In the 1980s, most businesses had complete control of how their company was perceived. Marketing involved buying billboards and ads on radio and television.
Then, in January of 1983, the internet as we know it was invented.
It took a few years to catch on, but today the internet is, quite literally, everywhere. From bus stops to home security systems to iPad in schools, the internet has changed the way we learn, work, shop, and do business.
When it comes to assessing the brands we buy from (and work for), most people head to the internet. Is your company reliable? Do you provide value? Is your business a good place to work? Do you offer a competitive salary and benefits? These answers and much more can be found online.
The challenge for many businesses is that prospective clients and employees are learning about companies without ever talking to a person. Companies have much less control over the information that is available about their brand.
This is why it is critical to put your best foot forward online. Here are several ways your business is evaluated by clients and prospective employees — and how you can ensure your company gives a good first impression.
Your Company's Website
In today's digital world, your company's website is often the first impression prospective employees and clients get of your brand. Making sure your website is professional and high-quality should be a top priority. This includes ensuring images are not pixelated, your site loads fast, links work, and your copy explains both what services or products your company offers as well as the culture of your brand.
To put their best digital foot forward, companies should choose a reliable hosting provider as well as a professional website design company.
Online Review Sites
According to Forbes, small businesses that want to attract customers should focus their attention on review sites like Yelp, Google, FourSquare, and TripAdvisor. Prospective employees are also likely to look at job sites like Glassdoor, where employees rate their employers based on salaries and work environment.
Keep in mind, customers and prospective employees aren't just looking at reviews — they are also looking at how your company responds to reviews. One or two bad reviews aren't going to make or break your business, but dismissive or abusive responses from your company can.
Take the time to claim your listing on these sites, and make time to read and respond to reviews at least once a month. This will show that your business is committed to providing excellent customer service and cares about the people who work for you.
Your Social Media Presence
There are few things more unprofessional than a company that mismanages their social media accounts. Make sure to claim your brand name on all channels, including Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn. Even if you don't use the sites, you don't want to risk someone else taking them over and posting controversial or incorrect information.
Once you claim your social profiles, upload branded photos and contact details to reassure people they have found you. If you don't plan to monitor the site regularly, add a note to your bio directing customers or prospective employees to a channel you do regularly monitor. However, if you are targeting the post-Millennial generation, updated and active profiles on social networks might be crucial.
Keep in mind; people may also look at the personal social media accounts of owners and stakeholders, so keep those clean and updated as well. Privacy settings are your friend here; your profile can still be searchable, but you can keep pictures of your college parties buried where they belong.
The Search Results for Your Brand Name
Do you know what pops up when someone Googles your business name? Try it now, just be sure to use an incognito search window, so your results are not skewed by your search history.
Do you like what you see, or are negative results or even competitors pushing your branded website down? Ideally, your website should be a top result for your brand name. But if your name is common or if competitors are running ads targeting your brand name, you might find yourself below the fold where customers or prospective employees will never see you.
Don't accept a situation where you are defined by your competitors or even negative news stories. If this is the case, it might be time to hire an SEO expert to ensure customers or prospective employees see positive information when they search for your brand name.
The Better Business Bureau
Many people believe the BBB is a government agency, when in fact, it is a non-profit organization. However, it is still an accessible resource for finding information about how a company operates, including open complaints, reviews, and whether the Better Business Bureau accredited the business.
For best results, businesses should claim this listing and ensure information, such as the address, contact information, and hours, are correct. Resolve customer complaints and update information such as who owns the business to improve your rating.
When it comes to running a successful business, owners and business leaders need to be aware of where clients and prospective employees are getting information about their business. The rise of the internet has made it easier than ever for people to find information; your job is to ensure people find the correct information that showcases your brand in a positive light.