When I meet with clients in person for the first time in a public place, I always hear, “It was easy to spot you because you look just like your photo online.” That photo they are referring to is the one that is in my LinkedIn profile. This is music to my ears because that’s the goal and primary reason why I had a professional headshot done in the first place.
Ever hear the phrase, “judging a book by its cover”? Your profile photo is your book cover, online. Having a good professional profile photo helps people relate to you personally. Sure, you can have a profile photo of yourself on the ski slope or one where you cut out your significant other at that formal reception because you looked so good that night, but that just tells me that you’re an avid skier and that you don’t like your significant other. A good professional photo should be from the neck or chest up, should be of only you, and should not contain sunglasses, ski goggles, or anything else that obstructs your face. People need to be able to identify you in a line-up, so to speak. And they can’t do that if your face is partially covered by your gear or if the photo is too far away. We all look good in a tux or formal wear, but would you wear that to a job interview or a business meeting? No.
If your settings are set to public, then your LinkedIn profile will almost always come up on the first page of search engine results. Have a Google+ account (even if you got one by default for having a Gmail account), then you should make your profile photo consistent across all social networks. You can bet that Google will serve up your Google+ profile, unless you have it set to private. So why is this important? Controlling what comes up in search for your name allows you to tell the story about your own personal brand. What do you want to be known for? What image do you want to portray? Ask yourself, do you really want that picture out there? Yikes! Do yourself a favor and update all of your social networks with your professional headshot.
Lastly, one thing that everyone does when meeting someone in person they’ve never met before is they look them up online. You have less than 60 seconds to make an impression in person, even less online. Make sure that what they find looks like you. Nothing is more of a turn off in business or even socially than when you see a photo of someone and they don’t look anything like their photo because their photo is five or ten years old, they’re much more bald or gray than their photo portrays or they’ve developed a thyroid problem and are now 50 pounds heavier. I recommend getting a new headshot every two to three years. If your look hasn’t really changed, you could probably get away with five years, but beyond that, you need to update your headshot.
Tracy Sestili is the author of Take Your Brand from the Bench to the Playing Field, now available on Amazon (April 2014) and Kindle, and CEO of Social Strand Media. Connect with her on Twitter @tracysestili or follow her on Google+.