How Much Does Your Profile Photo Matter?

I’m back from Las Vegas, where Avvo hosted it’s biggest and best “Lawyernomics” conference ever last week. Between catching up with our customers and partners and listening to some terrific presentations (and giving one of my own, on “Lawyers Behaving Badly,” naturally) it was a whirlwind.

I always come back from this conference with a fresh set of new ideas and resources, and one this year had to do with profile photos. I’ve always known that profile photos are important – visitors to Avvo click on profiles with photos at orders-of-magnitude greater rates, and our VP of Marketing, Leigh McMillan, spent time in one presentation parsing the data on the value of profile photos (and the importance of “the squinch“). But how much difference can the choice of profile photo make?

In a session on new technologies, I learned that there is a photo comparison service that strives to answer this question: “PhotoFeeler.” It’s a web service that allows you to upload profile photos – in categories of “business,” “social,” and “dating” (think “LinkedIn,” “Facebook,” and “Tinder”) – and get feedback on the effectiveness of each photo. Users vote on a stream of photos to gain virtual currency to use for their own photo comparison analysis, thus creating (hopefully) a flywheel of photo comparisons and input.

Votes in the “business” section are on a 0-3 scale of whether the photo communicates a sense that the subject is “competent,” “likable,” and “influential.” Although those are obviously highly subjective measures, there’s little question that they are traits that business leaders are looking to communicate via their photos. The idea of PhotoFeeler is to build up enough crowd wisdom to determine whether a photo is effective at that purpose.

As I’ve been using the same old photo on LinkedIn for the last 4-5 years, I thought I’d give PhotoFeeler a try. To get a better test, I paid a few bucks to get a fairly complete comparison – 40 votes on each photo – of my existing LinkedIn photo and my new photo that graces the Avvo “Leadership” page. Here’s what the PhotoFeeler community had to say about my current LinkedIn photo:

PhotoFeeler - Old LinkedIn

Ouch! Less than 20% for “competent?” That’s not exactly getting it done. At least nearly half the people surveyed think I look likable . . .

Suitably chastened, and fearing that maybe it’s just me, incapable of coming across as anything other than an incompetent, churlish brute, I tried my newer, professional photo:

PhotoFeeler - New LinkedIn

OK, so THAT’s a relief. But the takeaway for me is this: while I’ve always known that photos make a difference, helping form immediate impressions of qualities such as influence and competence, I hadn’t grasped how BIG of a difference this might be.

Anyone who is relying on profiles to connect with others would be wise to check PhotoFeeler out (and maybe get some professional – or at least thought-out – headshots taken).

Oh, and my LinkedIn profile? I’ve already updated that photo.

 

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