On LinkedIn, the photo-less people are “blue” look-a-likes. On Twitter, you look like an “egghead,” and it’s a giveaway that you are an amateur newbie. How to attract interest and followers? Your avatar or image will immediately set the tone for your brand. It’s “anti-social,” I would argue, to disregard that essential social component. And yet, I find it is one of the most overlooked elements in social/digital strategy.

Here are a few social miscues regarding photos:

  • Don’t use photos that have been retouched beyond all recognition. I want to be able to recognize the person in the photo when we meet. It can be a “great” shot but it should look like you look every day.
  • Don’t use bar mitzvah photos (i.e. something from 20 years ago when you thought you looked good).
  • The photo should not be too formal nor too casual. Men can wear a dress shirt and jacket but eschew the tie if that’s how they dress usually. Remember the purpose of the photo is to be approachable and social. Perhaps a three-quarter pose or a more relaxed pose is how you best appear. On the casual end, men should avoid short sleeves, and women should avoid low-cut dresses and seductive posing. This is not Match.com.
  • Invest in yourself and have professional photographs taken for yourself and key firm members on a regular basis. We all age, change our hair, gain or lose weight, etc. What does having an old photo say when people meet you in-person?

Also, there is no need to have a “static” image. If you are undecided or feel that there are really two essentials to communicate, then do it. Rotate avatars and photos among all of your social platforms to create engagement and interest. Greater “harm” comes in doing nothing about your photo or image. If you are a woman, make sure that the photo is flattering but not a “glamour shot.” It should not look like a special day but more about how you look every day. And for men, put up a professional photograph and not one from a social occasion where you are wearing a tux—unless you wear that to work each day. Today, best practices for professional photos are much more relaxed and friendly—this is social. It is far less formal than the traditional “head shot.” Choose a photo or several that are friendly and more authentic.

If you have no image, you are missing the most important opportunity to engage. Show something representative of you or your firm. Leaving this important element undone is an unforgivable mistake. When I see the “blue face” on a LinkedIn profile, my first assumption is that they are not comfortable with what they look like. Can you picture a brochure without photos? Especially on LinkedIn, the photo is the first impression for anyone viewing your profile—a referral source, prospect, existing client, etc. A favorable photo with a happy face will draw people in to read your profile and engage.