How you say “hello” on social media is more important than ever

Does your profile photo build trust and start new conversations?  

It’s 6:47 when you take that first steamy sip of coffee to jumpstart another action-packed day. First up, visit the LinkedIn profile of the new contact you will meet later today. Ah there, that’s her. Hmmm…nice smile, good eye contact. Professional yet approachable, down to earth with a classic sense of style. She looks like someone I will enjoy speaking with and learning more about her and her work.

Suddenly a jolt of reality strikes, as you realize she will be doing the same thing in preparation for today’s meeting. Yikes. Now your mind is fixated on the outdated photo you have on your profile. A good reminder to book a that portrait session. Okay, it’s on my schedule.   

A new lens

In today’s digital world, your social media profile photo is often the first “face-to-face” interaction others will have with you. It’s the “go to” starting point for most professional relationships today. Think of your profile photo as your new online brand ambassador. The big question is this. Does yours say “hello” to prospects, investors, employers and industry leaders in a way that communicates trust and starts new conversations?  

While AI, robotics and automation capture business headlines, let’s not forget an essential element at the heart of it all. The human element. The one that causes us to feel, think, create, solve and lead. We are emotional creatures. Emotions drive our actions and our decisions. Emotions draw us into compelling images, pique our curiosity and cause us to want to learn more.

A closer look

When was the last time you examined your social media profile photo – a good look to make sure it sets the right tone for this new digital age? If it’s been too long to remember, you are due for review. Sure, you have a million things on your schedule. Even worse, the thought of sitting in front of the camera for a new portrait is enough to send your nerves on high alert. But can you bear the thought of another prospect being greeted by an outdated photo that doesn’t introduce you and your brand story the way you want it to?

Take Ten

In the time it takes for a coffee, you can put your photo to the “new visitor” test. So, grab that coffee, pen and paper too. Here are ten questions to ask. To get into the right mindset, reframe the focus to the prospect’s point of view. What would you honestly think if you were looking at your LinkedIn profile photo for the first time? If you are feeling extra brave, ask a trusted colleague to join you.   

  1. Does it say “hello” to a potential prospect, employer, investor, board member or conference organizer the way you want it to?
  2. Does it make a good first impression? 
  3. Does it look like you?
  4. Is it professional?
  5. Are you making good eye contact – looking into the camera?
  6. Does it capture the spirit of your personality?
  7. Does it show a passion for your work?
  8. Do you appear warm, approachable?
  9. Do you look competent and trustworthy?
  10. Does it encourage others to learn more about you and your work?

Did your photo pass the new visitor test or is it time for a refresh?  

Not all photos are created equal

Those with a mix of the right elements can spark our emotions, capture attention and build intrigue. Otherwise, the sound of crickets and it’s on to someone new.  

According to bestselling author, speaker and CEO Erica Dhawan, “Research shows that roughly 60% to 80% of our face-to-face communication is non-verbal language, such as the pacing, pauses, gestures and tone. All of these cues bring energy and emotional nuance to our message. In her latest book, Digital Body Language: How to Build Trust and Connection, No Matter the Distance, she calls “digital body language” the new cues we send in our digital communications. It’s about how we make others feel in a digital marketplace.

These findings remind us how important our social media profile photo can be in setting the tone with others. It’s time to be purposeful in offering up digital cues that let our personality shine as we make new connections.

Five Elements to set the tone

Let’s explore five elements of a compelling profile photo. Inside each is the opportunity to create a meaningful visual for the person looking at you.   

  • Professionalism

The way you present yourself speaks volumes without a single word. This doesn’t always mean dressing in a suit but rather in a manner that offers a positive impression. When you make time to sit for a portrait, it says “I care.” “I take pride in myself, my profession and the quality of the work I do for others.”

  • Trustworthiness

“When we meet someone new, we quickly answer two questions.” according to social psychologist, bestselling author and keynote speaker Amy Cuddy in her book Presence: Bringing Your Boldest Self to Your Biggest Challenges. “Can I trust this person?” and “Can I respect this person?” She refers to trust and respect as warmth and competence respectively. Cuddy reminds us that beginning with warmth allows trust to develop. Your facial expression, posture, eyes and stance can go a long way in expressing these traits.  

  • Eye contact

Good eye contact is essential when connecting with someone, especially for the first time. Recreate an in-person experience by looking straight into the camera. You will appear to be looking directly at them. It says, “they are important.” It also demonstrates honesty, builds trust and earns respect.

  • Likeness    

People want to know what you look like now, not a decade ago. Is your portrait current? No more than 18 to 24 months is ideal. They want to know who to look for when they meet you in person. For those who have been following you for a while, they want to feel as though they know you when you finally do connect.

  • Authenticity    

COVID lockdowns helped us embrace more authenticity by blurring the lines of work and home. We are drawn to images that show people in real, authentic ways, rather than something staged. While smiles can be engaging, it’s important to use expressions that depict your natural personality. There’s nothing worse than a fake or a forced smile, especially if you are not an outgoing or naturally bubbly person. Offer inviting alternatives with the hint of a smile or a look of delight when you talk about something meaningful. Demonstrate warmth and openness with engaged postures and open stances.     

Isn’t it time to say “hello” to new connections with a social media profile photo that builds trust and starts new conversations? Good news, you are just a few clicks away.  

In the next blog post, learn insider tips to ace your upcoming photoshoot.  

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