Dan Hill, Head of Dot London, looks at the importance of having a relevant and trustworthy online digital identity.
Your online digital identity is a gateway to your brand. It covers a number of aspects, from cyber security to social media profiles; from email addresses to domain names.
Whether you’re starting your business or have already established your brand, it’s important to protect yourself from imitators that can lead to customer confusion, so having a solid online digital identity strategy should be a key part of any business plan.
Choose the right web and email address
Your web address is an extension to your brand identity and a critical part of your customer-facing image. You should choose a name that best reflects your company, whether it’s your business name or description of what you do, such as B&Q choosing to use ‘www.diy.com’.
With new domain name extensions at your disposal you can go beyond ‘.com’ or ‘.co.uk’ and become more descriptive about what you do or where you’re based. For example, if you’re a service-based company with a strong client base in London you can use a Dot London web address, such as South East London estate agents Stanford Estates opting for ‘www.stanfordestates.london’.
If you already own a domain name, it doesn’t mean it will be the right one for you for the long term. As your business grows and becomes more established you might consider changing your web address, so it’s best to register a number of names that reflect your brand, company name or changing mission. Buying a number of domain names can be a part of your brand protection plan or cover any misspellings of your name.
Customer impressions can also be formed through your email address. A format that includes your full name, or just your first name, looks more approachable and friendly, whereas using a generic name, such as ‘contact@’ or ‘info@’, might lead to people being a bit more sceptical about approaching you. Generic names aren’t very affable and don’t give a sense of who will be actioning the email or who the contact is. For all your customer knows, their email could end up in a rarely used inbox and be lost forever.
Similarly the suffix of an email can give certain impressions to customers. Free domain names, such as ‘gmail’ or ‘hotmail’, can look unprofessional. To avoid this you can have an email that matches your web address, which creates a nice synergy and gives a far more professional look to your online identity.
Have a working and secure website
For some businesses their website can be the first thing that potential customers see. If your customers have a bad user experience they will simply go to a competitor’s website. Like any top client-facing employee, your website needs to be regularly updated, and be aligned with your work ethos and company messaging. It’s not something to be left to its own devises and only occasionally updated.
The design and ease of use of your website is important to keep in mind. Don’t lose potential customers because of a slow website. Keep it quick and responsive, so that it’s easy to use and can hold your customers’ attention. Additionally, ensure that your website is mobile and tablet friendly, so always test during the design process so that you can see what it looks like and how easy it is to navigate.
Hacking can be an issue for some businesses, especially eCommerce companies – vulnerability to identity theft and customer protection are both critical challenges. Investing in website protection services is a must and it’s a good way of keeping up-to-date on the latest threats, rather than the potentially damaging approach of only dealing with the problem once it happens.
To help you increase your online profile you can venture into social media as more customers are turning to these platforms to research and connect directly with businesses. You don’t have to join all of the platforms, just the ones you think are most relevant to your business, but you do have to be consistent with your messaging and regular with your postings. It’s not a job that should be freely allocated to whomever owns or has used social media before as everything has to be in line with your brand identity.
To keep your outreach consistent, try to have your social handle the same as your web address, along with making sure that the imagery and colours used on your pages are all the same. Additionally, make sure that you respond to any queries or comments made on your page. Some customers might prefer to contact businesses through social platforms rather than emailing, and getting a direct response in a timely manner is a good way of showing how much your customers mean to you.
There are a number of different techniques to help keep your online digital identity fresh, up-to-date and relevant. At times it can be fairly organic, with subtle tweaks to suit changes in consumer attitudes. These attitudinal changes can be monitored by tracking social sentiment and looking at online mentions about your brand. If there are any negative comments, burying your head in the sand is never a good option and can be damaging your reputation. Once a post or article about your business is live, it can be seen and easily found by anyone researching your company online.
While setting up your brand identity always ensure that you think about how you want your business to be represented online. Whether it’s using a Dot London web address if you’re a London-based business or choosing only be present on social media, ensure that you think about what your customers want rather than what you think they want. Research, ask questions and understand, then build the online digital identity that best suits your brand.
For more information about Dot London visit www.makeyours.london.