Get online! Get a website! Blog regularly! Embrace Social Media! These are the messages you’re bombarded with if you freelance or run a small business.
But while it’s true that these days, an online presence is essential if you want to promote or sell, it’s equally true that you must consider carefully what your online presence says about you and the products or services you have to offer. First impressions count.
Beware Buying Support
The internet is full of people offering to sell you likes, shares, followers, favourites and fake positive reviews by the hundreds and thousands. However, while some people may claim this has been a positive step for their business, it doesn’t take long to find the horror stories and disappointments of strategies like this on that very same internet (and any company that buys fake reviews plunges down to the very deepest darkest depths in my estimation).
You may get thousands of followers, but they may not interact with you, share your message or have any interest in what you do, and all too often they won’t do anything that leads to greater sales for you. Some bought followers don’t know they’ve been bought, and get quite angry when they find out. Not great for your business. Other ‘bought’ followers aren’t people at all, and don’t have a single tweet or post to their name.
As for fake reviews, many companies have approached me to write them and I’ve always refused – however much money they’ve offered – while making a mental note never to give them my business. Because, hey, I know they’re not trustworthy. They’re prepared to lie and, equally worryingly, they feel the need to.
Be good enough not to need fake reviews. Being a trustworthy business owner or freelancer will pay its own dividends.
Beware Internet Scraps
However difficult it may be, always try to remain professional and polite when dealing with people online. Sometimes silence really is the dignified option. Block people if you must, especially the out-and-out trolls, and urge people with long-winded complaints or queries to contact you by email or phone. You may decide not to deal with queries or complaints at all via social media, in which case replying to them with a standard message, such as ‘Thanks for your message. To help us resolve your problem quickly, please email us at X’ can be useful – avoid any other communication other than this standard response.
Beware Aggravating People with Inappropriate Ads
It’s tempting to consider a blanket approach when you’re setting up online advertising, but if you’re adverts for your homemade vegetarian sausages keep on popping up when people are chatting on their Canterbury Carnivores group, they won’t thank you for it – and you’re just wasting resources and money. Pick your target audience carefully so that people aren’t sick of the sight of your logo.
Beware Forgetting the Social in Social Media
The clue’s in the name. Social media may have been inevitably hijacked as a promotional tool, but always think more promotion and less hard sell; more social and less advertising.
Give your followers a personal view of a product, share something relevant, drop in the odd line about what’s going on in the office or share a joke. This will make your customers – and potential customers – feel they have a social connection; you’re not just a faceless corporation. On the other hand, litter people’s timelines or feeds with repetitive adverts, continual special offers and very little else, and they’ll soon get fed up.
Beware Being Hard To Find
Want to be easy to find?
- List yourself or tag yourself on appropriate online directories and maps.
- Link your social media profiles together and display their icons prominently on your website and listings.
- Try to stick to using your company name where possible, and make your web address appropriate and memorable (for the right reasons. Some company names look dubious when the words run together. Check first).
- Be consistent with your branding.
Beware Ignoring Your Customers
Whether they’ve left a comment on your blog, sent you an email or mentioned you on social media, you must respond to them swiftly – but thoughtfully. This will enhance your reputation both with them and with anyone else able to see the comment; it’s your chance to display great customer service skills. Don’t ignore them or let their comments go unanswered for days on end, but DO think before responding.
Finally…Beware Being Behind The Times
Up-to-date and relevant content in a font and style that’s easy to read, homed on a well-designed, attractive, easy-to-navigate and mobile-responsive website and shared wisely with potential and existing customers on well-maintained social media streams, is your goal. In the words of Captain Picard, Make It So!