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The science behind using pictures of people in marketing

People fear using their picture in social networking profiles, but we make the case not only for using pictures of yourself, but of scrapping stock graphics for photos of people that studies show improve conversion rates in marketing.

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To avatar or not to avatar?

After all of these years of people using the web, the debate continues about whether or not people should use their headshots as their profile pictures and avatars on their blogs and their social networks. Many people are uncomfortable with the way they look in photos, and some are never satisfied with their picture, so they settle for their company logo, a cartoon image, or a random photo to share something about who they are. While some believe the argument is subjective, we would argue otherwise.

It is advisable to use a photo of yourself as your profile picture wherever you go, no matter how unsatisfied you are and how uncomfortable. There are many reasons from making it easier to connect with people offline after talking online, to giving people a better way to connect with you, but a personal side has become expected on social networks and blogs, making a profile picture culturally mandatory.

Throw culture out of the window

So let’s say you’re still uncomfortable advertising your face. I personally hate every picture of me taken since I was 11 and had a bad perm, I get it. Profile pictures can send some people into full fledged panic, and at that point, who cares if web culture dictates a photo?

You should, and here’s why… science.

Science? Yep. Any parent knows intuitively, and scientists have studied for years that babies love pictures of other babies, and part of socializing a child is giving them books with pictures of other babies to connect with, learn from, and see other ethnicities. Babies love looking at other babies, it helps them connect and learn, and believe it or not, many studies show that we don’t evolve past that point in our lives, so, adults love looking at other adults.

More science

If that isn’t enough to convince you to use a profile picture, a recent study shows that a website’s conversion rate can be skyrocketed by using human faces. According to KISSmetrics.com, using human faces “get your prospects to focus more and this causes them to draw towards a common point of interest. It doesn’t get more real than that.”

The company cites an A/B test on Medalia.net, an online art shop, which presented paintings from artists on their homepage, and during testing, they swapped out the photos of the paintings with photos of the artists hoping to increase user engagement. KISSmetrics said, “Making this small but relevant change sent their conversion rate through the roof – something they didn’t expect. Their site experienced a whopping 95% increase in conversions!.”

Reading between the lines

Using a photo in your profile pictures is important, it allows people to connect with you, just like babies connect with other babies through photos, and website viewers are converted by human photos. But, read between the lines here – using photos of people in marketing is a concept as old as the idea of marketing, and your using people in your blog photos and marketing can improve your conversion over outdated stock graphics. There are legal ways to obtain photos of people (through creative commons), and using photos of your own can have the most meaningful impact.

Whether you’re nervous to share your face with the world or not, web culture dictates that you should and studies show that a percentage of people distrust social networkers without a face shot. Independent of all of that, conversion rates improve when people see other people, as it is easier to connect with over stock graphics or abstract images, so take a leap of faith and put your picture out there, and while you’re at it, try to find ways of using photos of humans in your marketing and blogs.

Just remember – babies love looking at pictures of babies, and we’re all just babies when you boil it down.

Lani is the Chief Operating Officer at The American Genius and sister news outlet, The Real Daily, and has been named in the Inman 100 Most Influential Real Estate Leaders several times, co-authored a book, co-founded BASHH and Austin Digital Jobs, and is a seasoned business writer and editorialist with a penchant for the irreverent.

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4 Comments

4 Comments

  1. Marsha Thornton

    March 7, 2012 at 7:40 pm

    Thank you, I found this interesting and will use my photo more often in my marketing and on my blog posts.

  2. Pingback: The Value in Being a Poser?

  3. Pingback: Welcome | Andrew Wagner

  4. Pingback: 7 Pieces of Advice In Selecting The Right Website Images - Tech-Chat

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Business Marketing

TINA.org is helping the FTC crack down on Kardashian-esque influencers

(MARKETING NEWS) The Kardashians are just five of the seemingly endless amounts of influencers companies are using for marketing but TINA.org is over their tactics.

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A brand could find no better influencers than the Kardashians – the family who proved that you can get famous just for, well, being famous. Each Kardashian sister has an astronomical number of followers, making them obvious trendsetters.

That’s why brands pay the Kardashian sisters – Kourtney, Kim, Khloé, Kendall, and Kylie — tens of thousands of dollars a pop to post pictures of themselves on social media using their products.

Perhaps you find it hard to believe that the Kardashians stop by Popeye’s Chicken to grab a to-go meal before boarding their private jet. Regardless, the Kardashians, and the brands who pay them to pump their products, would prefer that you believe that these endorsements reflect the Kardashian’s actual preferences, rather than the paychecks they receive for posting them.

The Kardashians have been attempting to make their endorsements seem more “authentic” by totally disregarding Federal Trade Commission (FTC) rules that require influencers to disclose when their posts are paid endorsements.

In August of 2016, Truth in Advertising (TINA.org) filed a complaint about the Kardashians to the FTC, saying that the (in)famous sisters had “failed to clearly and conspicuously disclose material connections to brands or the fact that the posts were paid ads, as required by federal law.”

After receiving a finger-wagging from the FTC, the Kardashian sisters corrected less than half of the posts, generally by adding #ad to the post. The remaining posts, according to a recent TINA.org follow-up investigation, either have not been edited at all, or contain “insufficient disclosures.”

For example, some posts now read #sp to indicated “sponsored” – as if anyone knows that reference. In another tactic that also got Warner Brothers and YouTube influencer PewDiePie in trouble with the FTC, the Kardashians are posting their disclosure information at the bottom of a long post so that users will only see it if they click “see more.”

The Kardashians have also been posting disclosures, but only days after the original post. Considering that the vast majority of viewers comment on or like posts within the first ten hours after it’s published, most of them will never see the disclosure when it’s tacked on days later.

Some of the “repeat offender” brands, who came up both in last year’s complaint and in the recent review, include Puma, Manuka Doctor, Jet Lux, Fit Tea, and Sugar Bear Hair. This time around, the Kardashians have also failed to disclose sponsorship on posts promoting Adidas, Lyft, Diff Eyewear, and Alexander Wang.

TINA.org found over 200 posts on Instagram, Facebook, and Snapchat where products are promoted without the Kardashians letting on that their raking in big bucks in exchange. The organization has notified the Kardashians, the brands they represent, and the FTC.

The FTC has recently been cracking down on deceptive influencer marketing, targeting not only the brands, but the influencers themselves.

In April, the FTC sent letters to 46 social media stars reminding them of their legal obligations to disclose, and followed up with 21 letters in September warning the influencers that they had until the end of the month to disclose sponsorships, or face legal consequences.

“The Kardashian/Jenner sisters are masterful marketers who are making millions of dollars from companies willing to turn a blind eye to the women’s misleading and deceptive social media marketing practices,” says TINA.org’s Executive Director Bonnie Patten. “It’s time the Kardashians were held accountable for their misdeeds.”

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Business Marketing

Dove dropped the olive branch with new ad campaign

(MARKETING NEWS) With any ad campaign there will be misses but take a note from Dove’s playbook and learn how to not repeat mistakes.

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Dove’s latest Facebook ad really hit the mark for whitewashing in advertising. The ad, since removed, essentially implied their soap could turn a black woman into a clean white woman.

In a three-second video on the company’s Facebook page, three women transformed into the next when they removed their shirts. The first transition caused an uproar: a woman of color lifting a brown top over her head to reveal a different woman, who is very, very white.

Although the white woman then lifts her shirt to reveal another woman with darker hair and a darker skin tone, the initial transformation is problematic in its implications of whiteness as cleanliness.

Dove has since removed the ad and issued an apology, stating in a tweet “In an image we posted this week, we missed the mark in thoughtfully representing women of color and we deeply regret the offense that it has caused. The feedback that has been shared is important to us and we’ll use it to guide us in the future.”

Wait, haven’t we been here before? At this point you’d think skin care companies would have realized a little more delicacy is required when rolling out ad campaigns. Remember Nivea’s disastrous, short-lived “White is Purity” mishap? How about Dove’s other blunder in their 2011 VisibleCare ad?

These featured another series of three women standing in front of close-ups of skin, with the darker skinned woman in front of the “before” label, and the woman with the lightest skin by the “after” picture. Although Dove didn’t intend to imply white skin is cleaner, oops, that’s what happened anyways.

While Dove has gotten many things right in terms of inclusivity and featuring models of different racial and ethnic backgrounds, there have also been several instances of intentional racist missteps. Let’s use this as a teachable moment for handling marketing mishaps.

Whenever an ad campaign offends people, the company’s response can make or break the business. If you find yourself in the midst of a marketing crisis, you can take some mindful steps to manage the situation and begin repairing your public image.

First, acknowledge the problem and issue a genuine apology that gets to the core of what your audience is saying. Dove recognized they upset people, and instead of taking a defensive “sorry you felt offended” stance, took responsibility for their actions. Once an apology is issued, explain the original intent to provide context for the situation.

Dove meant to create an inclusive campaign featuring a diverse cast of women. Lola Ogunyemi, the first model featured in the now controversial shirt ad, has even defended the ad. She stated, “I can see how the snapshots that are circulating the web have been misinterpreted, considering the fact that Dove has faced a backlash in the past for the exact same issue. There is a lack of trust here, and I feel the public was justified in their initial outrage.”

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Business Marketing

Aori helps you pack a punch with AdWords

(BUSINESS MARKETING) Aori is the newest tool designed to help anyone using AdWords to kick more butt.

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Search ad campaign managers constantly wrestle with the best way to organize their keywords into campaigns. Most of these decisions strive to balance the time needed to manage the campaign with efficiency of campaign expenditures.

Take the SKAGs strategy, for example. The SKAGs (Single Keyword Ad Group) system is setup to trigger a unique ad for every single keyword by placing each keyword in its own group.

There’s lots of literature touting the benefits of the SKAG system. Generally, the hyper-specific match between ads and keywords improves click-through rates.

This leads to higher quality scores, which leads to lower costs for click, which leads to lower costs per conversion. The tradeoff with this system is the setup. You could be looking at hundreds of keyword groups to set up and maintain, and that’s a lot of work for a small business or startup.

This is where Aori comes in.

Their system helps to automate the process of setting up a SKAG system for your AdWords campaigns.

According to the website, the tool’s primary function is to automate keyword generation. Users enter a set of “root keywords” and common keyword extensions, and Aori will automatically generate all possible combinations of those keywords for your campaigns.

Additionally, through Aori, users can create ad templates using a “dynamic keyword insertion tool,” to enable you to utilize the strongest ad copy across multiple phrases.

In what is the least clear value point of the whole pitch, Aori also uses what they call a “unique bid-optimization algorithm.”

There is almost no detail to be found on how the algorithm works. If the tool handles all bid management for you, this could be a handy tool for PPC novices who are less familiar with the process and lack the time to learn it.

Aori appears to run cheaper than the others we know of, but that may be due to the level of automation available. For example, Aori requires the user to feed it keyword inputs, both root and extension words.

It’s also important to understand where a SKAG system can and can’t work. It is likely a better system for smaller campaigns where ad testing wouldn’t yield statistically meaningful results.

Because every keyword group targets one phrase, you can’t readily say that improvements in ad copy will translate to other campaigns.

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