Building a Stand-Out Profile Online

This article was first published in the March 2019 issue of SA Coaching News.

Research by Princeton University’s Department of Psychology into consumer brand loyalty and purchase behaviour released in August 2010 showed that people were the first brands and faces were the first logos.  In their ground-breaking book, The Human Brand, Chris Malone and Susan T. Fiske explored how we relate to brands, with the conclusion that we anthropomorphosise brands: in other words, we relate to them as if they were human beings.  The converse of this is that humans were the first brands and that our faces were the original logos.  Any wonder that KFC still uses its instantly recogniseable “Colonel” after all these years?  Or why Ronald McDonald still makes an appearance every now and then in McDonald’s ad campaigns?

In a recent journal article, Stereotype Content: Warmth and  Competence Endure published in 2018, Professor Fiske recognised two dimensions that determine how we perceive each other – what underlies first impressions.  Warmth includes cognitive concepts like trustworthiness, honesty, likeability, sincerity and friendliness, and competence includes aspects like capability, intelligence, efficiency, skill, confidence and assertiveness. Ultimately, we all want to score high on both the warmth and the competence continuum.

We know that first impressions are created in a split second, so we only have one chance to make a lasting positive (or negative) impression on the people around us and our potential clients.  If they are judging us on the warmth and competence continuum, how do you think you measure up, and what do your online profiles communicate?

Let’s go back to the “faces were the first logos” aspect.  The average goldfish is deemed to have an attention span of about 8 seconds, while social media has impacted humans’ attention spans to the point where we only have 4 seconds in which to engage the attention of our potential clients online (yes, some of us have got shorter attention spans than the average goldfish)!

Have you ever searched for someone in a directory, on Facebook or on LinkedIn, and noticed that there are some profiles that you dismiss off hand?  How often do you see something like the image below on the left, and what kind of an impression does it make?  It certainly doesn’t tell you ANYTHING about the person, does it?  Well, it get’s worse!  What about the person who chooses to post an avatar like the gorgeous, sexy blond example below?  And the person reading the book- well, she looks like a (possible) intellectual, tea-loving bookworm but she doesn’t really communicate any interest in getting in touch with you, does she? And then we have our trying-to-be sexy underage teenagers who clearly don’t pay any attention to detail (or to what is going on in the background in their profile pic!).  Seriously?

What was it about these profiles that would make you skip over them and move on to the next one?  I’ll bet you anything that the profiles you skipped over either didn’t have a profile pic at all, or the one that they did have sent out the wrong message completely.  These profile pics also don’t communicate any level of credibility.  But not all pics are equal.  Here are just a few examples of some actual LinkedIn profile pics that illustrate my point (and I’ll also bet that your eyes kept jumping to the pics as you were reading this paragraph – right?):

I’m spending a lot of time on this aspect of your online profile for a reason: an online dating site OkCupid that does extensive research and analysis of its data, determined that the words in your profile only count for 10% of people’s impressions of you!  So, at this point, you might be saying one of two things: (1) “Well, I’m just going to leave the profile pic out completely because I want people to read my profile”, or (2) “In that case, I won’t bother with writing or wordsmithing my profile”.

Well, both are wrong.  We know that profiles with pics are 11 times more likely to be clicked on, so you’ve got to have a pic.  But, you are also competing with millions of other online profiles and it is the written content in your online profile that helps the Google, LinkedIn, Facebook and other algorithms bring your profile to the top of the list.  So having gotten that out of the way, what do you say about yourself?

Ask the people around you what they’d be interested in hearing about?  Create a word cloud from these informal “interviews” so that you can see which words appear most often. You can use http://www.wordclouds.com to create free word clouds. I’d be interested to know what comes up and if it differs in any way from what you thought you needed to focus on.

So often, the things YOU want to tell people about yourself and what you do, are not what they find compelling.  Think about it…you’ve been knocking on doors and trying to get business without success.  Well, clearly you must be doing one of two things: knocking on the wrong doors with the right message, or knocking on the right doors with the wrong message.  Which one is it?  Test your message – test your profile.

We know from research (American Management Association, 2008) thatIn practice, according to Banning (1997) and Smith (1993), a company’s human resources department, a supervisor, or a friend are among the most common ways of finding a coach. Banning (1997) lists three important criteria in selecting a coach: trustworthiness, compatible chemistry, and solid reputation” (my emphasis).

This is exactly what needs to project from your profile: trustworthiness, compatible chemistry and a solid reputation (we go back to the more recent research done by Professor Fiske that I mention in the opening paragraphs).  But how on earth do you create an impression of warmth and competence in an inanimate profile?

Remember those all-important 4 seconds that we have within which to get and keep someone’s attention? Well, Wikipedia tells us that most of us can read about 180 words per minute on a screen (Wikipedia, Words Per Minute). This means that we have about 45 words in which to grab someone’s attention. It makes sense, then, to start by telling them what you can do for them.

I spent some time a little while ago combing through online profiles and developed a series of “sentence starters” for my coaching clients that stuck out for me for creating online profiles to help get you going (you don’t have to complete them all – they’re just there to get you started):

  • If you’re struggling with…
  • Have you ever had a tough time…
  • When you find that…
  • My expertise lies in…
  • My methodology and approach include…
  • Other tools that I use to get the best results are…
  • I specialize in…
  • My passion is…
  • I am inspired by…
  • My clients include…
  • I have a background in…
  • My training includes….
  • The models I use include….
  • Some of my best strengths and attributes are…
  • My clients have the following to say…
  • As your coach, I will…
  • In addition to coaching, I…
  • I am a member of…
  • I am accredited with…
  • My academic qualifications include…

And finally, here’s a meme that I received recently that demonstrates very cleverly how our eyes track.  I know mine definitely followed where they were led visually in the meme.  Did yours?  What does it tell you about how you present your information and what gets read?  Happy profiling 😊

References:

American Management Association. (2008). Coaching: A Global Study of Successful Practices (Current Trends and Future Possibliities 2008 – 2018. American Management Association.

Susan T. Fiske, A. J. (2006). Universal dimensions of social cognition: warmth and competence. Trends in Cognitive Science Vol 11 No 2 , 77 – 83.

Susan T. Fiske (2018): Stereotype Content: Warmth and Competence Endure.  Current Directions in Psychological Science 2018, Vol. 27(2) 67 –73 © The Author(s) 2018 Reprints and permissions: sagepub.com/journalsPermissions.nav DOI: 10.1177/0963721417738825 http://www.psychologicalscience.org/CDPS

About the Author:

Megan has a degree in Politics and Languages, and spent most of her early career in the fields of Marketing and Advertising.  She trained as a coach in 2001, and ran a successful practice until about 2007, when her husband’s engineering business started to consume most of her time.  Megan is also a qualified Ethologist, with a degree through an Onderstepoort-affiliated body, as well as having studied Psychology though UNISA.  She continues to reflect on the close similarities between the study of politics, and animal and human behaviour.  Megan’s guiding principles are Integrity and Aesthetics. In addition to consulting to COMENSA on a national basis on Marketing & PR, from 2009 to 2013, and again on Social Media from 2015 – 2018, Megan runs a number of successful businesses including a property business, a specialist marketing consultancy, a marketing training course (developed in 2001) aimed at SME’s but tailored specifically to Coaches & Mentors, as well as co-editing and co-publishing SA Coaching News, the only coaching magazine in South Africa.  She has also had an online business since 2004.  Megan can be contacted on email: megan@business-zone.co.za 

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About MH Consulting

MH Consulting is a specialist Marketing & PR Consultancy to the Coaching & Mentoring industry in South Africa. In addition to working with select clients who have approached us to handle their accounts, We run a specialised workshop: Market Your Practice Without Spending a Cent© on request to groups. About Megan Hudson (Owner): Megan has a degree in Politics and Languages, and spent most of her early career in the fields of Marketing and Advertising. She qualified as a coach in 2001, and ran a successful practice until about 2007. She is also a qualified Ethologist, with a degree through an Onderstepoort-affiliated body, as well as having studied Psychology though UNISA. She continues to reflect on the close similarities between the study of politics, and animal and human behaviour. Megan's guiding principles are Integrity and Aesthetics. In addition to having been retained by COMENSA (the national professional body for coaches and mentors in South Africa) on a national basis in Marketing, PR, Special Projects & Social Media on and off since 2009, she runs a number of successful businesses including a property business, a specialist marketing consultancy, a marketing training company (developed in 2001) aimed at SME’s but tailored specifically to Coaches & Mentors. Megan has also had an online business since 2004, which is an on-going guinea pig for many of the tricks that she teaches her students. She strongly believes in contributing to her country and to its growth, and runs her Marketing course free of charge for a number of non-profit organisations. Because it delivers immediate results, the SME's that she works with are able to grow their businesses, earn more money and create more employment.
This entry was posted in Marketing for Coaches and Mentors, Marketing Your Business Without Spending A Cent©, Online Marketing and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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