I presented a paper last weekend at the Summer AMA in Boston that Chris Adams and I authored on marketing professionals perceptions of personally branded websites. It identified ten thematic areas of importance in the context of an ideal personally branded experience. The research question we posed were; what are marketing professionals perceptions of ideal personal brand experiences on personal websites? What counts? What are the features we can use to effectively communicate our expertise? How are these features perceived and at what cost? What are the intended and unintended consequences and how do these relate to our overall perceptions of professionalism and expertise? Ten things count:
1. Design and aesthetics – perhaps not a surprise, how you look online transfers into perceptions of your expertise and ability. Avoid the chintz, sound, busy designs or garish colours.
2. Credibility – how you project your expertise, experience, knowledge and compassion. Discussing former experience, lessons learned and understanding succinctly what value you offer your end user.
3. Challenges to the visitor. Whilst visitors want to explore and be challenged by innovative or interesting content they do not want to have to hunt for hours to find it. Structure is of critical importance.
4. Proprietor of the site. What does your site actually say about you? Not just in a professional context, but personal as well. Is presenting a personal face on a professionally branded personal website a problem? Not according to our findings. People want to see the whole person when they’re forming opinions about professionalism and expertise.
5. Interest stimulation. Is your site actually interesting? Are visitors skipping over content or deep diving into what you have to say and offer? A quick review of your google analytics account will tell you how long people are staying – 5 minutes or 15 seconds?
6. Topic of the site. The all important relevance question, how are you impacting your audience? Have you considered what topics are of importance to them? How are you helping them become more effective? Are they learning anything from you?
7. Comfort / threat level. Are you easy to engage with? Is your content aimed at someone with a physics degree? We found that people’s perception of personal effectiveness is directly related to one’s ability to be able to ‘speak’ to their audience. Are you making a connection that is meaningful? Are you even asking the question of your audience?
8. Applicability to the visitor. Linked to the above, how many connections can you make with your audience so that they feel they are connecting with the many multiple facets of the real you? Are you all about work and no play? What about your hobbies or other aspects of your life that enhance your abilities as a professional?
9. Career usefulness. How effective are you at solving problems or expanding issues relative to your audience needs? Can your site make a direct impact on those using it? What categories of blog posts do you use?
10. And finally site presence and liveliness. Are you as boring as a weather text received on a Sunday morning? What are you doing to engage, or update your site? Are you using a twitter feed on a daily basis updating your activities?
Hat off to my other colleagues that presented papers this summer – Joe Miller and Raj Murthy. By all accounts only Saunders and St John Fisher were represented locally at the nation’s premier marketing academics conference. That’s good news for us and representative of the fact that we are engaged in relevant, leading edge research.
Dr Hair is an Associate Professor of Marketing at the E Philip Saunders College of Business at RIT.
© 2010, Dr Neil Hair. All rights reserved.