so there is no delays once the developer lets me know that he is done, something I strongly advise you to do if you are building a website. One of our biggest road blocks is waiting for clients to supply content and images when it comes to the development of websites.

I hope you’re enjoying following my journey. I’d love to know what bits you are finding useful/what you are learning from what I am sharing (and anything else you’d like to know about what I am doing and why I am doing it!) Just drop me a line in the comments section below. Until next time…

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