A LinkedIn profile picture is worth a thousand dislikes

There’ve been some very interesting posts and comments lately under LinkedIn profile pictures and, in some cases, they’ve become quite heated.

Although seemingly far from the world of temporary IT work, the image you choose for your page on the professional networking site does have implications for marketing yourself as an IT contractorwrites Matt Craven of The CV & Interview Advisors.

We are all familiar with the saying “A picture tells a thousand words,” and it seems this old adage rings true in the modern space that is LinkedIn. Indeed, the specific post on the platform that inspired this piece for ContractorUK currently shows in excess of a thousand words, in response to a single user’s jpeg. There’s a lot of ‘Likes’ but, based on the comments, many more ‘dislikes.’

Fun, quirky or professional?

Be in no doubt: the context of your LinkedIn profile will very much set the scene for how people view you as a professional, much in the same way that some things so simple as colours, images and fonts affect the way that people perceive a company after viewing its website for the first time. If you want to appear as ‘fun’ and ‘quirky,’ then using vibrant colours and a font such a Comic Sans might work well. Whereas if you want to appear ‘ultra-professional,’ then blues and greys with an Arial font might be better.

Relate this to your LinkedIn profile picture. If you want people to perceive you to be fun and quirky then feel free to have a photograph of you skydiving off the Eiffel Tower. But I would suggest the vast majority of ContractorUK readers would like to portray a fairly professional image and inevitably, this requires a good old-fashioned head and shoulders shot, complete with business attire. An engaging smile works well as an addition though, allowing you to come across as professional but also approachable.

It’s sometimes tempting to be different but will your target audience appreciate what you are trying to portray? To you, jumping off the Eiffel Tower might demonstrate your bravery and ‘go-get-em’ attitude; others might just think you’re crazy. Being inner-directed in your approach or even ethnocentric is somewhat natural, but when it comes to marketing (and promoting yourself to your potential clients), you have to think about your target audience rather than being led by your own preferences.

Them, not you

It’s the same with all marketing assets actually -- it’s not about what you like, it’s all about creating collateral that appeals to your target audience.

Let’s digress a little, because there are some other forms of contractor marketing collateral where certain individuals get held back by their own prejudices -- and preconceptions -- rather than prioritising their target audience.

An individual I spoke with of late flat out detested having recommendations on their CV -- they felt uncomfortable and had convinced themselves that it broke some unwritten rule. The truth is, recommendations convince others of your credibility. Reviews and testimonials have been a central part of most company’s marketing armoury for many years now. It’s tried and tested; it’s undisputed. So the person I know was inadvertently cheating themselves out of some success by applying their own logic, rather than that of their potential customers.

Similarly, somebody else put it to me that they had never seen case studies on a CV, themselves, so they therefore felt that their market wouldn’t respond to them. Here again is the danger of going with an opinion which flies in the face of research that shows that having some case studies on a CV can be a very effective tool for showcasing achievements and projects. So this person was also narrowing their window for success by favouring their own logic over their target audience’s needs.

Another example is he who (quite understandably perhaps) had developed a dislike for ‘buzz words.’ He therefore didn’t want any on his new CV. The thing is, applicant-tracking systems are programmed to search for certain keywords (which in his book often doubled as buzz words). By omitting keywords to satisfy one’s own logic or preference, be careful that you too don’t harm the effectiveness of your CV when applying for temporary IT contracts or other opportunities.

Ready to repent?

These are all classic examples of letting one’s own views get in the way of success. The profile picture scenario I addressed at the top is no different. ‘This is a good/cool/dashing/muscular picture of me, so I will place it on my LinkedIn page.’ In both marketing and contracting terms, failing to consider your target audience -- because you know better because of your own personal preference -- is a cardinal sin.

So right now, use this opportunity to check if you need to ‘repent’ -- such as by removing an image, phrase, caption, comment and replacing it without something more suited to the image you know you should be conveying as a professional contractor. As is hopefully clear to you thanks to this piece, you might love your LinkedIn photo or the way your CV is presented but if your target audience is responding negatively (or not responding at all) then maybe it’s time to try a rethink. Conversely, if you are inundated with work and getting great feedback due to your CV and LinkedIn profile then as they say, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

Connect with me on Monday for more

I’m due to share more anecdotes illuminating how to use marketing techniques to succeed at IT contracting next week, during a one-hour online workshop / webinar exclusively with ContractorUK. As well as giving you the floor for your own queries, it will discuss and disclose all the practical details vital to writing an effective Contractor CV and LinkedIn profile in 2017. This free event will take place on Monday September 18th at 19.15. And yes, it’s open to the fun, quirky, and ultra-professional (among other ContractorUK readers)! You can register here: https://cvandinterviewadvisors.co.uk/webinars/registration/18th-sept-cuk

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Written by Simon Moore

Simon writes impartial news and engaging features for the contractor industry, covering, IR35, the loan charge and general tax and legislation.
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