It’s often said that you only get one chance to make a first impression. This is especially noticeable in the digital arena where attention spans are very short. Failure to make a good first impression is a social risk (with business risk implications) that small businesses cannot afford.
Fail to grab a website visitor’s attention in seconds, or fail to impress potential friends or social media followers while you’re on their radar, and you’re missing out on a potential lead.
Here are four of the more common “first impression” faux pas I’ve seen, along with some inexpensive (or free) solutions.
#1 Use a web-based, non-branded email address.
When you use a free email service (whether it’s a web-based service like Gmail or yahoo mail or your ISP’s email service), you’re publicly stating that your business is new and you don’t have much time to build a brand. If you’re new, maybe this is forgivable. If not, you need to make sure you have an email address in your own domain.
This is especially true when some of these free services are quite open about the fact that they use your email content to tailor their marketing efforts to you, possibly causing your potential clients to be suspicious of emailing you.
Solution – Buy a domain for your business (not necessary if you already host your business website on a branded domain). Then use one of the many free or near-free business email solutions to convert your unbranded email address to a much more professional branded version.
Some solutions (such as the free version of Google Apps) also allow you to create multiple mailboxes so you can improve the flow of your customer communication (such as sending questions to “[email protected]” or complaints to “[email protected]) or improve your legal success strategy (such as by creating a dedicated mailbox for receiving CAN SPAM Act complaints, DMCA takedown requests, COPPA complaints, etc.).
#2 Excessive social media updates.
So you find someone you want to contact on LinkedIn or Twitter (the main social media platforms where I see this issue) and are looking forward to some great content or ideas for you. The problem is that you get too much of a good thing. After the third day when you get 15 shares in a row at 9:00, a few seconds away, you feel like you’ve been spammed and you do what anyone else would do. You hit “unfollow.”
The problem lies in the fact that many people do most of their reading for social media sharing in the morning or evening. Doing what’s easiest, and so that they don’t ignore their followers or friends, they share all the great content they find, without thinking about how it will be received (i.e. as annoying spam).
Solution – One solution is to use one of the many platforms like HootSuite or TweetDeck which allows scheduling updates/tweets, I found BufferApp to be a great solution and an indispensable part of my social media toolbox.
BufferApp, a recent startup, allows you to fill a virtual hopper full of tweets/updates after which they will be propagated on a schedule you set. The best news is that BufferApp has a basic account, which allows up to 10 buffer updates/tweets and it’s totally free.
#3 Outdated material on your website.
A few years ago, in the era called web 1.0, websites were a static one-way marketing tool. In that era, there was hardly any hope that this website would be updated with any regularity. Fast forward a few years to web 2.0, and now most small business websites have embedded interactive elements. Not only are these blogs, calendars, twitter streams, forums and wikis conducive to regular updating, but your customers EXPECT them.
When visitors to your site can’t find your social media badge links, can’t find information about your latest event or promotion, or see that your most recent blog post or calendar entry is 6 months old, you won’t be taken too seriously. At best, failing to update your website will slightly tarnish the visitor’s view of your business.
Chances are, especially if your business has a technological aspect, this short attention span, information-hungry consumers will take their business elsewhere.
Solution – Make your website a priority. First and foremost, there is no reason, as far as templates have come, for you not to build your website on an easy-to-update content management system, of which WordPress is the most popular, (and very easy to use). Once your website is in WordPress, learn how to update it. It’s easier than you think and you owe it to yourself to do it if you want to be successful on the web with your business.
Once you have an established website and know how to update it, develop an update schedule and stick to it. Be realistic with your schedule. It’s much better for your business to regularly meet a once-a-month blogging/update schedule than to be hit or miss with a twice-weekly schedule.
Finally, put yourself in the shoes of an early visitor to your site and make sure that your homepage or landing page is easy to navigate and clearly displays what your visitors might be looking for. This includes headlines, social media link badges, information about the latest events, or anything else that’s important to your business.
#4 No profile photos on your social media profiles.
I continue to be astounded by the number of businesses that think it’s okay to skip profile photos. I can tell you that when I get connections/friend requests from people/businesses without a profile photo I never accept, and when I get followed by tweeps with an “eggs” profile photo, I never follow back. Why? Too many spam possibilities.
Also, to me having a profile photo is a basic social media skill that doesn’t brand your one as a beginner ranker – not something you want your potential clients to think about.
Solution – Always use a profile photo. There’s no reason not to do it. Even if you have to type your brand name in a word processor using fancy fonts, convert it to an image and upload it, you have to have it… or risk looking like a bum on social media.
What do you think? What spoils your first impression of a business when you visit their website or social media platform?