I had to write this article today, purely as an outlet for my shock at what I have started to see taking place in what is supposed to be a professional online community.
It is no surprise: social media is here, and it is here to stay. Make the best of it, because your online reputation could make or break you, especially if the online community is your bread and butter.
Although there are probably at least a half dozen social media sites that businesses focus on, the main two that come to mind are the obvious: Facebook and LinkedIn. My focus for this article is LinkedIn, as this is viewed as the Facebook of the business community.
Shortly after setting up a LinkedIn account, I began to seek new connections. During this process, I actually had a few people enquire as to why I did not have a photo of myself posted. This was a legitimate question as almost every person I was seeking to make a connection with had a photo.
After my photo was set up and I had made some connections, the fun really began.
As a press release distribution company, we receive many enquiries about how to send a press release. We also voice verify or from time to time are required to contact a customer about their press release. Sometimes, the contact information provided for a press release is not sufficient, so we use LinkedIn to try to reach out to these individuals.
It can be borderline scary, when you review a press release about an investment company that handles investments for people potentially worth hundreds of millions of dollars, and the representative submitting the press release has a bar star photo of them with the hang loose thumb and pinky in the air, with tattoos and sunglasses.
Now this is not to imply that this particular individual is incompetent, but rather to state that the unfortunate reality is that the world we live in is one where the majority of people still judge a book by its cover.
I don’t know what the exact numbers are; however I would say that – based on what I have seen – approximately 15% of photos could be classified as inappropriate images for a LinkedIn business community. This would include beach shots, drunken bar shots, the infamous “I photographed myself” (mirror or hand extended), or group birthday photos.
5 Tips for a Professional Online Photo
- Have a photo taken specifically for your LinkedIn (or any other online business community) account. All too often, people make the mistake of using a Facebook party picture, as it is already easily available and accessible.
- Make sure to wear proper attire that builds the image you want to project on behalf of your business. If you are working for a corporation and are logging into LinkedIn on behalf of the business, the company you work for may have (or have access to) a corporate photographer.
- Get the lighting right. When it comes to a portrait, lighting is key. Either a slight split lighting or Rembrandt lighting technique (check out the link).
- Keep a casual smile, a little more than what they allow for a passport, but not a full-on smile. Keep it professional.
- The best images are shot just slightly below the shoulder line. Remember, this is a professional profile, not an online dating site where you want to show off your body.
Take a look around the LinkedIn community and see what most professionals are using. This will give you further indication as to what works and what doesn’t. When you see someone in a bikini at the beach, or drinking with his buddies, are these really people that you would want to engage any type of business activity with? Get your photo right. Aside from some text, it is the first thing people are going to see before passing to the next person.Google+