Writing on, and about, an island

First Impressions

In Tasmania on December 12, 2011 at 3:30 am

I was at a Tasmanian shopping centre, giving styling lessons as part of a fashion promotion… One woman told me she was worried about the first impression she makes. She thought her personality was getting lost in translation, but didn’t know how to dress her shopfront, so to speak. She wanted me to say: “You can’t judge a book by its cover.” But I don’t – because it’s not true.

You never get a second chance to make a first impression.

That woman got me thinking about Tasmanian businesses, and why they need a lesson on first impressions.

When I got my first journo job, working on one of Australia’s most influential lifestyle magazines, I silently pledged – Girl Guide-like – to be the champion for getting Tassie back into the pages. Nothing had peed me off more than my home being left of the map.

Fast-forward 12 years and, after battling to get this State seen, I can tell you exactly how Tasmania appears to people who don’t live there.

It doesn’t.

Because Tasmania ignores the internet.

I gave it my best shot. I researched everything. But apart from the usual suspects, Tasmanian businesses barely registered when I Googled.

Yes, there are some good Tasmanian sites. The rest are embarrassingly mediocre. Last time I looked, a certain official Tasmanian tourism media site (which shall remain nameless – but should know better) couldn’t even get renowned local painter Geoff Dyer’s name correct…

Many businesses don’t even bother. And when you’re pressed for time, you need info – fast. If it can’t be found, it goes in the too-hard basket.

Then, when I decided to move back to Tasmania, I did what everyone I know does: I looked online for my new doctor, childcare centre, hairdresser – fruitlessly, because none of those services had thought it important to invest in a website. Yet you want me to trust your business? Please believe me: your first impression is everything. And you have none.

When I did move here, I asked locals why Tasmania was 10 years behind the world. Those locals replied: “We all know each other, so why would we need a website?” Well, that’s lovely that you all know each other. But what about the rest of us? If you want to register with the rest of the computer literate world, then a website isn’t just desirable. It’s a virtual reality. (Mr Roy Morgan backs me up: 2010 figures shows our love for doing business on the web has skyrocketed. Whether this is good or bad for society is not my point; I’m simply stating a fact.)

My suggestion. Government should offer local SMEs a grant to build a good website. It’s obvious most people aren’t doing it for themselves.

The alternative?

The sound of one hand tapping delete.

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