Social Media Wants a Face

Are online visitors getting an intimate look at your organization and your team? If not, you could be losing more opportunities than you think.

by Sandy Hubbard

What would you do if you found out that half of the visitors to your website weren’t doing business with you because they felt they didn’t know your team well enough? I have talked about why you must have searchable text on your website about who the owners and key players are in your company. http://bit.ly/vIYW0r

The next step in attracting online readership and engaging with prospective customers is to put a face to a name.

Often with a very small company or very large company, the company website will give no mention of who the stakeholders are. In a big company, it may mean there are too many layers of hierarchy or the players change too often. In a small company, that lack of information on a website may happen because the owners don’t want prospective customers to know they operate a smaller company.

However, being a small or medium-sized company is nothing to be ashamed of. In fact, these days it can be a real advantage. Just because you don’t have a huge staff, don’t assume that your customers and prospects don’t want to know everything about you. Not only do site visitors want to find this information, they expect to do so before doing business with you. When you omit this important piece of information, prospects may move along and look for a company that is more transparent.

An important way to provide this transparency is to have images (photos and video) of your team on your website and in other strategic online locations.

1. Take a nice photo (not a grainy snapshot from 10 years ago), preferably in a relaxed pose, and preferably close up. Be sure the photo is sized properly so that site visitors can click on it to zoom in. Trust me when I say that photos of the people in your company are more important than the photos of your machinery or the front of your building. When you measure your site traffic, you will probably find that the pages on your website with photos are the most popular of all.

2. Have your key personnel complete their LinkedIn profiles by adding a photo (and don’t forget to link those profiles to your LinkedIn business page). A shaded outline where the photo should go is not acceptable. If anything, the lack of photo might be perceived as an unwillingness to be open and honest with colleagues and customers. Include enough information for readers to spend a few moments on the page.

3. When shooting photos, put your best foot forward and show yourself as someone others would like to do business with. This means the photo should be engaging, open and relaxed. Wear professional clothing and make sure your eyes are visible and looking into the camera if possible. Look at other profile photos to see what you respond to. Do you like studio photos or something outdoors? Do you like smiles with teeth showing or not? Do you like it when the person looks like they are laughing?

4. With Twitter, if you have a personal account, a photo is nice. Your business handle can be a logo or cartoon, but, again, people like to engage with people, so I like interacting with a personal photo on a personal twitter account. Be sure to view your photo at the small size that runs in the stream. Sometimes non-facial elements can be distracting or confusing in the small size. A shadow can be mistaken for facial hair, and an item in the background can be mistaken for an odd hairstyle or a hat. A clean background helps focus attention on you.

Also, I strongly recommend that you do not tweet or start following people until your photo is up. Using the default Twitter egg avatar (photo) is a classic spammer technique, and you don’t want to be confused with spammer right out of the gate.

5. On Facebook and Google+, you have the opportunity to post a profile photo as well as an array of photos. I like it when the profile photo matches or is similar to the photos on the other platforms because it makes it easier to accept a connection with someone I recognize. You can have fun with the other photos or rotate them. In addition, take advantage of the Facebook and Google+ streams to post photographs. For now, photos are a way to make a quick connection and catch attention. In addition, casual acquaintances in your networks may be more likely to +1 or Like your post if it is a photo because they don’t have to spend time reading a linked or embedded article.

6. Pinterest is a photo sharing platform that is growing in popularity. Take advantage of the visual nature of this platform to share photos of projects, happy customers, employees and other images that show you in a good light without being pedantic or sales-y. Give your boards fun names, and pin photos from others that also reflect well on your company.

7. Consider embedding a Slide Share presentation in your LinkedIn profile. I think seven slides is a nice number and allows you to have an introduction or title slide as well as a concluding slide with contact info. You can combine text with photos on Slide Share, which allows you to show your team in action. In addition to using or linking to the Slide Share platform, you can create a slide show and post it on YouTube. Slide shows add another dimension to your online personality and presence.

8. Complete business profiles on the websites of the trade associations, chambers of commerce, and service organizations that you belong to. For some reason, I find that members are less likely to complete profiles in these locations, even if they have photos on their websites or LinkedIn profiles. Having a photo on your association profile will set you apart, make you more memorable at gatherings, and show you are tech-savvy enough to post your photo. I find that the posting process is not always intuitive on these sites, so have photos ready that are various sizes and dimensions. Not every website allows you to post a larger file or crop it. In addition, sometimes association websites are not consistently maintained. Avoid problems by uplinking your photo from Flickr or another photo sharing source rather than from your computer. Write down your password (I recommend choosing a different password from your main platforms), and check your profile from time to time to make sure the information is still correct.

9. Complete profiles on professional discussion groups, blog commenting apps, and Q&A platforms to help add credibility to your comments and to tie your image to the other platforms where you hang out. 

10. Create a YouTube channel and post videos of you and your team. Short videos are best. Be aware of which image will be your opening shot so you can have an attractive freeze frame will appear in search results.

Here are some additional thoughts:

* Before you get started, find out the abandonment rate on your “About Us” page on your website. You’ll want to compare that baseline number to see if there are improvements when you add photos. As you start rotating in different kinds of photos onto your site, keep checking your site analytics to see which photos keep people on your site longer and where they click to next after learning about you.

* Photos and videos rank well with search engines, so this can potentially help prospects find your website more easily if the search engines reward you with a higher rank.

* Create a folder to store all photos that you might want to use. Go crazy and pick as many as you like. Winnow your collection down to about 20, and have staffers go through and help you decide on the best ones. Not only will your team help you be more objective, they also will be more vested in providing other photos for the future. Keep the folder easily accessible for situations when you might need the right image. You will find yourself accessing that collection often, and it will save you time and decision-making to have it ready. 

* Photos will load faster for viewers if they are 72 dpi. They will look better in most cases if they are slightly brightened. If you can start with the original RGB jpeg and then rename it when you reformat it, you will have the best quality with the least image degradation. Don’t overwrite your original image, since you may need it for a printed piece such as a company brochure or as an accompaniment to a story in a local publication.

* You can embed meta data in your photo that includes keywords, names, industry terminology or anything that clarifies the photo honestly. Name your photos appropriately; bad naming choices can come back to haunt you. Accurate naming choices help to demonstrate your transparency and good intentions. Using misleading naming choices just to improve search rankings is not a good way to do business.

* Search your image on Google, Yahoo, Bing and other search engines monthly to make sure impersonators are not using your image. Yes, there is an upside to using photos online, and there is a downside. Scammers and spammers like to hijack good quality, natural looking photos because it helps them to lure innocent people just like you and me to click on their links. Be vigilant about monitoring and report infractions immediately, so that search engines will not produce incorrect results for your image.

* Keep photos fresh if you dare. It is fun for visitors to your website/profiles to learn about you, your business and your life, and it keeps people coming back. On the other hand, having a distinctive photo almost becomes part of your personal brand, and it can be strategic to keep that brand consistent. Your company’s marketing advisor can help you decide how to handle that decision.

* Search the internet (and specifically search Google Images) to see how your competitors are presenting themselves through photos and video. Think about what you’d like to convey and how you can differentiate yourself.

* If you can only choose one thing to get started, I recommend adding a clean, clear, close up photo to your LinkedIn profile.

As you get started, don’t be slowed down by not having exactly the right photos. Yes, professional photos capture the best version of you and your company, but well-done amateur photos can be engaging and interesting. Even mediocre photos add dimension. The best part of using images online is that these tactics are affordable and the results are visible. By fleshing out your website and profiles, you satisfy the curiosity of prospective customers and you build your credibility with existing connections. Let’s get started!

Sandy Hubbard is Print Futurist for Print Media Centr. Twenty years ago when the internet was a big mystery to everyone, she assembled friends from every type of media to figure out how to create convergence. The members cross-trained, developed new professional skills, and created projects that maximized emerging technologies. Today, the methods of delivering information and sharing content continue to blur. Being aware of how these media are integrating is an important way to help print thrive. 

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