Posted: March 29, 2013
Best of CoBiz: One great picture is worth a bunch of business
It can make or break your brandBy Neil McKenzie
I ran across a reference on Twitter to the blog post "The Power of a Tiny Picture" by Seth Godin about how your profile picture on sites like Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn affect your brand. Godin is the author of the bestselling books Tribes and Linchpin as well as one of today's top marketing minds.
As a photographer who helps people with their brand images, I recommend that everyone who is concerned about their personal brand have a really good profile image - one that supports your brand and portrays you in an authentic manner.
Here is a look at some of the ideas in Godin's article and a few comments and observations of my own. For the most part I think that Seth got it "spot on:"
"Have a professional or a dedicated amateur take your picture."
I couldn't agree more that you should have a great photograph. One that is well thought out, one that supports your brand, and one that is taken with skill. I can't tell you many times a new client has come to me wanting to replace a profile picture that was taken by an amateur. Amateur images don't add to your brand unless your brand is amateur or the amateur is a good photographer.
"Use a white background, or at least a neutral one. No trees! No snowstorms!"
The background is not important in a profile picture - you are! While you may want to portray your brand in context with your surroundings, a small profile image is not the place to do it. Save these images for your website or galleries where you post other images.
"If you are wearing a hat, you better have both a good reason and a good hat."
If you are a cowboy, a hat probably makes sense for your brand. If you are a photographer with little hair and you are shooting outdoors in the Colorado sun then a hat also makes sense. Just make sure that the bill of the hat is turned backwards so as not to interfere with your lens and there is a catchy logo/type that reinforces your brand such as "Graphics Factory".
"Conceptual photos (your foot, a monkey wearing glasses) may give us insight into the real you, but perhaps you could save that insight for the second impression."
Crazy images and the like are a becoming a real turn off in the world of social networking. Why would I want to become friends with or follow a "foot"?
"The idea of having your significant other in the picture is a good one, at least in terms of maintaining peace in the presence of a jealous or nervous spouse. But the thing is, I'm not friending your girlfriend, I'm friending you."
I think I have to agree with this one. Unless there is a compelling reason to include others in your profile picture, don't. There are exceptions if your social networking brand is a couple or partners. A profile image for the Pep Boys wouldn't cut it if only one of the brothers was shown.
"Cropping is so important... a well cropped photo sends a huge, subliminal message to other people."
A well-cropped image starts out as a well composed image in the camera and highlights your most important features - usually your eyes. Most profile images are constrained to a small space so you need to use this space wisely. To quote an old marketing adage - "You can't put 10 pounds of stuff in a 5 pound bag"
Once you have chosen an image for your profile picture, show it to your friends and associates to get their reaction. If they say "Great!" or better yet "Wow!" then you know you have a good profile picture. Be sure to ask them if the image supports your brand.
When you post your profile picture, plan on using it for some time. Like any advertising, you need to keep some level of consistency and allow time for people to get to recognize you. As your followers or friends get to recognize your face they are more likely to take a moment to stop and read your posts.
Don't underestimate the power of your profile picture. It is the first thing people notice about you in the social media landscape. I never cease to be amazed when I meet people in person from my online social networks and they make a comment like, "Where is your camera? or where is your hat?"
Neil McKenzie is an author, educator and consultant to artists and arts organizations in the areas of business and marketing planning. His recently published book, The Artist’s Business and Marketing ToolBox, was written to take the mystery out of business for artists and other creative professionals. He has more than 30 years experience as a management consultant and corporate marketing executive working with hundreds of organizations including some of the world’s top brands. Neil is a visiting professor at the Center for Innovation at Metropolitan State University of Denver, where he developed and teaches Artrepreneurship; and at University College at the University of Denver, where he teaches the graduate course, Marketing for the Arts. He is a frequent guest lecturer to artists and organizations in the creative sector and writes about the creative economy including several articles for Americans for the Arts, a national arts organization. Neil can be reached at 720-339-3160, firstname.lastname@example.org or http://creativesandbusiness.com