When customers make a purchase from your online business pretty much every time the decision to purchase from you is not based on how your product or service fulfills their needs, or the pricing of your product. In nearly 99.9% of transactions the customer will purchase from you online because they trust you.
The customer most likely will not have simply come across your site and purchased there and then after just one interaction, they will have built up a profile of what you do based on a number of “trustability” signals, and the impression an online customer has of your business can be heavily influenced by the touch points that introduced them to your website in the first place.
Since many of the entry points to your website are going to be from social profiles, whether it be Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, forums, blog comments or online business communities what many small business owners and entrepreneurs miss is making sure they are creating a consistent and professional online social profile across each and every web presence they create.
If you’re attending an offline professional business networking group you wouldn’t turn up in your weekend sports kit or the Hawaiian shirt you bought on last year’s holiday and you should make sure your online social profiles are all well dressed too.
Here are our top 3 social profile mistakes we’ve seen on the web that have severely affect the “trustability” factor of your small business, and some tips on how to avoid them
1) Avatar Images
Avatars are the small square picture that you see attached to blog comments, forum posts, social media and online community profiles. They are a visual cue to readers of these sources that show what you might be like in the offline world and rightly or wrongly people judge whether they trust you or not by your appearance in these avatars.
Avoid using avatars that are:
- Holiday snaps from your last vacation with the family, and include your ski instructor, your wife and your 3 kids. You have a professional life and a private life and in nearly all cases if someone is conducting a business transaction online with you they don’t want to have that intimate connection with your private life. There’s a difference between coming into your virtual online shop and entering your home to have dinner with you.
- Badly taken pictures. Don’t have images of you standing in front of a tree with branches appearing to grow out of your head, low resolution pixelated images, blurry images or images badly cut or cropped from other pictures.
- Incorrectly sized pictures or logos where only part of your image shows up on the social media avatar leaving people wondering if they’ve come across an episode of Catchphrase and that they have to guess a question to get the next part of the image.
- Fake images of people that don’t exist, or worst still do exist but are not part of your company. That cheesy smile stock photo of a customer service call centre agent wearing a headset doesn’t cut it any longer. Don’t use the internet to hide behind, treat it in the same way as you would an offline business. People still want to feel like they are doing business with humans, even if it’s a web server that’s actually exchanging the value. If you have a customer service person working for you put up their real picture instead.
Instead use well shot professional images of yourself taken in a setting that reflects your business and will be visually expected by it’s viewer. If you’re business is usually expected to be in an office then get a friend or colleague to take a good digital camera image of you professionally posed in business or smart casual attire or arrange a basic shoot with a local professional photographic studio.
If you’re in the landscape gardening business maybe the setting will be in one of your most creative client settings. Also try to get a good framed head shot and don’t forget to give a genuine smile in the photo too. Use the same picture across all of your online profiles too for consistency of brand, and also to enable potential customers to visually recognize you across all the platforms they may use in the link chain to get to your website and make a purchase.
2) Online Social Profile Bios
When you join an online forum or social media community often you’ll be given the chance to fill out some extra information about you and your business but many business owners forget to take advantage of using this to build visibility and brand awareness across the web. One of the most visited pages on websites is the About Us page and if you’re missing the equivalent component in your social profiles your overlooking an opportunity to build trust with a prospect.
When your signing up for a new online social account here’s some of the valuable things that you should look out for that might otherwise be missed:
- Fill out your website’s URL, it’s amazing how many social profiles offer the ability to add your web address but have never been filled out. I find it very frustrating when I want to find out more about someone or their company and I have to jump through hoops to find them online. Make it a simple one click operation to visit your website from your social profiles and this will help increase your traffic and give prospects the signals that you thought about their user experience.
- Add a brief elevator pitch of no more than 1 or two paragraphs into the about us field of a social media profile. Keep information succinct and to the point; social media profiles are for painting a picture of your business and your products or services. You want to pique the viewers interest without being cryptic or spammy and lead them to want to visit your website for further information. Keep your about us on topic too so avoid adding that you’re a dog lover, hold the world record for eating hot dogs in one sitting or that you’re the worlds biggest basketball fan.
- Use the same elevator pitch on all your social profile about us sections. Having an inconsistent message about who you are and what your business is about will cause confusion for prospects. In contrast maintaining the same messaging across all the social platforms you’re on means when people come across you and your business on another platform they’ll feel like they’re meeting a familiar recognisable brand that they’ve seen before and this will create a powerful compound effect on your trustability.
Even though you may be doing business across the globe from your website, in their minds prospects will still connect best with you when they know they’re dealing with a business in their home country. This may differ slightly if you’re in the information business and are selling downloadable products or services however people will still be more comfortable knowing where you’re based so adding your registered business address or even simply your city and country will help people show you have a real contactable business behind your online persona
Things to remember when adding location information to your social profiles are
- If you don’t have physical offices or are running a small business from home invest in a mailbox address or a registered office address to give your social profile a real offline address.
- Make sure you fill out your city and country field in your Twitter profile, it’s one of the most commonly missed fields in a Twitter bio.
- Don’t put “Offices in New York, Amsterdam, London & Milan” in your social profiles unless you really do have physical locations or real mailing addresses there that prospects can verify.
- Just because you’re doing business on the web does not automatically make you a global multinational company so using the word “Global” or “Worldwide” as your location is a common error that cause a lack of trust too. Even if we think of ourselves as global citizens your prospects all have roots somewhere.
What other things have you noticed that small businesses miss from their online social profiles. Share your thoughts in the comments section below.
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