How to properly choose images to represent your Personal Brand
Save your guessing to weather, other people's thoughts and market predictions. Here is everything you need to know about proper use of imagery in your branded content.
There is much to say about overall use of imagery in the digital world, but I'm not going to beat around the bush and will limit this article to the appearances that we create and maintain as personal brands on the internet. The only important thing to recap here is that you always want to be including the elements that represent your brand - from feeling and experience to props and packaging. Also make sure that you speak to as many out of all the five senses we, humans, have as possible.
Also, remember that inconsistent and unclear branding content across your platforms will communicate that your brand doesn't have it's act together and make your audience feel like they cannot rely on you.
1. Social Media cover
Sets the mood for every visitor who clicks on your profile and tells them a visual story about your business. Should be in line with your brand appearance and/or your most recent product/service launch. Most likely needs some copy too, but that varies on a case by case basis.
Can be stock, illustration or photos of you. In this case - it is going to be very hard to find stock photos that are in line with your brand appearance, so my suggestion is to create custom imagery - from illustrations to photography. Unless you're a travel agency. Then there's an abundance of stock imagery and footage that you can use!
Here's a bad example of the cover photo:
And this is a page that uses their cover photo to the fullest - they have compiled a visually striking story using travel footage and overlaid it with text to give the viewer both facts and a desire to go right now.
Use props and locations to set the mood whether you appear in this photo or not. Keep asking yourself - how do you want to make them feel here while they are visiting your profile?
I love the cover photos one of my mentors uses - every time she launches a product - she changes the cover:
2. Social Media profile pictures
I'm assuming your business is a personal brand. In this case it should be a photo of you, and your own face. Has to look good both as a tiny avatar and a large picture:
Sets the mood and tells the viewer about your character and personality. Ideally also adds to the story of your business.
It has been widely suggested that you should use the same picture in every profile, but I have my own opinion. I say - use different photos, but make sure they are similar in style and come from the same photoshoot - so that your wardrobe, location and style matches everywhere. It just makes it visually more interesting across different platforms and you can create a stronger connection each time a person clicks on another profile picture.
Take platform dynamics into account. Your personal Facebook page can be a lot more personable than LinkedIn, for example. Get creative! You hired a pro, so take full advantage of that and get those varied shots during your headshot session.
3. Writing articles for your blog to be shared and promoted through Social Media
Use an AMAZING headline image that will appear in social media when the link to the article gets posted. If you want to truly leverage your content, you simply MUST use an image here. It has to be catchy, because this image will be the first thing that the viewer will see as they scroll by. It has to be shareable, because if it's not - nobody will share it, and you're missing out on a lot of free PR. And it has to be 100% in line with your amazing catchy and attention grabbing headline. Your headline will be the 2nd thing they see before they make a decision to click on your link. Use this tool to analyze your headlines as you work on building them.
As to the post itself - as far as I'm concerned, anything goes here - use illustrations, photos, and stock to support important points, capture attention and punctuate the text. Help them retain as much information as possible by interlacing text with visuals, and make it all the more interesting and emotive - in line with your brand direction and message you are sharing.
Are you still with me? The toughest part is over!
4. E-mail newsletters
Photos in newsletters are completely optional, but if you include an image of yourself looking into camera (direct eye contact) - the recipient will be more likely to read the whole e-mail. It's a subconscious thing.
Use photos of you, keeping in mind - you are in their mailbox. They already chose you. Now they want to see YOU and connect with YOU.
You may use small photos to punctuate the text and to better keep their attention - same way you would use bullets and sub headlines.
You may want to combine the photo of you with your call to action (if present) to stimulate those who are on the edge of making a decision.
5. Posts on Social Media
Social dynamics differ on every platform, and hopefully you know what's up on each one that you use. Design a set of branded topic-neutral imagery that includes your brand's props and/or subjects - to be used widely across all platforms to increase the interaction with your post's text/copy.
If you are using photos of yourself - then go ahead and tell a story of your brand. Go crazy. This is where you can connect to your viewer the most. This is where your brand should shine through and be recognizable.
Make sure that you use photos your followers will be proud and happy to share.
Here's the branded content that another one of my mentors uses on a regular basis. Every time I see her posts - I know it's hers and I pay more attention to them:
Images on your front page should be absolutely captivating. This is where your brand strategy comes in. After you've identified everything you need about your audience, your message and your brand - use the most powerful imagery to distract people from their browsing (pattern interruption) and make them stay as long as it takes to explore all that you have to offer.
Be very specific about mood, message and format of each photo when planning a photoshoot. This is your heavy artillery. You brought them in - through web search, ads or articles. Now it's time to convert them into your avid follower or even a rabid fan. Work closely with your branding photog to discover all the possibilities in creating the most captivating imagery that would still relate to your tribe on a very deep level. This is your moment to shine. Give them an experience they will be talking about.
Use a lot of candid images, giving your visitor a space to explore, without giving them a subconscious feeling like you're watching them.
Other than that - it's all about the idea and the web design. Be serious. Be very serious here.
I'm a not big proponent of having an "about" page. Everything important that you want them to know about you and your personal brand - which is usually "what you guys have in common and why they ought to stay" - should be communicated before they lose interest and leave. Nobody is going to click on the "About" page, unless they are your competitor or friend; came to your site with a specific goal to look at your "About" page, or someone who's doing research, scouring web for geo specific information and the like. Contact forms that we used to so typically place in the "About" section should now be accessible from every place on your site - making it super easy to send you a note. By the way, if you have a space for an image in your contact form - you may want to test a direct eye contact photo of you there. Eye contact will prompt those that are on the edge to actually fill it out instead of closing the form and moving on.
SEO experts, however, will most likely disagree with my opinion on skipping the whole "About" section, therefore let's cover it as well, albeit briefly:
a well executed personable and candid image that tells more of your story is very appropriate here and creates an experience of "peeking in". Don't look at the camera!
Used in PR / articles, as well as signatures. Most of the time appears in small resolution, therefore make sure it looks good in small size. Got to be inviting, warm and intriguing. Obviously - must look professional and well groomed, as well as neutral - in order to engage with as wide an audience as you want to target (no controversies here please!). You will be looking at the camera in this one.
Your presentation should contain as little text as possible and as much imagery as necessary to punctuate your speech and keep their focus on your material. Remember that they are either listening to you, or reading - they can't process both simultaneously. I was attending a webinar this afternoon and the lady was talking while showing us text filled slides, making it very hard to follow with my attention scattering all over the place. I wish she used images in slides - then we'd be able to focus on listening.
Most credible sources tell us to make it a slide per minute (or even 30 seconds!) - that way the audience will not have time to get distracted and will retain a lot more information, therefore connecting with us and our material on a much deeper level.
Use stock, use illustrations, anything goes here. Personal photography goes well when you tell stories about you and/or business. These images don't need to be professional, they should relate to your audience on a personal level instead, as well as support the point you're making.
9. Bonus point: Speaker Page
Speaker page is like an about page, only much more useful (in my opinion). Use candid photos showing you in action - definitely in front of the audience. Use your video reel. At the end of the page combine your call to action with a "direct eye contact" photo of yourself.
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That's in a nutshell! There is a lot more to say on each of these and nothing is ever black&white, but there is a limit to this blog post and I want you to have a life. Go ahead, make yourself a nice beverage of choice and let me know your thoughts or questions on this topic by shooting me an email. I'll be coming back to this article and improving it with time, so it can only get better from here.
Just like cheese. Or wine.
Header photo courtesy of Unsplash.com