Authenticity can be hard to find these days. In this day and age, the internet is so full of information, half of which is either made up or twisted to lure you in. It can sometimes be difficult to establish trust in companies or advertisements for that very reason. That's why an online presence is important, and representing yourself authentically is paramount. Here are 5 tips on how to represent your company and yourself authentically on the internet and why it's important:
1. Introduce Yourself
You would think this first tip would be a given, but let me tell you, some companies don't know how to properly introduce themselves to their audience on the internet. I've come across websites where it's taken several clicks, or endless scrolling, just to figure out who the owner of the company is, where the company is located, and what they do. The first thing you should be concerned about if you want an online presence is to introduce yourself! Tell your audience why you're here and why your company or services and products will resonate with them. On the first page of your website, you should have your mission statement, your address, and a professional photo of the manager/owner. Your audience wants to know who they are interacting with. Especially if you are a sole proprietor, you want to make sure that people are coming to your website and knowing who you are as a person and why they want to create a professional relationship with you. For example, if you owned your own hand-soap company, give your audience a little background story of why you started making hand-soap in the first place, why it's your passion now, and what your goal is for the future. Not only incorporate this information on your website but post about it every now and then on social media. Let people get to know you!
2. Use Professional Photos
As a commercial photographer, I can't express enough the importance of getting professional photos done for your branding and website. Why? Because we live in a digital age where people are more likely to see your product first, before reading about it. That's why phone photos or cheap photos will not do. If you want more traffic to your website and more clicks on your advertisements, then provide high-quality photos that will capture someone's attention while scrolling through their feed. The same goes for any headshot photos of you or your employees. If you want to connect to your audience, then give them a nice professional picture of your bright-smiley-face. It automatically gives you authority and tells your audience that you take your business seriously. Last but not least, throw out the stock images. I will cover this topic more in-depth in a future post, but for now, let this idea sink in: If I am a customer, looking for your company to help me out, wouldn't I want to see exactly what you have to offer? How can I envision your service or product if it's of someone else or some other space taken from a stock image? I would be much less inclined to go with you over your competitor who has images of exactly what they offer, their staff, and their office space. Let your audience see upfront what they are getting themselves into. Don't make them guess.
3. Be Vulnerable
Being a little vulnerable is key to being authentic on the internet. Your audience wants to know that you're human, and not some robot trying to sell them your product. Establish a relationship with others by being vulnerable. Vulnerability can come in various forms. For instance, every now and then create a post on social media that talks about your family, your loved one, or a fellow friend that has impacted you in some way, shape, or form. Talk more in-depth about how your company got started, what were some of the challenges you faced at first and how you overcame them. Empower your audience by letting them into your life, just a little, and giving advice to those who are looking up to you. In the words of Brene Brown, "vulnerability is the birthplace of innovation, creativity, and change." Allow yourself to be vulnerable in your business by taking risks, asking for input from your audience and making needed changes, and getting yourself out there. With just a little bit of vulnerability, you'll go a long way.
4. Engage in Meaningful Conversations
It's so easy these days to give a little thumbs up or heart emoji in response to someone's comment on social media. Although there are times to do that, I would say take the extra step to actually reply and give a simple "thank you!" or "Thanks for your feedback, I would love to hear more." This lets the person know that they were actually heard and understood. In addition, ask follow up questions to people's remarks on your social media posts or website. Your audience wants to see if you care enough to respond to them and get to know them a little. I know for larger businesses, that's nearly impossible or very time consuming if you get a lot of feedback on posts. However, I would still suggest making it a priority to at least some of your followers. Don't forget to also respond to negative comments or feedback in a professional way. Those people also need to be seen and heard, even if you don't agree with what they are saying. At least acknowledge their presence and let them know that you appreciate the time they took to give feedback. As a small-business owner myself, I find it so important to act professionally, but also remember that my goal is to establish relationships, not just sell my product or service. I want my audience to know that they are heard, no matter what their feedback is.
Authenticity is key in this day and age. It allows you to create meaningful relationships with your audience and establish yourself as a business. These tips will not only help you become more authentic but excel at being genuine and reliable as a business owner. If you are stuck on any one of these steps, please feel free to reach out. I would love to help in any way that I can. You can contact me here.