Need some advice to help you solve a business or website issue that keeps you up at night? Send it in through the jWAG Contact Form or to me directly through any social network; just search for my name "matthewperosi" on any social network and send a message.
Today I'll weigh my opinion in on this question
I am a one-person shop for the most part, although I do hire some winter help and have the occasional intern. On my website, I use "I" a lot in the copy, and was told by a well-meaning friend that I should use "we" since my store name ends in Jewelers. Do you think it makes me sound like we're small potatoes that can't hold a staff or does it sound like you're getting personalized service? Thanks for your help.
Small potatoes or large potatoes, how you portray yourself online is a deep personal choice that's related to your ultimate goals in business, and even in your career. Because it's a personal choice I'd like to share a few real stories of other jewelers and business owners I know, and how they approached the same issue. Perhaps one of these stories will give you clarity. For anonymity, I'm carefully using ambiguous and plural pronouns in my stories below. The use of which in no way is meant to influence the choice between the use of "we" or "I" on your website.
The Personal Jeweler in a Small Office
About 10 years ago, I met a personal jeweler who was proud to work from a 2nd floor, one room office above a strip mall in their town. They wanted to be the personal jeweler that customers could go to when they needed to find something special. They didn't stock any inventory, just catalogs of jewelry that could be flown in overnight. They also didn't do any custom design work.
During this jeweler's first year in business, they realized that it would be worthwhile to stock some basic jewelry, and they eventually had two jewelry showcases in their little office. Within two years their local advertising and word-of-mouth popularity grew to the point that the jeweler realized they could move into a one of the strip mall's available storefronts.
Before this jeweler's 3rd anniversary in business, they had a thriving store with a few employees. By that time all of their marketing and online presentation has been switched from using "I" to using "we" and other generic pronouns because it matched their business model.
The Personal Jeweler Who Blogs
There's a personal jeweler who's made a living out of creating one of a kind custom jewelry and restyling family heirlooms. Instead of running the business from a storefront and maintaining regular public business hours, they chose to work from their home. This personal jeweler uses their website and blog to educate and attract new clients. Over the years, that blog has established them as an industry expert which then opened the doors to invitations to speaking events and interviews with local media. The blog is a true portrayal of their friendly personality and it continues to attract new customers who what that one-on-one personal service. Their website and blog clearly explains that they are a one person operation, and that their personalized service is unparalleled.
The Small Jewelry Store
There's another jeweler I know who's spent their entire life building a solid reputation for themselves in their local community. Their store is very small, perhaps less than 400 square feet, and it certainly does have the small business feel. While their website uses "we" throughout the general explanations of services, there are also several pages and blog posts that clearly explain that the jeweler has been working there alone for more than 20 years. The website also clearly explains that, as a solopreneur, they might alter their store hours unexpectedly.
I think this jeweler carefully balances the use of "we" on some pages of their website, while also correctly portraying their one-person operation on others.
The Young Attorney
Through my volunteer work as a SCORE Mentor, I'm often working with young entrepreneurs that are struggling with how to identify themselves online. Recently, I worked with an attorney that was setting up their first law practice. They had previously worked for a larger law firm with a team of other attorneys and paralegals. Naturally, it made sense for the law firm to use plural pronouns on their website, and this is the strategy that this young attorney took when writing their own business website.
Unfortunately, the "we" services portrayed on the website were a little hard to believe once meeting the attorney in person and seeing their small office. Their online list of accomplishments and abilities simply didn't match their in-person appearance or presentation. This mismatched online image to personal appearance made them seem like a scam artist rather than a legitimate attorney. They eventually rewrote several pages of the website to better portray their new business.
My Personal Story
When jWAG first launched in early 2010, the original approach was to portray all of the jWAG from the "we" and "our" point of view; after all, we are the Jeweler Website Advisory Group, and there is a group of us who work to produce the jWAG knowledge.
However, the writing of these Daily Golden Nuggets has always been my job, and my job alone. In the beginning, I used to use the royal "we" instead of "I" as a way to try and establish that "Group" credibility, but I felt uncomfortable writing like that. I was forced to write from a more generic point of view and could not express my own personal feelings or points of view when constrained by the "we."
After some long deliberations, we (the real "we" of everyone in my office at the time) decided that it would be better for me to take ownership of the Nuggets and write them from the "I" point of view. This also meant associating my face and my backstory as part of the "I" to not only legitimize the single-person credibility, but to help the reader know who was speaking.
Since then, I've been able to provide my personal opinion, allow my personality to come through in my writing, and even write several Nuggets that could never be written as a "we" collective, like my Friday Website Reviews and #FridayFlopFixes.
I find it more rewarding to write from the first person point of view, yet there are still many times when I talk about how my team and I worked through a problem.
I've certainly had my share of experiences with websites that make a business sound large and amazing, only to find that they were single person, shoebox size business that couldn't live up to the reputation they claimed online. Above all else, you need to be true to who you are, how you portray yourself. As potential customers read about you online, they will develop expectations of what your store looks like, your personality, and how you conduct business. Because a website is often the first point of contact between you and your customer, you need to meet or exceed their expectations when they finally visit you in person.
If you have the ability to wow them when they walk in the store then it might not matter if you use "we" or "I" on your website. Your physical business needs to live up to the reputation you create online. If you do choose to use "we" to describe yourself online, just don't ever let a customer walk away with deflated expectations.