Like any other homeowner, there are times when I need to buy home improvement services. And, like most homeowners today, I start my search for a contractor or home improvement specialist online.
Here are some of the things that I — like other consumers — look for in your company’s online profile to help me make a decision about whether or not to hire you.
Issue: The grainy picture of you with a beer in your hand doesn’t cut it. Neither does the picture of your favorite celebrity. Your photo is more than just a way for you to express who you are and what you’re about; it’s the way you are perceived by the world. You can present yourself as being unique — just don’t undermine your professionalism in the process.
Action: A smiling headshot is the best option. You can invest in hiring a professional photographer, but it’s not essential. Anyone you know who takes a decent photo and has a high-quality camera (or a smartphone) can help you get this shot. Pay attention to your background, make sure the lighting illuminates your face rather than lighting the area behind you, and be aware of your choice of wardrobe. Take shots until you have two or three that you like. Use the same shot in several places online because your face is your calling card and people will recognize you based on these images. Upload pictures that your grandma, mom, or mentor wouldn’t cringe at seeing. Why? Because the odds are, one of them will see it.
Issue: Your second-grade teacher was right: Spelling matters. I’ve seen a site that spelled the name of its own company wrong. If you can’t write in a clear, correct, concise manner, this will give people pause about your abilities on a larger scale. Knowing that your website is a key part of how you present yourself and that this affects your reputation, the fact that you can’t be bothered to spell check or have someone review for errors implies that your reputation simply isn’t that important to you.
Action: Have a trusted person (or people) review your profiles for basic spelling, contextual appropriateness, and grammatical errors. This person doesn’t need to use the red-pencil approach. Just ask the reviewer to take a few minutes to examine the profile and point out any errors. Pick someone who is known for good communication skills.
Issue: Have you ever read a profile of an overly confident person? This frequently occurs on LinkedIn, and when someone tries too hard to sound competent, it comes off as cocky. Consider this paraphrased description: “I am a marketing master who dominates all others in the field. You must hire me or your business will fail miserably.” Would you hire this person? Their own extreme confidence quickly erodes any confidence you might have in their abilities.
Action: The solution here is the same as it is for checking your spelling: Have someone you respect review your profile. His or her notes about your communication style will do wonders for your presentation. Try to listen to the feedback without becoming defensive.
Issue: The information available to people on the Web is vast and at times negative. If you have enemies — or particularly spiteful competitors — they are free to say anything they want about you on the Internet. It’s up to you to know that those opinions are out there and that there are ways to combat inaccurate or incorrect information.
Action: Create your own content to replace the negative information available. And be vigilant about tracking what’s being said about you online. Also, if you have a personal email address that is, well, too personal (for example, firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com) this is doing tremendous damage to your reputation. No one will take you seriously.
Issue: I personally know of at least two people who share a name with a performer in the porn industry. One is an actress who, upon arriving at an audition, was told by a casting director that they almost didn’t call her in because of what they found during an Internet search. The only reason she got the audition was because the adult-movie performer who shares her name is of a different race, so it was easy to tell from the pictures online that these were two different people. But it’s not worth taking such chances. If you look up the name Jim Smith, how many results do you think you’ll find? Just a meager 68,700,000. But there are ways to help those looking for Jim Smith the Remodeler to find the right Jim.
Action: Perform a vanity search on your name to see if there are others who share it. Make sure you own your name in the form of a domain, such as http://www.yourname.com. If that isn’t possible, try variations of your name, such as adding your middle name or initial. You can also try adding your industry, such as using http://www.yournameplusindustry.com. For Jim it might be http://www.JimSmithPlumbing.com. You could even do it by location, such as http://www.JimSmithSanDiego.com. When there are pictures uploaded of you on the staff page of your website, on your profile bio, or in other locations, make sure the picture file is your name. When your name is searched on the Internet, image files come up in those searches, and it will help those who don’t know you to differentiate you from others who have the same name as you.
Armed with these tips, you should be able to put together a respectable profile on your site as well as your social media outposts. Again, keep things consistent, use the same image of you across all outlets you use, and make sure to link back to your own website. —Darren Slaughter runs a boutique website design and marketing shop that serves only contractors in the home improvement space. darrenslaughter.com