This is a guest post by Bill Post at 123Print.
A Proper Introduction: The Need for a Compelling First Impression on the Web
In every crowd there's a person who lights up the room. That's not me. The beauty of blogs and websites, though, is that even social misfits have a chance to make a great first impression. Anyone can make an attractive blog that people want to interact with. Think hard about how you want to introduce yourself to the world and what kind of impression you want to make. If your blog or website doesn't make a great first impression all of your ideas will go unread and ignored, and it's the high school dance all over again.
Here are six first-impression personality flaws I've noticed some bloggers make and how to avoid them:
1. The Limp Handshake/No Clear Message
When someone gives a limp handshake, that person gives the vibe of someone who is uncertain, who has more questions than answers. Why am I here? Who am I? If you don't quickly tell your readers who you are, why you are, and what you have to offer them the whole thing's a bust. Announce yourself with a firm handshake by choosing a name for your blog that speaks to your purpose, giving your posts titles that are relevant to that purpose, and coming up with a tagline that states your purpose as an abbreviated mission statement and placing that tagline in a visible location. If you are still in a web identity crisis, and you're not entirely sure why you are starting a site or a blog, do some soul-searching BEFORE you build your site.
Do you want your readers to feel welcome when they arrive at your site or do you want to pounce on them as soon as they walk on the lot? With ads that are too aggressive you are sending your readers the message that a quick dollar is what you're after, not a long-term relationship. Most people have a monetary purpose for their site whether it's direct or not, but that doesn't mean it's all about the sale. It's about sharing information, anticipating your visitors' needs, and attempting to fulfill those needs. Develop a relationship with visitors through valuable information and eventually they will return the favor with business and loyalty.
3. The Snob/No Interactive Component
A static impenetrable site makes the impression that you have no desire to listen, change, adjust, or interact with anyone. Include platforms for interaction between you and your readers: social media and links, the ability for readers to make comments, links to other people's blogs and sites, and a way to contact you. Make yourself available. Give helpful information. Share.
4. The Lady With Too Much Going On/Too Many Elements or Effects
She wears gold bracelets, a purple purse, animal print dress, strong perfume, and hair styled six-inches off her head. With so much going on there is no one thing to focus on and you'd rather avert your eyes. Less can be more, but that "less" better be good. Think little black dress plus some knock-out diamond earrings. Everyone is focused on the one shiny thing. Let your blog or site offer one really great thing, whatever that message or product is. Let it be the over-riding guiding force at all times and present it in a non-cluttered elegant way so that no one is distracted by irrelevant accessories.
5. The Wallflower/Nondescript Style
People read blogs not just for information, but also for entertainment just as they flip through J. Crew catalogs even if they aren't going to buy anything. The catalogs have a quirky style, and it's fun to imagine yourself in their clothes and having a picnic in The Hamptons. Entertain and transport your readers with originality: simple but attractive design, catchy post titles, unique taglines, and interesting stories and examples.
6. The Poser/Lack of Authenticity
It's a sad thing to watch someone who's uncomfortable in his or her own skin. A suit-loving executive trying desperately to fit in on casual Friday with shorts and lace-up oxford shoes, for example. Be yourself—your best self. If you and your business are light-hearted, use plenty of humor and conversational language. If your identity is hard-nosed and all-business, present a professional and direct tone that reflects that. Design your blog with your identity in mind. Choose fonts, colors, and graphics that jive with the real you and your message.
Admittedly I'm not the cool dude when it comes to real-life parties, but once I get into a conversation with someone I like to think that my personality and wit shines through, and I end up leaving a good impression. Use the opportunity to make a great first impression right from the start with your site or blog and your visitors will stick around to hear what you have to say. You'll be the person everyone wants to talk to, the one they turn to for advice or a laugh, or just someone they'd like to spend more time with.
Bill Post, Small Business Research Analyst, provides research on issues of concern to small businesses for 123Print.com Custom Business Cards. Prior to his involvement with 123Print, Bill was a small business owner himself, providing marketing and branding services to other small businesses in the Washington, DC metro area. Before working with 123Print on Business Cards, Bill also spent several years in the fast-paced corporate world where he honed the skills he uses to help small businesses get ahead.