Saturday, January 23, 2010

FIRST IMPRESSIONS MATTER, AND YES, THAT INCLUDES YOUR TWITTER BACKGROUND

No matter what PR position I’ve held, whether working at an agency, for law firms, or running my own company, my one goal has been the same: make sure my executives and clients make an effective first impression and are seen in a favorable light from the get-go. From personal appearance and mannerisms - to face and hand gestures – you know that everything comes into play.

Many studies have been conducted, and while the time fluctuates from a tenth of a second to three seconds, it’s certain that people quickly form an opinion. We do this when we meet people in person (why is he fidgeting?) and we do this when we visit sites (another Flash site with inane music!).  We form first impressions of Web pages in the blink of an eye (or 50 milliseconds, say Canadian researchers - 1/20th of a second!).  These first-time glances affect our opinions regarding credibility, trustworthiness and, yes, long-term extended interest.

Twitter backgrounds have become a clued-in extension of your image.  You’ve spent time finessing personal appearance, spent money on a graphic designer for marketing collateral (site, biz cards, stationery, etc), and maybe even been coached on message delivery.  Don’t let this oft-forgotten, high-profile element fall through the cracks.  If you’re engaged on Twitter - sending  and responding throughout the day - your tweets are now going to appear at the top of search results.

Still skeptical? A search for “Susan Jacobsen” on Google brought up:






The first result shows my Twitter feed, the second shows my Linked-In Profile and subsequent results are a bevy of my "oh-so-thoughtful" tweets  (Similar results appeared on Bing, Yahoo!, Answers.com and Ask). 

When I launched LUV2XLPR, Inc., I worked with Bremmer & Goris on my logo, Web site and of course, Twitter background.  We wanted the background to complement, not copy, the look and content of my Web site and be whimsical and fun.  While there is a caricature used on the background, my avatar is a real photo of yours truly (and yes, I do have the license plate). Once this blog was up & running, I made sure to reference the link in the bio, as well.  

Your Twitter background is an invaluable tool to market yourself, garner new contacts and showcase your vibe or personality.  It may well be the first encounter someone has with you—and that’s a big deal.  While you are limited with basic parameters, such as size (pixels) and Twitter’s bio template, you can cater your background to your own brand to help market and promote yourself.  If unique and interesting - not overly cluttered or glaringly bare - it will get noticed.  And so will you.

Prolific blogger, V.C. and Alltop co-founder Guy Kawasaki is a veritable volcano of information on Twitter (he and his co-Tweet-ers, that is) and his background is a fine example that depicts the brand.  As his Twitter bio notes: “I am a firehose that answers the question: What's interesting?”  His avatar is personable and his background showcases his personality: a plethora of magazines for way-out discoveries. 

What can you do to set yourself apart? Are you using your tweet-background to your advantage?  When evaluating (or judging) your own background and brief bio, check to see: 
  1. Have you accurately and honestly completed the bio portion (glibness doesn’t play well) and included key words related to your field, areas of expertise, etc? Transparency is key – some people will not follow those whose bios are partially completed
  2. Did you list site addresses to your company or personal blogs or sites. (Make sure people can find you outside of Twitter) 
  3. Are you using a real-life photo as an avatar? People want to identify with those they are interacting with and friendly/inviting photos that display the “real” you should be used. No need to showcase kid, wife or pet (please) 
  4. Is it an accurate reflection of what you’re all about? Colors, imagery, content and photos are all taken in as a single shot, so ask yourself if viewers see what you want them to see!

Keep it simple and create your own background using resources such as 13 Resources for a Perfect Twitter Background, or try one of the many free services that will help you to design a background, such as Twitbacks, TwitrBackgrounds or Twitrounds. You could, however, go the full-on route and enlist the help of a designer—preferably one who’s familiar with Twitter (or who’s read this post).  Whatever approach to design, have fun and let your whole personality shine through.  Don’t shortchange your brand; you don’t get a second chance to correct it.

Show me your background and I’ll tell you my first impression!