The Power of a Profile Pic

Posted: March 18, 2011 in Week #8

My LinkedIn Profile Pic.

“I can’t remember where I heard it but someone made the comparison that having no photo on LinkedIn is like going to a networking event wearing a paper bag over your head – I have always loved that analogy!” – Lisa Marie Diaz

There is currently a great discussion forming in LinkedIn’s Social Media Today group. The discussion topic, lead by Dermot G., a Brand Marketing Manager, asks “What do you think about Profiles without Profile picture?”

Here’s how Dermot starts the conversation:

Is it acceptable in current broad up-take of social media, by public and professionals?
Does it diminish networking potential of social media platforms?
How do you react when you get a network/connection request from someone without a profile pic?
When does it, if ever, make sense to leave out a profile pic?

Currently with 105 comments, including mine, there is a great debate stirring among its group members.

Here are some highlights from that discussion, starting with fellow Journ65 Facebook Group member, Gregory Stringer.

…profile pics, while perhaps not necessary, are at least a good idea; something else was that one astute observer noted only actual head shot photographic images are supposed to be posted on profiles; logos, artistic renderings, and caricatures are in violation of LinkedIn EULA’s. (Please don’t take issue w/ me personally over this, I don’t care one way or the other… ain’t hatin’, just statin’.)

Gregory, I personally don’t think you’re being a hater. I don’t agree with what the “observer” stated about using head shots, as it’s both time consuming searching for a photographer and expensive for their services. In this day and age, most everyone owns a digital camera in some shape or form. Even the 5 mega-pixel camera on my smartphone takes decent photos, so I guess using the term head shot can simply define a top quality photo, and not necessarily one taken by a professional photographer.

On the issue of ageism, here’s what some people had to say:

I personally detest having the wrinkles and saggy skin be the first thing that people see. However, I also believe that even a bad picture is better than no picture. Psychologically it does lend credibility to the person. To look at someone’s picture and instantly make a judgement about them is wrong, but it happens a lot. Yes, some of us are extremely camera shy, others do not take good photos, yet if we are to fully participate in Social Media, we need to Get Social. –Kate Knittle

I do a lot of LinkedIn Presentations for networking groups, and by far the most pressing reason for not showing a picture is AGE DISCRIMINATION. A majority of people in job search are those over 50. I keep hearing the same phrases over and over again about showing wrinkles or having gray hair when in the job search is a turn off for most recruiters or hiring managers. –Bruce Bixler

I am new to Linked In and I had a concern about my age as some of you had mentioned. I am fifty (looks better spelled out, rather than the big 50, LOL!). Ultimately, I decided that the picture was necessary, especially since I am transitioning careers and currently job hunting. I don’t want to waste anyone’s time, so the current picture, I hope, helps keep me in the running…or not. I think I made the right decision by posting the picture. –Ramon Martinez

This thread brings to mind the rule that when applying for a new job, pictures aren’t allowed to be submitted along with résumés. It is illegal for companies to discriminate based upon age, therefore they don’t want to see your face unless they’re bringing you in for an interview. Sometimes our brains can subconsciously discriminate if we’ve seen head shots of potential applicants, but let’s not forget that, like Kate stated, “to fully participate in Social Media, we need to Get Social”; therefore, a pic on LinkedIn is in fact important. At the end of the day, we live in a society that puts more emphasis on how we look, rather than how we think or act, which brings me to the next group of comments with the age-old theme that “we can’t judge a book by its cover.”

Pictures add a great visual but only take them at face value. Don’t judge a book by its cover. Pictures do help others remember people. If you look at the logo I use it is fairly bright and recognizable. –Davy W.

@Davy W, you’re right, of course, about judging a book by its covers, and I didn’t try to make law from superficiality, but to sum up the facts about the people in my networks. You don’t need a photo to remember the right people (value adding humans :), but when communicating online with various persons (if your job makes you do it), who you don’t know personally, a photo gives you a sense of security, ensures you that you are really not communicating (or doing business) with a blip on a screen. 2 more cents 🙂 –Rastko Sejik

…at the end of the day, we all make snap judgments based on people’s pictures. Not having a picture makes me think people are hiding something. Bad pictures make me think, “Don’t they know that’s BAD?” Good pictures generally prompt me to look more carefully at a person’s profile. Interesting pictures leave me hoping that one day I might meet that person (thus my hopefully interesting picture that people tell me is good of me). Your picture choice is part of your online brand and positioning… it’s important. –John Morris

The importance of using a profile picture on LinkedIn has sparked many group members to voice their opinions, and while some don’t mind if people have no pic, the consensus is that a top quality photo can take you far in the networking arena. Coming into the discussion rather late in the game, my reply still stands as the last comment on the thread, so I’ll post it here so my readers have an opportunity to comment on the blog, as well as in the group discussion.

What is the criteria for choosing a great profile picture? I’ve heard that a picture showing a smile can go a long way in this economy, but as an artist, I wanted my pic to be artistic rather than a “head shot.” I heard good and bad about the one I ended up choosing. “Looks like a year book photo,” someone once said. Hopefully, it doesn’t have that same cheesy effect that a year book photo has.

  1. Thanks for stating I’m not an obnoxious trouble-maker Billy, though I believe we both know better. 😉

    The problem that apparently escaped the entire convo is that by posting other than a photographic head-shot is reason to lose one’s membership on LI; as I stated, it’s plainly posted in the EULA’s (End User License Agreement). We pay attention on this planet.

    One thing I found particularly entertaining was the comment that appeared directly below mine in the thread. I had stated that my opinion on the matter could be summated w/ one word well known in Social Media; transparency. The next person to comment, who listed on their profile they were owner/CEO of a Social Media optimization agency, said they felt transparency (widely held as one of the most fundamental tenets in the field) was invalid in Social Media. While at first I was irritated that such an idiotic remark would be made in the midst of professionals, and therefore about to ready my trusty flamethrower, in the end I was quite grateful for the postulation; it has provided inspiration for my next article, titled “Social Media Stupidium” (see above, re: obnoxious trouble-maker).

  2. Dan Coerber says:

    I totally agree!! The Pic is uber important – people don’t like to “buy” site unseen.

  3. There are two problems that I see with a professional networking website requiring a head shot, other than the ones that have previously been expressed:

    1. When you apply for a job with a resume and a cover letter, you do not have to supply your race or ethnicity. You don’t even have to state your gender for most jobs (and it is illegal for the potential employer to ask for these things). On LinkedIn you do, because these things can usually be determined from a photograph.

    2. This does not deter people that want to create fake accounts, troll, stalk or murder people because there is a vast wealth of pictures of other people available on the internet.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s