This is a guest post from Jim Durbin, a digital/social headhunter.
gGents put time and care into their appearance because they know the world is watching. When you step outside your door, you have to project strength, class, confidence, health and stability, which is defined largely by how you look and how you dress. In today’s world, in which Skype, Facetime, Google, and Facebook limit your face-to-face interaction, your digital presence is as important as your personal presence.
When you meet someone, they google your name. When you call them, they google your number. When you’re recommended, or mentioned, or quoted, the public looks at your name and wants to know who you are. At the top of every search engine is the business network, LinkedIn.
Your LinkedIn profile is not only a way to connect with business associates – it’s a personal marketing site that is easily accessible, and thus requires care and attention. So to be a proper gent, here are 3 rules for maintaining your online persona as carefully as you maintain that three day growth of stubble.
1) Your profile picture matters, just not in the way you think:
You may be tempted to strike a pose or go for a glamour shot, but the right LinkedIn profile picture builds trust, not envy. When someone pulls up your profile, they see your smiling mug, which creates a reaction in the brain. To get a good reaction you’ll need to follow 3 rules.
a) They have to see your eyes.
Specifically, your pupils. The picture should be a cropped version of your face, with just a little bit of shoulder and none of your hair cut off. You need to be in good light, so the viewer sees your pupils. If they can see them, they will register your face with a positive signal from the amygdala. That tiny little ‘yes’ signal upon seeing your pupils begins to build trust. If they can’t see you pupils, you’re just an image on the screen.
b) Your background has to be interesting, but not too interesting.
Other people have no business in your picture, but something should be going on behind you. You can have an outdoors shot, or you in an office, or on stage, or even a blurry, unrecognizable mess – just use something. Poorly lit office lights on a white wall wash out your face and make you like like an office drone. So go outside in natural light, or take a picture in an office with windows where the shadow creates a pattern behind you.
c) Your face can’t be straight, but your body has to be.
If you do a straight-on picture, you better be really, really good looking. Instead, face the camera and turn your face slightly. You can also face the camera but be slightly off center. This makes you look more interesting, which means that people will be more interested in learning about you.
Those three rules are the most important, but you should also know that while you don’t have to show your teeth, you do have to smile.
How do we know all this? Dating websites tell us a lot about who gets seen and what people think of you when they see your picture. Your goal on LinkedIn is to spark curiosity. That picture will do it.
2) Make Sure Your Title Catches The Eye
The most visible part of your profile after the picture is the heading and title. Your city, industry, and title are often the only words someone will read. So choose carefully.
a) Title: It’s not Sales Specialist II, or Recruiting Representative, or even Vice President, Regional North America. Those are the names HR gives you. You are a Marketing Technology Salesman, Senior Medical Device Recruiter, or Digital Executive for the Film Industry. Don’t lie, and don’t be weird and say you’re a guru or internet mastermind, but you should have a succinct title that gets people interested.
b) City – fill out your zip code, but choose the broader city you live in, not the suburb you live in. Frisco, TX is a great place, but no one knows that it’s Plano’s cooler cousin and 40 minutes north of Dallas.
c) Industry – you’re not the industry of your title. You’re the industry of your industry. Accountants in the Oil and Gas industry should be in the Oil and Gas industry.
3) Write A Summary People Want To Read
LinkedIn is not your resume. In your summary, you have the opportunity to tell people about you. So don’t treat it like an Objective on a 90’s resume you uploaded to Monster.com. Write about what you do, and how you want to be perceived. Share interesting things you work on, and what you want to accomplish. Use positive, action-oriented words and tenses that sound like you (remembering that they can see your face in their peripheral vision while reading). Done right, the average person who knows you will actually read your profile in your voice. And that’s branding that you can’t buy from the best PR firm.
LinkedIn allows you to control what people see about you online. With very little effort, you can leverage your digital profile in a way that puts you above the competition. If you won’t leave the house looking shaggy, why would you leave your 24/7 profile ungroomed? Practice looking good all the time, and your look becomes a habit, even when it’s online.