3 easy steps to improve your digital first impressions

4 min read


I used to work in a corporate marketing department at a really large US company. One day, the director of IT sent out an email to our entire company (hundreds of thousands of employees) from his account at corporate HQ.

His email contained a warning about a computer virus that was going around. It urged us to be vigilant in the coming days as a reputable computer company released a statement saying this was classified as the most destructive virus ever. Even worse, there was no repairing the damage that the virus would cause. By no means, he went on to say, were any employees to open an email with a certain subject line.

Any idea what I did?

I went to snopes.com where it took me 30 seconds to confirm that that email in question was a hoax.

In that same 30 seconds, thousands of other employees did the same thing. And, in the next heartbeat we all thought “And this guy is the head of our IT department? We’re in trouble.”

In today’s digital world, your digital impressions can bolster or bust your online reputation. Ask Anthony Weiner.

So, let’s talk about three steps to better first impressions.

Step 1. Keep your digital spaces well groomed

You’ve got your YouTube, and your Tumblr, and your Flickr, and your Facebook, and your Twitter, and your Pinterest, and your LinkedIn, and your Snapchat, and well, you know what? Check out this graphic of all the social places you can be:

The Conversation Prism
The Conversation Prism

Whoa…that’s a lot.

There are too many digital properties around now for you to manage an effective presence on all of them. I understand the desire to be everywhere, especially if there’s a new outlet getting lots of love from the media. Trust me, you’ll be better off if you pick your top digital properties and focus on them.

Tips to build your digital foundation

Get a professional domain
Self-hosting is cheap and easy nowadays. Domains rarely cost more than $5 or $10 for a year and with WordPress, building and maintaining a nice looking website has never been easier.
Simplify your channels
It’s better to have one social media account where you are present and active than two or three accounts that sit there collecting digital dust. If you don’t have time to be active everywhere,
figure out what channel makes the most sense for you and put a ring on it.
Bump up your content
After you’ve decided where you’re going to spend your time digitally, make the commitment to do it well. Provide quality content and engagement for the medium that you’ve chosen. If you’re not sure how to do that, I’d recommend Jab, Jab, Jab, RIGHT HOOK as an excellent starter book on effective participation in social media or online marketing.

Step 2. Brush up on your grammar

Our online world is ruled with snappy headlines and 140-character stories. With the casual tone and short-form conventions that fill our newsfeeds and phone screens, it’s easy to let online jargon and abbreviations sneak into our business communication, and by communication I mean email.

Email is still king of the mountain when it comes to business correspondence. Some rules may have changed over the years, but unless you know your client well, always err on the side of too professional. And by professional, I don’t mean stuffy. You can still be fun or creative while maintaining a high level of professionalism.

Simple things you can do to amp up professionalism in your email

  • Include a salutation, especially on your first email
  • Don’t use text-speak, save the smileys and winks for Facebook
  • Avoid using all-caps and words like URGENT

Step 3. Get down to brass tacks

Even though you should still mind your p’s and q’s, don’t waste time. Gone are the days of long multi-paragraph volumes of commentary. If you can’t say it quickly and succinctly, you should probably grab the phone or book a meeting.

I’m not suggsting you have to go as hardcore as proponets of email theories like two.sentence.es, but get in there, get the job done, and get out.

If you’re sending promotional product ideas to your clients or prospects, remember that “a picture is worth a thousand words.” commonsku built an entire feature of our software to help distributors land more business with attractive proposals.

Researchers have found that “we make eleven major decisions about one another in the first seven seconds of meeting.” On the web, it’s even shorter where fractions of a second determine if someone even visits your website in the first place.

So, just as you’d pay attention to how you looked for an in-person client meeting, you should pay attention to the digital face that you’re presenting to clients and prospects.

And, don’t forget to check snopes before you forward any tips onto your entire address book.