My post last week on digital first impressions created some good debate and awesome comments! I wanted to dive into one of the points that was brought up, offer a few more insights and add some focus to an evolving trend in personal branding.

From Barry:

Nice ideas about digital first impressions. However, I think making an impression through a search engine is very different than the concept of meeting face to face. In the traditional face to face meeting – you’re exactly right – you’ve got one shot at your first impression.

You indicate this is the same concept through a search engine – those first 5 links being the first impression. You may have defined digital first impressions too narrow. A job seeker or networking professional actually has many opportunities to make a first impression across a wide array of sites – including blogs, their own website, linkedin, facebook, and the list goes on. Not only do you have an opportunity to “manage” your first impression on wide basis digitally, you also have the added benefit to continually work on it and improve it.

My response:

I agree with the first point — making first impressions face to face and online differ — that is why I pointed out these differences in my post. It requires a fundamental shift in thinking to succeed in our digital economy because the rules have changed. The thing everyone needs to get their heads around is that the majority of your first impressions are going to be made digitally via the web. And if you’re not easily located through your personal branding content — you don’t exist and will miss out on many opportunities.

I disagree with the second point. If you blow your digital first impression with somebody online you will rarely get a second chance with that person. Yes, you have the opportunity to evolve your personal brand over time but you only get one shot at a first impression. Meeting digitally is different then meeting physically because it is usually an unsolicited introduction (they find you) — most of your digital first impressions will be from those who find you on the web as they are exposed to your personal brand.

It doesn’t matter how many sites you are on — many people will not spend the time going through all of your personal branding content if you have already lost your credibility. This is especially worrisome in a digital economy because so many more people are exposed to your personal brand when it is easily found online.

From Jeanie:

I believe that Googling yourself is very important. However, I think Barry’s point is well made that there are different avenues that people may come across you online, besides searching you. Searching you is actually rather proactive on the searcher’s part. Accidentally bumping into you on various other venue is very far more likely. A recruiter probably first find you on LinkedIn before s/he actually take the effort to Google you.

At the same time, I must agree with Chad that at the end of the day, you only have one shot to make a first impression. You can improve upon a positive impression as they go deeper into your online presence, but I don’t think you can recover from a negative first impression.

My response:

Of course there are different avenues and traffic sources that will lead people to your personal brand — I do not make the case against this in my post so I’d like to add some clarity here.

What I am pointing out is that if somebody does “bump into” you online and they like what they see — you can bet their next move will be to Google you — what they find will go a long way to forming your digital first impression. Further, people usually do not wander around aimlessly online in places where they are not looking for something — there is a reason people are on the web even if it is just for entertainment. If they do “bump into” you, you need to be able to take advantage of that opportunity by having a powerful personal brand.