It’s become a convention for successful blogs, LinkedIn profiles, even business cards: put your picture on your online (and print) material to add credibility. Recently Neal Schaffer of Windmill Networking wrote an article making strong points in favor of photos. All his reasons were good ones—people can see who you are, credibility is important in a world of impostors, and people want to know who they are dealing with.
Reading Neal’s article brought up some other thoughts I’ve had for a while. We have a tendency to like people who are like us. So when we look at photos, wouldn’t it be true that our own biases lead us to the “credible” image, which is “someone just like me”? Wouldn’t white people choose white people in photographs, young people choose young images, fat people prefer other fat images? We feel more comfortable doing business with people who look like we do–we assume that if they look like us, they also have our values and beliefs.
These personal likes can also go one step further–we eliminate people because of a comb-over, ugly jewelry, a hair style we gave up years ago, an unfortunate color we associate with someone we don’t like. Worse, we do this all without giving it much thought. It’s part of our taste, our preferences, our choices.
Sure, we can say, “Well, I wouldn’t want to work for such an opinionated person,” but you probably already are. Your client might have chosen you for exactly such a reason. And because our opinions are deeply buried in our subconscious, we justify them. Or worse, deny them.
It’s easy to believe in the photo/credibility story if you are young and good looking. If you aren’t, you begin to wonder about the truth of the New Yorker cartoon that shows two dogs at a computer. One dog says to the other, “On the Internet, no one knows you’re a dog.”
Over at Mashable, there’s a post that makes me think . It’s a list of Twitter’s most prolific spammer avatars, and they are predominantly of attractive men and women. Spammers offer no credibility, but they offer great photographs. Because they can be anyone they want to be.
I’m not an expert web marketer, I speak simply from my own ideas and experiences. I often use an avatar that shows what I do, not who I am. I find it works well, for exactly the same reason those photos do: It shows a skill I have that people need. Instant identification through a photo. As for credibility, I’ll let the content of my work speak for me.
–Quinn McDonald is a writer, life- and creativity coach. She owns QuinnCreative, a site for businesses who want communication training, and Raw-Art-Journals.com for those who want to keep an art journal, but can’t draw. (c) QuinnCreative, 2009 All rights reserved.