All small businesses share something that no one can take away from them: passion. And, with online communication channels and networks, we can all share and enjoy that passion. How? By being human.
It’s not your fault, we all forget that online interaction should be no different than face-to-face. Yes, you’re talking and communicating to strangers but at the end of the day, if we forget the pictures, the likes and the follows, there’s a live person on the other end of your computer and they deserve to be treated like so. When it comes to small businesses, it is imperative that you show your true self, go back to the basics and handle your online image as you would handle yourself in person.
How can you do that? Easy, peasy! Let me go over some ways small businesses can show their human side online:
Be real, Tell your story
C’mon, this takes no effort! When you talk to your friends, how do you explain what you do? In the online world, your customers are your best allies and for that, you need to build a relationship with them. To begin, it’s always good to let them know where you’re coming from, why you’re pursuing the business and who are the faces behind the counter.
I particularly liked Erin Baker’s super down to earth story on how she began her business. As you can see, it’s as simple as taking the time to tell your story, add a blurb on your website or social profile so that your customers can get to know you more.
Empower your employees
A healthy and successful business is always made out of a happy and well treated team. Whether it be flexible vacation time, free food or bonus payments, employees need to know their employers care about their well being. Let’s go all the way to Pittsburg to find one of my favorite examples of small businesses taking a stand in favor of their employees: Bar Marco.
The owners of this fine dining restaurant are not afraid to talk about the importance of not accepting tips and paying a fair salary to their staff. This decision not only shows their human side but also has served them well by increasing their profits.
Now, empowering your employees doesn’t have to cost you much if you’re low on budget, it could be as easy as giving them their birthday day off or providing them with a half day on Fridays. Actually, how about bringing donuts and coffee in the morning to the office? Cheap and nice!
Listen to your customers
When you’re face-to-face, it’s easy to pay attention to what your customers are saying about you. Well, you should also find ways to do so online. Don’t turn away from constructive criticism and feedback, embrace it and make changes instead!
Some tools that can be of great help when trying to hear what your customers are trying to tell you are:
- Good ol’ email address: Set up an account for people to request information, provide feedback or just connect with you.
- Typeform: A nice interactive way to send questionnaires to your customers
- SocialMention: Find out what people are saying about you on social media
- SpiderQube: Find people that are relevant to your business
- Paper.li: Of course, use Paper.li to find content about what is happening around your sector
Businesses should be helpful online. Being helpful is not only altruistic and human but it can take you a long way when connecting with someone online. How can you do that?
1. Prioritize customer service: Is someone having an issue that is preventing them from having a good experience with your business? Respond in a timely manner and offer a quick solution.
2. Use Social Media to help: Is someone asking for help with cleaning supplies and you have a product that can help, let them know you’re there and go an extra mile by answering in a personalized way.
Customer service is very important for all companies, big and small, it makes all the difference.
Don’t take things too seriously
I’m not saying you should take your online persona lightly, because you shouldn’t. But, don’t be afraid to show your brand’s personality. Throw in a joke or two, as long as you keep away from offensive and insulting vocabulary.
Here’s a great example of how Zappos achieves this wonderfully:
— Zappos.com (@Zappos_Service) September 29, 2014
In hindsight, being human online is just a matter of being yourself and owning up to your brand’s personality and culture if you’re behind the wheel! Don’t sweat it.
Who do you think is doing it right? Let me know in the comments!