Ten Tips for Creating a Great First Impression Online

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Great First Impression Online

Looking around for information on the topic of creating a great first impression online, much of the advice given is aimed towards dating online. There are instructions for “What to say in that first email message,” or “How to make the most of your online dating profile.”  But with so much of our professional lives taking place online, it is just as important to create a good or even great first impression online professionally as it is personally.

What is a first impression? 

According to Websters Dictionary, a first impression is a first consideration or judgment. In psychology books, “a first impression is the event when one person first encounters another person and forms a mental image of that person. Impression accuracy varies depending on the observer and the target (person, object, scene, etc.) being observed. First impressions are based on a wide range of characteristics: age, race, culture, language, gender, physical appearance, accent, posture, voice, number of people present, and time allowed to process. The first impressions individuals give to others could greatly influence how they are treated and viewed in many contexts of everyday life.”

Online impressions can be more difficult to correctly form as we don’t have all the other visual cues that face to face interactions provide, for example facial expressions, body language or context. But what we do have is social media, search engines, images, and text.

first impression

Ten Tips for Creating a Great First Impression Online

Be the owner and curator of your online presence. It used to be that when you would  “Google” yourself it was something you did in the privacy of their home hoping no one knew. Now it’s one of the first things someone may be doing to find out more about you – from potential employers to potential dates. But while it is your digital footprint that is being shared online, you are not always in charge of who posted the content. Remember that trip to Cancun where your friends took your picture, tagged it and shared it online? Yeah, THAT picture that you would never want a potential client, sponsor, investor or other partnership or collaboration business or individual to see. Find out what is out in cyberspace about you, pursue the links and images and make smart decisions about what you want out there and what you don’t. If you don’t want information shared online ask for it to be removed. Most importantly create separate accounts for friends and family from professional accounts.

Share information about accomplishments, endorsements, include your core values. products and services.  Tidy up accounts which don’t highlight the information you want to share, especially social media accounts.

google myself


Pretty as a picture. Everyone wants to put their best face forward but there is a difference between editing out red eyes and creating a face (or picture) that not even your mother would recognize. Keep your profile images current, try to avoid group pictures for professional profiles and let Photoshop do it’s best, not worst. Last but not least, consider your Instagram account. I know of some accounts where every single image they post is a selfie (or a picture someone has taken of them). Unless you are a model or pursuing a career where your ever facial expression is part of your success you may want to avoid this level of selfie-ism.

State your intentions and establish your goals. Why are you creating this particular online presence? Is it to get a new job? Then LinkedIn and making the best use of your profile there may be where you need to concentrate. Is it to pitch an idea or marketing concept? If so an email or a quick video may be the best way to get noticed. First key in on what you want to accomplish online then decide what are the best tools to help you achieve those goals. Stating your intentions, even if just mentally, also keeps you on track providing specific information towards putting your best digital footprint forward.

Mind your manners.  Wish people happy holidays, ask about their family (if you have that knowledge) or thank them for their interest or for contacting you. Granny always said you catch more flies with honey than you do vinegar. A little bit of nicety and good manners go a long way in making a great first impression. Don’t you want to continue talking to someone who is nice?

Keep your dirty laundry at home.  I remember my first and second apartments. I didn’t have a washing machine and dryer. I either had to use the laundry room on the apartment complex site or I had to go to a “laundry mat.” I hated doing that. I couldn’t help but think about all those people seeing my dirty laundry. I still feel that way, but not only about my actual dirty laundry but by the virtual “dirty laundry” too.  It’s a good rule of thumb to avoid as the cliche goes “airing your dirty laundry” online. Avoid vaguebooking, #endrant, oversharing and comments like “you know who you are.”

Avoid text talk. Recently another blogger shared with me an email message she received. However, it was an email message which had to be deciphered as it, for the most part, contained text talk, ending the conversation with like “LMK” (let me know) if you are interested in a future partnership, and “TA” (thanks a lot). Certain abbreviations are considered acceptable, for example, TBD, but for the most part, it is best to write things out KWIM?

text talk

Be sure to check your spelling and grammar. I have certain words which I always misspell. Spell check is great, but so is walking away and then coming back and reading your content again. I usually catch my mistakes when I read it out loud before I hit SEND or publish. Don’t just do this on communications but on anywhere your public persona is seen, most especially in business profiles. Online sites like Grammarly are free and easy to use.

Use care when using templates. I admit that I use some templates to make it faster and easier to respond to certain types of messages. But I will also admit that I’ve smacked my head with my hand and wondered how on Earth did I let myself hit that send button before changing out certain phrases. Pay careful attention to salutations as well as business names as well as how you relate to the business at hand.

Include a call to action when appropriate. Not all your online communications call for this, but it is important to end private messages, emails, direct messages or other forms of communication with an opportunity to act.

Provide contact information. Keep the conversation going with easily located contact information. There are easy to use products available like WiseStamp which creates an email business card or use Google Voice to help you monitor and sort your calls as well as add a level of privacy to your communications without giving out your personal cell phone number. Contact information helps to solidify not only where and who you are (you know you have “Is this spam email” before after getting a message from a stranger that didn’t have contact info at the bottom) but provides ways to keep the conversation going.

Using these 10 tips can help you get started towards one great first impression online. The rest is up to you.



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