We live in a “social” world. There is a website where you can like, poke, and write on the walls of complete strangers and nobody will call the police on you for doing so. We try to meet people all over the world from the comfort of our computer chairs. In the world of online business, this is exceptionally true. Why limit yourself to trying to sell something to the people next door if you can showcase your product to a worldwide market at the ease of a few keystrokes? Of course, people prefer to buy things backed by real people instead of produced by robots and cold hard computer code, so, the “social” aspect has also invaded the world of online marketing. In the last couple of years we have seen Traffic Exchanges integrate chatrooms into the surfing area, and make user profiles and social website sharing much more accessible and detailed. There are lots of ways you can utilize these to make a first impression with each person you meet, but for the purposes of this article, I want to touch on one small but powerful tool that I feel many people are overlooking or misusing.
Avatar: noun, a visible manifestation or embodiment of an abstract concept OR a graphical image that represents a person, as on the Internet. Also known as your profile picture. You hear it said a hundred times a day in Affiliate Marketing chatrooms every day: add a profile picture so we know who you are. Some call it part of your “personal branding”. Speaking just for myself, there are many folks who have been around popular Traffic Exchanges long enough, using the same photo over and over again, that I can often look at one of their splash pages with just their photo on it and know the name of the person it belongs to. That is the essence of personal branding. So adding a human touch to your digital sales pitches can make your messages much warmer and more inviting- but does this work for every picture?
This is where my major rant comes in. What is wrong with you people?! Okay maybe that’s the wrong way to proceed with my point, let me try again. Are you a dog? No? Take Fido’s picture off your profile unless you are selling dog biscuits. Are you under the age of 13 or have you fallen into a cartoonland? No? Take that wascally wabbit’s cartoon picture off your profile. Do you want people to think you only care about wealth? If the answer is no, take the picture of diamonds, the Ferrari, or the mansion off your profile. This is, after all, the first impression we are talking about here. You need to carefully consider what your picture looks like to someone who never has, and maybe never will, meet you in person and get to know how much awesomeness you have that can’t be summed up in a photo and an About Me paragraph.
Now that we’ve gotten the obvious out of the way, I still have a complaint about the more “ordinary” photos. Yes, it has a person in it and it is unique and human, buuuut… Recently I found myself surfing in a mode that would be considered mindless, or requiring very little thought. My eyes were glazed over, my coffee was long gone, my mind kept wandering, and only my peripheral vision was paying attention to the surf bar icons. Click, click, click. I started watching for the profile pictures that would display to tell you who the current advertisement was posted by. It intrigued me, the photos that people would post of themselves, and I was putting captions on them in my mind. It went something like this:
- “My face is blue because I snapped my pic with my webcam and only the light from my monitor. I’m not really from a planet with a blue sun.”
- “My face is off-center and at a weird angle because really, who has time to take a second photo?”
- “See me, see my hobby behind me, yeah, I’d rather be doing that instead of filling out my profile.”
- “Don’t mind the cobwebs and crooked curtains beside me, this is the only spot in the world that I can take a photograph.”
- “I do not smile for photographs. It takes too much cheek muscle effort!”
- “I’m in this photo of four people. I’m in it, really! If I take one by myself, I’ll look lonely.”
Nobody ever wrote rules about right or wrong profile pictures, because there is no right or wrong*. But when you put a representation of yourself out in cyberspace that turns people away, who you are really harming is yourself. If your profile picture is not one that you could tape on a paper bag and put on your head to sell encyclopedias from door to door with, then it’s not going to work much better online, convincing people that you are good person to buy from. (If anyone actually tries to sell encyclopedias from door to door while wearing a paper bag, I take no responsibility for your sales). The questions you should consider about your photos don’t have to pick apart every detail. I recommend the following aspects be met for online marketing:
- Look cheerful. Some people smile easily, some people do not, but a smile is not required. It’s about attitude.
- Look approachable. If you look focused and attentive in the real world, people are more likely to start a conversation with you, or ask you for help. The same look can be achieved in a photo.
- Don’t have distractions in the photo with you. Save your hobbies, and home, and scenery for other photos. Your first impression photo should be simply about you.
That’s pretty much all there is to it. A photo is worth a thousand words, right? After that first impression, you can work on telling people all about what really makes you who you are, with profile text, About Me pages, and of course, actually chatting with people. Here’s to your First Impression, may it bring you good responses!
Birdie Hurt, the photo-obsessed nitpicker.
*With the exception of abiding by website Terms and Conditions, and trying not to be offensive.