No matter what your business is, or how you promote yourself, chances are, someone is going to be looking for information about you online. How you present and maintain your personal brand can be crucial to the growth of your business. But it’s important that your online brand matches who you really are.
Here are some ways you can appear authentic online:
1. Be real about who you are. If you are a one or two person business, don’t pretend to have an enormous team offering a raft of services. Customers can relate to the small business operator, especially if your online presence is personal and shows your passion for what you do.
2. Be socially authentic. Your level of social media engagement will vary depending on the type and size of your business. Where appropriate (and safe), try to include personal headshots so that your customers know who they are dealing with, and use short video messages to create engaging and authentic content. It’s much easier to see and believe your passion through your voice, body language and facial expressions than to read endless text.
3. When creating content, make sure you are including some valuable information – not a promise of what they will find out after buying something but a genuine exchange of information. You don’t have to give away your secrets for free, but some generosity and transparency online will build trust with your audience that will make them more likely to pay for goods and services in the future.
4. Make sure your customers can contact you, find your store, or ask questions about your products and services. How many times have you read great things about a business then struggled to spot where they are located? If you are time poor, limit contact details to one or two methods (say email and web form) that you can monitor regularly, and try to respond within 24 hours. Only include your phone number if you are willing to be contacted at all hours.
5. Make sure everything you say is true and can be verified. The online world is full of scammers hiding behind the smoke and mirrors of their claims to success. But it doesn’t take long for false claims to be uncovered. If you believe in yourself and your business, and have happy clients, the truth will be enough to attract more like them.
6. Focus on the basics – giving your customers great experiences, and listening to their feedback. Own your mistakes. Even if you don’t like or agree with their negative feedback, acknowledge that they did not have the experience they expected or that you intended, whatever the reason. Responding quickly, maturely and with respect goes a long way in dealing with customer complaints.
7. Seek reviews wherever possible. A third party report will always carry more credibility than claims you can make yourself. Ask clients to complete review online, or do a quick video interview while you are with them and they have just enjoyed your product or service. Rating a service provider is a relatively new online tool and can be vastly useful for your future clients in choosing you. Being given a high rating form your clients is a great compliment and reflection on your service. But make sure you are focussing on the current client’s experience, and not the rating (which will attract future clients).
8. Creating content online can be time consuming and won’t always reap rewards. You don’t have to be on every possible platform – pick two that are appropriate for your business and where you can have an impact, whether that’s Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn or blogging. If you respond and post regularly on one or two platforms you will build followers and enthusiasts through your consistency and availability, rather than jumping on the latest trend and spreading yourself too thin.
Most importantly, make sure your online brand reflects you. Give your online followers the same respect, privacy, attention and professionalism that you would if it was face to face. You know you are being authentic if there are no surprises when you meet an online customer in real life.