Picture the situation.
You’re at a business networking event. The room is buzzing with rapid talking, coffee sipping and business cards being passed around like currency as you take a quick scan of the room for faces that seem a little familiar.
There aren’t too many you know, however, and so it’s time to walk up to people and nervously make some new connections.
Thankfully, there are at least some people you’ve noticed from your social channels. A friend of a friend you connected with on LinkedIn, or the woman that runs the local media agency you follow on Facebook.
They’re not exactly ‘business acquaintances’ yet, but they’re definitely connected enough to walk up and introduce yourself properly to. A little relief as you now don’t have to stand there alone and aimlessly check your phone for no reason!
We’ve all been there. We’ve all felt that sense of ‘unfamiliar familiarity’ with the people we’re connected to online.
But we can also all relate to another similar experience when it comes to meeting those people. It’s that moment when we realise the person we thought they were, is completely off the mark. That moment where their personal branding shot said something so different about who they were, compared to who they actually turned out to be. That moment when it becomes so obvious that who they present themselves as online and who they are in real life is astoundingly different.
Can you remember the last time you connected with someone like this?
We thought they were going to be the powerful, assertive type but instead, they were the caring, empathetic one in the room.
We thought they were going to be a calculating, logical communicator but instead, they were more philosophical and ethereal in their conversations.
We thought they were going to be the outgoing, charismatic type with a way to get a laugh out of anyone but instead, they were much more reserved and patient with the people they connected with.
Whatever the difference may be, its impact on how we perceive that person moving forward is important.
And its remembered.
And what gets remembered, gets spread through conversation to others.
We’ve all been the one to announce to our friends that we ‘met Julie from LinkedIn last night and she turned out to be so different to what I was expecting’ or ‘Michelle from XYZ company is far more outgoing than I ever gave her credit for when we spoke on Facebook’.
Which is what makes it so critical that we – as business owners building our own personal brands – ensure the identity we’re putting across on our social channels is exactly who we portray ourselves to be in real life.
So many business owners fail to realise the importance of this fact. The way we present ourselves through the imagery we express online goes a long way in how people perceive us without even meeting us.
Humans are shortcut-taking machines! They ascribe characteristics and personality traits with just a glance. They create narratives about people they see in a matter of seconds. They make assumptions about people’s strengths and weaknesses after a simple first impression that can last far longer than the original photo or video itself.
What does this mean for you as a personal brand?
Take the time to critically analyse the portrait and branding shots you’re putting out to the world (knowing that people are making major assumptions about it whether we like it or not!).
Does your photo truly represent who you are?
Does it get your greatest strengths across to the viewer without question?
Does it help you sell yourself for who you really are?
And if not, what do you believe that could be costing you each and every time someone connects with or follows you online?
The importance of answering these questions accurately has never been more essential. Without ability to connect more widely and rapidly than ever, it’s critical we leave a first impression that we want to last.
What does your photo say about you?
Jo is owner, photographer and visual designer of Jo Westaway Photography, creating authentic, meaningful and oh-so-gorgeous portrait and personal branding photography to ensure you stand out, connect with your buyers and achieve the results you deserve in business.