The director of the career center for which I work sat in on one of my LinkedIn workshops. In it I talked about how your whole LinkedIn profile should brand you. I thought I did well and afterward asked her for her thoughts.
She told me, that in fact, I did well but forgot to point out that the background image (which sits behind your headshot) is another area that brands you. I should have known this, but honestly it didn’t occur to me until she mentioned it. Boy, did I feel like an idiot.
The background image of the LinkedIn profile seems to get a pass from many LinkedIn members. Instead, they use the light-blue background decorated with dots and lines (below).
To take a pass on this area is a mistake, as this is the first image people see when they visit your profile. Therefore it should reflect who you are, what you do, your brand, and that you care about your professional image.
This is prime real estate on your LinkedIn profile. If done well, your image will be properly sized at 1,584 by 396 pixels. Any image larger than that will be cropped, so you might not be able to include that great portrait photo of you standing before Mt. Kilimanjaro.
So why don’t LinkedIn members put more thought into their background photo, and what does your background image say about you?
This is perhaps the best reason to have a background image on your LinkedIn profile. One of my most valued connections, Shelly Elsliger, PPCC, is all about branding. She takes it to a higher level than most people when it comes to developing a unique professional identity and coherent message that sets her apart from others. This is truly reflected in her background image above.
Ask yourself, “What does my background say about me?” If the answer is, “The same ole tired background many LinkedIn members are using, it’s time to think about how you can create a unique identity, as Shelly has. Obviously she has gone through the effort of creating her own personalized background. You might not have ability to go that far.
Who you are
One of my client’s background image is of her hiking in the Appalachian Mountains. It works because she loves hiking and wants her connections to know this. Her photo is also work-related, so it is relevant. Double whammy.
You may have a background image of the New York skyline, a tranquil lake, a field where horses are grazing, or anything else that describes you as a person. I recently asked a facetious question of my LinkedIn connections about including family members and pets in your profile background. The answer was a resounding “NO.”
What you do
The photo above is of a woman doing yoga. If you’re a yoga instructor, this might be an appropriate background image for your LinkedIn profile. It sends a clear message about what you do.
As, a surgeon, you might not have a background that shows you in action operating on a patient. But perhaps you can find a photo of a hospital you can use as your background. You may have to get permission to use this photo.
That you care
When you use a background image on your LinkedIn profile, it shows you care about how you present yourself. I was critiquing one of my clients’ profile when I noticed, as his background image, a striking photo of Lowell, MA.
Does it represent what he does as program manager? No. Is it branding him? Not really. But it shows he cares about his professional image. He didn’t want to leave the default image, because doing that would show that he didn’t care about his professional image.
I’m grateful that my director mentioned my faux pas of not mentioning the LinkedIn background image as an important part of the profile. What hurt the most was not realizing how important the background image is to the profile.
If after reading this post, you feel you need to upgrade your background image, no worries. You can get free images from https://stocksnap.io/. I get many of my images from http://www.flickr.com, which allows you to use their photos as long as you credit the photographer. No problem.
Is there anyone I’ve missed? If you know someone (including you) who as a great background image, I’d love to add them to the list. Please tag the @person, as well.
If you want to learn more about LinkedIn, visit this compilation of LinkedIn posts.
Photo of yoga woman is from https://stocksnap.io.
Other photos were provided with permission.