Tips to Create an Online Presence You Can Be Proud Of
I hate getting my picture taken. Yep, I said it. Loud and proud. And I’m a photographer! I’ve had people come into my studio saying they’d rather go to the dentist then get their picture taken. And leave saying,”Huh, that wasn’t bad at all! It was kinda fun!” As a (ahem) thirty something mom who loves her wine and chocolate, I can totally relate to that anxiety. But do I have a good photo of myself on my website? You bet I do!
First impressions matter.
I’m going to admit something else to you…I have judged a book by its cover. I was recently at Powell’s wandering the aisles waiting for my 9-year-old daughter to find the latest Thea Stilton book. It’s easy (and fun) to get lost in the sea of eye candy at Powell’s. As I lazily made my way over to the cookbooks section I realized that I was much more likely to pick up the cookbook with the colorful, beautifully lit, perfectly scrumptious cupcake photo on the cover than the one with the low budget snapshot. The truth is we all do it. It has to do with our own personal biases of associating professional looking things (and people) as better or safe.
As Alek Lickerman discussed in this Psychology Today article, we are actually less likely to choose the book with the amateurish cover than the unattractive one. Even the unattractive cover has something interesting about it. The professional cover creates a bit of trust, or the idea that since the image looks great then the content will be as well. Booksellers know this very well and invest in professional photography and graphic design to compel you to choose their book out of the sea of titles at Powell’s or on Amazon.
In so many cases, the first impression is the only one you’ll get. You will only have a few seconds before your potential client loses interest…engage them with compelling images. Your visual identity (logo, business cards, marketing materials, online presence, the way you and your team dress in your photos and when meeting clients) must be carefully thought out and executed. Who are you as a company? How does your visual identity differentiate you from your competition? Are you speaking to your target client? Should you be wearing a shirt and tie or blazer in your photo or have a more casual/approachable look?
Our clients want to connect to a person, not a website.
As a potential client, I want to know a bit about you before I decide to buy. If I see your smiling, professional photo (and not the selfie you took in the car), read your blog and see that you have knowledge about your industry, check you out on Facebook, LinkedIn or Instagram to get a better idea of your personality, and then see your video and hear your voice interacting with clients and find lifestyle photos of people I can relate to using your products or service, the trust gap begins to close. Using images of yourself, your product, and your actual clients (ideally with testimonials) you can create that trust and connection before your client picks up the phone.
Tell Stories. Be authentic. Imperfections are a good thing.
We love imperfect people. What great movie hero doesn’t have that flaw in their character that draws us in? Perfect is boring. I’m a complete klutz! I’ve been known to fall on my face at a photo shoot (literally) to avoid dropping my camera after I tripped. My poor client didn’t know what to do at the time, but we laughed for days about it afterward. I even use the story to cut the tension with a client that is particularly nervous in the front of the camera. It’s perfectly okay to share funny stories and images of your quirky self, your kids and family life, or weird things that happen to you during the course of the day. People will be even more drawn to you because of your humanity and authenticity. Be cautious in what you share, though: be human, and be professional. Don’t share stories that will embarrass someone, or disparage a client or family member. Don’t be THAT guy and overshare very personal information or complain about a client. Keep it light and positive.
Stock Photography or Hire a Professional Photographer?
In my previous professional life, I built a small real estate investment company and managed the marketing and operations. When it came time to find images for our website I went to the most popular stock site www.istock.com and spent literally hours combing through images to find something that would work and not LOOK like stock photography. I do think there is a place for stock photos. They’re inexpensive and getting more and more creative all the time. I would use them cautiously though. Not every photo on your website and blog should come from stock. They tend to give a very generic look when used excessively. Remember our goal is connection and authenticity. Your clients would prefer a few professional images of you and your clients using your product or service.
A professional photographer should have a wide variety of skills in shooting various subjects and be able to help translate your marketing message into a compelling image. They should listen to you and your ideas for marketing your business, as well as find out what has worked, or didn’t work for you in the past and what your goals are. This will undoubtedly cost more, as you are paying for the time, talent and creative vision of the photographer to create a custom set of images. This could involve hiring models (or getting some of your friends or clients to model for you), scouting locations, hair and makeup and other expenses, so make sure you have a budget in mind and an idea of what you’d like to accomplish before you meet with them.
Most importantly, never ever (and I mean ever) steal an image from the internet and use it in your online presence. Photographers are business people too! Copyright violation is no picnic. For more details on that read this article.
Your homework for this week: If you don’t have a great photo of yourself taken within the last decade (you know who you are) – call a photographer and get it done! Even if it’s for no other reason than you’ll get a ton of likes for your gorgeous new photo on Facebook.
Jessica Daniels is a Converse-wearing, Peet’s coffee loving mom and business owner in Vancouver, WA. Her photography business, Jessica Daniels Photography, specializes in stylish High School Senior Portraits and helping business owners get over their fear of having their portrait taken.