7th May 2014
When building business relationships, we all know there’s truth in the expression “You don’t get a second chance to make a first impression”. First impressions count in business – whether it’s the impression you make on a potential new client or the perception of trustworthiness you give to potential business introducers.
When you meet people for the very first time, within the first four minutes you formulate most of your opinion of them – whether you like them, whether you’ll listen to them or whether you’re wasting your time with them. Our perception of what someone is like is formed at a gut level and is based on little more than body language.
According to body language experts, how you present yourself to others is an outward reflection of your emotional condition and how you’re feeling inside. So, whatever attitude or emotional feeling you are experiencing is likely to be reflected through your gestures, movement or posture.
The same goes for how you present yourself online – particularly on Social Networking sites like LinkedIn, Xing, Twitter, Facebook and YouTube. It’s especially true on LinkedIn – the ‘Daddy’ of online business networking tools.
The perception amongst many business professionals is that LinkedIn is little more than a ‘fancy jobs site’. But over the last five years, LinkedIn has transformed itself into a ‘real-time networking platform’. And that’s important for anyone who wants to extend their business relationship-building activities into the online space, because most people in professional services, whilst having a profile on LinkedIn, have little idea what to do with it or how to leverage it.
But just as people make snap judgements about us in the ‘real world’, so too do we make such judgements in the online world. And just because you may have a great reputation in the ‘real world’, it does not necessarily follow that you have a great reputation in the online world. In fact whilst many people see Social Media as a shortcut to building business relationships, it can often take longer than meeting face-to-face to build your professional image and reputation online.
That’s why I prefer to look at LinkedIn as not just another Social Networking tool, but as an asset of my business and a vehicle with which to enhance the perception of my credibility, reputation, expertise, authority and likeability.
And to be quite honest, some people who in the real world are perceived to be attractive, professional, credible and likeable – are anything but in the online world.
A psychologist friend tells me that most of us tend to reveal much more about ourselves online than we do face to face. Some people reveal a little – whilst others reveal far, far too much about themselves – often adopting completely different personas. The ‘Werewolf Effect’ as we call it.
So, what is your online body language telling people?
Your online body language is just as important as your body language at a business meeting, a sales pitch, a networking event or a social event, because what people see is what they believe about you. From how you conduct yourself online, they make snap judgements about you and quickly decide if you are friendly, professional, credible, authoritative or likeable.
And likeability is important. As humans, when we’re checking people out for the first time, we’re instinctively drawn to those who have characteristics similar too our own. It could be subtle things like our beliefs and causes, it could be a similar educational standard or it could be something obvious that we have in common like a love of golf, rock music, cookery or travel.
When we meet someone for the first time in the real world, we very quickly spot the signals that our subconscious is looking for, but these signals are less immediately obvious when we’re meeting someone for the first time online. That’s why many online dating sites try to make it easy by asking us to list things like our favourite food, height, favourite music and films and so on – the things that are likely to find something which we have in common with another person.
Although people eventually reveal more about themselves online, the important signals that trigger trust, credibility and likeability take longer to be revealed. So for the business professional who has been convinced that Social Media is important in building business relationships, we need a helping hand.
Cue the LinkedIn profile. As part of LinkedIn’s transformation over recent years, the site has worked hard to make it easier for your online body language to be more visible. But you still need to put in some effort if people are to get the right impression so that they buy into you.
LinkedIn works on the principle that ‘People buy People’. But will people necessarily want to buy YOU?! Here are three ways to make it easier for them.
Firstly, there’s much evidence now to show that people increasingly use Social Media as a search engine. That’s largely because the results we get back from our searches on Social Media are from real people – very often people who we know or who we are connected to. That means we are more likely to trust and then act on the results. LinkedIn is without doubt the ‘People Search Engine’; it’s where we go to search for people and expertise – whether new staff and employees, new prospects, existing clients or perhaps potential business introducers.
Equally, people are searching LinkedIn for people who have skills that we possess. So if we want to make sure that we appear high in their search results, then we must fully complete our profile page. In fact LinkedIn gives greater prominence in search results to people who have fully completed profiles.
Secondly, make sure you have a high quality photo. It should radiate professionalism, friendliness and likeability. In tests, we’ve found that when searching LinkedIn, people are significantly less likely to view profiles that do not have a photo. You can upload a large photo of up to 4mb – this is important because when people like the look of you on LinkedIn, they very often click on the photo to take a closer look.
Finally, create a list of ‘keywords’ that sum up your expertise, product or service. Come up with about twelve keywords and put them in order of importance. Then, add the top five keywords into each and every section of your LinkedIn profile. (Add the remaining keywords wherever on the profile that you think is appropriate.) Ideally work the top five into well-written sentences, but even just listing out your keywords will make a big difference to how visible you are in LinkedIn search results.
How you present yourself at meetings, seminars, presentations and networking events really matters – it always has done and always will. But today business professionals have little choice but to also present themselves online – “If you’re not on LinkedIn you don’t exist” as someone once summed it up.
And when you do master your online presentation skills and body language, you can look forward to a wealth of valuable new contacts wanting to connect and explore your services.
Philip Calvert FInstSMM
Social Network Founder and Online Networking Strategist
For more strategies on how to leverage LinkedIn, please connect with me online: