Businesses the world over have found the internet to be an indispensable tool for their needs, from marketing to resourcing, and it cannot be denied that the world wide web has changed things for the better. It would, however, be naive to suggest that the path of progress has been steadily, uncomplicatedly forward. Giving your business the best chance of success in the modern era doesn’t just mean harnessing all of the internet’s positive contributions. It also necessitates being aware of the negatives.
It goes without saying that the digital age has brought opportunities, and opened up the business world to a wider cohort of people. At the same time, we cannot ignore the pitfalls, and the things that we need to protect against if we are to make a success of our businesses. If you want to protect your business fully, you need to make sure, in this day and age, that you are protecting it online.
Keeping your reputation squeaky clean
The internet is not just where you do business; it’s where people do their shopping, and increasingly where they research their purchases ahead of that shopping. It’s essential to remember that the internet allows people to post their opinions and reviews far and wide. If you’ve had a negative interaction with a customer, it’s not hard to imagine that they will have given their account of said interaction online. You may well be tempted to argue with them about this, but this temptation should be resisted.
Negative online reviews will happen. They’ve happened to every business and will continue to happen. Your best bet is not to take issue with what a negative reviewer has said, but to look for a way to mend fences with them. If they haven’t been happy with their experience of your business, contact them (through the means they have provided you; don’t go looking for them in a way that may be invasive). Speak to them, see if you can do anything to make their experience more positive. They may then take down their negative review, or amend it somewhat. Even if they don’t, they’re less likely to bad-mouth you far and wide.
Protecting your data and that of your customers
It seems like at least a yearly occurrence; a big-name company gets hit by hackers who steal customer data. The company then needs to let customers know this has happened, customers need to change their banking details, and they trust the business a bit less. Many of them will cease to be customers after such an event. Bear in mind that this can happen to Yahoo, and Facebook, with all of their technical knowhow. Know, too, that it happens to smaller businesses all the time – their security is thinner and it doesn’t glean as much publicity, so it raises fewer alerts.
It doesn’t have to happen to you. As a smaller business, you will be less of a target for hackers, but it would be wise to acknowledge that you can still be a target. Pick a CMS with excellent standards for security protection; update the software as and when possible; and work with the likes of Userzoom to make absolutely sure that your protections are as good as they can be. It takes time and effort to fully protect your business, but it is absolutely worth it. If you make it a tough nut for hackers to crack, they will turn their attention elsewhere.
There are many people out there who will tell you that there is nothing worse than a business that isn’t active on social media. That’s somewhat accurate, but misses an even greater problem. Businesses who do social media fitfully, and who have accounts that were started years ago but not used, are worse in many ways than those who simply don’t bother. A half-curated social media account indicates a business without a plan. So either do social media properly, or don’t do it at all.
Secondly, if you are going to have social media accounts – and you certainly should – then you should devote some time and resources to them. Maintaining them yourself is only an option if you’re a sole trader; otherwise, give someone the job of updating Twitter when you have special offers and important news. Ideally, the person handling your social media accounts should be the same person who handles customer relations; there is an excellent chance that your social media channels will be where the bulk of customer interaction takes place.
Finally, bear in mind the key rule of business social media; don’t get drawn into arguments. By all means, set out the company’s policies and defend them, but resist the urge to “dunk” on someone who is being hostile, as it looks unprofessional.
Have business-specific devices
For so many reasons, using your personal devices for business purposes is an unwise idea. One reason is that, once the working day is over, you should be able to switch off from business matters, and that’s impossible if you’re running your business from a personal smartphone. Additionally, your personal phone will contain personal data about you. In the event that someone targets your business in a hack, there is a very real chance they will gain access to personal information about you, which complicates things considerably.
It is generally frowned-upon to use a personal device for business reasons. It’s easy to see why, too. If you were purchasing products from a business that had a seemingly strong online presence, how confident would you feel sharing your information with that company, knowing that much of its work was being done from someone’s personal phone? Given what we know about data breaches, the idea is pretty unpalatable. So if you wouldn’t want to be a customer in that position, don’t put your customers in the same position.
So much business is done online these days; keeping it secure and protected is essential, so keep the above points in mind.