In the 21st century, first impressions come through social media, so reputation management has to begin with how you present yourself in text and through words.
Intern M.G. has been hired full-time! Not by us; by the local newspaper. They said something about never having met such a professional young man. M.G.? Really? The intern? The 20-year-old intern? I had to ask. "How'd you land such a cushy job, MG?" His reply, "Punctuation."
And with that word, M.G. has revealed one of the most subtle secrets of reputation management in the online world. On TV, Orange is the New Black. But online, Punctuation is the new orange. Or something like that. You see, people form their impression of you in the first few seconds.
In person, your first impression is your clothes and demeanor. But online, on social media sites, in resumes, and in cover letters, your first impression is nonverbal. Punctuation, grammar, and writing skill—for better or worse—are now how we make a first impression..
Reputation Management Is in the Details
You might think these details don't matter. After all, everyone texts with spelling and grammar errors. And perhaps if you're texting someone you know, coming across that way is fine. But if you're texting, emailing, posting on social media sites, or writing someone you don't know, your first impression will come from those texts. First impressions and the trappings of success count. That's how our brains are wired.
Bankers still wear suits. That's because they realize appearance counts more than substance. Even after taking the global economy and paying themselves tens of billions of dollars in bonuses from the bailout money, we trust them. Why? Because they wear suits, and our brains instantly categorize them as trustworthy. We rush to give them their money. If they had five o'clock shadows, stank slightly of urine, and had visible lice crawling through their hair, we'd run screaming into the arms of our nearest member-owned credit union, to the betterment of both our financial lives and society. But instead they wear suits. Unconscious impressions count.
In the 21st century online world, grammar, capitalization, and punctuation are the suits.