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Checklist for start-ups – setting up your digital presence

For most startups, setting up a digital presence is a key step in getting a new business ready for launch, whether that’s a website, social pages, an email address or more. This checklist covers the things you are most likely to need.

Article

6 min read

Before you begin

Before you can set up any digital assets, you will need to work through the following.

  • Decide which platforms you will need. Do you need a website? Or, will you be able to trade purely off social media pages? If using social media, which platforms will you actively use e.g. Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter, etc? Even if you don’t plan to have a website, it may still be worth having a domain name for use in future - and likewise it may be worth claiming your handle on key social platforms, even if you're not ready to use them yet. It's also important to understand how to keep these platforms secure. Watch our video tutorial for advice and guidance on keeping your business safe online.
  • Choose a business name and domain name. As well as checking your preferred business name doesn’t exist already (and you’re not facing any issues with using someone else’s trademark) your naming decision may partly be based on the availability of the same domain name. The 'domain name' is the web address for your new business and is what your customers will use to access your website and will also be the basis for your business email address. Ideally this should be the same as your business name or, if not identical, should be very similar to minimise customer confusion. If you find the name you want is not available, you could consider variations on it, e.g. adding your location onto the end. Or you may wish to reconsider the name entirely. To check availability of domain names, simply search online ‘domain name registration UK’ and you will see many providers which have a search facility. For more information read this guide.
  • Design your logo and your favicon. You can design your logo through one of the many simple logo design tools available online, or through a professional designer. Ensure your final logo is provided as a vector file, to ensure you can scale it up or down without losing quality. Remember your logo must be unique and not in breach of copyright or trademark. You will also need to create a small ‘favicon’ version of your logo for including on digital assets. Favicons are the little square logos that you often see in front of the URL in the browser address bar or in a list of bookmarked sites. They might be your whole logo shrunk to a mini version of 16 x 16 pixels or they may use a small element of your logo like a motif. Tools such as Favicon.io can help if you don’t have a designer.

Claiming your business properties

Buy domain name(s)

Once you’ve chosen your domain name, you’ll need to buy it and also consider buying the other most common domain extensions that your customers may use (e.g. ‘.com’, ‘.co.uk’, ‘.org’ etc), any appropriate international markets and even other close variants. These variants should be 'redirected' to your main domain, which you can do through your domain provider or website builder platform. Your chosen domain registrar may also be able to provide you with web hosting and email services as part of the package. Although there is often a charge for this, it is usually relatively low cost for small simple businesses.

Claim social media handles/accounts

Once you've chosen your domain name and decided on the social platforms that are right for your business, you will need to claim your social media handles and set up your business pages.

  • Facebook page. If you are planning to use Facebook you will likely want to set up a business Facebook page for your business. You do this through your personal Facebook login (note that information from your personal profile won't appear on your business page unless you actively share it). Use your business name as the business page name and as your Facebook ‘vanity’ URL. Remember to have a profile pic and cover photo ready.
  • LinkedIn page. If you have decided LinkedIn is the right fit for your business you can choose to create a company page (it is also a good idea to have a personal profile if you don’t already). Ensure that you fill in all of the information you can about your company in your page, including your web address, company description, cover photo, logo, tagline, call to action buttons, etc.
  • Twitter. If you are planning to use Twitter or think you will in the near future, claim your Twitter handle and set up your business profile. Ideally use your business name as your account name and @name, but if that is taken, select a close variant as your @name. Add your profile and header photos, a bio and even a pinned tweet. Remember if no one logs in at least every six months, your account could become inactive.
  • Instagram. Again, if you are planning to use Instagram you should switch to an Instagram business account. Note, you need to have (or set up) a personal account first, to be able to 'switch' to a business account. Use your business name as your username (or a close variant) and link to your website. Also add your preferred contact details, and fill in your bio and profile pic. You can also decide whether to link your Instagram business account with your Facebook business page.
  • YouTube. If you will be creating video content you may want to create a YouTube channel for your business. To do this you will first need to set up a Google Account for your business which you will use to sign to YouTube - this is free to set up. Then, once logged in, head to YouTube and select 'create a channel'. Use your business name as your channel name and handle (or as close a variant as you can) and your logo as a profile pic.
  • Pinterest. Again, if you are planning to use Pinterest you should set up a Pinterest business account for your business, to gain useful features such as the shoppable pins, the ability to run ads, and data on your pins. As before, make sure to use your business name and fill in all of the details you can about your business. You can also add a link to your website.
  • TikTok. TikTok is a unique social channel that requires its own strategy, which is likely to be very different from your other social channels. First consider whether TikTok is the right fit for your business, and that you fully understand the way users and brands are using the channel (and use it yourself to ensure you understand it). If you are keen to use TikTok, create a TikTok business account. Use your business name as your account name and (most likely) your logo as a profile pic. Add a snappy bio and link to your other social accounts.

Next steps

Set-up business email

Once you have your domain name, you may wish to set up your business email address using this domain. Even if you are working on your own, if you have a website, it’s more professional to use a domain based email than using your personal email. It also keeps everything separate, making it easier to manage.

When you registered your domain name, or set up your site using a website builder, the service may have included the option to set up your email via a provider such as Microsoft 365 or Gmail (although this may just be for the first few months). You can also set this up directly with an email provider.

Expect to pay a small monthly fee for each email address based at your domain.

Remember you will be able to download apps for your email for Android or iOS so you can access it easily from your phone or tablet as well as your computer.

For individual email addresses and mailboxes consider:

  • Name format. Using firstname@domain may work ok if there will only ever be a few of you. However, if not, best to use firstname.surname@domain right from the start, especially if you could ever have two people with the same first name
  • Shared mailboxes. This is handy for customers to contact you through a simple address e.g. hello@, sales@, customerservice@ or finance@. If there’s just one or two of you, you use these to can keep different workstreams separate. Should you recruit more staff, you can grant access for several people to these mailboxes, so they are easier to monitor and share workload.

Design and build your website on your domain

You may opt to do this yourself via an off the shelf web-builder (such as Squarespace, Wix, Shopify, or even the same provider that you bought your domain name through). Alternatively, if your site needs to be bespoke or more complex, you may wish to outsource design and build to a freelancer or agency.

Three things to remember:

  • Hosting. You pay a fee for hosting your website. If you use a website builder hosting is usually provided in the monthly package. If you use a freelancer or agency they will likely sort this for you. If your site builder is different from your domain host you will need to point your domain to your web hosts servers - done within the platform.
  • Consider creating a holding page on your site until it’s fully developed. This shows any early leads that you are in progress and can perhaps be diverted to follow you on social media for the time being.
  • Add site tracking like Google Analytics. Often forgotten till the last minute, this is a valuable way to build insight on your business and your marketing from launch. However make sure that you understand your GDPR obligations and take the necessary actions, such as having cookie and privacy policies on your site and gaining express permission from site visitors to use cookies before this tracking is loaded.

Online payment and booking functionality

If you are an eCommerce site, selling physical or digital products, you will probably need to accept online payments and will need to research the best options for your business.

Even if you provide a physical service, you may wish to manage bookings online and potentially accept payments too.

Find out more about eCommerce or selecting an online booking system.

GDPR compliance

From the minute you launch your business you’ll need to be aware of GDPR legislation relating to how you capture, store, secure and manage any personal data relating to your customers and staff.

Most businesses will also need to register with the Information Commissioner’s Office which also provides a library of information on this legislation. They have a section specifically for small businesses.

The immediate tasks you will need to complete if you have a website are:

  • Cookie consent. If you are using any cookies on your site (which most sites do, including when you are using analytics), you must inform your users of these cookies and gain their explicit consent before you track their use of your site - which most sites do via a cookie banner pop up. When gaining users' consent, your web-builder platform may have a cookie acceptance banner option, however make sure that this also covers third-party cookies. You may want to consider using a consent management platform such as CookieBot.
  • Privacy and cookie policy. If you are using cookies you will need a cookie policy. You will also need a privacy policy, especially if you are storing any customer information via contact forms or purchases, to explain how and what data is stored. Further information can be found from the Information Commissioner’s Office.
  • Data storage. Customer information is key to many businesses, whether this is storing customers’ bank details, contact information, delivery addresses, email addresses, marketing info etc. You must ensure that this data is stored securely and in compliance with GDPR. You also need to decide how to store this data - for example in office software (such as Microsoft Excel or Google sheets), in CRM software (such as Microsoft Dynamics, HubSpot) or in other programmes such as your inventory or accounting platforms.

Once your online presence is up and running, consider how you will optimise and manage your platforms and drive traffic. Check out DigitalBoost for guides, articles, webinars and 1:1 support to help you with your digital marketing.

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