It is a cliche to say that you only get one chance to make a first impression – but it is true nonetheless. The adage about first impressions was important before we all began to network online, but now it is far more important, because you could be making that first impression anywhere, and you may not even realise it. We would all like the first impression to be a good one, so it is worth taking a little bit of time to make sure that no matter where someone comes across you for the first time – be it LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook or even at a face to face networking event – they walk away with a great first impression.
Let me tell you about two first impressions I have made over the past week.
The first was a person I met when I was giving a presentation last week. We were both due to speak that evening. He was in marketing and he had prepared his talk so that it touched on social media, which mine was obviously about. Within a minute he had shaken my hand and said ‘it is great to meet you. I am talking about social media a little in my talk but I am sure that it will complement what you’re saying.’ Bear in mind, we had never met, nor did we know much about what the other person was saying. It turned out that I spoke before him, but when he stood up, he then improvised parts of his own talk so that the two of us ended up looking like we had planned it that way. It made him look great, as well as emphasised what I had said. The next morning I had a tweet from him saying it was great to meet me and that ‘we really woke the audience up, didn’t we’.
What a great first impression.
The other was a person I met recently. We were introduced at a networking event because a third person had heard her talk about social media and thought it might be good for us to chat. She asked me whether I did PR first, and then after I explained to her what we did, she said ‘well, I already have someone doing digital PR for me, and she does all of that already’. I hadn’t thought networking was about selling to the network, but through the network which is why it is so powerful, but it was still a slap across the face – a dismissal that actually she wasn’t interested in me at all. I personally didn’t need her services either, but I might know people who do. But the first impression was made and it can’t be unmade.
Think before you speak, post or tweet
The lesson I learnt in from both of these experiences is no matter what, when you are in a social environment whether online or face to face, you need to constantly be aware of what impression you are making. Take yourself out of your own shoes and put yourself into the shoes of the person you communicated with to see you from their eyes. Be honest – if the tables had been turned, what first impression would you have got? And was that the kind of first impression you are happy to put out?
A great exercise is to go back to your own Twitter profile or blog and just read back what it is you have put out there over the past weeks or months. What does it say about you? If someone was meeting you for the first time, how would they see you? Would they see you as a pushy salesperson or as someone there to help? Would they see you as self-centred or generous? Would they see you as open and friendly or as intimidating?
I impress constantly that social media activity should be infused with your personality. Therefore, I do not pass judgement on any of these impressions because you need to make the impression that is right for you. Some people become very successful from being arrogant and rude (Simon Cowell) and others from being generous and open (Chris Brogan). Whatever personality you want to preserve, the important thing is to be aware of it and make sure you are true to it. If you are in a competitive business, then this is even more important because if that first impression is the right one, then the relationship is sure to continue. And when it comes down to it, your relationships are some of the most important assets in your business.
What first impression have you given across to someone you have met in the past week? If you were given the chance, would you go back and change it? If so, then make sure the next time you give a first impression it is the one that makes you proud.
Thank you to alvin seah for the image