Most people have probably used – or at least heard – the expression “A picture is worth a thousand words”. But how many remember this when they select a mugshot of themselves for their social media channels – especially LinkedIn?
The expression dates from 1911, when leading New York editor Arthur Brisbane told the Syracuse Advertising Men’s Club: “Use a picture – it’s worth a thousand words.” It remains true today.
The thumbnail pictures we post on LinkedIn and other social channels reveal a great deal about us, our personalities, interests and careers. A good analyst might easily get 1,000 relevant words out of a typical head and shoulders image.
It’s important to choose our images well – so that anyone looking at them is steered in the direction of 1,000 positive words.
In today’s visual world, there’s no excuse for using a bad picture as a thumbnail – but many people do. It’s my guess that many people with bad pictures don’t enjoy the full benefits of social media exposure.
Some people are naturally better looking than others, but we can’t all be beautiful/handsome. So we have to encourage viewers to look beyond the flab, wrinkles and odd hairstyles and go behind the face to see the real person they are about to link with.
Here’s a list of 10 don’ts – if your thumbnail has one or more of them, I’d suggest you think about changing it.
Do not look away from the camera – you want to engage with the viewer: in most modern societies, that means eye contact. Looking away may convey impressions of disinterest or having something to hide.
Do not frown at the camera – a ‘black’ look is a great turn-off, whereas a slight smile suggests approachability and a degree of friendliness.
Do not share the frame with another person – it’s you they are potentially linking with, not your spouse, partner, relative, colleague or best friend. Two heads in one thumbnail can make it difficult to decide which is the named person – and it may also conjure up the idea that the person is unable to stand on his or her own two feet.
Do not drag your children into the picture – sadly, other people’s children are not always as endearing as one’s own!
Do not use a logo or product image instead of your face on personal pages – it marks you as a pushy sales person, looking for any opportunity for a free advertisement. Logos and products are fine on corporate pages.
Do not portray yourself relaxing on a Caribbean beach, in the snow-clad Alps or bungee-jumping at Victoria Falls – it may suggest that leisure, rather than business, is your number one interest.
Do not hide behind the default egghead image – it suggests either that you are afraid to show your face in public or that you just don’t care: two views that are not conducive to engagement.
Do not select a fuzzy, out-of focus or blurred image – or one that makes you look like you’ve escaped from Crimewatch. Again, pictures like this are not likely to win friends.
Do not use special interest pictures or ones that are totally irrelevant – people don’t want to link with steam trains, aircraft or double basses. Let your connections learn about your relevant interests later.
Do not put another face where yours should be – you aren’t Alfred E Neuman, Morph, Kermit or scores of other iconic characters. If you can’t show your face, perhaps you should not be on social media?
David Goddin was born in the UK and educated in South Africa. He began his career on daily newspapers and trade journals, before moving into public relations consulting. He produced award-winning writing and became an Accredited PR Practitioner, the highest qualification of the Public Relations Institute of South Africa. Since his return to the UK 17 years ago he has also contributed to a number of highly successful PR and marketing communications campaigns for major national and multinational clients. He is currently also President of the Haslemere & District Chamber of Trade & Commerce.