Many companies have websites, but how many of you have a web presence? More often than not, websites are viewed as vehicles of acquisition; they exist to help you get something else. Sort of like a cracker, the only reason to eat crackers is to transport meat, cheese, or some other tasty topping into your mouth. Because of this perception, many businesses see websites as a cost expenditure or necessary evil that is required because the consumer expects it. This perception couldn’t be further from the truth.
ZMOT and Presence
Back in 2011, Google first published the idea of ZMOT. ZMOT stands for the Zero Moment of Truth. What Google started to see through search results was that whenever someone heard about a company, whether, through a referral, ad, or some other media, they would imminently Google that company. When users googled, they would begin a research process. This research would often take the form of visiting the companies website to learn more about them.
Now, imagine that you had a rep that needed to go out to a potential client. When the rep gets there, they are in a dated suit, carrying a yellow notepad with a coffee stain on it. The rep then babbles on and on academically about themselves without really talking about the client. Sometimes the rep gets disoriented, and when you ask them questions, they give you get a vacant look that results in awkward silence.
That would be a horrible experience for everyone involved. However, the example above is what 95% of websites are on the internet are like today. In the internet age, your website is often the first impression that potential customers have of you. Without this understanding, your website will remain just a website, not a web presence. So, what’s the difference, and how is it better to consider your website a presence?
In the internet age, your website is often the first impression that potential customers have of you.
A web presence consists of the 3 P’s, Presentation, Perspective, and Personality. Let’s break these down into a bit more detail.
Presentation (How you look)
- Presentation (How you look)
When someone first hits your website, they get an impression. That impression might be that you are a progressive company at the top of your game or that you’re dated based on your website’s style. An impression could be that you talk too much because of the amount of text or are confused based on the organization of the layout. This perception happens in the blink of the eye before reading one line of copy, and all comes down to the visual assets on your site. Think of it as what you wear tells people a lot about you without having to say a word.
- Perspective (What you say)
In the perspective phase, customers begin reading the copy. Unfortunately, most websites focus on how the great the company is, which pays little to no attention to the customer. You ever had someone walk up to you at a party or networking event and proceed to tell you how great they are? Yeah, most websites are like that. “We’re Award Winning!” “We Have the best customer service!” “We’re Hard Working!” blah, blah, blaaaaaah. Frankly, we expect those traits and are the bare minimum for a customer to engage your company. So the moral of the story is don’t talk about what people expect from you; talk about how you’re going to solve their problem.
- Personality (How you say it)
Personality is like a character that is defined by tone. Is this character all business, fun, dull, arrogant, or someone you want to spend more time with and be around? Regrettably, most websites are all business, which is the least amount of personality your web presence can have and is about as much fun as watching paint dry. Raise your hand if you like watching paint dry! Anyone… nope, didn’t think so.
The three P’s essentially form a narrative in the customer’s mind about what kind of company you are. Once the customer has a narrative, they start to tell themselves a story about what kind of company they think you are. Positive or negative, this first impression is hard to undo. So what can you do to create an online presence and not just have a website? Here are three quick tips.
Positive or negative, this first impression is hard to undo.
1. Make sure your website design is no more than 5 years old.
That’s being pretty generous, but for some companies redesigning, a website is a massive undertaking, so you get a bit of a grace period before needing to take action. The main point, however, is that web styles and technology change frequently, and customers are exposed to new concepts daily by your competitors and entirely different industries. So pay attention to your website’s visual style, so that you don’t look dated and out of touch.
2. Your website isn’t for you; it’s for your customer.
In every area possible remove words like—we, us, our, I, me, etc. Replace with words like you, your, you’re, and yourself. Changing the pronoun changes to whom you are talking. You have to talk about the customer, their problem, and how you can solve it, not the other way around.
3. Pay attention to your words and tone.
Look at ways to break up the monotony of business-speak. Can you inject some humor or a little imagination into your words? Can you think outside the box a little bit? I’m not saying you have to be cute and clever, but there are thousands of words at your disposal you don’t have to talk the same way your competition is talking.
Bonus: People don’t read websites; they scan them.
Your homepage should only have a few hundred words MAX, and those words need to break up into itty bitty chunks of content. That way, when someone looks at your site they don’t go “that’s too much text, I’m not reading this.” Your customers are busy and don’t have the time to read a metric ton of copy. So, spare us all by reducing the amount of text you use on your page.