Professionalism? What does it really mean? Most of us may have a suit and tie come to mind at the mere mention of the word. However, what if you have an online business where most of your work, selling, and promoting is done; where wearing a suit and tie just won't cut it? How can you make sure that you and your business are still viewed as professional when your business is reliant mostly and/or solely on your online presence?
Most businesses, online and off, have created websites, Facebook Pages and Twitter accounts, to become more connected with their customers via their online presence on such sites. It can sometimes be difficult to gain people's loyalty, trust, and to build a relationship, when businesses don't make the time to put thought into what they want their online presence to be. Nobody will take what you have to say OR sell seriously, if you don't make sure that your business is one that exudes professionalism.
A business is defined by the way in which it conducts itself online and offline, so it matters what you say and do, while you are in the presence of your customer. Keep in mind, that when you are Online you are ALWAYS in the presence of your customer or that of a potential one, so what you Tweet, post on Facebook, or share on other Social Media sites, is being seen by those who will be using the information you put out to decide whether to purchase a product from you or not.
The first and most important part of being professional, is to be genuine. People can tell if one is being fake or trying to impress. It is important that your business has character, personality, and matches what it is that the business is selling. Focus on the fact that it isn't always the brand that people are buying, it can be (more often then not) the people behind the brand that actually sell the products. Don't get me wrong, there are some brands that by just seeing the logo, can make a person want to purchase it, but remember that it's usually their connection to it, via taste, touch, smell, etc. that truly creates the sale. With this in mind, people need a connection to be loyal to a specific business and that is where the person/people behind the brand come in. Be thoughtful and do your best to create true relationships with those you come in contact with, online and off.
Communicate on a daily basis via your website and/or on your social media sites. Make sure it's not just to pitch what you are selling or to talk about a discount you're business is providing. This can be looked at as annoying and disrespectful due to the lack of engagement which will reflect poorly on your business and can be unintentionally seen as unprofessional. Talk with people about what you did during the day, how you felt about a particular movie, and/or to offer free tutorials based on how they can properly use, build, or up-keep your product and their accessories. Example: A Tutorial about how to properly and safely hang picture frames, would be great to offer, if your business sold photographs. Be helpful and educational to build a relationship with those who are watching you online (which is pretty much everyone.)
As much as you try, there will always be someone who is unhappy with your products and services and because you are engaging online, they too will engage with you and it might be in a not so positive way. Your first reaction is probably going to be to delete the comment, but again, people are watching and are now waiting for your response. This is another way people are going to judge how professional you can remain, even under pressure. Of course, if there are inappropriate words within the comment that may offend other visitors/readers, then deleting it, is a must. If the comment is that of just an angry customer venting their frustration and dissatisfaction, but isn't being offensive, then this is a perfect opportunity to express just how professional your business is. Be courteous and show true feeling towards what your unhappy customer is expressing. Your business is not perfect, but can and should be open to rectifying any issue that it may have overlooked and to do it's best to retain the customer by showing how important that customer is. Every person able to read how you respond, will be putting themselves in that angry customers shoes, so how you handle the situation can influence how they judge and perceive your business.
In the end, Professionalism comes down to how you act and react towards each and every customer. Although you may not be able to impress people with a suit and tie, you do have the ability to impress them with the power of WORDS. Businesses' online presence, is developed, maintained, and sustained, by what you say, how you say it, and what it is you are actually saying. Always remember it's not the suit or tie that makes a business professional, it's the one who's wearing it that does.