Building a Successful Web Presence
Imagine a huge party full of your customers, biggest fans, competitors, and worst enemies. Not only is everyone mingling and making introductions, but at the front of the room is a podium with an open microphone.
This is the beauty of the internet. Companies that are late to the party, or worse, don’t show up at all, endure the humiliation of watching their brand dragged through the mud and their customers enticed away by competitors. Do yourself a favor, by actively and passionately building a strong web presence.
Here’s how to get started.
1. Show up and initiate dialog.
Use Google Alerts to monitor your industry and company. Use tools like Hootsuite to quickly monitor all your social media accounts and respond quickly or assign follow-up tasks to your team. This shouldn’t consume your day. Every time somebody mentions your company; you should thank them and tag them in the response. It’s the polite thing to do.
Create feedback mechanisms online that allow customers who have issues to get quick answers. Build an online support forum, ticketing system, or use Twitter to allow people to get the instant help they need.
2. Respond to criticism well.
People will talk about you whether you’d like them to or not. In fact, organizations have more to gain from welcoming negative comments and addressing customer complaints quickly than by simply listing company approved customer testimonials.
I would even go so far as to say that if you aren’t generating any criticism, you’re probably not very successful at what you do. Nobody is perfect. And, even if you are, your employees and customers definitely are not.
When you find yourself in the hot seat, respond immediately with an apology. The common reaction is to defend yourself. Don’t. This is not the time. Listen and respond empathetically. If they are frustrated, apologize for the frustration. If it is your fault, fix the issue as soon as possible.
But what if it’s not your fault? Offer immediate help to find a solution. If possible, take the situation offline so that a discussion can take place. The worst thing you can do is start pointing fingers and shifting blame in front of a global audience. It’s like starting a family argument in a nice restaurant. No one wants to hear the “well, you started it” stuff.
3. Do unto others, as you would like done unto you.
It’s easy to engage with people when they bring the conversation to your doorstep. The more difficult process is getting the ball rolling so that people know your organizations capabilities and that you are available for interactive dialog.
Give kudos to other companies when they provide you with notable service. Participate on industry forums or LinkedIn groups and share your wealth of knowledge. People who appreciate your expertise are more likely to refer you or become customers than those who don’t know you at all.
Building a reputable web presence is not easy. Even the most outgoing people find themselves struggling to come up with engaging conversation. Fight through it. It’s worth it.