I have an interesting relationship with Chris Hughes.
I first connected to this talented U.K. out-sourcing professional through a Linked-In forum, where he professed befuddlement about Twitter. I encouraged him to give it a try and provided a little coaching. So, I became his follower number one!
Most of my very first followers were … nubile young ladies in bikinis. Or less. I blocked them and watched my number of followers sink back into single figures. My vanity almost made me stop as it only reinforced that in cyberspace, if you aren’t connected to anyone, no one can hear you Tweet.Something I’ve learned is that on Twitter and social networks, first impressions count. This is doubly important with something like Twitter, given the hard work that people put into trying to build their network of business contacts. While “reciprocal following” is pretty normal, within a business context, it’s fair to say that professionals will be more selective. They are following and being followed for a reason.

What are the implications for people seeking to make that first good impression on Twitter?

Since then, Chris has continued to grow and experiment with Twitter and I asked him if he would provide his unique view on how a smart guy figures out an apparently dumb communication channel. One conclusion: first impressions count! Here’s Chris:

It has been rather intimidating settling into the Twitter world as a newbie with apparently nothing to say, offer, or a tweet track record that warrants any meaningful place in somebody’s Twitter life.

I would suggest that a key element to being successful is actually having a communication plan in place before looking for an audience. Finding the right people to follow is time-consuming and, once you’ve acquainted yourself with and reached out to someone, it is absolutely key that you create the desired impact. You can’t rely on having “brand value” like (ahem) Ashton Kutcher, and there is limited opportunity to position yourself with the standard profile layouts.

You might want to spend a period of time tweeting to nobody, simply to build some “profile collateral” that gives people an understanding of who you are, what your interest or industry is and how your being in their network adds value to their Twitter experience.

You may want to get even a modest blog going on that you can reference from your Tweets, giving people swift access to deeper thinking than can be articulated within the context of an SMS message. The key is having the confidence that, when someone comes to your profile for the first time, they feel compelled to connect with you immediately, as the foundations are there for meaningful exchange.

Equip your profile with the means to make the right first impression, including a nice photo and an interesting and accurate short bio. Otherwise, potential connections will have no reason to stay with you beyond that initial contact that you have worked so hard to establish. The short bio plays an important role when people are trying to find like-minded people to follow.

You don’t get a second chance to make a first impression in the real world, and you probably won’t in the virtual one. Even if, like those first followers were, you are wearing a bikini. Or less.

Chris Hughes has worked in the contact center and business process outsourcing industry for about 16 years. He would really, really love for you to connect with him on Twitter at @chrishughesuk.

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