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Digital First Impressions: You Only Get One

It’s a fact that the world has dramatically changed, so whether you like it or not, your digital presence is out there and people can find your footprints.

Unless you’ve been living in some remote Amazonian backwater for the last 20 years there will be something hiding out there about you on the web. The reality is that we have all moved into the digital age and have accepted the internet as a way of life for communication. Information now travels instantly, network connections are made every day and first impressions are made without our knowledge.

It’s been said that you have 10 seconds to make a good impression, which is especially relevant if you are a user of any of the social media channels. Even if you don’t share all of your personal life online there still is a good chance that certain elements of your life can be traced. In simple terms this means that you either have to tighten up your privacy settings or behave yourself.

social media best practices

Privacy is limited

Just recently in the UK, a teenager was appointed as Britain’s first Youth and Crime Commissioner by Kent Police. Within a short, time the news of Paris Brown's position hit the headlines, but for all the wrong reasons. Tweets that she had sent from as young as 14 were plastered over the front pages of a National Newspaper. It was claimed that her past comments on Twitter were racist, homophobic and contained drug references. Kent Police then announced that they were investigating whether her comments amounted to a criminal offence.

When Kent Police recruited Paris to the role she was described as "an extraordinary young person with exceptional skills and a proven track record with working with young people." The initial first impressions were then destroyed by these past comments which came to published and cause a media storm for the Kent Police department.

A recent survey by they showed that 86% of potential employers may search and look into your social profiles history. This is something that Kent Police didn't take into consideration where they employed Miss Brown saying: "We used Kent Police's vetting procedures, which do not normally involve scrutiny of social networks for this grade of post."

First impressions count

Whether you are an individual or a large brand we all understand the need to create a good first impression. But as Miss Paris Brown found out the hard way, is what goes on the web, stays on the web for all to see. The safest way is to assume that everything you write online is public and could potentially come back to haunt you when you least expect it.

Many articles have been written about presenting yourself or your brand in the right light. This could be the use of professional looking profile photo or catchy logos or headers, but this is just creating an impression at a basic level. Of course, it’s important to get this part of your branding right, but the fact is that impressions on social media channels go a lot deeper than a happy smiley face in your profile box or a visual masterpiece of a logo.

online profile

Get the little things right

People search and find you, they take a look at you and think, ‘you look OK’, so let’s go further. Do they see that you are active on your pages? Do you share content that is inspiring, useful or valuable? If you don’t wow them at this point, they leave, and never to come back. They could have found boring content or endless quotes. They may have found the same old ‘funny’ cat pictures as everyone else or endless spammy sales messages. Even worse: have they spotted some potentially offensive updates?

When someone lands on your social feeds, their opinion about you will be made at that very moment. If you fail to make a good impression at this point, then you may have lost them forever. After all, there are plenty of other people out there that are worth finding out about, connecting with and forming a relationship. As an individual you may not care, but years down the line it could come back to bite you when a future employer makes a decision about you based on your past social comments.

From a business or brand point of view, how much passing traffic can you afford to lose because of the way you look? Gaining trust and loyalty from our networks and connections is the goal of every business. You may not like the fact that you are being judged, but it's a reality that has to be accepted in today's world.

In the real world you rarely get a second chance to make a good impression and it’s highly likely that in the world of social media, you probably won’t either.

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