I was sitting down yesterday with a client in what was in truth a one hour LinkedIn introduction. Like so many other people, she had set up a LinkedIn profile quite some time ago with the barest of information and after an initial set up, just walked away. So there it was, for all the world to see; a half-hearted, weak profile telling anyone who looked at her page that this was the best she could do.
The problem with setting up any profile online and after putting in a mediocre effort, is that all the people who view your page are left with only scant information upon that first viewing to form an impression, and that first may be your last.
The picture on her page was a nice head shot, but because she had cropped others out of the photo at some baby shower, the picture was smaller than it would be otherwise, and therefore harder to really get a good look. The background of the picture was odd too, and hard to make out the setting in which it was taken. She plans to work in an office setting doing administrative tasks, and so I suggested she get a picture of her sitting in an office, with just enough in the background of the picture so that it appears she is sitting at her workstation. In other words, it is easy for an employer to visualize this person working for them when they can see her seated in that environment.
This is a good tip for you if you choose to use it, and are struggling with what photo to include. Now in this women’s case, I offered to take the picture for her, but first suggested she return another day in order to prepare for it. How you ask? Well, change into a blouse that she might wear to work, put on a little foundation to smooth out the skin tones, and do her hair. In other words, the way she’d dress at work should be reflected in the photo.
One of the things the two of us did was to look at a variety of LinkedIn photos people are currently using on their profile pages. I started with the non-photo outline of a body picture and asked her what she thought. Thankfully, like me, she said she didn’t feel anything as there was nothing to go on, to which I agreed. Without some physical image to forge a connection, there is no emotional attachment or engagement and therefore no prompt to connect or look into.
We then looked at a picture which was a woman standing on a street in Paris, with its famous landmark tower in the background. In order to get the tower and the woman in the picture, the photographer had zoomed so far out, the person had diminished in size so much they were almost indistinguishable. A great photo to prove you were there and share with family who recognize you perhaps, but as a profile picture marketing the person, extremely poor choice.
Looking at some further profile pictures, she remarked that the ones that she liked best were essentially clear images of people’s faces. It appeared that pictures from the bust or chest up to the top of the head were the dominant ones that we both preferred, and the images needed to be well-lit and in focus. We did find some really good shots we both liked of people seated where the entire person was visible and easily recognizable.
Some photos people included had broad smiles, and that seemed to make the person come across as warm, inviting, personable, and the overall impression was that they seemed nice. The photo had not only depicted the person well, but now suggested all kinds of traits, personality and attitude. Choosing the right setting, thinking about the facial gesture (smile, neutral, frown, laugh, etc.) could elicit a reaction by those viewing it. And by thinking ahead of time about the message you want to convey, you can influence or perhaps control the viewers response to your image.
Branding and marketing are what the above process is really about. Any product when being introduced to the public, should have thought put into this entire process so the ‘packaging’ attracts the right audience, and communicates the message the originator wants to send. The same is true for the individual who designs a profile of which a picture plays such an important role.
Now we spent just over an hour not only looking at the photo, but talking about the various sections LinkedIn offers as choices to its members to complete. With every word you choose to use, every section you complete, you market and brand yourself to anyone viewing your profile. Use bullets rather than sentences and your profile might resemble a cut-and-paste resume, which LinkedIn is definitely not designed for.
If I were introducing LinkedIn to students, I’d repeat the process I did with this young lady for the entire class before ever picking up a camera to take a photo, or scouring past photos. Think about the impression you want to create first and why. Think about how the background can add to or detract from the message you are trying to send and who you hope your target audience is.