On the internet, who are YOU?
For over a year now the Helping Advisors blog has been committed to providing advisors with useful content and context for having meaningful conversations with your clients. These conversations may begin with a simple client question: “where are you located” or “how do I contact you.” Other conversations may be triggered by complex questions: “what are you all about – what are your values” or “how do I know I can trust you” or “am I important to you”. Conversations can happen in-person, (for example, when you visit with a client in your office), and they can happen virtually (for example, when a prospective client searches for information about you on the internet).
Perception is (virtual) reality
When you have in-person conversations, you possess the ability to guide the other party’s perception of you and of your response because you’re in control of many aspects of the interaction. What you’re wearing (suit and tie or khakis and golf shirt?), your tone of voice, gestures, body language and certainly what you say can all be tailored to the type of conversation you want to have and impression you want to give. Even where you meet comes into play.
It’s important to note that with virtual conversations, the other party still forms a perception of you as a result of the interaction. But have you asked yourself if you are nearly as in control of the factors that create that perception as you are when you meet in-person? The old adage made popular by the New Yorker cartoon “On the Internet, no one knows you are a dog” is no longer true (if it really ever was). The question is: On the internet, who ARE you? What kind of conversations are clients and prospects having with you when you aren’t there in person? When someone “Googles” you, they’re often asking you a question, albeit indirectly: what answer do they get? Does it take them to your web site – and is the answer there? Or possibly to your LinkedIn profile – is the answer there? To your Facebook page – is that content the answer you want them get? Or, perhaps they end up at one of the endless number of web sites that aggregate information about you from outdated and often incorrect sources – that’s rarely the answer they are seeking and not a perception that you are controlling.
The truth is out there – isn’t it?
Try this experiment sometime – “Google” yourself and ask a question – “where is [insert your name here] located”, or, if you’re feeling metaphysical, something more profound like “What are [insert your name here]‘s values”. Do the results you get create the perception you want? If it links to content you control (your own web site or LinkedIn profile, for example), does that content create the right perception? Is it easy for people to answer their questions in this virtual conversation (one of the most common virtual questions people ask is how do I reach you in-person), or might they be frustrated by out of date, incorrect or missing information? What perception do they take away from this experience?
Skate to where the puck is going
Compare the effort you spend on managing perceptions in your direct personal interactions with the effort you spend managing perceptions in your virtual interactions. If you spend substantially more time on the first, take consolation in the fact that you’re not in the minority. There was a time when that didn’t matter very much. However, consider how much you, your colleagues, your family or friends rely on the internet to get information and make decisions today. Chances are fairly good that your clients and prospective clients do too. Another question is: if you are not putting as much effort into your virtual conversations as you want to or feel you should, are you ready to make a change?
Speaking of change: you may have noticed that we’ve made a few updates to the look and feel of this blog recently. These changes aim to make the blog a little easier to use – which speaks to the perception (and reality) we want to create in our conversations: we’re easy to work with. Another question is: what is the perception and reality you want to create virtually? Stay tuned to this blog for a series of posts featuring ideas on where to spend your effort so that on the Internet, everyone knows you’re YOU.
Joe Lizee is the Director, eDistribution for Russell’s private client services business.
Cartoon by Peter Steiner, The New Yorker Collection 1993 Peter Steiner From cartoonbank.com. All rights reserved.
Cartoon by Rob Cottingham, http://www.robcottingham.ca/cartoon/archive/2007-06-24-cyberdog2/