Thursday 15 April 2021

Why trust is the key to doing business online

Rog T - The Barnet Eye
As many businesses move online, we highlight a few things that everyone should be aware of when dealing with online service providers. The last year has seen a decades worth of behavioural change for shoppers, compressed into 12 months. Lockdown has forced us all to move online to buy many of the things we'd normally have just nipped down to the shops to pick up. The closure of non essential retailers and instructions from the government to stay in have resulted in us buying all manner of things from online companies that we'd never have considered buying before. As an example, I'd never bought trainers online before the pandemic, feeling that they were something I'd want to try on. I was an early adopter of buying online, as things like rare vinyl and rare guitars were made obtainable. In the early years of the century, I discovered that Ebay offered amazing opportunities to both buy and sell. Ebay worked on a user ratings system that allowed you to leave feedback for sales. This was either positive, negative or neutral. Once a use had built a profile, you could buy with a degree of trust based on their profile.

The online platforms such as Amazon have spent a lot of time, money and effort building up trust with buyers. No one has reservations buying from Amazon as you know that one way or another you will get the goods or you will get your cash back. The major supermarkets such as TESCO's and Waitrose also do not have trust issues. You know that the firm will deliver what it says or give you your money back. These are established platforms, with Ocado blazing the trail. 

More recently, we've had the online food delivery services, such as Deliveroo and Uber Eats. These have gained traction by working with  established restaurants, both big and small. If you order a bad meal, you have an issue with the restaurant, not the platform. Food delivery is not new, most fast food chains have been doing it for a very long time. The platforms have just moved it into new areas and made it a bit easier. 

Generally large companies have teams of people to ensure that their online presence is appropriate for their business. They recruit skilled people, with track records and graduates who have learned the latest techniques at University. Smaller companies, who do not have the resources for dedicated staff, but who wish to grow their businesses online have to work with providers who can assist them to build a web platform. My own studio business engaged just such a firm to develop our online presence in 2012. We had a website for a long time, but it was really just there to signpost customers to our telephone number. When we undertook our studio regeneration, we knew we needed a better offering. We wanted online booking and online sales. I was lucky enough to attend an FSB networking session where just such a company made a presentation. They explained what they could do, how they would improve our SEO rankings, how they would double our business in five years. 

After reviewing their suggestions, we agreed a price and they then set about developing the platform.  True to their word, we saw a massive increase in bookings. They also offered some invaluable advice on interacting with Social Media. We had a Twitter account and a Facebook page. They explained how these could be optimised to serve the needs of our business. I was surprised at some of the suggestions, but I have come to realise that what he was saying was correct.

The main message was that Twitter, Facebook and Instagram were primarily tools to build trust with your customer base. If someone was going to spend money on your services, they would use such mediums to ascertain the trustworthyness of you as a company. How do you build up trust on such platforms? The answer is simple, proper interaction with your customer base. This means that when things are posted, prospective customers want to see proper interaction. This means from real people, with real track records and real followers. There are many short cuts to appearing genuine, but if these are not real, such as bought followers, setting up spoof accounts to like your own posts and a lack of genuine interaction with real people, no one will be fooled and your brand will be damaged. 

I was quite shocked to learn that there are companies that do such things as selling Twitter followers, retweets and likes and views of Youtube videos. Whilst these may bolster the fragile ego's of weak minded people, they do nothing to show credibility for your business. They are OK for helping to scam vulnerable people, but if you want to build a genune business they should be avoided like the plague. The only possible reason for a business to have fake followers is to fool people into thinking that they are better at their job than they really are. As such, I personally take it as an insult when I see such things. 

Although I've run a very successful blog for nearly thirteen years, acquiring over 3 million views in the process, I do not consider myself to be a social media expert. I use various platforms, but I am lucky to have people who advise me on how to use it in relation to my business. As for my personal tweets, facebook and Instagram, these are just that. They are not their to impress anyone. Rather like this blog. The only reason I write this is because I enjoy doing it. Over the last year, when I have spent a lot of time in an empty studio reception, it gives me something to do. As someone who worked in IT on and off as a consultant to major firms for several decades, people assume that gives me a headstart in social media. The opposite is true. I could design you an ATM network with no problem at all, but I wouldn't advise a Goldfish shop on how to sell Goldfish online. To explain,  it would be like asking a mechanic to design a new Rolls Royce. They would be OK at the mechanics, but the branding and the looks and finishes would be beyond them.

If you are seeking a company to advise you on your social media, seek recommendations from previous satisfied customers. Make sure these are real companies that exist, rather than spoof companies, set up solely to provide favorourable reviews. Also be aware of any company that will not disclose details of the person who runs it and who you will be dealing with. And have a look to see what sort of things they post. If they tend to go off topic and rant and rage, they are not a professional organisation. A professional, properly run social media company will never post rants and bile. I'd also be very suspicious of such companies that post idle boasts, with no real evidence to back them up. A genuine company has happy customers, who are happy to endorse them. 

No comments: