Some of the profile photos I see on LinkedIn just make me cringe. Really? That is the best photo you could find?
All of us need at least one great headshot photo to use on our social media profiles. Some people need it more than others because, let’s be honest, some of the headshots people choose for LinkedIn are just plain terrible.
Yes, you looked good at your cousin’s wedding, but is that really the only photo you could find? There is an amputated arm around your shoulder from the guy who got edited out. And I bet you don’t wear a strapless gown to work. You want to look professional.
Business connections go to LinkedIn to see what you look like. Perhaps they want to find you at an event, or just put a face with the name in the email. If your profile photo is outdated, like mine was, and people are confused when they meet you, that defeats the whole purpose.
I get it, most of us do not like to have our pictures taken and we are quick to pick out all the flaws. But your LinkedIn profile is a business asset. Your headshot needs to convey that you are responsible, approachable, friendly, professional and hireable! Even if you are not trying to get hired…yet.
So how can you choose a good profile photo for social media? Here are some helpful tips I found from a study done on 60,000 ratings of perceived likability, competence and influence.
Be “slightly happy” - Experiments conducted by NYU say the best LinkedIn photos show the person smiling, big enough to show their teeth, but not too big that it looks fake. And not laughing.
Make eye contact - People need to see your eyes to make a connection. So, no sunglasses or hats. And no far away shots where you are just part of a scene. Even though you might not like it, your face should be front and center, looking at the camera.
Dress the part - Wear the type of clothing you would wear to work. Remember, this is a business network. Don’t choose a photo of yourself in a wedding dress just because your hair looked good that day. Don’t use a photo in sports gear from your last fishing trip. Studies show that the clothing people wear in their profile photo makes more of a difference than we’d like to believe.
Be clear - Make sure the image is high quality and high resolution. There is no excuse for fuzzy photos. And you absolutely can not take a photo in the mirror and pass it off as a headshot.
Stick to business - No provocative sultry poses or pictures that were obviously taken at a party and you just cropped the beer bottle out of your hand. Yes, those profile photos are out there. Come on, keep it classy. And since we are sticking to business, your profile photo really should not include your kids or your pets.
Stand Back – Actually, you are not ready for your close up. The best profile photo shows you from the shoulders up, or even the waist up. A picture that is zoomed in too close can just look scary. Like your head is just too big for that little profile box.
Your photo does not need to be stiff and formal to fit all of the criteria above. You can still choose a photo that has some style.
Now that I have done my headshots, I think that everyone should hire a professional photographer, at least once, to get a great headshot. It is a small investment of time and money, and it can make a huge difference in your confidence level.
But you can also get a great, professional looking photo from your friend behind an iPhone, as long as you put a little thought into it.
Once you have selected the right photo it is a good idea to be consistent and use the same photo across all your social media profiles. This allows people to recognize you and “your brand.”
Take a look at your LinkedIn profile photo with an objective eye. Is it portraying the right information about you or is there room for improvement? As they say, “you only have one chance to make a first impression.” Make it a good one with a profile photo that shows you at your best.
By Anya Ciecierski, Collaboration Works Marketing
Follow me on Twitter: @AnyaCWMktg