The Importance of a Great Online First Impression
The Unique Challenge of Online First Impressions
The importance of a strong first impression is no secret. The truth is, first impressions can have a long term impact on the course of a relationship.
First impressions are formed in less than a second. In the real world, the tactics are straightforward:
- Dress sharp
- Firm handshake
- Leverage an introduction
Online first impressions are a different story.
Increasingly, relationships don’t just start, but are also maintained, online. That means people who stumble across your website or social media profiles will make snap judgments before they ever interact with you face-to-face. And unlike the real world where you can only be in one place at a time, there are a lot of places you can be discovered online.
After you finish this blog you’ll:
- Have the basics of a great online first impression
- Know the four most common areas people discover you online
- Be able to make online first impressions just as well as you do offline
Best Practices for Making a Great First Impression Online
When it comes to how you are perceived online, there are some basic things to remember. Each of these tactics applies across all online channels.
- Persona. We can’t stress how important it is to tailor the way you communicate to your people. A well developed persona is the first tool you can use to make sure you tailor your messaging and design to your people. (Get the Learner Persona Template so you can customize your learning and development initiatives to the people who matter.)
- Design. Website visitors demand visually appealing and well designed content. So much so that 38% of people will leave a site if they find it unattractive.
- Images and Video. It’s no secret that humans love to consume visual content. Infact, some people estimate, that by 2018, images and video will make up close to 85% of all online communication.
- Mobile. In 2016 mobile and tablet internet usage surpassed desktop for the first time.
- Testimonials. Just like in the real world, social proof can have a huge impact when it comes to first impressions.
- Always be testing. Engagement is usually a good indicator that you’re making a great first impression. Likes, comments, shares, new followers and conversions through forms on your website are all places where you can measure engagement. Use A/B testing to investigate how changes impact the impression you give.
- Be Consistent. Make it easy for your site visitors to get acquainted with your brand. Keep the styling and layouts consistent across your website and social channels.
- Stay above the fold. More than 80% of your visitors time will be spent “above the fold.” That means you need to make sure people can access any information you absolutely need them to see without scrolling.
- Make it easy to get in touch. It needs to be easy for people to contact you. Even if they never call, people want to know that they could. Clearly display your location, phone number and a form people can use to get in touch.
- SEO. Search engines can read more than just your website and landing pages. Make sure to include familiar language and keywords across all of your web presence.
- Attention spans are short. Humans have notoriously short attention spans. (Less than 12 seconds) You need to captivate your audience if you even want a chance to leave your mark.
Using videos on landing pages can increase conversions by 86%.
3 Places Champions Make Online First Impressions
Online first impressions are generally made in three places. This guide will cover each one, and give you some best practices you can use to make a positive online first impression.
Optimize Your Website
Your website is your number one marketing, sales and education tool. This is where you have the ultimate freedom to express yourself, showcase your brand and educate visitors about you and your organization.
“It takes less than two-tenths of a second for an online visitor to form a first opinion of your brand.”- Entrepreneur.com
Researchers at the Missouri University of Science and Technology, have found that it takes site visitors "less than two-tenths of a second to form a first opinion of your brand" once they visit your site.
There are four main site pages where you need to focus:
Depending on how a user arrives on your site, the homepage may or may not be the first place they land. But, rest assured they will find their way to the homepage very quickly. Make sure your homepage:
- Gives people a high-level overview of your organization
- Clearly tells people who you are, what you do, and what visitors can gain
- Clearly communicates how others feel about your company
- Makes it easy to navigate to more specific pages
- Provides contact information
2. About Us Page
Once a site visitor has scanned your homepage, they usually want to know more about your business or organization. And that doesn’t mean what you sell or offer. They want to know details about what makes you or your organization unique from a human perspective. Make sure to:
- Tell a story
- Include video and images
- Share testimonials and credentials
3. Product or Offer Page
Of course people want to know what you offer. So, the product page is an important area of your website. Whether you decide to use a lot of snazzy code, or you stick with a more traditional approach, you want your product page to:
- Clearly articulate the value of your offer
- Use video and images to showcase your product
- Show visitors how others have benefited from your product
- Make it easy for visitors to buy, sign up for, or learn more
4. Landing Pages
If you write a lot of blogs, do a lot of advertising, or focus heavily on keywords related to specific offers, your site visitors probably found you through a landing page. Landing pages serve two main purposes:
- Convey specific information related to the keyword or advertisement your visitors searched or followed.
- Convert site visitors into long term contacts or customers with the use of a form.
Follow these best practices to make sure your landing pages hit the mark:
- Ditch the navigation bar. Make it easy for your site visitors to consume information. Remove the navigation bar to eliminate distractions.
- Use a form. Forms are used to collect contact information from your people. That way you can continue the conversation and build rapport via email, phone, social media or other communication channels.
- Be Specific. Make sure content matches the search terms or offers your visitors followed. Inconsistent content can have a doubly bad effect. Not only does a bait and switch cause users to lose trust, but if users don’t see what they wanted, they’ll bounce and your SEO credibility can take a hit.
- Get to the point. Avoid clutter and don’t bury content. Users want something specific when they arrive at a landing page. Make sure they see what they want.
- Make it easy to get in touch. 44% of site visitors bounce if they don’t see contact info!
Make sure your important information is near the top of the page.
Facebook Page and Posts
Facebook is the most popular social network in the world (over a billion active daily users). In mid-2015, it was estimated that Facebook drove almost 25% of all social referral traffic. That means there is a high likelihood that people learn about you or your organization for the first time on Facebook.
People will investigate every area of your Facebook page to get a sense of you and your organization. Follow these Best Practices to make sure you put your best foot forward with your Facebook profile.
- Complete your profile. Just like your website, your Facebook page provides a variety of ways for people to learn about you.
- Get your photos right. Facebook provides two areas to make a strong first impression.
- Cover photo. The cover photo is that giant picture at the top of all Facebook pages, so it’s obviously a great place to make a first impression. To ensure your cover photo is super effective follow these basic rules:
- Stick to 828 pixels wide by 315 pixels tall
- Convey visually appealing information
- Keep important content right aligned
- Profile Picture. Social media has been around for less than 2 decades, but we’re already conditioned to look at profile pictures to make first impressions. The best profile photos are:
- Easily recognizable
- 180 x 180 pixels
- Ask for “Likes.” Just like social proof on your website, page likes on your business page tell your audience that you’re well respected. Likes also tell Facebook that people find your content valuable and increase your chances to be discovered.
- Link to your website. You put a ton of effort into your site. Make sure it’s easy for people to get there.
- Upload photos regularly. Users will definitely check out your photos to learn about more than just what you sell or offer. Photos are a great place to show people a personal side.
- Mention a mutual Friend. If Facebook is a major part of your outreach you’ll want to mention Friends that you have in common. (This also works great on LinkedIn.)
- Post daily. While visitors check out your pictures and other information, they’ll also scroll your feed to get a sense for your personality based on the type of info you share. Try to post between 1 and 3 times per day to keep your feed fresh.
Twitter Page and Tweets
Aside from Facebook, Twitter is the other big online social network.
Twitter works as a kind of broadcasting platform. That gives you a lot of freedom to communicate, curate and share content your people can check out to form their first impression of you.
There’s a lot of overlap in best practices between Facebook and Twitter. And there are some major differences. Follow these Best Practices to make sure you put your best foot forward with Twitter.
- Start with a logical handle. Your Twitter handle should be easy to remember. Give yourself a name that make sense. @FriendlyNeighborhoodChampion might sound fun, but @gloo makes a lot more sense for our business.
- Pin a Tweet. If there’s one thing you want your audience to see, pin it to the top of your page. A strategic Tweet pinned to the top of your profile has been observed to increase leads by ten times.
- Strike a balance. You don’t want to come across as aloof or uninterested, but you also don’t want people to think of you as a Spammer. Try to find a balance between the number of people you follow and the number of people who follow you.
- Get your photos right. Just like Facebook, Twitter provides two places where you can use identifying photos to make an impression.
- Profile pictures on Twitter should be 400x400 pixels
- Banner images should be 1500 pixels wide x 500 pixels tall
- Get input. Twitter has cool features that make it easy to get input from your audience. You can ask questions and run polls to show people that you’re interested in a lot more than just yourself.
- Post Daily. Since people use Twitter to curate news and information from a large number of sources, posts on Twitter have a pretty short lifespan. Post at least 3-7 times per day.
- Get involved in the conversation. Don’t be that person who does nothing but share and self promote on Twitter. Utilize @mentions to loop others into the conversation.
There are unique obstacles to a strong online first impression. Namely, you aren’t face-to-face, and people can learn about you anywhere and at any time. When well executed, digital channels provide unique opportunities for you to reach a tremendous number of people. There are opportunities to grow your business or organization in ways you couldn’t have imagined.