Let’s start with the basics. Nobody will be enticed to communicate with a person in a forum, on a blog, on Twitter if they can’t see their face. As the internet is merely an extension of human communication [Chris Brogan] it’s only fair that we show our mugs online as we would do offline.
Imagine the real life situation where people communicate without seeing each other, I can think of court hearings with witness protection and I can think of dating shows. Both of these strike me as rather awkward circumstances.
Let people see you
The best way to put a face to a name online is obviously to show people what you look like with a photo. In this world where you are able to attract new opportunities online, your headshot will help to sell your brand more than ever. It will add that personality and authenticity to your social media profile or your blog’s About page.
A picture says more than a thousand words as the old saying goes so you had better make this photo count.
All you need is one decent picture
The good news about showing off your face to the world is that you only really need one good mugshot. Unless you have one already, you can probably dig one out from your hard drive or scour Facebook for a while until you find a suitable one. See what your focus group (friends and family) has to say about it before you decide to use it for your personal brand.
What should it look like?
There are a few guidelines for photos that can be useful to know. First off, the picture should look professional and you should at the very least wear collars. There should be no distractions behind you and the background should preferably be white or another light solid color.
Depending on the industry you are in, you might want to look serious or smile from ear to ear – I’ll leave that to your discretion. The job of the photo is to make you look friendly and accessible, you want people to like and trust you by seeing it. The headshot should encourage others to take action and contact you.
Your photo should be zoomed in on your face, effectively cropped just above your hair and halfway down your neck. The reason for this is that people feel a much stronger connection to a person’s profile and picture if they see more of your skin. Think about it, if you are posing with your dog by the mantelpiece in full figure, the viewer will barely be able to see your face properly.
Bear in mind that some social media platforms such as LinkedIn and Twitter only give you a tiny square space for your picture so you have to get it right.
As for cropping, here is an example from my own picture (which admittedly could be better!). The full image is how it was taken; the inner rectangle is how it’s cropped to ensure my face doesn’t get upstaged by the blue background.
A photographer friend of mine by the name of John Cassidy once told me about the four lines going through any headshot. There are 9 sections to the picture and you job is to fill the middle one with nothing but your face as per this illustration.
One of the cardinal rules of personal branding is consistency and this very much applies to your image. Take a look at your online presence; are you using the same photo across all platforms? If not, you could be sending out mixed messages to any online visitors.
Sure, you can let interested folks see more but the main profile photo should be one and the same. This means changing your Facebook profile photo taken in the Greek isles to the very same one you use on LinkedIn.
You have to expect being cross-checked on more than one social media platform and you want to show off complete congruency here, or you’ll have that potential employer or customer sensing something is not quite right.
Here’s a little known secret: you can help your brand’s SEO by naming your picture with the right keywords. Search engine robots scour sites every day and they look and index any text on a page. The bots can’t see images but they will index the image name, if it happens to be ‘john-smith-property-lawyer’, this will help you in searches.
Getting a decent photo up on your blog and online profiles is not very difficult. All you need is one decent headhot you are happy with, crop it properly and make sure it goes up consistently and job done.
Do you use the same headshot across the internet? Please let me know in the comments!