3 ways to make an impression rather than gain attention on the web

Make an ImpressionThe lift doors on the 10th floor swished open and a sharp dressed man walked confidently out. The soft burgundy tie, woven of the finest silk, coordinated perfectly with his pale blue shirt. The horn waistcoat buttons on his expensive 3 piece suit were as black as coal. It was a quality suit. The only problem was 1 piece of the 3 was missing. I shall never forget the day one of my managers walked into the regional sales office of the largest Insurance Company in England … without his trousers!

What would you do?

I would think, like me, your first questions would be, “did you know, and perhaps more importantly, why?” What would be have been your answer when his confident and clear reply was, “I wanted to make an impression.”

There is a big difference between getting attention and making an impression. Paul, the manager, was scheduled that day to present a training session to our newly recruited salesmen. His point was going to be when meeting a prospect for the first time it was important to stand out, to be marked as different, to be memorable, to get attention. Paul certainly got attention that day. But left for good, later that morning, not making a strong, favourable, or remarkable lasting positive impression. Do you want to get attention or make an impression? (tweetable) First impressions count, yes? And, importantly, we want for that first impression to be memorable for the right reasons!

Why is the social not that social?

I enjoy reading blogs, listening to podcasts and surveying the stream of tweets from people I follow. What I am interested to see is how much monologue and how little dialogue takes place in these “social” spaces. Lots of people are shouting in the crowd for attention (though not in the way Paul was without his trousers) but few give it. “Look at my Facebook page.” “Look at my website.” “Here is a quote.” “Look at me.” What stands out, however, what makes a lasting positive impression is when people engage and communicate not just seek attention.

Dr. Edmond Locard, the “Sherlock Holmes” of France, formulated the basic principle of forensic science known as Locard’s exchange principle; “every contact leaves a trace.” Nothing could be more true of this than on the internet. We leave a trace of being a “unique visitor” or “video view” or “follower” and those traces create attention as we come up on google analytics, but not an impression. Why do so few people take a moment to mention something positive by leaving a comment? We can leave a trace by leaving our IP address, or we can take a moment to make an impression that lasts.

3 ways to make an impression rather than gain attention on the internet:

Be Brief

Taking a few moments to type a couple of phrases after reading a post or viewing a video takes little time from our lives. Simple, short sentences take seconds to write. They acknowledge the author, which makes their day (we all like to be noticed, don’t we) and leaves a lasting positive impression on the recipient. But significantly, it leaves traces across the web associated with our name. None are really “overnight successes” on the web but, over time, commenting creates influence.

Be Specific

Feedback loses its value when its general. “Good post” “Thanks” and “Interesting” as one word answers are just maybe better than nothing. Yet, one short phrase linked to something specific in the content of how it impacted, challenged, provoked or encouraged you is much better. How did the quote inspire you, what did you see in the video that prompted a question? Even the follow back on twitter, what can you see on the bio or web link that is interesting?

“The longer I live the more convinced I become that one of the greatest honours we can confer on other people is to see them as they are, to recognise not only that they exist, but that they exist in specific ways and have specific realities.” V. S. Naipaul

Be Kind

Anonymity on the web causes some people to say things in a way that they would never say if they were face to face or could be found out. Story after story comes to the surface of how people get sent home from the Olympics, lose their jobs, get sued for the wicked words and even get banned from the doctors as they spit out in anger, frustration or just plain cruelness on the web. One such “troll” had a shock when he tweeted negatively and personally about the performance of a boxer. So annoyed was British boxer Curtis Woodhouse that he offered a £1000 reward to find the person and he turned up outside his house for chat face to face! Not wise! It reminds me of the ancient Hebrew wisdom – “Words kill, words give life; they’re either poison or fruit—you choose.” If we want to make a lasting positive impression then we should choose our words wisely.

We all want to be noticed, dont we?

Is wanting to leave a mark on the world something built into the DNA of a human being? Is the desire to leave a legacy part of the make up of each of us? Is it an inclination of yours to want to make an positive impression. I believe is is in all of us. I believe if we are totally honest, we all want to be noticed. Perhaps, then, one of the greatest gifts that you can give today, is to notice another person. In doing so, not only can we breathe life, acknowledgement and recognition into others, we in turn will leave traces of a positive impression in our footsteps.

So if you want to make an impression rather than gain attention on the internet you can do this with a few chosen words and still keep your trousers on!

If you have found this post interesting please comment briefly, specifically and above all kindly!!

Sources – Image by istockphoto


Posted on by Peter Billingham in Blog Posts, Creativity, Legacy

About Peter Billingham

Leader, Learner, Speechwriter, Storyteller, Author. a.k.a. 'The Artful Speaker' Enjoy working on social action projects, Toastmasters, films & adventure travel.

13 Responses to 3 ways to make an impression rather than gain attention on the web

  1. Rich

    A great reminder to allow the Golden Rule to permeate every aspect of our lives even our surfing. You’re absolutely right, we all want a positive word when we create something so why not start by telling others rather then waiting for them to make the first move.


    • Peter Billingham

      Thanks for the comment – thanks for noticing me! It’s so interesting to see how people view and don’t comment, but I think your reference to the Golden Rule is spot on! Thanks Rich – but we also need to look after ourselves – have you read this? http://peterbillingham.com/give-yourself-recognition/ Thanks again, and I really mean that!!

  2. Terry Bennett

    Good article and as Pete writes a great reminder. Too often I don’t take the time to do this … but I’ll try harder from now on! Reminds me of Ken Blanchard’s maxim “to catch them do something right”. Particularly liked the structure of the article leading us to actually do something.

  3. John Overall

    Nice work on this pointing out how people have a need to be recognized and then the follow to leave some recognition. An interesting side note is that people act online in the same way they would act in life. Trolls would act the same way in life if someone was not there to punch them in the mouth.

    • Peter Billingham

      Hi John – first, thanks for the comment! I appreciate that you took the time to read the blog and bother to comment, thanks. Funny you should say that, I cleared 78 spam comments to get to yours. I find it frustrating, but not giving them air seems to do the same. Thanks again for the comment. Best wishes with http://www.johnoverall.com/ Pete

  4. Danielle Mercurio

    Truly great read! I agree that is so important to treat your followers and anyone you engage with like you would a friend. You wouldn’t ask a friend to do this and that all the time for you. You would give updates and ask for such in return. The social media platform should be no different.

    • Peter Billingham

      Thank you Danielle for taking the time to read the post and comment, I really appreciate that. It’s so important not just to consume on the web, I know that most don’t comment and a “like” I don’t think really means that much. Really great to connect!

  5. Pingback: 3 Tools To Help You Find Time For Learning | Keynote and Motivational Leadership Speaker, Speech Writer and Coach

  6. Liona Ko

    Thanks Peter for this article.
    You have nailed it on the head for me, the initial reason for me to get onto twitter was to get attention from protential employers. But I have always worried about how I come across, so I never tweeted much. But I have slowly started following great thinkers like yourself and other. And I have either thanked or retweeted their articles.
    I feel empowered having read this.

    Many thanks!

    • Peter Billingham

      Hi Liona, thank you so much for taking the time to comment on the post, I really appreciate that! I am still learning all about this “social” networking, but being willing to engage with others is the most important thing. It’s not really just shouting about you and what you have to say, but engaging in conversations with others. It builds friendships and trust, over time. I’m glad that my words help you. Thanks again for taking the time to comment.

  7. Peitho

    Thank you for pointing out the immense difference between gaining attention and making an impression. I have taken your valuable lesson to heart.

    • Peter Billingham

      It’s also a good warning about how to not lose your job! Thanks for the comment.

    • Peter Billingham

      I can clearly remember the day for all the wrong reasons! Thanks for taking time to comment.

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