Speakers address ways to heighten virtual presence

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Last year, maintaining an effective virtual presence was a staple for most businesses. This year, with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting financial impact, it has become even more important.

On Wednesday, Sept. 16, local businesses had an opportunity to learn more about how to best connect with customers online. Janice and Donald Jones of CycleHere Media gave a presentation on the topic during the Chamber at Noon virtual meeting of the St. Johns County Chamber of Commerce Ponte Vedra Beach Division.

Founded in 2012 and based in St. Augustine, CycleHere Media provides video marketing, consulting and production services throughout Florida. It specializes in boosting public awareness, customer engagement and reputation value for government agencies, destinations and private businesses.

Janice Jones named three main components of a business’s “virtual front door”: the website, social platforms and email.

“Before COVID, we were all there – we were working on these; we were building them – that was part of just business these days, being out there virtually,” said Donald Jones. “But it’s obviously so much more important at this point to fine-tune that, focus it on what your message is.”

Janice Jones said the public should always find something current on websites and social media. And when speaking to a client or customer via online conferencing, the speaker should always look directly into the camera – not at the screen showing the other party’s image.

“Eye contact,” said Donald Jones. “We think about that when we are in person. When we’re in a Chamber event or a meeting or we’re sitting down face-to-face on a one-on-one client meeting, you’re looking in their eye. But with computers and all the screens, it’s natural for us to … look a little bit off.”

Janice Jones also suggested keeping distractions out of the background, putting some light on the speaker’s face and using expressions while communicating.

She also emphasized thinking of the website as more than just an electronic flier.

“If you can share your process within your website, then you’re taking that customer, that potential client, and you’re walking them in the door,” she said.

Likewise, social media is more than a commercial aired to a passive audience. There’s a reason it’s called “social.”

One taco shop, for instance, intersperses humor and family news with photos of tacos and recipes. People are drawn to the site and hopefully get the urge to eat some tacos.

One tool the Joneses didn’t want their audience to take for granted was email. Janice Jones cited a survey that found 86% of professionals prefer to use email when communicating for business purposes.

“So, I’m asking you: Could you be more personable through your emails?” she said.

The Joneses use a service called BombBomb, which allows them to send a video in an email, a different way to communicate visually.

“These are all ways that you can add value,” said Janice Jones. “That’s what we’re hoping to do, to inspire you to add a little value in the ways and the means that you can from your desktop or your home or wherever you’re working from right now.”

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