The Power of a Portrait
Not long ago, I changed my profile picture on Twitter (and subsequently on other social media).
This was not spontaneous. It was prompted by the requests of many others, who told me that they loved my content, they just hated my face.
And while I typically cut against the grain, when enough people tell you something, you can’t help but start listening. I didn’t want to believe it. I quite liked my old profile picture. It scratched my itch for the neutral and enigmatic.
But, to my immense surprise, the consensus of people online and in real life was that it looked “angry”. Though I can’t imagine what I could have been angry about. Staring into a camera for the express purpose of taking a profile picture is not the kind of thing that riles me up.
I put off taking a new profile picture until July 4th, when I would not be at work and my schedule would be clear. Not far from my apartment building is an old abandoned cabin that looks like it was built in the pioneer era. It is overgrown with trees and shrubs and is so picturesque that photographers often use it for family photos, engagement announcements, and the like.
I took dozens of pictures, whittled them down to four, and had Twitter vote for the best one.
It’s nice that you can see the color of my eyes in this one. It’s also good that I have a profile pic showing my beard. The natural light is great all around. And though a professional could have done a much better job, the overall effect is much better than before.
And the numbers bear this out. The moment I changed profile pics, my Twitter analytics underwent a radical change. Before, the most engagements a Tweet of mine would get was 8 or 9 (except in a few rare cases where I gave a popular reply to someone else’s tweet). This happened as soon as the picture changed. The very first tweet with the new profile exploded in popularity.
I easily get 18 engagements on my least popular tweets these days, in addition to the hundreds of “organic impressions”. This leads to more clicks, which gives more visits to my website. And while I’ve certainly upped my Twitter game in other ways, the new portrait has definitely done its work.
And so can You!
But there is still a lesson to be learned here. Previously, I have given advice about how to improve your Twitter profile. I’ve advised users to use human photographs for their profile pics.
Now I am going to tell you to make those portraits as good as you can. You still are not allowed to use stock photos of recognizable celebrities or models (because robot accounts do that all the time), but I will urge you to put actual thought into the composition of your profile pics. Make them the best they can be.
You’ll be surprised by how much change you can make.
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9 thoughts on “The Power of a Portrait”
You could still do better. In your new picture you have this vapid, silly stare that makes it look like you’ve been smoking weed in the back of a van.
I know that you are a happy person, generally, but with your eyes popping out and your lips pressed so tightly together you look like a Cabbage Patch doll with a beard.
Third time is a charm, I am told.
How many weed smokers do you normally spend time with?
I work in academia, remember?
I have to agree with John on this one; the old one looked like you were plotting the destruction of the world in a basement laboratory (I got the joke, but I don’t think anyone else did) and this one looks like some of the jolly lads I used to get high with way back in the days that Karen Carpenter was terrorizing the land. Since I don’t do Twitter, I’m saving my author pix options for later-the blank silhouette being enigmatic enough for my purposes-and I’ll either wear Ray Bans and an odd hat (either bowler or fez depending what I succeed in unloading on the unsuspecting public) and have a made up- bio that’ll tie up the minds of the weak and unimaginative. (Descriptions of my recent saber duel on the top of the Great Pyramid-that sort of thing) Anyway, onward and down with mediocrity!
*Shrug* People demand happy. I give them happy.
People do not demand happy. Happy makes people suspicious.
The look you should be going for is: not-unhappy.
In that case, I shall alert the Mickey Mouse that his brand makes people suspicious and is unlikely to translate into recognizability or merchandise sales.
He needs to be told!
So… Micky Mouse is your model for success in today’s market?
Take away Micky’s long resume, and his many years in the spotlight as a Disney icon, and what do you have left?
Do you think Micky Mouse could make it as a cartoon today, if he started fresh?
Some of his old cartoons are rather amusing, I’ll admit, but what is it that makes you root for Micky in these films? Is it the painted-on mask of happiness?
Think about it, and maybe reconsider the iconography of your brand… or… at least your photo.
Aside from the portrait kerfuffle,am I the only one noticing that in spite of the legions of supposedly impressed Twitter followers, we 3 guys are the only people who ever log in here? Disconnect, anyone? I know people on social media tend to be herd followers and if nobody else comments they won’t either, but gatekeepers are going to notice this. You need to live up to your former picture and chain some passersby in your basement with orders to log in twice a week for a month or face your former girlfriend who’s seriously allergic to sunlight and silver these days. Just trying to help, beaming out………..