In the past first impressions were almost always made in person.
Not so anymore.
In our digital world it is likely that the first things that someone will learn about you will come from an online source. With everyone from recruiters, to potential investors to colleagues able to access information about you with the click of a mouse, it is important that your online appearance leaves a positive impression on its viewers.
Your online appearance includes everything there is about you online. And the goal is to make sure that that content sends the right message.
Just like with online branding for a business, in order to make the right impression on the right people you will need to know your brand (i.e., how you would like to be portrayed) and know your customer (i.e., who you hope will be reading the content).
You always want to appear professional, competent and credible but, depending on your goals, you may also want to showcase your creativity, friendliness, leadership skills or a number of your other qualities. As well, the impression you want to make if you are looking to attract a recruiter will be quite different than if you are looking to find funding for your start-up.
Your online appearance should reflect your personal branding goals and speak to your desired audience.
Once you know what type of impression you want to make and on whom, use the following tips to enhance your professional appearance online.
Tell Your Story with LinkedIn
In many industries it is expected that you have a LinkedIn profile. This may seem obvious but it is important to note that not having one can undermine your credibility and lead, for example, a recruiter to go with someone else who has garnered the social proof for their skills that LinkedIn provides.
Use your LinkedIn profile to tell your story. Be a good editor and cut out past experiences that are no longer relevant. Include skills, publications, and even interests that advance your personal branding goals.
The importance of a good profile picture cannot be overstated. Studies show that people form their first impression of someone less than a second after seeing someone’s picture. Make sure your profile picture looks professional and dress appropriately for your industry. Also, if you can afford it, consider having professional photos taken.
Finally, capitalize on that social proof that we mentioned above. Give and receive meaningful endorsements and make as many connections in your industry as possible.
Use Other Social Media Wisely
Social media can be your best friend or your worst nightmare.
Get to know how the privacy settings on the social media platforms you use work. Still, the best policy is to assume that the private is public when it comes to social media. Don’t post anything that you wouldn’t want the people you work with, or want to work with, to see.
You can use social media to your advantage. Twitter can be a great place to share articles and news stories that are relevant to your industry. Making appropriate, professional posts can help shape the online personal brand that you want to cultivate.
Make Your Own Spot on the Internet
For some people, especially those who are professionals or creative-types, it may make sense to have your own website. Here you can showcase your past projects or work to would be clients and collaborators.
There is no better way to control your own story, shape your own brand and connect online with your desired audience than by maintaining your own website. To ensure that your website sends the right message you will need to commit to sharing and updating content that highlights your professional skills and interests – seeing a website that that hasn’t been updated in months or years automatically raises red flags.
If you don’t have a desire to maintain your own personal website, consider instead creating a personal page on your company’s website. Having your own personal page helps to build the appearance of professionalism and credibility.
Publish Your Thoughts
An important way in which people build their professional appearance online is by creating content. Writing articles and publishing them allows you to demonstrate your knowledge, build your credibility and can act as an endorsement if those articles are shared by others in your industry.
In addition to publishing content on LinkedIn, other social media channels or your own website or web page, you may also want to publish on third party websites, like Medium, or through online media outlets.
iQ publishes iQ Interview series, a weekly interview series in which we highlight one of our fantastic members and their accomplishments. Getting featured in articles and interviews online is another great way to enhance your professional appearance online while sharing a part of your professional self with the world.
While there is no one-size-fits-all solution to making your online appearance shine, if you use the tips above in a way that works towards your personal branding goals and speaks to your desired audience, you will be well on your way to making a great impression online.