First Impressions Matter: Choosing the Ideal Cover Photo

First Impressions Matter: Choosing the Ideal Cover Photo

We’ve discussed before how your LinkedIn profile is your landing page for your social selling activity. All the posting, commenting, and connecting you do leads people back to your profile.

And while there are many aspects of optimizing your LinkedIn profile, some of the more important parts are the visual components. These include your headshot, cover photo, media attachments, and overall text formatting.

In this week’s Sell With Social, we will do a bit of a deep dive into one of those visual aspects - the cover photo.

What Is a Cover Photo?

Your LinkedIn header image, also known as a cover photo, serves as a visually engaging introduction to your profile.

At the very top of your profile, it's the large rectangular image with a prominent spot in the visual hierarchy of your profile.

Here's why it matters:

  • First Impressions Count: When someone lands on your LinkedIn profile, the header image is the first thing they see. It sets the tone for your professional identity.
  • Visual Storytelling: Your header image provides an opportunity to convey your professional journey, interests, and aspirations. It can be a powerful storytelling tool.
  • Personal Branding: A carefully chosen header image can reinforce your brand, whether corporate, creative, or something in between.

What Should Your Cover Photo Be?

And here is where it gets tricky…

What should your cover photo be?

I’ll start by saying this - there is no right answer. (Although, we’ll review some wrong answers later.)

Your cover photo must be intentionally designed to help effectively tell the story you want your audience to hear.

Let's review a few ways to do this.

Company Brand Graphic

The most straightforward option is to have a company-branded cover photo. This is typically a graphic that is provided directly by your marketing team. This is a safe and effective option, as it helps to reinforce the product or service you sell.

Kat's company has a great branded graphic to promote her product.

What you typically see in a company cover photo is:

  • Company Logo - Your company logo is generally featured on the image to help identify the brand.
  • Brand Colors - The primary brand colors are used to help reinforce the overall look of the brand.
  • Featured Product - Optionally, a featured product or service could be placed in the graphic.
  • Tagline - Another optional addition is a company tagline.

I generally recommend this option for most social sellers. It’s simple, and it’s going to complement the other social selling activities that you are performing nicely.

Personal Brand Graphic

Another option is the personal brand (I hate that word) cover image. This is usually a graphic that highlights YOU as a professional versus focusing on the product or service you sell.

Josh is a small business owner with a strong personal brand. 

What you typically see in a personal brand cover photo is:

  • Headshot - Many personal-branded cover photos feature another picture (in addition to the standard profile picture) of you.
  • Personal Statement - It’s common to see a personal mission statement, favorite quote, or tagline included (especially for entrepreneurs).
  • Affiliated Logos - You can include logos of organizations you are affiliated with in there as well, such as employers, publications, or other institutions.
  • Contact Info - You can include contact information, such as web addresses, email addresses, or phone numbers, in the graphic.

Using a personal brand graphic can be a great option for those trying to build a personal level of authority through social strategy. This is often people who are content creators, entrepreneurs, or those looking for a new job.

“Personal” Personal Graphic

At the end of the day, one of the primary objectives of social networking is to meet PEOPLE. This is why another great option for your cover photo is to make it a personal graphic.

The family photo - Brad's a family man! 

Here are some of the personal graphics I’ve seen:

  • Family Picture - A nice photo of you and your family. No better way to highlight what’s important to you, and that you are a family man/woman.
  • Hobby Picture - One of my favorite personal cover photo options is a hobby. Whether it’s mountain biking, painting, a musical instrument, etc.. Something that shows another side of you.
  • Personal Picture - Similar to a family picture, using a unique image that highlights something important to you can work. A vacation spot (I’ve done this), a pet, your workstation, etc..

Some may say a truly “personal” graphic shouldn’t be used. I get it… however, I strongly believe there is value in highlighting who you are as a person as part of your social networking strategy.

I also see your cover photo as a graphical additive to your overall profile, NOT the primary location for you to promote a message. Similar to a hero image at the top of a website page, your cover photo is there to provide value visually.

While this isn’t going to convert into a sale instantly, it helps to tell the story of who you are. And remember, people buy from people.

Other Options

But wait, there’s more! Beyond the different graphic options we listed above, there are other images that you can use effectively in your LinkedIn profile.

A city photo used on a profile of a local business owner. 

Here are a few examples:

  • Abstract Design - You can pick a graphic that features an abstract design. This provides a feeling based on the art itself.
  • City Photo - A very common approach is to feature a professional picture of the city your business operates. This works best if you are selling locally.
  • Famous Quote - Nothing like a little #inspiraition with a quote from a business leader or favorite author.

Who should use “other” options? My honest answer is that I don’t recommend them often. However, if you are intentionally trying to keep your profile minimal, this could be a potential route. But I’d generally recommend one of the other options above first.

What Your Cover Photo Shouldn’t Be

We’ve covered what options your cover could be. Now let’s talk briefly about what it SHOULD NOT be.

To reemphasize the point made in the introduction, your LinkedIn profile is the landing page for your social selling activity. This means the cover photo space is significant visual real estate in your social selling strategy.

You want to use this space intentionally to help your audience understand who you are and what you do.

Here are a few of the common mistakes I see people make with their cover photos:

  • Nonexistent - The first mistake is simply not to have one. Always add a custom image!
  • Wrong Dimensions - If your image has the wrong dimensions, it can cause issues that skew, crop, or pixelate your cover photo. Aim to have your graphic at 1584 x 396.
  • Too Cluttered - You want to limit the content on the image. Including too much text, like your email, phone number, web address, tagline, etc., can crowd out that graphic (making it less effective).
  • Default LinkedIn Option - I’d recommend against using LinkedIn's default options. While these are at least more visually appealing than nothing, they still lackk intentionally for your strategy.
  • Unprofessional Design - Make sure your graphic is professional. Don’t design it like a flier for a dog walking service. If you don’t have graphic design skills, you should use an existing template or have a professional create one.
  • Unsupported Calls to Action - Designing calls to action, like website URLs or “Register Now,” will not work with this static image. Ensure you have additional links to those URLs later in your profile to support the CTA for user expereince.

A poorly designed or implemented cover photo can do more harm than good. I strongly encourage you to avoid these common mistakes on your profile.

For this week’s action items, I want you to look at your cover photo. Are you being intentional with the image you are using?

Take these steps:

  1. Review Your Cover Photo - Take a look at your current cover photo. Does it help showcase who you are? Is it visually appealing? Make sure to look at it on both the desktop and the LinkedIn mobile app.
  2. Upload a Great Cover Image - If your current image isn’t working, it’s time to replace it. Look at the different types of cover photos above and decide what makes the most sense for you and your social selling strategy. Consider replacing it with a company brand graphic, a personal brand graphic, or a personal image that helps tell the story of who you are and what you do.

Just like a hero image at the top of a website page, your cover photo is there to provide value visually. It’s an integral part of your overall LinkedIn profile optimization.

What’s your cover photo? Drop your thoughts (and a link to your profile) in the comments section!

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