Kids who have grown up as internet-natives are pros at managing their online image. At first, all the selfies, the social media chatter, and the oversharing might seem silly to us, but the truth is that these kids understand something that we don’t: in a world where 43% of visits to a medical professional start with an online search, where 45% of employers check out social media profiles in order to screen applicants, and where 80% of attorneys saying that they have seen social networking evidence in their cases, your online image matters!
So, just as you dress to impress when you meet a new client, and just as you think about how your shop front looks to people walking by, you need to think about the image that you’re projecting of your business online, which will usually be the first impression that people get of you.
Here are some tips to help you manage your online image, and attract the kinds of customers that you want to help grow your business.
Invest in a website that will represent you well
It doesn’t need to be complicated, but in the world today, having a website is like having a listing in the phonebook. You either have it, or people wonder if you still exist, if you’re a legitimate business, and whether you’ve gone under while they weren’t looking.
With just a glance at your website, people will make assumptions about your business. People who are familiar with the internet will be able to tell if you’re old fashioned, if you have technical problems, and if you care about your image. So invest in a site that will look good and reflect your business’ strengths
Make sure that you’re present where you need to be
Most people will do a cursory search of your business to learn your phone number, location, and customer reviews. That’s why it’s important to claim your business on Google and managing your listing there, as well as monitoring the reviews that people post. Respond to problems and do what you can to mend them, so that people know that you’re responsive and accommodating. Collect positive reviews from customers so that your listing isn’t just full of people who were peeved enough to go online for a rant.
If you decide to put your business on social media, make sure that you claim official profiles for your identity and control the conversation. Social media doesn’t work for every business, but most businesses have some way that a certain platform can benefit them. If you’re a dental or pediatric office, it might be nice for prospective patients to get a look at your faces in a casual setting in order to feel more at ease with you on Facebook. If you’re involved in helping small businesses grow, you might want to be active on Twitter and LinkedIn, sharing advice and joining in the conversations about the best practices and what thought leaders in your industry are saying. If you’re an e-commerce business, or you rely on online shoppers, you should have a Pinterest presence.
Use great imagery
Most websites are moving more and more towards visual media. People make their first impressions of your company and identity within seconds, depending mainly on the visual impression that you make.
So, your logo and your images will be the most important aspects of your online image. For that reason, you might want to get some really great pictures of you, your office, and the team. Get high-quality and high-resolution photographs that represent the impression you want to give your customers and clients.
If you use imagery regularly to advertise your product (for example, you’re a bake shop or you sell clothes or you repaint old cars) then you’ll want to invest in tools that will allow you to take great photos of your products and service. Practice, and learn which images resonate best with your customers. This article details some of the aspects of a really good photo to keep in mind when you’re doing your own photography.
Make sure your legal ducks are in a row
Far too many of us stumble onto the internet without the least idea about copyright laws and protecting our content. If your business model relies on intellectual property, it’s especially important to have a lawyer to advise you on your conduct in that department. However, even if your business is in a different area, your branding and marketing efforts will need to be protected by certain measures. Make sure that you have a code of conduct for online marketing practices that your marketers, employees, and you all know and adhere to.
Your online image will depend in large part on your public reputation, and it’s important to protect that by taking smart measures in how you claim your business, your name, and how your brand is handled by others. That last thing you want is for another business to sue you for claiming their space and identity online. Read here for more information about how a lawyer benefits even small businesses as they grow.
Consider your branding thoughtfully and make a plan
What are the values of your company? What makes you unique among your competitors? How do you communicate with others in the industry, with prospective customers, and current ones?
All of these things should be consistent in every impression that people have of your company. Just as your marketers, employees, and managers all follow certain legal guidelines when representing your company, you should also have an agreed-upon way to talk about your company itself for the sake of branding.
Your company is nothing unless it has an identity that people can recognize and interact with. Your company’s branding will need to include:
- A mission statement that includes your goals and values as a company, including ethical standards to which you hold yourself.
- A positioning statement which states who your primary audience is, and what sets you apart in your industry.
- A design template that includes your branding indicators, like logo, typeface, and hex colors that are used in all marketing materials and any forward-facing media.
- A brand identity that includes the actual tone and persona that you want to project as a company. This may include the tone of language that you use. For example, are you more professional or casual? Funny? Conversational? Quietly authoritative? Brand identity will help employees know how to engage with fans on social media, and give you a direction to go when you’re brainstorming new marketing efforts.