Tuesday, September 15, 2009

First Impressions Really Matter

It's an accepted belief that a first impression can dictate the course of a relationship between two people. Both psychological and sociological studies have provided scientific data to support this idea.

Earlier this year, another study was done that compared the effects of first impressions during a face-to-face interaction to the effects of first impressions from a digital interaction. The study focused around online gaming, but certain lessons can be learned and applied to the social media world.

When a person makes a bad first impression, the negative feelings are harder to overcome than a betrayal that occurs after ties are established.

"First impressions matter when you want to build a lasting trust," said study researcher Robert Lount of Ohio State University's Fisher College of Business. "If you get off on the wrong foot, the relationship may never be completely right again. It's easier to rebuild trust after a breach if you already have a strong relationship."

After the computer partner made two defector moves, it would follow with 30 rounds of pure cooperation. Turned out that cooperation wasn't enough to gain back a participant's trust. Those who experienced a breach of trust at the game's start were the least likely to cooperate at the end of the game, cooperating less than 70 percent of the final 10 rounds.

"I think we would find this to be even more pervasive in real life, because you're going to be less likely to give these people second opportunities to interact with in the first place. In the game we forced them to interact," Lount told LiveScience.

"Often, a lot of times people end up writing people off. And if they can avoid future interactions with them, they would prefer to."

He suggests a person forms a first impression and sticks to it, looking for future cues that are consistent with this first impression.

Clearly, first impressions have a major effect on relationships both in real life and digital life. It is important to remember this lesson when networking in the social media space. Your profile, picture, account name and initial messaging will ultimately play a major role in future interactions with people. Remember to portray yourself as you want to be seen in every facet.

If you don't make a great first impression, there is hope because people will be more forgiving in the digital space than in real life, but make sure that second impression is stellar.


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Who? Why?

Social media often becomes a rat race. Who has the newest technology? Who has the most friends or followers? This blog is designed to slow it down a little and remind people that at its core, social media is about relationships and conversations.

Jake Rosen
Managing Supervisor, Fleishman-Hillard

The content on this site reflects my own opinions and not necessarily those of my employer.


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