The misguided notion that people are not turning to the Internet when making important purchasing decisions is becoming increasingly difficult to legitimize. The old fallbacks for not being online with your brand such as, “we count on word of mouth referrals to grow our customers” or “as a boutique firm we prefer more traditional methods of communication,” are fine for companies that don’t want to grow. But for those who do—it’s time to join the game.
For certain potential customers, your online reputation might as well be your only reputation. Whether you like it or not, an increasing number of people are online, and if your presence isn’t strong, you’re probably missing out on potential revenue and the traction you need to get your business off the ground. According to the infographic provided by wearesocial.com below, there is no discrimination when it comes to online engagement. Usage is increasing across all platforms by significant percentages on both the Internet and social media, which means that business startups need to be there as well.
I work with a wide range of startups from consumer goods to high-powered hedge funds, and they all share two things in common: When they start with us they have a great idea and strong desire to build a positive reputation around it, in order to launch their business, and once they’ve partnered with us they have a clearly identifiable online brand. No matter what their industry, age, or product, transparent businesses need to be online. Of course, there’s always resistance—the idea of building an online presence is overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to be. With over a decade in the online reputation management space, I’ve heard it all when it comes to rationalizing out of an online presence. I’ve listed the top four below, and the reasons that negate them, which also shed light on the power of online branding. I have gotten the most stubborn entrepreneurs to realize the importance of an online presence, and in almost all cases this mindset shift has been a game changer that’s significantly increased their business and given them the power to hone in on their ideal clients so they are working less for greater revenue.
It’s too time-consuming to manage.
I get this frequently, but it is important to remember that social media is more about consistency than frequency and more about quality than quantity. While you want a presence that your followers learn to anticipate, it doesn’t have to overwhelm you or them. I know several brands that have created a robust following posting one-to-two times per week, with consistency and strong messaging. sometimes less is more, as long as it’s thoughtful and specific to your brand. Using social media as an example, consider starting with 2-3 unique posts per month, the rest can consist of engagement with other posts, such as short response to timely news and events that come across your feed. This gives you an opportunity to present your expertise in the context of relevant topics that are on people’s mind. Quality over quantity applies for the size of your audience too. You don’t need the entire world to follow you on social media, just people, and companies that are relevant to your customer base.
I don’t want to take the time to master another sales channel.
I advise people to not be so close-minded in this regard. For one thing, the Internet is fast. While it might take some time to build your online brand—which we can help you with here—it significantly decreases the time potential clients spend in your pipeline. The format of the Internet is perfect for educating consumers through branding and storytelling moments, that also alert them to the potential your product or service has to offer as solutions to their problem. Learning to respond in this environment will not just improve your sales technique across this single channel of the Internet or social media, it will help clarify the problems your services can provide solutions to in real time—that’s the beauty of the internet. It will help you to become a master of your brand potential across all sales channels.
I don’t want to make myself a target for bad press.
While it may seem contrary to the expectation, being on social media can actually create a greater sense of trust in your client-base. Regardless if negative content exists online in association with your brand, the Internet not only gives you the opportunity to respond to it, but also to present information that counteracts it. It also allows you to engage with the “problem” and address it first hand. First of all, this makes you and your brand more human—we all can relate to making mistakes—and second of all it shows good will on your part if you are open to acknowledging it. Brand Yourself also recommends using a monitoring system, and we’re are soon launching a social scanner that has the capability to scan social and tag past unsavory posts, much the way we’ve done on the internet. Between advancements in tools like this, startups have all the potential to combat negative attention and actually use their ability to respond as part of their brand building technique.
It’s a compliance nightmare.
We get it. We’ve been there and worked with financial firms and hedge funds, that deal with the monster of compliance. In reality, it’s not so scary, but simply another element to factor into the building of your brand in the online space. The Harvard Business Review agrees stating “The combination of the right policy and the right technology can render even the most delicate of communications compliant.” Understanding the requirements and expectations at all levels, from your industry down to your company’s standards, and track what is and isn’t possible when it comes to social media. Use this as a guideline for what you want to accomplish online, and then compliance can actually work as a helpful structure in narrowing down the potential for your online brand. Creating a format for this presence is crucial both for the ease of implementation and for honing the expectations of your audience.
While building an online presence can easily be accomplished internally, the draw of working with an online reputation management company, or experts in the ORM space is that it allows many of the perceived drawbacks of online branding to work for you as a means to optimize your presence. If you’re just starting out, I recommend considering what you want to accomplish in creating an online presence and allow those goals to guide you in determining your trajectory.