Get a New Profile Picture – Your New Image Starts with an Image

In the first in a series of ten blog posts entitled How to Build a Personal Branding Strategy, we turn our attention to one of the most obvious tactics that will help build you a compelling personal branding strategy.

Obvious……but so often overlooked. Literally.

Personal Branding Profile Picture

As the saying goes, “a picture is worth a thousand words,” so what thousand words (or handful) is your current LinkedIn profile picture or Twitter avatar saying about you?

According to research from Microsoft, we can assimilate the information from an image 28% quicker than the written word. That’s why cat pictures and food photos get so much traction on Facebook. And let’s not get started on the glories to be found on Pinterest!

We love photos because they’re easier to understand and quicker to fuel an emotion. Sometimes that emotion will be good, sometimes it will be bad. Your job as guardian of your personal brand is to make sure your photo/headshot/avatar solicits a positive reaction as it’s often going to be the first thing people look at when perusing your social media profiles or reading your bio in, say, a conference brochure.

Let’s Look at the Facts

We know images are crucial to how we literally view the world. That’s why we have eyes! But when we drill further, we find that a social platform like LinkedIn claims that social profiles on the site that have a headshot photo get 14 times more views. That’s because when people are searching for you, or someone like you with your skillset, they are unlikely to click on a profile if it doesn’t have a photo associated with it.

Having no photo obviously says something about you – maybe you’re a bit lazy, you haven’t put much thought into your profile, you’re not really interested creating the right impression, or you’re technically inept and can’t work out how to upload it.

That’s fine! (Well it’s not really…)

But. For those of you with a photo on your social profiles, what does having the WRONG kind of photo say about you?

Here are some of the kinds of photos I’ve seen on LinkedIn – using these as examples as LinkedIn is more for professional use – I’m not calling out individuals as I’m not that mean, but this is what I’ve seen photos of people doing recently:

  • Playing golf – this guy wasn’t a golfer. He was trying to sell me something.
  • Watching sparklers burning on a cheesecake in a restaurant. He thought we had some “synergies” and might want to work together.
  • Hanging off the side of a mountain. Wow. Look at you! Is it you? Can’t quite tell. You’re upside down.
  • Cuddling a doggy. This was a so-called “nationally recognized” publishing guru with lots of news media logos next to his head.
  • Cycling in full helmet and sunglasses beaming by the Golden Gate Bridge.
  • Eating a donut. No, I’m not kidding.
  • Drinking beer or cocktails.
  • Smoking.
  • Showing off a tattoo!

Tips from Compelling Research

In a fantastic study carried out by PhotoFeeler, they rated 800 profile photos based on 60,000 ratings of “perceived competence, likability and influence” and these were the recommendations:

  • Don’t wear sunglasses or block your eyes. Wearing a pair of shade makes you less likely, where as having hair in your face will bring down your competence and influence levels.
  • Squinting (or squinching as they call it in their study results) apparently makes us seem more confident and comfortable. Wide eyes make us look terrified.
  • For goodness sake SMILE!!! Looking happy and approachable was “by far the most impactful” characteristic. And showing some pearly white gnashers even more so.
  • What you are wearing is a major factor too. Formal (suit and tie or business casual but not jeans and t-shirt) makes us look more competent and more influential.
  • Don’t get too arty. Just head and shoulder (not zoomed in) and simply edited (not to Instagram-filtered) were the best approaches.

Here’s What to Do

It’s obvious that many professionals need a new headshot. Something clean, professional and shows you care about the impression you make about you and the company you work for, on others.

So let’s scrap the cropped photos of you on vacation, in a bar, at a wedding (my how smart you look), at a black tie do (bit over the top formal-wise), with your friend/wife/boyfriend’s hand on your shoulder and invest in some nice photos of you that do your personal brand justice.

Now I know this is just number 1 of 10 posts in the personal branding series, but I’m sowing the seed now so you can think about this as we go on.

It doesn’t cost the earth either. I got my shots done through a charity here in Seattle – Youth In Focus – and they cost $250.

What’s $250 if it means you close more sales, get a new job with a 20% pay raise, get picked up by a national news show as an expert in your field, or simply look more trustworthy to someone you’re about to meet in a professional capacity (or maybe even on a date).

Your profile picture is your storefront. Do you want people to come in and find out more about you? Or are you happy for people to simply walk on by and not get a real understanding of what you have to offer?

Don’t forget to:

Check out our book now in paperback: Introduction to Personal Branding: 10 Steps Towards a New Professional You

Subscribe to The Personal Brand Lab

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@MelCarson – Founder of Delightful

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