First Impressions: How to Build Trust with Your Small Business Brand Online

Every high street has shops with fronts so uninteresting you just kept walking. You may have no idea what they sell, or – even if they stock something you need – you’d never go in.

In our digital world, your online presence is your shop window, a crucial space to engage your potential clients and build trust. So, the online equivalent of that shopfront is a website that doesn’t reflect you or social media profiles that don’t capture your unique brand personality.

Just think, when someone searches for a service like yours, they’ll likely visit your website or social media profiles before getting in touch. These online platforms are your chance to make a great first impression. As well as showcasing your expertise, your online presence should tell your story, convey your brand personality, and -ultimately – build trust with your audience.

Your Website: Balancing Brand & Personality

Whether you’ve created your website yourself, or engaged a professional to do it for you, it can be difficult to know what you want your website to look like, or do! For many people – especially with their first website – the obvious solution is to be guided by other websites you like, particularly in your industry.

When this happens though, many small businesses find that their website now follows a generic template, leaving their unique personality entirely out of the picture. But it’s important not to be afraid to show yourself, to inject your brand voice into your website through your copy.

Think about how you present yourself – this is something I looked at in my previous blog How Defining Your Brand Voice Will Help Your Small Business. You want to use clear, conversational language that shows your personality, and not only in your copy but through your choice of visuals too. Remember, people connect with people!

Social Media Savvy: Choosing the Right Platform

But your website is unlikely to be the only space you use to present your business to the world. For most of us, social media marketing is a significant part of how we reach out to our audience.

There is a whole world of social media platforms out there, but it’s important to choose the one(s) where your ideal clients hang out. Are you a graphic designer targeting creative professionals? You’ll probably be looking at platforms like Instagram or Behance. If you offer bookkeeping services to small businesses, LinkedIn might be your best bet.

For small businesses, it doesn’t make sense to try and use every social media platform because the time and effort invested won’t get you the rewards you want. You will focus on where your people are and find spaces you are happy to hang around yourself; so, what are your options and how do you choose?

  • Instagram: Tends to be most effective for visually-driven businesses (fashion, photography, design, food & beverage), and businesses which are creative, trendy, and engaging. Instagram stories and reels are particularly useful for those behind-the-scenes moments which build personal connection with your audience.
  • Facebook: Has a broad audience reach and is particularly useful for businesses looking for local customers and community engagement. These companies are often informative, friendly, and approachable using services like Facebook groups to build strong relationships and communities.
  • LinkedIn: Is most frequently thought of us supporting B2B businesses – although really if your customer is a professional they are likely to be on the platform, the focus is still on professional services (accounting, legal, consulting) but this is changing. Building your profile on LinkedIn you’ll be seen as credible, competent, and maybe a thought leader, with articles and LinkedIn Live sessions ideal for establishing yourself as an expert in your field.
  • X or Twitter: Is enjoyed by people who like real-time updates and is therefore perfect for news-driven businesses and brands who want to be seen to be engaging with topical events. The platform is quick, informative, and engaging but has lost some members through negativity and changes to personal feeds.
  • YouTube: Is ideal for businesses providing in-depth content, educational businesses, or for providing product demonstrations; videos should be engaging, informative and authoritative. YouTube is a huge platform for anyone who has something to say.
  • TikTok: is mostly frequented by younger demographics with fast changing trending content; creative industries (entertainment, beauty) can do well, but so can creators in other industries who want to do something different with the format. TikTok is fun, playful and fast-paced.
  • Pinterest: Is ideal for businesses with visually-appealing products, DIY & craft businesses, or home improvement – these are producing inspiring, creative, and instructional content. Pinterest is great for sharing ideas as people look for all kinds of things on the platform and often go on to buy.

Choosing the right platform for your business goes beyond industry. Consider your brand personality and target audience, for example, a quirky bakery might shine on TikTok as well as Instagram, and while a high-end law firm would likely find their audience on LinkedIn, they may also benefit from creating informational video for YouTube which supports their audience goals. Where do you enjoy spending your time? Are your people there?

Mastering LinkedIn: A Powerful Tool for Service Providers

While I’ve mentioned all these other platforms, LinkedIn is my happy place and ideal for service-based businesses. So, how can you make the most of your profiles on LinkedIn to build your brand.

I was able to attend the amazing Uplift Live event in Birmingham last week and learnt some interesting things about finding your people on LinkedIn, improving your profile, going live and making the most of your company page. Here are just a few takeaways.

  • Personal Profile: Create an engaging bio that reflects your personality, as well as highlighting your expertise and keywords your people are searching for. Including some of your own personal stories and passions can make you more relatable and give people something to connect with.
  • Company Profile: Use your company profile to showcase your services, client testimonials, and subject matter expertise. Encourage people to engage with your company profile – if you have a team, share their stories and create content they’ll want to share in return.
  • Video: On both your personal and company profiles, use videos. Live videos particularly are great ways to be seen and engage directly with your network, and sharing your video with another expert allows you to share their audience too.
  • Engagement: Engaging on other people’s content – particularly those you want to build a closer relationship with – is incredibly valuable in raising your profile. For the most impact, rather than reacting or sharing, LinkedIn prefers comments (at least a couple of sentences) – think of it as encouraging conversation. You might also think about joining relevant industry groups to participate in discussions and share valuable content, establishing yourself as an expert.

Whether it’s on your website or LinkedIn profiles, creating a strong online presence that reflects your brand personality will help build trust with your audience, attract new clients and grow your business. Are you happy with your online presence? Does it really show your potential clients who they’ll be working with?

If you feel like your website or profile are letting you down, get in touch.
Tell me what you are struggling with and we’ll see how I can help.