Leadership + Management | By Tom Murphy,

Forget Meeting in Person. First Impressions Have Gone Online.

We all know how important a first impression is. It can be a make it or break it moment. But here’s the kicker. Now it’s happening online.

Yes, that first face-to-face meeting is still important. So you should still do all those things your mom and your career counselor always told you to: make eye contact, have a firm handshake, and dress the part. But you should also realize that it very likely isn’t a true first impression and that the person shaking your hand has probably already Googled you.

Good or bad, your online presence is your new first impression.

It’s become standard practice

What do you do when you’re considering making a purchase or finding a new service provider? You go online, of course. You search profiles and websites. You ask your networks.

And if you think for one second that your business associates, clients and prospects aren’t doing the same thing, you’re in some serious denial.

Chances are very good you’ve already been searched. Your articles, posts, and comments have been read. Your photos have been looked at. Whatever your prospects learn through their online research is now the first impression they will bring with them to your initial email, conversation, or meeting.

If this thought makes you shudder, you may have some work to do when it comes to your professional image.

Think you’re in the clear?

Maybe you’re one of those people who hate social media or refuses to use it. You might be feeling pretty good about now. You’ve put nothing out there. Your first impression is pure.

Well, this is where the bad news comes in. If your potential clients can’t find you, they won’t have a compelling reason to meet or do business with you. You may be clean, but you’re also invisible.

Meanwhile, your competition could be showing up for their “first” meeting with a huge advantage.

  • That company has an awesome website and blog.
  • That person has been out there on LinkedIn and other platforms sharing thought-provoking content and ideas.
  • Your coveted prospect already feels a connection with this person, even though they’ve never actually met.
  • And it’s not because they know nothing about them. It’s because they know something about them. And they are intrigued.

Avoiding social media doesn’t give you an advantage in today’s business world. In fact, it can put you at a huge disadvantage. And using it wisely can give you an edge. The key word here is wisely.

Creating a first impression that works

Here are two ways to get started down the right path:

1.) Define your message

What thoughts and feelings do you want your audience to have when they think about you? What do you want them to know about you, your organization, and why they should work with you? What skills do you have? What things do you care about? What is it that makes you different from your competition?

2.) Get out there

Once you’ve figured out what you want to share, be confident in putting yourself out there. And don’t worry! You don’t need to be everywhere. Research platforms to find out where your target market is. Then, choose one or two that are most relevant and start interacting. Follow people who are talking about the same things your customers are, and get your message across in an interesting and professional way.

It won’t happen overnight, but you may be pleasantly surprised at how quickly you can elevate your online presence and start separating yourself from your competition. Just make sure everything your audience finds when searching online matches your desired first impression.

Because in the end, that’s exactly what it is.