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YOUR ONLINE FIRST IMPRESSION COUNTS!

YOUR ONLINE FIRST IMPRESSION COUNTS!

YOUR ONLINE FIRST IMPRESSION COUNTS!
February 25
10:29 2019

Beyond Insurance

By Matt O’Neill and April Baker

YOUR ONLINE FIRST IMPRESSION COUNTS!

Six steps to enhance your digital presence

When people talk about first impressions, they immediately think of face-to-face contact. Times have changed, however, and first impressions matter significantly online … especially when it comes to finding new clients. Your digital footprint shows prospects a lot about you—both good and bad. Like it or not, you are being Googled, judged, and analyzed by the content you’ve posted online.

As with a physical first encounter, you get only one shot at making your online first impression—so you want it to be good.

Research confirms that today’s business leaders and heads of households are using web searches and social media to decide within the first three to five seconds of viewing your profile whether to do business with you. They look at your social profile, your images, and every comment you make on a blog post. These factors play a key role in shaping your online reputation and brand. For that reason, it is imperative that your profile be current, positive, and upbeat.

If your prospect skims your online presence for the first time and perceives you as judgmental, offensive, inconsistent, or even just sloppy in your punctuation, that impression will affect your ability to establish credibility and trust.

[M]ake your professional activities and successes as public as you’re making your personal ones private.

Before you lock down all your social media accounts, be aware: The lack of an online social profile also can cost you. Recent surveys show that business leaders and heads of households are less likely to form relationships or transact business with those about whom they are unable to find information online.

The first new best practice is to clean up any questionable content from all of your social media profiles. Second, design your content in a way that reflects your best professional self.

How do you make a good first online impression?

Start by thinking of yourself as a brand, and market that brand accordingly. Realize that online, your name and image affect both your current and future earning potential. Consider perceptions, qualities, and characteristics you want people to associate with you. Think about traits and accomplishments you want to highlight. Consider asking yourself questions, such as:

What makes me unique in the marketplace? (your WHY, value proposition, process)

Who am I offering it to? (your target market) How am I going to reach them (your channels)

How will I sustain interest/stay in touch?

Answering these questions will enhance your ability to envision the image or expression you want to create in the minds of others: your sense of purpose, vision, and value that embody the real you.

Six steps

  1. Get your social life out of the public eye! The Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and similar channels you use to communicate with long-time friends and family should be separate from the ones that you use to communicate with strangers on the Internet. Create an account name like “Firstname Lastname Social” for your private life, and make sure the privacy settings are restricted across all platforms. Use your real name or business name for a larger, more publicly shared profile where you’re closely watching what you say.
  2. Google yourself and your image. Review the information about yourself in different search engines. This is where prospective clients will start. If you find negative content, such as your name or image on controversial blogs or blog comments; if you come across negative Facebook, Instagram, Tumblr, or Twitter posts; or if you are tagged in any risky video content, address the issue immediately. If you can delete it, then delete it. If the content is on a third-party site, ask the site administrator or owner to remove it. Finally, take down anything on your public profiles that is obsolete or unflattering.
  3. Remove anything unprofessional or controversial. Choose the content you make public carefully so that decision makers will be able to see only what you want them to see. Be sure to edit your “About” page or profile accordingly. Remove any movies, books, or affiliated groups that might reflect poorly on you. You may have items in your profile you “liked” or “followed” four years ago that don’t reflect you today. Never post any confrontational, political, or religious content on your public profiles.

Today one must be extra-cautious about making comments even about mundane issues, such as, “McDonald’s uses frozen patties. Go to Wendy’s!” or “Jane lied about her background. Vote for Gloria instead.” Remember that your posts never “die,” and they can be viewed by consumers for years. How would you feel if you lost an account because your potential client was the brother-in-law of the local McDonald’s franchise owner?

A statement made by Warren Buffett is good rule to live by digitally: “It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you’ll do things differently.”

On your public sites, delete:

  • Inappropriate or unprofessional photos, videos, or posts
  • Provocative selfies or too many selfies
  • Posts or photos that include drinking or using drugs, including legalized marijuana
  • Discriminatory comments related to race, religion, gender, political affiliation, etc.
  • Negative content about a previous employer or colleague
  • Posts that are overly cynical, grumpy, or mean

Consider keeping/adding content that:

  • Reflects your values, integrity, and responsibilities
  • Exudes professionalism and class
  • Shows a friendly, positive personality and life outlook
  • Communicates that you are well rounded with a wide range of goals and interests
  • Showcases your great communication skills
  1. Demonstrate your core values online. Create a list of the core values”(i.e., perceptions, qualities, characteristics, traits, accomplishments) you want people to associate with you. Then go through all your social media and web platforms and add content that reflects these values. Anything that does not reflect your core values is noise that drowns out your signal. Get rid of it!

Your mission is to establish a simple, clear-cut image of yourself that represents your authentic brand. Consider highlighting two to five things about yourself that validate your unique abilities, and make this impression as consistent as you can across all platforms.

Here are some strategies that will convey your core values online:

  • Start with the basics. All websites or public profiles under your control should look clean and neat. They should also include a current professional photo of you. Your photo should convey passion, energy, charisma, and empathy.
  • Clearly define the services and solutions you offer. This information ideally should be front and center. Keep it short, to the point, and up to date. Aim for the prospect’s heart.
  • Use endorsements. If a noteworthy person has commented favorably on your work, place that quote prominently. If someone famous uses your services, make that fact known. Be sure to obtain written permission from anyone you want to quote.
  1. Develop sufficient followers and traffic to all your public, professional social media sites. Set a goal of inviting a predetermined number of people each week. You’ll be pleasantly surprised by how quickly your connections will grow.

Most social network sites automatically show your number of followers. If you have a lot, that’s good—there’s a “social proof” effect. The more people who engage with you, the more prospects will assume you have something worth listening to.

  1. Highlight community connections. If you are seen talking to other people in online communities associated with insurance and risk management, it is assumed that you are an accepted part of these communities. Appearing as an established expert elevates your reputation and brand—and, as a practical side benefit, it keeps you in touch with useful contacts.

The bottom line: Make your professional activities and successes as public as you’re making your personal ones private.

Your online first impression sets the stage for how your credibility and trustworthiness is perceived by your prospects and clients. They judge you by how you look, what you say, and what you do.

A good rule for digital editing: When in doubt, take it out.

The authors

April Baker is chief learning officer for Beyond Insurance. She provides leadership, strategy and direction in the design, development and delivery of coaching, training and e-learning programs.

Matt O’Neill is chief experience officer for Beyond Insurance. He strategizes with organizations on the implementation of tools and resources and serves as a master coach and speaker on differentiation, social media, and developing a competitive advantage.

Beyond Insurance is a consulting firm that offers leadership training, culturaltransformation, and talent and tactical development for enlightened professionals who are looking to take their organization to the next level.  Since 2007 the proven and repeatable processes of Beyond Insurance have transformed organizations as measuredby enhanced organic growth, productivity,profitability, and value in the marketplace.

To learn more about Beyond Insurance, contact Scott Addis at saddis@beyondinsurance.com.

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