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Putting Your Picture on Your Business: How Does It Change Things?

YELLOW magazine karaoke by Eric Schipul

 
There’s a lot of advice out on the internet suggesting how you can attract more readers to your business.

One piece, in particular, strikes me again and again, as I think about it in terms of my business as a whole. It’s a relatively simple suggestion: you should put a picture of yourself on your website.

The idea behind it is that doing so makes it easier for readers to connect with you emotionally. They know you’re a real person and generally respond better. It’s a piece of advice that applies to business owners beyond bloggers, though— when is the last time a real estate agent handed you her card and it didn’t have her picture?

On the surface, it seems like a good idea — although I don’t have any numbers on whether a photo actually brings more readers to a blog. But I’ve never been entirely sold on it.

Part of the issue is my background; once, a very long time ago, I wrote resumes. I learned quickly that any hint of physical appearance was a bad idea. The closest most human resource managers are willing to look at is a confirmation that an applicant is able to handle any particularly physical duties adequately. Attaching a photo is a big no-no!

The issue is that no one wants to be in the position where she can be accused of discrimination during the hiring process.

A photograph of just one person on all your business materials can send many messages. In my case, I’m worried it sends the message “this all about me”. There are other people involved in my company and I haven’t branded it as Thursday Bram Co. or anything like that.

But I’ve also seen situations where the right photograph can make a world of difference in how someone feels about your business — it can be reassuring. The right photograph at the right time really can be worth a thousand words. I think that there’s more room for using a photo if your clientele needs a more comforting experience, such as with real estate, where they might be laying down thousands of dollars in the blink of an eye.

I’m interested in hearing your experiences. If you use your own photo in branding your business or promoting it, how has that worked out? Have you gotten any feedback? Leave me a comment and let me know, please!

Image by Flickr user Ed Schipul

Thursday Bram offers content marketing through Hyper Modern Consulting, as well as more traditional writing services. She’s also the co-creator of Constructively Productive, the blog that’s bringing perspective to productivity. You can find Thursday on Twitter.


    1. As a member of the real estate community myself, this question is far from clear cut, and has garnered some heated discussion in the past. Since getting my license in 2007 I have always leaned toward not having my picture on my business cards or website. However, I did finally have some pictures done that I was relatively happy with that were not the standard headshot, and did decide to include one on my blog. In some ways I felt I was putting all that work in, but was leaving too much room for folks to not identify that content with me.

      As for the business card debate, a very high level executive recruiter once told me I should have two sets of business cards. One with a picture, and one without, and reserve the image laced version for new contacts who might benefit from a visual reminder of who the name on the card belonged to.

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      • Hi Colin. That’s an interesting answer. How do you feel about the advice the recruiter gave you? Did it seem to work out, having some cards with no picture? And have you ever felt like you prejudged someone based on a picture on their site? @ColinStorm

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        • Tinu – That is a great question. I do think I may have knee jerk reactions, especially on professional sites where the images don’t quite align, or are just dated. In those cases I immediately question someone’s grasp of technology and the ability to use todays tools to come up with solutions to my needs. However, I do find I like seeing who the writer is.

          As far as the business cards go; now about two years later, I still have not added business cards with a photo to my arsenal. But I do include easy way for folks to find me online if they are interested.

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          • @ColinStorm Very honest answer. I like seeing who the writer is too. And I find myself getting prejudiced against someone’s professional abilities if the picture is too casual or avant garde Unless I read their work before I saw the picture. Now that I’m aware of it, I try to overcome it.

            Every other real estate professional I’ve met in the flesh in the last two years has their picture on their card. So that makes you stand out, I guess, and being unique is always a good thing.

            Sometimes I think the picture thing is smart – if you’re getting a lot of cards and you vibe with someone, it’s good to have a picture to jog your memory. ON the other hand – if a person isn’t memorable, why am I calling them? I’ve never had my picture on my cards.

            Would have to agree that online contact trumps photos in terms of space. Thanks for responding. :)

            Hey thursdayb – did you have a specific incident in mind when you wrote this?

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    2. Your question is an interesting one because I’ve been having to answer it myself. I recently changed my Twitter avatar from my business’ logo to a photo of myself. I did so because of advice I received as well as the way I use Twitter. I use it as a conversational tool. I do use it to share my own content, but I find the real value in the conversations. Several people said they wanted to see the face behind the business, so I changed the avatar. The change has been warmly welcomed by most. I also think the more personal touch works for me because I’m a writing and social media consultant. People probably need to see that face before making a decision to work with me.

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      • Hi Erin. Can’t speak for Thursday but I believe that’s a good place to share your picture. Twitter is very much of a person to person environment. And if that’s a precursor to them working with you, then all the better. I like to have at least seen a picture of a person I’m going to give money to, if possible. @Erin F.

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    3. My short answer is, “it depends.” Long answer: For the service industry (resume writing, residential real estate, social media consulting, etc.), people are buying peoples’ abilities, and they want to connect with people. For the product industry (apps, retail, computers), people are buying things, not people, so the connection is less important. People are inherently shallow, there is no lie about it. I’ve lost business for looking too young and cutesy, but I’ve also won a lot of business by looking approachable, so people feel comfortable telling me their business secrets (which is what a company often has to do with a consultant or in my case, a business writer) because I look harmless. My husband/boss looks intimidating and unapproachable, so he attracts those that will strictly work with someone who is looking to share their business secrets with someone that looks experienced and capable of guiding them. Blogs are in the middle, though, and it depends on the topic. As a consumer, I’ll simply say that when a company doesn’t have pictures of their leadership and a blogger doesn’t have a picture on their about page I think (a) they’re hiding or (b) they’re antiquated or (c) they’re so horribly ugly that it would be awkward to be in their mere presence anyhow or (d) they don’t care that I may feel the inherent human need to connect. It’s the only way to make eye contact online is by sharing a picture (who really trusts someone who can’t make eye contact during a conversation?).Photos are one of the few human things we can give to readers that is tangible in a digital world. I advocate for them, but not all people are comfortable with them. My husband hates being in photos, so there are very few of him, but I don’t mind, so my Facebook looks ridiculously overloaded with pictures I’m in. So, to each his own. :)

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      • Very thorough answer, Lani. Really appreciate you chiming in. @laniar

        A few minutes ago I was saying that I’d prefer to see a person before I hand over my money but there is an exception – certain brands like Amazon get plenty of my money. And yet the only face of theirs I’ve seen is their CEO’s. On the other hand, I’m reluctant to buy from an Amazon seller – I will but they have to jump through a lot of hoops including having an item I can’t get directly fulfilled from Amazon and lots of positive recommendations. So I guess there are cases when it depends, as you say.

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    4. I have, as of yet, put a photo of myself online. Well, not for business purposes anyway, and only a few shared with family. My clients are all over the country, and some out of the country, and I’ve never seen most of them, and they’ve never seen me. I don’t feel like it has hurt me. Perhaps it has, and perhaps I’m just unaware. But I like the idea of no photos. When I’m in a chat or email conversation with someone, I really get a good idea of what they’re thinking and I’m not distracted by appearances.

      I like my company’s logo now, and it’s “me.” It’s a good representation of the “business me.” My photo is a good representation of “personal me.” I don’t want the two to get confused.

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      • If you’re comfortable with that, it seems to be the most important thing. If your business has been doing well then, it probably hasn’t *hurt* – more mysterious is whether having a picture could have helped. But again, this would still have to go with your comfort level, what you believe as a professional, etc. Thanks for your insights. And if that’s your logo, by the way, love it. @GalFridayAndrea

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        • Hi Tinu. It is my logo, and thanks. I love it too. The design group that did it really listened to who I was and what I was looking for.

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    5. Images on a website are a necessity. Like printed publicity material the Internet is a very visual media and images can be used extensively to get your message across. This applies to business websites as well as entertainment websites. Thanks for this motivating post…

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      • @OnlineBusinesVA Hello and welcome. Images are considered a necessity, yes, but we’re specifically talking about your picture, online and off, being associated with your business. Also: what’s your name?

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    6. I can appreciate this post. Coming from an HR background I know exactly what you mean when you mention not giving people any context by which to discriminate. It used to even go as far as not mentioning that you were a part of the student union in college, etc. I tweeted recently about how much I like that you can apply for jobs directly via LinkedIn but that there should be a way that the photo isn’t included when submitting your resume/profile. Same premise. On the flipside, I have my photo everywhere – on my website, on my business card, as my Twitter avatar, etc. so if someone really wanted to know what I look like, it’s out there. I have definitely received positive feedback from having my picture on my business card but as to whether or not having it on my website has hindered business, is difficult to gauge. I’m sure no one would call me up and say “I wanted to do business with you but now that I see that you are black/female/have a great smile I’ve changed my mind.” If I were to go to a website of someone offering a service, business advice or the like and they DIDN’T have a photo, that would strike me as odd. I also think it’s more important for a small business, solopreneur or consultancy to have photos than for a larger business. It’s about making that connection. If someone opts not to do business with me because of some bias they have against a person who looks like me, then it’s all the better that we don’t connect. No time wasted.

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    7. Interesting post, Thursday, and obviously one others are thinking about too, given the comments. My business is management consulting, so most folks are hiring my brain and network. Thus I have my picture on my website bio but not other pages. I speak a fair amount and am always looking for such work; so it is on my WGB blog posts, many of my ClearedJobs.net blog posts, my Job-Hunt.org bio page, my LinkedIn and Twitter pages as a way to humanize me. But am an HR person so it is not on my business cards – although colors do define me there in another way. I did think about each of these choices as I made them and do update my photo regularly. And some of this actually is my age — I earned my white hair but don’t need to deal with folks who that bothers, the opposite of some advice I have seen. So, with your post, I may have to think again about whether/when to use a picture.

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