By all accounts, presumptive Republic nominee Donald Trump’s campaign for the U.S. presidency is currently in trouble. He sacked his campaign manager; he trails Hilary Clinton in the polls by double digits; his staff is one-10th the size of hers; and his fundraising is pitiful by comparison.

He is also getting his hairdo handed to him on the digital front. He had been getting a fair amount of traction on Twitter, acting like everybody’s favorite troll, making outrageous claims, dissing entire countries and apparently putting no filter on his mouth.

But basically preaching to the converted in the Republican primary process is different than running in a general election, where large numbers of people need to be won over by an executive vision for this high office, and not just insults.

The turning of social media tides was best exemplified when Trump tweeted, “Obama just endorsed Crooked Hillary. He wants four more years of Obama – but nobody else does!”

2016-10-07-1475825431-5563321-DigitalmarketingClinton responded: “Delete your account” – a putdown aimed at someone using social media poorly (suggesting they should get rid of their accounts and give everybody a break). The rebuke has become the meme that roared across the Internet.

Trump has been criticized for his narrow use of social media and not having a “ground game” – a sophisticated cross-digital media strategy to get out the vote, especially in all-important swing states. As a result of his lack of social media presence, Clinton’s campaign website is recording five more time the traffic than the Donald’s, and may be one reason she is trumping him when it comes to online donations.

Donald Trump’s failed digital presence and the affect it has on his prospects serve as a sobering reminder, underlining the need for effective online marketing strategies for small business. Statistics show time and again that online marketing costs less and delivers more than traditional means. For example, Demand Metric claims that content marketing costs 62% less than traditional marketing and generates three times as many leads.

Another stat from Smart Insights reveals that while most companies try to do some content marketing that 50% do it without a sound plan. And without a plan for any kind of digital marketing, you run the risk of becoming irrelevant and being overwhelmed by the competition, just like, well, you know who.

The Better Way to Do It

To see a much better use of social media in a major political campaign, you don’t need to look further than last fall’s Canadian federal election. Liberal contender, and now Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau proved that he was much more than a pretty face with his deft use of social media.

Working across Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other channels, Trudeau made strong connections with people, showing that he was responsive to their views, that he was family man, that he had a sense of humour about himself (for example, about his hair) and that he stood for something different (and didn’t just spend his time ripping down his opponents). While all candidates posted videos to Twitter, Trudeau tailored his videos to the special needs and lengths imposed by different social media platforms.

As the result of his shrewd campaigning online, Trudeau’s social media numbers outstripped his rivals. For example, he had 66.3K Instagram followers compared to Stephen Harper’s 11.2K and Tom Mulcair’s 7.5K.

When the Liberal majority was announced, Twitter saw 827 tweets per minute on the subject, with Trudeau’s official Twitter account garnering 60% of all online mentions. Trudeau’s strong online campaign has also been credited with getting the strongest voter turnout in many years.

Like Prime Minister Trudeau, savvy businesses need to take to heart the truth that the average person spends more time online than they do consuming TV and all other media (newspapers, magazines, etc.) combined. A business venture, or a political campaign, can be made or broken by how it crafts its online presence and communications.

Lessons That Trump Should Learn

While there are many things that Mr. Trump needs to learn to become a well-rounded human being and effective statesman, here are a few things he needs to do to pump up his negligible online presence.

The following lessons are ones that all businesses can take to heart, if they want to pump up their digital marketing presences and stay ahead of the competition.

1. Have a Complete Digital Strategy That Includes Mobile

While Trump did have trolling tactics on Twitter, this isn’t the same as a full digital marketing strategy, with well-defined goals that take advantage of the full riches of the different social media channels. For a strategy to be effective, you have to clearly define who your target audience is and decide on the right tactics to reach them, to find innovative ways to generate leads online.

And you definitely can’t forget mobile these days, according to a Google article, “Micro-Moments.” About 91% of smartphone users turning to their mobile devices for ideas while engaged in specific tasks. And 82% turn to their phones to influence a purchase while in a store.

2. Optimize Your Performance

To have a strong presence online, you need to be found through search engines. The practice of search engine optimization (SEO) keeps evolving but its primary mission remains, to have you appear above the fold in search results. This requires fine-tuning of on-page attributes, building quality links and removing the ones (especially toxic ones that lead to Google penalties). It also demands flexibility and constant updating of expertise to keep up with the hundreds changes made to Google search algorithms every year, leading, for example, to the use of more natural, semantic language, instead of obvious and sometimes clunky industry keywords.

3. Have Something Important to Say

Content is still king when it comes to online marketing. Sure, it’s easy to insult people but to come out on top your audience needs to know that you have positive solutions, ones that address their pain points, so that they know there is substance behind the flash.

4. Have a Conversion Strategy

It’s not enough to get people’s attention. Once they are listening to you, you have to have a sound conversion strategy in place – whether it is to lead people along your sales funnel or to turn them into your committed voters.

5. Make Sure There’s a Zero Moment of Truth

Yes, one can say Donald Trump has zero moments of truth. But he also doesn’t have the Zero Moment of Truth. This describes the online revolution in how consumers search for purchase and then make the all-important decision to buy (the ZMOT), usually on a mobile phone. The technology has given them high expectations, so they expect results immediately when they use their device, perhaps while shopping, to quickly research a purchase of a product or service.

Savvy businesses that realize that loyalty is won one micro-interaction at a time. Brand loyalty in the new digital universe – where consumer expectations are high and their patience low – is won in the moment, as people look for instant information gratification. If you don’t understand how to cater to recognize and cater to ZMOT, then you won’t survive your competition.

6. Invest Money To Make an Impact

We shouldn’t have to tell this “self-made” billionaire that you need to invest in success. However, Mr. Trump seems carried away by the “free publicity” media gave him for his antics and so he appears to have neglected investing seriously in his digital marketing.  While you can believe any publicity is good publicity, becoming the punchline of everyone’s late-night TV or tweeted joke isn’t what you want when campaigning for president.

So how do you invest properly in your digital strategy?  You need to find an agency who truly understands your needs and aligns with your goals.  And they definitely shouldn’t be called Draper Sterling.

7. Know and Leverage All the Tools Available to You

In today’s complex and interconnected online marketing universe, you cannot be effective if you are a one-note wonder like someone who just tweets out disses of the competition. Working with your digital marketing partner, you can familiarize yourself will all the tools available to you – understanding the strengths and limitations of each – so you can put together an effective campaign with measurable results.

For example, if you want to kick start your effort – especially if organic search results are difficult to achieve in a competitive market – then you might consider a properly targeted pay-per-click (ad campaign) and programmatic ads, which use an “artificial intelligence” to automate and optimize ad placement.   The best tool to learn about your top keywords is the keyword planner from Google.  You’ll need a Gmail or Google Business email address to access this tool.  Once in the keyword planner, select “Get search volume and data trends”, this will allow you to see monthly search volume and cost per click.

The awareness built here could be supported with intelligent use of social media channels, followed by a remarketing strategy – keeping your brand and message in front of your site visitors as they travel elsewhere online, helping to convert their initial interest into actual sales.

8. Use Each Social Media Channel Wisely

While the Donald needs to use more social platforms than Twitter, he should also be aware of the dangers of blanketing social media indiscriminately. Every channel has particular requirements and is good for specific uses. A lot of time and energy needs to be devoted to understanding and employing each one, so the Trump brand, or any brand, isn’t diluted.

Facebook should be forgotten, for example. Recent stats show that people on average spend a 50 minutes a day on the platform, with ad impressions also rising steeply. Your strategy here should also keep in mind that Facebook is a place to connect to people and show that you understand their needs and pain points with useful content, but it doesn’t work well for hard sells or sales conversions. Or if your focus is business to business, then you will need a carefully crafted strategy to take advantage of LinkedIn’s networking capabilities.

If Donald heeds the above advice (we hope he doesn’t), then his floundering campaign might get new legs. But more important, he should serve as object lesson about the necessity of effective digital marketing for your business, so you can trump the competition.