Some Thoughts on Seth Godin’s “The Power of a Tiny Picture”

Recently while participating on Twitter I ran across a reference to a blog post by Seth Godin about how your profile picture on sites like Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn affect your brand. I have been writing articles on Your Brand Image on just this very subject and I thought I would check out what the author of the best selling book “Tribes” had to say on the subject. If you have read my previous articles you would have seen that I recommend having a great profile picture that supports your brand, a picture that is authentic and honest.

I want to take a look at some of the ideas in his article and make a few comments and observations of my own. For the most part I think that Seth got it “spot on”

“Have a professional or a dedicated amateur take your picture.”

I couldn’t agree more that you should have a great photograph. One that is well thought out, one that supports your brand, and one that is taken with skill. I can’t tell you many times a new client has come to me wanting to replace a profile picture that was taken by an amateur. Amateur images don’t add to your brand unless your brand is amateur.

“Use a white background, or at least a neutral one. No trees! No snowstorms!”

The background is not important in a profile picture – you are! While you may want to portray your brand in context with your surroundings, a small profile image is not the place to do it. Save these images for your websites or galleries where you post other images.

“If you are wearing a hat, you better have both a good reason and a good hat.”

If you are a cowboy, a hat probably makes sense for your brand. If you are a photographer with little hair and you are shooting outdoors in the Colorado sun then a hat also makes sense. Just make sure that the bill of the hat is turned backwards so as not to interfere with your lens and there is a catchy logo/type that reinforces your brand such as “Graphics Factory”

“I totally understand that you are shy, modest and self-effacing. But sabotaging your photo is not a good way to communicate that. We just assume you’re a dork.”

I have to agree that many people are afraid to promote themselves and this is where a professional photographer can help you out. The job of the photographer is to make you look your best and support your brand. If your brand is that of a dork then by all means use a dorky image.

“Conceptual photos (your foot, a monkey wearing glasses) may give us insight into the real you, but perhaps you could save that insight for the second impression.”

Crazy images and the like are a becoming a real turn off in the world of social networking. Why would I want to become friends with or follow a “foot”? See above on being dorky.

“The idea of having your significant other in the picture is a good one, at least in terms of maintaining peace in the presence of a jealous or nervous spouse. But the thing is, I’m not friending your girlfriend, I’m friending you. I’d vote for the picture to be solo.”

I think I have to agree with this one. Unless there is a compelling reason to include others in your profile picture then don’t. There are exceptions if your social networking brand is a couple or partners. A profile image for the Pep Boys wouldn’t cut it if only one of the brothers was shown.

“How beautiful you are is a distant second to how happy you are. In my experience, photos that communicate openness and enthusiasm are far more appealing than photos that make you look like a supermodel.”

This goes to the whole authentic and honest principle of brand images. You are who you are. Be happy and confident and this will radiate to your audience. A good photographer can make you look good – trust me!

“Cropping is so important. I should have put this one first. A well cropped photo sends a huge, subliminal message to other people. If you don’t know how to do this, browse through the work of professionals and see how they do it. It matters.”

Here is where a professional photographer can make your profile images really stand out and support your brand. A well cropped image starts out as a well composed image in the camera and highlights your most important features – usually your eyes. Most profile images are constrained to a small space so you need to use this space wisely. To quote an old marketing adage – “You can’t put 10 pounds of stuff in a 5 pound bag”

I encourage you to read Seth Godin’s original article here. I also encourage you to think out and plan your profile image so that it is authentic and supports your brand. If you need some help drop me a line.

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About Neil McKenzie

Neil McKenzie is an author, educator and consultant to artists and arts organizations. He is the author of The Artist’s Business and Marketing ToolBox – How to Start, Run and Market a Successful Arts or Creative Business available in softcover from Barnes & Noble and Amazon and as an eBook from iTunes, Amazon and Barnes & Noble. He has developed and teaches the course “Artrepreneurship” at the Center for Innovation at Metropolitan State University of Denver, and is also a visiting professor at University College at the University of Denver. Neil has over 30 years’ experience as a management consultant and marketing executive, working with some of the world’s top brands. Neil is a frequent lecturer to artists and arts organizations, a guest columnist for Colorado Biz Magazine, where he covers the creative sector of the economy, and the author of several articles for Americans for the Arts, a national arts organization. Follow Neil on Twitter: @neilmckenzphoto