Creating an online presence can open doors to a range of opportunities. It can support existing marketing and sales activities, increase your productivity, and allow you to engage in e-commerce, like online sales or fundraising.
Websites and domains
If you have been in business for a while and are looking to establish an online presence, creating a website for your business can help to attract customers over the internet. The kind of website you develop will vary from business to business. You may not want a 'traditional' website – instead, you might like to use a host website or service to create an online shop, or a blog.
If you are not familiar with web development and design, you may need to employ someone who is. This will save you a lot of hassle and ensure your website is appealing and professionalism. If your budget doesn’t allow for this, there are free or low-cost tools available.
Visit the Digital Business website to find out more about creating a website.
A domain name is the address to a website on the internet. Similar to your house address, a domain name will tell your customers how to get to your website on the internet.
A domain name generally consists of a name, followed by an ending, such as '.net.au' or '.com.au'. For example, if your name was Peter and you ran a pet store, your domain name might be peterspetstore.com.au.
The first part of the domain name is your business identity and should represent your brand. The ending of the domain name (for example '.com.au') identifies the type of entity you are.
Find out more about domain names.
Social media is a group of technologies including blogs, online networks and online collaboration tools.
Popular social media services such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Pinterest and Google+ can be used to expand your networks, increase market reach and collaborate with people on a larger scale.
Social media can help you engage with your customers, generate conversation and find out what people are saying about your brand and business.
You can also use it for advertising, promotional giveaways and mobile applications. Social media can be daunting, but with some research and planning, you can use it to your business's advantage.
Social media may not be suited to every business and it’s easy to get carried away. It’s important to consider the pros and cons before you decide to engage in social media for your business. If you are unprepared and launch your social media presence without proper planning, you could waste valuable time and money.
Taking the time to write a social media plan is essential to ensure that using social media is beneficial in meeting your business and marketing objectives.
Online marketing can be beneficial for your business due to its low costs, interactivity of communication and the potential for a wide audience. There are online tools available to conduct all types of promotions including:
- Building your own website – a website can help you build your brand and communicate with your customers. You may also use your website to sell your goods through an e-commerce system.
- Email marketing – this is a cheap and effective method of contacting your customers online. Email marketing can increase traffic to your website, maintain customer relationships and promote new products or services.
- Mobile advertising – this can be used to reach your customers through their mobile device or tablet.
- Search Engine Optimisation – once you have a website, Search Engine Optimisation can help you increase website traffic.
- Online networking – use existing networking websites or your own website or blog to raise awareness of your business.
- Social media – if used well, social media can assist you to build your brand, attract followers, generate discussion and feedback, offer special discounts and maintain customer service.
Selling online is known as e-commerce (electronic commerce). You might also hear it referred to as ‘online trading’ and ‘online shopping’.
Before you decide to sell online, use the Checklist for Business-consumer E-Commerce in Australia and read The Australian Guidelines for Electronic Commerce to learn about developing strategies to deal with business to consumer e-commerce.
Find out more about doing business online.
Running an online business can come with its share of risks. If your computer accesses the internet, then it may be vulnerable to various security issues, such as viruses and malware, spam (junk emails and adware), being hacked, online scams, online payment and credit card fraud.
These issues can be a problem both in terms of your computer's usability – which can impact on your business operations – and for your customers, as their information could be at risk. Ensuring your business is using effective online security practices can reduce the chance of this happening to you.
If your business uses computer equipment, operates online or even if you just use email to conduct business, you should make sure you and your staff use the internet in a safe and secure way.
There are some simple steps your business can take on to protect your personal and financial information online. Following these steps will help ensure you build and maintain customer trust and confidence in your business.
It is important to regularly assess your online security practices for your business. The ATO has developed an online security self-assessment questionnaire that is designed to provide you with appropriate measures and information to assist you to improve your online security.
For more tips to protect your business online, read Stay Smart Online's Small Business Guide.
Cloud technology is the use of third-party software, storage or infrastructure that can be accessed by multiple users over the internet. It uses internet technologies to reduce in-house IT overheads. Cloud technology allows a business to:
- access computing resources as services, instead of products that are purchased, installed and managed within your business
- increase or decrease computing resources to match fluctuations in business demand
- only pay for computing resources actually used and they can monitor usage.
Cloud technology offers both time and financial benefits which make it a good fit for businesses. However there are also issues that businesses need to be aware of and manage such as privacy and security, quality of service, access to data and ability to move it if required.
Training and resources
There are online resources that provide teaching materials for free. These resources can help increase and improve your staff’s set of skills without increasing costs. They can also help broaden the range of services your business can offer.
If you or your employees are not familiar with how the internet works, the Australian Government’s Internet Basics website might be useful. It explains how to do things on the internet in a simple, easy-to-understand way and doesn’t require prior web knowledge.
If you are familiar with using the internet and would like to learn more about online business, there are a number of organisations that provide access to learning materials like video or audio lectures, notes, exercises and essays.