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What does your online footprint say about you?

The Business Village is typical of any organisation that wants to be as accessible as possible to existing and potential customers.  We strive for greater online visibility to showcase what we do and to extend our marketing reach – this creates our online footprint. Our social media accounts and website are the key tools we use online and we invest in them to get the best value and ROI.  In addition to our business presence, our employees have personal accounts that identify them as Business Village staff. We actively encourage them to crossover their personal profiles with work by sharing our online content in order to reach a wider audience.

You probably also do this for your business. It makes your company easier to find and helps to promote what you do. It’s more than that though; in reality what you post on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or LinkedIn and other platforms creates a clear impression of who you are, as a business and individually. Ultimately, it can have an impact on your bottom line.

There are two categories of online information, that which you have control over and that which you don’t. The first category includes your company website, social media accounts that you determine content for and your own personal accounts. The second category can include online reviews, such as on TripAdvisor, Glassdoor and Google, along with posts by third parties on social media platforms.

So how do you evaluate what is out there and its impact on your business? It’s very important for you to be aware and regularly check how you come across online – both as a business and as an individual. You should be asking the following questions:

  • What does my online footprint say about me and my business?
  • Do I create a positive or negative impression?
  • Am I in control of my online footprint?
  • Am I aware of what other people are saying about me/my business online?

The first place to begin is Google. Perform a Google search for your company name and check the results. Hopefully, you will have good enough SEO to be featured on the first page with your website.  This is important because listings from big name platforms will be high up and they have the potential for third-party content to create that important first impression.

If you do find reviews or comments about your company online, your first task is to respond to any that require it. If someone has posted a bad review, respond by reaching out to try and resolve the situation. (You can read our article about dealing with complaints here.) Anyone who sees the review will also then see that you have dealt with it positively.

Another potential result is that you find a page that has been set up, either by an employee and forgotten, or by a disgruntled former staff member or customer, in order to post a negative review. This isn’t common, but we have known it to happen…

One of our advisors was asked how to remove a vexatious review that had been posted on Google. The person leaving the review had registered the company on Google, so it showed up on Maps and Reviews.  They then left a lengthy diatribe about how awful the company and staff were. This review was high on the list of search results because it’s a Google page! It can be difficult and take time to get incorrect and potentially damaging content such as this removed, but it’s important to do so.

Next, Google your name. If you are associated with your business, your online footprint will have an impact. What does it say about you? Rectify anything that could be viewed negatively by deleting comments or posts if necessary.

For both private and business accounts, there are certain topics and behaviour that should be avoided. Having a statement in your bio that tells people that “this is my private account and all views are personal and not those of my employer” doesn’t really make a difference. You will still be viewed through the filter created by what you post.

Here are our top tips for how to best manage social media for your business:

  1. Make your email addresses and online usernames appropriate. Applying for a job with an unprofessional email address will not help your application. katiethelush@randomISP.com is not going to garner you extra credit.
  2. Check the photographs you appear in online. Are they creating the impression you would want prospective employers to have? Also keep an eye on photos that others post and tag you in. Remember, everyone has a camera now and it’s far easier to have those dodgy photographs shared online by others.
  3. If necessary, set up separate accounts for your private and professional personas. Make sure your privacy settings are strict for your private accounts and only share personal things with people you trust.
  4. Keep the personal details to a minimum, such as your full date of birth. Make sure personal data is not visible in photos, so if you pass your driving test, don’t post a shot of you holding your certificate with the information visible. Don’t share information such as the places you go to at the same time every day or week. That just creates a personal safety risk.
  5. Online platforms are not the place to air your dirty laundry. That quarrel you had with your boyfriend, best friend or neighbour will not cast you in a good light. No matter which side of the argument you are on. Keep it where it belongs; at home.
  6. Avoid getting involved in online spats. It’s so easy to get drawn into a Twitter debate that turns into a flame war. If you feel yourself getting angry, exit the conversation before you say something you might regret.
  7. Never post when drunk. Posting online is like driving in this respect. You’re much more likely to cause a car crash if you post under the influence.
  8. Many people have “Retweets do not necessarily = agreement” or other disclaimers in their bio. Remember that most people do not read your bio; they just see your posts. They only see your bio if they view your profile, so they might miss the memo.
  9. Check your shares. No this doesn’t refer to investments; just the content you retweet, share or ‘like’ on social media platforms. Always check the source before you randomly click to share the content with your followers. Many people have been tripped up into sharing content that comes from dubious sources and extreme organisations. One trick is to post fairly innocuous content to lure people into their trap and get additional page likes or followers. Sharing fake news and scams doesn’t reflect well. It takes a few seconds to check with websites such as Snopes, Hoax Slayer or the original organisation.

Some examples of this are the constant stream of supermarket vouchers being ‘given away’, last minute holiday cancellations that lead to travel companies giving away the trip of a lifetime and the huge number of motorhomes/4x4s/etc. that are ‘excess stock’ and are being given away. These are mostly fake and it’s very easy to spot them. Pages that have been set up within the previous few days and are not verified, are most likely fake. Search for the company by name and you will quickly find the genuine page, with no mention of the giveaway. Falling for these scams makes you look gullible at best! Check before you share.

Your online footprint is a critical element in building and maintaining your reputation – both as an individual and as a business. Make sure you take it seriously and give it the attention it deserves.