Your LinkedIn Profile Photo: Are You Sending the Right Message?

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As the old saying goes— a picture is worth 1,000 words.

Are you using those 1,000 words to your advantage? Is your LinkedIn profile picture saying what you think it is?

In an interview with the Huffington Post, Alex Pirouz, founder of Linkfluencer stated:

[With] millions of members and 49 percent of them being key decision makers, LinkedIn has leveled the playing field allowing business owners all over the world the opportunity to find, connect and build a relationship with their target market regardless of industry or location.”

He goes on to stress the importance of developing your personal brand when it comes to connecting with people online:

“The buying behaviors of consumers have changed dramatically over the past 3-5 years. Today they care more about the people they do business with more so than the actual brand or product/service. You could have the best product or service in the world but if they don’t like you they won’t necessarily do business with you.”

LinkedIn is a powerful tool that many people, from new grads to small business owners to CEOs, use daily. The amount of activity and engagement on LinkedIn presents a MAJOR opportunity for anyone looking to showcase themselves and their business to the professional world.

Don’t waste it by making one of the most common LinkedIn Mistakes that folks make:

Not sending the right message with your profile picture.

Why is having a photo on LinkedIn so important and how can you use the space to its fullest advantage to help in launching your own personal brand? I’m glad you asked! In this post, I’m going to break down exactly why you should have a LinkedIn photo and how to ensure it gives off the right message for your personal brand.

Let’s Start With the Basics…

Do you even have a photo? This may seem like an obvious place to start, but it’s more common than you’d think for someone to bypass this crucial part of the profile setup process. Just as bad as the dreaded egg avatar on Twitter, inviting someone to connect on LinkedIn when you have a profile with no photo is like introducing yourself to that person with your back toward them.

Doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.

If you don’t have a photo, you’re already behind and probably missing out on making some important connections. Just check out these stats if you don’t believe me:

LinkedIn profiles with photos get 21X more profile views.

LinkedIn profiles with photos get 36X more messages.

I don’t know about you, but the the likelihood of me accepting a request from someone I don’t know when I cannot see who it is I’m connecting with, is slim to none.

Don’t get me wrong, requesting to connect with someone you don’t really know on LinkedIn is the name of the game. The whole point of the platform is to get to know people, build your network and form relationships with like-minded individuals. This can be with someone in your peer group, in your industry, someone who you admire, and/or someone who you can learn from, all with the objective of growing your business and career.

If you only connected with those in your graduating class, you’d be missing out on a world of opportunity. That being said, the majority of the people you connect with are not going to know you from Bob or Susan so having a photo is your best bet at leaving an impression of yourself ingrained in their head.

But, Check Out My Bio!

Ok, great; you’ve crafted the perfect summary and your work experience speaks volumes, but does anyone care?

The folks at OkCupid, a popular online dating website, answered this question in their study entitled, ‘So What Is A Picture Worth?’ In their experiment, they tested two scenarios to see which would result in a better score: a profile with just a picture or a profile with a picture and a bio.

The results determined that less than 10% consideration was given toward the text, meaning people draw over 90% of their conclusion of you from your photo alone. What this study showed is that it doesn’t take much for someone to form an opinion about you, no matter how informed or uninformed that opinion may be.

The Importance Of Making A Great First Impressions

So you’re now sold on the value of having a photo online, but how can you ensure that the photo you upload leaves a memorable first impression?

First impressions are a big deal and they have a lasting effect.

In The Power of First Impressions Online, Natalie Nahai, The Web Psychologist talks about how difficult it can be to undo a first impression. “[That’s] why it’s important to think about what kind of impression you want to make,” she says.

These days, first impressions happen online an unproportionate amount of the time, and with nearly half of a billion users, LinkedIn is becoming the stomping ground for more and more people looking to fulfill certain needs, such as researching a potential employer or employee, keeping up with industry news, or tracking down someone who offers a specific service. That makes it a great place to promote your business and grow the reach of your own brand… IF you do it right.

So what SHOULD you include in your photo?

While there are a lot of studies out there that suggest how to smile, what to wear, and even what to do with your eyes, there’s really no one size fits all solution.

Sure smiling sends off positive energy, and a shirt/tie combo may work perfectly if you’re an investment banker. Having your adorable baby brother in your photo may unnecessarily take the focus away from you, but perhaps for Cesar Millan it makes sense to be surrounded by puppies.

My point is this:

You really have to know your brand and know your industry.

Check out Richard Branson’s take on a personalized profile pic:


He looks so deep in thought— probably drafting up his next billion dollar business plan. This represents so perfectly what HE DOES.

Or how about Lauren Bush Lauren, CEO and founder of FEED?:


A hint of her company’s brand peeks out from her FEED bag. She’s on a mission to save the world and this photo speaks to that.

At the end of the day, it’s your brand and your photo needs to reflect that however you see fit. Experiment with a few different options to see what bites.

Try different outfits and play around with the background colour!

At the end of the day, the only DOs and DON’Ts you should keep in mind are:

  • DO have a photo
  • DO make it reflective of you and your personal brand
  • DON’T feel like you have to fit into a mold
  • DON’T be inappropriate (I’ll let you determine what that means)

You can even apply these same concepts across your other social sites.

So update your LinkedIn, get out there, make smart connections and MAKE IT COUNT!

What industry are you in? How do you project your unique brand into your profile picture? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

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