You’re at a business conference and you see a stranger approaching you. Before they’ve even opened their mouth to speak, you’ve already formed an impression of them. Based on the way they walk, the expression on their face, the clothes they’re wearing, and their body language, you’ve already decided if this person is worthy of your time.
A first impression is your initial opinion of someone, and their initial opinion of you. It is based solely on appearance and body language, and relies little on verbal cues, if at all. Malcolm Gladwell, author of Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking, calls this process ‘thin slicing’.
Do First Impressions Matter?
First impressions matter because you only get one chance to leave a great one on someone. Research from Princeton University shows that people’s first impressions are formed within seconds of meeting someone. Most of these impressions are also difficult to reverse or undo, so it’s important to make yours count.
Professor Frank Bernieri, of Oregon State University, is interested in first impression formation and accuracy. He is an expert in ‘thin-slicing methodology’.
"First impressions are the fundamental drivers of our relationships," he said, in an article in The Guardian. "In a sense, it's a little like the principle of chaos theory, where the initial conditions can have a profound impact on the eventual outcome. A first impression is your initial condition for analysing another human being."
Online: The New First Impression
People now form that critical first impression of you from the web. Before meeting you in person, they will probably search for information about you online. What they discover will likely influence their perception of you when they finally meet you in person.
Missouri University of Science and Technology found, from their eye-tracking research, that it takes a user approximately 2.6 seconds to make a first impression of a website. Like a website, people will quickly form an impression of you from your social media presence.
What goes on the web stays on the web, so make sure your information online presents a good first impression of you. Monitor your online brand because first impressions count.