BY: BRENT BARNHART ON TUESDAY, JANUARY 22, 2013 –http://www.chamberofcommerce.com
As technology has evolved so rapidly over the past decade or so to bring us information and commerce faster than we ever could have thought possible, it’s easy to forget some of the less savory aspects of the Internet.
Let’s consider spam, for example.
Nobody likes junk mail. Similarly, nobody likes spam. Regardless, it’s something that we as internet users have had to deal with since we first logged on. Whether in the form of junk email or fake websites, users have become more and more accustomed to the barrage of spam that comes with the territory of doing business online.
Although many people may consider spam to be a “thing of the past,” think again:
- Over 70% of all emails circulating today are spam messages
- Just under 10% of all Facebook accounts are either fake, duplicate or spam
- Only 32.4% of Twitter followers of the top 10 most active Twitter accounts are “real” users
There are plenty of scams and spam out there; so what does this have to do with your small business?
The rampant epidemic of spam, spread rapidly through the social network and blogosphere, has left many users very, very cautious in terms of who they can really trust online. Whether such users are attempting to do business or are simply using the web to communicate; there’s a certain aura of fear that keeps many users cautious. For this reason, it’s crucial that your business upholds a certain standard and keeps itself from being mistaken as spam. Although you may feel that your business is pushing the right buttons when it comes to looking legitimate, consider the following:
Don’t Act Like a Robot
Show your visitors and customers that you indeed are a real person. This can be done by updating your website and social media channels on a regular, consistent basis. This is important for the sake of your readership and SEO purposes, but it also achieves the simple task of letting people know that your business is alive and well. An aging, inactive website could be a potential red flag to a new user.
Furthermore, creating your own original content is a double-whammy when it comes to making your website look more valuable and assuring visitors that you’re not just a spammer. In an era where so many sites are stealing and scraping their content from across the depths of the web, having your own quality content is a treasure. Let your business’ personality shine through your content and provide your readers with a consistent voice. Plain and simple, do what you need to do in order to sound human and ensure your visitors that you are indeed a real person.
For example, many small businesses use tools such as Hootsuite in order to monitor and update their social media channels. Many may go overboard, however, and exclusively update through such a program or spam out tweets and status updates on an hourly basis. Such spammy behavior is a turn-off to new users and will make your company look questionable. Feel free to take advantage of automated tools when it comes to updating, blogging, social media and so on, simply make sure you’re using those tools to benefit your business rather than sabotage it.
Tell Your Story (and Not Somebody Else’s) As a small business owner, you are a storyteller. Likewise, your story is completely unique to your business. Don’t be afraid to tell your story. After all, it’s the one aspect of your business that simply cannot be imitated.
You may elaborate on the narrative, goals and achievements of your company and products through utilizing quotes from customers, testimonials, ratings, reviews and your “About Me” page. A combination of these will build credibility for your business and make you look more legitimate. Furthermore, sites that utilize such trust-building content tend to perform better than sites that go without it.
Be sure to use actual quotes, reviews and testimonials. However, don’t put in the hours just to embellish such information. Use the names ofreal people and get their consent before doing so. This may be relatively difficult if you’re a business just getting off the ground; however, social media can be a handy tool in acquiring such quotes and evangelists for your business. Don’t go behind anyone’s back or go around posting a bunch of fake quotes or names; your visitors will be able to see right through it. Users have become much more aware of scams and will detect a problem when they see dozens of quotes from “Joe Smith” and “Tom Brown” heralding your product as some kind of miracle.
Your “About Me” page is incredibly important, too. Many “spammy” sites will lack such pages or will remain extremely brief when it comes to providing information on a company or its history. By providing some backstory on your company and its goals, you allow your personality to come through and provide your visitors with some peace of mind as they know that they’re visiting a legitimate site.
In short, tell your story and be truthful when doing so.
Look More Than Generic
In a world full of spam, SEO and lots of generic site templates, it’s hard to stand out from the pack in the midst of many businesses that look, feel and sound exactly the same. Your business needs to do what it can to look like an innovator rather than an imitator.
If you’re afraid that your business looks like every other business on the block, you may need to consider a facelift for your business’ site. If you follow the previous two steps, your visitors should feel a sense of personality from your business. Take this a step further by giving your users something to truly look at when they come to your business’ website.
When it comes to creating logos, finding pictures and designs for your website, don’t be afraid to think outside of the box. You can go beyond the generic WordPress templates or typical stock photos we’ve seen a billion times before. While you don’t necessarily need to hire a graphic designer or tech guru in order to set your business apart, you may consider some outside help in making your business look more legitimate.
You don’t have to gotoo far outside of the box, but consider the number of businesses in your space and ask yourself; what are you doing to set yourself apart?
Give your users the opportunity to contact you and allow yourself a chance to respond to their inquires; this is a surefire away to let your users know that you are anything but a spammer.
There’s nothing more frustrating than trying to get a hold of someone and having inadequate or incorrect contact information. If there’s a barrier between you and your customer when it comes to making contact, that’s a red flag. Remember, users are cautious these days. Don’t put up any barriers where you don’t have to.
Furthermore, always put yourself out in the open when it comes to your customers. Allow your visitors the opportunity to contact your through social media or your site’s “About Me” page, where you may list an email or phone number. Make sure your contact information is up-to-date. Don’t provide an email address that you never check or a phone number that’s disconnected. Additionally, take the time to respond to any worthwhile inquiries that you receive. Failure to do so will indeed make you look like a spammer.
Nobody’s Perfect (and That’s Okay)
Oftentimes, spam products and the scams surrounding them are based off of services that are too good to be true. For this very reason, don’t try to sell your product as such. Instead, focus on its true benefits, what you have to offer as a company and on why the customer should pick you versus the competition. Nobody’s perfect; there’s something inherently fishy about something that seems just a little too flawless. It’s more important to be trustworthy than “perfect.” Keep this in mind when crafting your business’ site and plan your activity on the web. Despite popular belief, business owners are only human and your customers will recognize you as such.
The Bottom Line
Users are avoiding spam like the plague these days and will turn around at the first sign of trouble; don’t let those red flags go when they see your business. By following the aforementioned tips, your small business can focus on getting down to business on the web rather than looking like spam.
Brent Barnhart is a regular contributor to ChamberofCommerce.com. He covers a wide variety of topics through the written word, including content marketing, Internet marketing and small business trends. ChamberofCommerce.com is dedicated to helping small businesses grow their presence on the web and facilitates connectivity between local businesses and more than 7,000 Chambers of Commerce worldwide.