A profile picture says more than a 1000 words. What does yours say?
Have you ever searched for a prospect, business partner or potential employee online? Maybe you have found your lawyer, doctor or investment banker on a social media site via common friends? Have you ever been unpleasantly surprised by how unprofessional their profile picture was?
What usually happens is that we choose a picture:
– thinking about what we like instead of considering our target group
– that we have at hand instead of making an effort to look for a better one or take a better one
Now the skeptics will say, “I don’t look at the photos. I am not influenced by it.” Your subconsciousness is influenced positively or negatively whether you like it or not. And even if you belong to the rare exception of people that are indeed not effected – the vast majority is.
…that is how long a person needs to unconsciously form an opinion about you. On the Internet, the first thing they see is your picture. Many people do not even have a profile picture! The probability of anyone reading a “picture-less” profile is very low. Unfortunately, even if we have a picture on our business networking site such as LinkedIn.com or Xing.com, only about 5% of those would be classified as “OK” or “Good”. 75% of all added pictures fall under one of the following categories:
An ID Photo
As the name itself indicates, that is where it should be used: in your passport or in your ID but nowhere else! It is usually too serious, official and not inviting at all.
That’s not me
The picture of a child, a tree or our favourite view motivates us, because we know what’s on it. Will a stranger know what you wanted to say? Do you invite somebody to connect?
Maybe you’ve confused this with a dating site? Are you sure you want to look for your soulmate on Plaxo.com, LinkedIn.com or Xing.com? We highly discourage you!
Bad picture quality = bad expert quality? This correlation is probably misleading, but will you get a second chance for a first impression to explain that it’s (not) the case?
It’s the perfect picture for our friends. Using such a picture we automatically exclude everyone who does not know us. The first contact is a quiz. But will they want to solve it? We doubt it!
I took it myself
You do not have any pictures on your computer. But hey, you have a webcam! Aside from the fact that the quality will be poor, you communicate that you do not really care.
Picture from a trip
You register on a networking site for the first time. You are in a hurry. The first picture you find is your favourite one from a recent trip. You add it, promising yourself that you’ll change it.
Cut out from a party
Advantages in business: you can party a lot, you can drink a lot, and you are fun to hang out with? The worst pictures: with bottles of alcohol, with a cigarette or – OH NO – drunk! Party yes, business no!
Make sure that:
- you are in your professional context (dress the way you would dress when going to an interview or meeting with an important prospect client)
- the background is not dark and not distracting
- you look into the camera
- it’s OK to smile 🙂
An online profile picture is different from a regular portrait. There is only a little space available to portray and communicate your professionalism, as well as gaining the viewer’s trust.
Last but not least
You do not have to book an expensive photographer. With today’s quality of smartphones and the right light, you’ll be able to do little wonders at home. Just no selfies. Please.
Depending on the country, including a picture might actually be against discrimination acts.