First impressions last.
It’s more than a saying; recent studies in neurobiology have proven it.
But in the Information Age, first impressions are less and less likely to be formed in person. Instead, they are delivered on computer screens via the results of a Google or LinkedIn search. Before ever connecting with you in the real world, people are using the web to get to know you, and they’re making decisions about you based on what they see.
Surprisingly, many professionals still treat their online identity as a “nice to have but not an absolute must.” The implications of ignoring your online branding are vast. You could be sending the wrong message, making it hard to build an authentic relationship in the future. You could miss out on opportunities as well. You don’t know who might be researching you, then deciding not to contact you for a job or other opportunity because of their first virtual impression. We know from research that first impressions are critical, and they are hard to change. In fact, they are so powerful that after we learn more information about someone we’ve just met, we work to try to make the information align with what we discerned from our first impression.
This phenomenon is called anchoring or focalism. Wikipedia defines it as a cognitive bias that describes the common human tendency to rely too heavily on the first piece of information offered (the “anchor”) when making decisions. This is why it’s essential that you make sure the “bits and bytes” version of you is consistent with the “flesh and bones” you if you want to successfully connect with others and maximize career opportunities.
How can you control and manage your online ID without having it taking over your life?
Get your page 1 Google results in order
According to searchengineland.com, Google has 63.7% of the search market. Within Google, focus your efforts on page 1. According to marketingland.com on average, 71.33% clicks go to page 1 results. Pages two and three get only 5.59% of the clicks. Don’t worry if you have a common name. People are sophisticated searchers and will add a word (or words) to their search to filter out the other results. Know what those keywords are, and use them multiple times in everything you post on the web.
Buy your domain name
Even if you aren’t ready to have your own web site, get your domain name now so you can use it when you need it. When someone googles your name and the search is an exact match to your web address, it will likely show up at the top of the search results. You can also point your domain name to your LinkedIn profile or other place on the web and direct people there.
Build an authentic and compelling LinkedIn profile
For many, LinkedIn is the starting point when they want to learn about someone. Even those who start with a Google search will likely visit your LinkedIn profile. That’s because it’s highly likely that your profile will show up at the top of the search results.
Get your LinkedIn profile in order. When it comes to professional first impressions, LinkedIn is the most important site for most of us. Create a compelling headline (don’t use just your job title) and a summary that tells people not only what you have done, but who you are. Use the first person for your LinkedIn summary because it’s the easiest way to create a connection and “have a conversation” with those who are looking at your profile.
Invest in a professional headshot
The web may be the first place we go to learn about someone, but it’s limited in its ability to engage people. We humans want to be able to connect a face with a name. Make sure your headshot is professional and that your face takes up most of the frame. Avoid full body shots, selfies and using something other than a pic of you as your headshot. Headshots often show up on page 1 in Google image search results.
Thanks to blended search, video frequently shows up on page 1 of a google search. In fact, according to Expanded Ramblings, 65% of Google searches return videos. Reserve your YouTube channel with your name. Video is also the best way for people to get to know you. It allows you to create an emotional connection by delivering a complete communication and exuding your personality. Create a video bio or a thought-leadership video to deliver a powerful first impression.
Managing your digital brand is not a one-time event. Set up a Google alert for your name (alerts.google.com) so you can proactively manage your online first impression. And keep your digital profile up-to-date so it remains a relevant and compelling impression that will spur people to want to meet you in the real world.
This article was written by William Arruda from Forbes and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.