Day 2: The importance of a professional profile image

Your photo is an important part of your online profile. There are a number of reasons why it is essential to have a professional profile image uploaded to your web and social media:

Firstly, it can help people know that they have connected with the right person. For example, there may be many “John Smiths” on Twitter, so a photo helps identify the right John Smith.

Secondly, you will get more likes and follows on your social media if you have an image. 1134.eggLinkedIn profiles with a photo are seven times more likely to be viewed than ones without an uploaded photo. On Twitter you are unlikely to gather a following if you are still displaying the dreaded egg pic, as the absence of a photo tells people that you are either a spammer, a “lurker” or a complete newbie.

Thirdly, your profile image is your online first impression, which is why it’s so important to have a professional looking one. Here are some tips for getting it right:

  1. Use a professional photographer Even the work of the most gifted amateur can result in something akin to a mug shot. Of course, time and budget priorities can often get in the way of this being a feasible option. With this in mind, the following are some guidelines for DIY profile pics.
  2. Dress to impress Consider your audiences. Research collaborators, funding agencies, donors, media, potential students and others might all look at your photo. What type of image do you wish to convey? A recent study by PhotoFeeler found that formal clothing (A suit as opposed to jeans and t-shirt) in profile pictures had the most influence in perceived competence and influence over a range of factors.
  3. Give them some background A suitable background can provide context and represent your field of specialisation. However, the background should be simple so that focus remains on the person. Being at least six feet (183cm) from the background will help. Where possible, avoid the type of plain backgrounds used in passport photos.
  4. Light up your life Try to use natural light in addition to artificial light. Artificial light should be directed away from your face.
  5. Strike a pose Avoid the cheesy posed smile: smiling naturally is great. Try to look comfortable and at ease. Stand or sit with your upper body slightly turned and your face directly to camera, making eye contact with your audience.
  6. Make it all about you You should be the only subject in the photo. It’s your professional profile picture, so it should focus on you. This means no inanimate objects, group shots, or photos of you with your significant other, child, or pets.
  7. Focus Your face should be in focus. The background can be slightly out of focus, but your features need to be sharp, not blurred. Make sure dark shadows or bright light isn’t obscuring your face.
  8. Avoid the Selfie As whimsical as it may seem, there is nothing professional about a profile photo you snapped in the mirror on your smartphone. If you want to take your own profile pic, ensure that you use a decent camera, shine light on your face so you’re not backlit, and allow for some headroom so your hair isn’t cut off.
  9. Size it right Images that are too small or the wrong shape for a particular profile can look stretched and out of focus. If it is a decent resolution image (about 1MB is plenty), which even an iPhone will provide these days, you will be able to size it to fit most profiles. Check the image guidelines for the profile you are uploading to. Some common ones include:
    1. UON researcher profile This needs to be a square image. The system will resize larger images but don’t go smaller than 111 by 111 pixels
    2. Twitter Profile photo 400 x 400 pixels. Header photo 1500 x 500 pixels
    3. LinkedIn 400 x 400 pixels
    4. Facebook Profile photo 180 x 180 pixels. Header photo 851 x 315 pixels


Easy! Consider the above points and make sure you have a professional looking profile image. Maybe you have a photographer friend you could call on or you know someone who is a decent amateur photographer?!

Also, have a go at resizing your profile image without stretching or distorting it. If you’re on a PC –Windows Picture Manager will be the easiest system to use. If you’re on a Mac try iPhoto for simple resizing.

Note: just save your photo to your computer for now. We will upload them to our web and social media profiles as we make our way through the next 18 days.

Day 2 done! Tomorrow we are going to update (or create) our main web hub – our UON web profile.

Day 1: Write a search optimised web biography

Welcome to 20 Days to Research Impact!

Over the next four weeks we are going to be setting up a number of professional web profiles. However, before we get to setting up, we need some great content. This content should make it easier to find you through a web search, present a professional face and engage a broad audience in the importance of your work.

The professional biography we create today can be used, in part or in full (depending on space available), across your web profiles, including your University of Newcastle (UON) profile and social media.

Firstly, to make it easy for search engines, such as Google, to find you, your web bio should be keyword optimised.

 Step 1

Make a list of your keywords. You may have used them in grant applications before. They would be: your broad discipline area, areas of specialisation, plus your name and your location are also important keywords.

 You can do keyword research by Googling your name to see where you rank, who is above you and how you can differentiate yourself.

In the example below, you can see there are two ‘Jessie Reids’ above me, but my profile includes my main keywords: ‘Digital Communication’ as well as my location and contact details, and an image. This makes it very easy for anyone who I have met at a conference, etc., to find me online.


If there are lots of people with the same name as you, your research keywords become even more important. For example, they may not find the right ‘John Smith’ on the first 50 pages of Google – but if they know you are a sociologist or you work at Newcastle, they are likely to search those words also – and with your oRelated Searchptimised bio they will find you immediately.

After you have had a search for yourself, Google your research keywords. For more commonly used words and phrases you will find some suggested keywords at the bottom of your search results, which may give insight into what people are searching for online.

Optional extra: There are also professional tools such as Google Keyword Planner, which is part of Google’s AdWords software. If you would like to use it, you need to sign up to a free Google AdWords account here: Then you can pop in your keywords, see how they perform in different geographic locations and get other suggestions that may be more popular in search.

This tool is not essential at this stage of building your profile as your research keywords will probably have a fairly niche market with low competition, but if you are trying to seriously compete for broader terms that have high competition from other websites, you may like to try it. There are tutorials available on the AdWords site.

Hopefully you have been able to identify a list of keywords that relate to you and your work and put them in order them from most to least important, for example:

Primary keywords
Jessie Reid
Digital Communication
Secondary keywords
Social Media
Search Engine Optimisation
Research Communication
Web Content Management

Next, we will layout our profiles in the optimal way for search engines (and for the reader as well!).

Note: people looking through websites don’t read them top to bottom, they scan the information. For this reason it is important to write in short concise paragraphs, using subheads and images to break up long text. Keep this in mind when writing your web bio!

Step 2

Search engine algorithms (such as the algorithm Google uses), which scan websites for matching search data, take the most important information from:

  • Your URL. Your name is already included in your UON web profile, as it is laid out However, remember this when you are setting up URLs for blogs, and handles for social media such as Twitter.
  • Your page titles
  • Subtitles
  • Words at the top of the page, the start of paragraphs and the start of sentences

So, to be found in a web search you need to put the most important information about you right at the start of your profile, which is:

  • Who you are
  • What you do
  • Where you do it

For example: Jessie Reid is the Digital Communication Coordinator for the Faculty of Education and Arts Research Unit at the University of Newcastle, Australia.

All my most important keywords in the first sentence laid out in a clear and concise manner.

Step 3

From here, you can write about your areas of specialisation, your current projects etc, and include your other research keywords. Your UON web profile should be a minimum of approx. 200 words. Three-to-five hundred is optimal. However, for some of your other web and social media profiles there may be text limits that mean you can only use 100 words, or maybe even just the first sentence.

Tips for communicating your research

If you were able to attend Barbara Kamler’s ‘Writing the 100 Word Summary’ workshop last year hosted by the FEDUA Research Unit, you will probably remember the gems she imparted for communicating your research in an effective way to an audience of people who may not be in your particular field.

Laying your bio out in a similar manner will also give you lots of opportunity to use your keywords throughout.

From my rough notes, this is what I picked up from Barbara:

Structure your bio as follows: locate, focus, significance, outcome/argument

  • Firstly, locate your work in the broader context of an urgent issue, debate or current social problems.
  • Secondly, focus – this means identifying the particular question, issue or kind of problem that your research will explore, examine and/or investigate. Be specific – here’s the gap, here’s what I am going to do.
  • Thirdly, significance so what? Stating importance, your work’s relevance or promise.
  • And finally, your outcome/argument states specific results of project, effect, usefulness.


Finish off your optimised web bio and read it through to make sure you have:

  • Included your research keywords throughout (remember to use your name and location as well).
  • Used short concise paragraphs
  • Broken up long text with subheads
  • Made note of any relevant images you could use to break up text
  • Given a broad audience a clear idea of the significance of your work.

If you have struggled with how to explain your work for a broad audience, sit down with a friend, family member or colleague who is not in your field and try to explain it to them in plain language. Get them to ask you questions if they don’t understand to quiz it out of you.

Once you have a draft of your bio ready, ask someone to proof read it for you and see if they understand clearly what you are trying to convey.

This exercise will be helpful to you when you are engaging the media. If you can clearly explain your work to someone outside your field you are less likely to be misinterpreted or have your work over-simplified by journalists.

Congrats! Day 1 challenge completed! If you have questions or want to share your experience of Day 1, please leave a reply.

See you tomorrow for our Day 2 challenge: The importance of a professional profile image

The 20 Days to Research Impact Challenge


In an increasingly competitive research landscape, academics can no longer afford to just publish and hope for the best. To leave a mark, you have to take your communication and impact into your own hands.

However, the question is often raised: where do I start? There are so many ways to share, promote, and discuss your research, especially online. It’s tough to know where to begin.

As a result, we are offering you a challenge. This 20 day challenge will provide you with information each day for 20 days on a strategy for scholarly and public impact, why it’s important and how you can get started. Then we’ll share a homework assignment where you will apply the concepts we’ve covered that day.

We are currently looking for researchers across the Faculty of Education and Arts who would like to:

  • Upgrade their professional visibility by conquering social media
  • Boost their readership and citations by getting their work online
  • Stay atop their field’s latest developments with automated alerting
  • Lock in the key connections with colleagues that’ll boost their career
  • Dazzle evaluators with comprehensive tracking and reporting on their own impacts.


The 20 Days to Research Impact Challenge will begin Monday 1 August.

  • Day 1: Write a search optimised web biography
  • Day 2: The importance of a professional profile image
  • Day 3: Refresh your UON web profile
  • Day 4: Make a profile on
  • Day 5: Make a ResearchGate profile
  • Day 6: Create a Google Scholar profile
  • Day 7: Connect with other researchers on Mendeley
  • Day 8: Make LinkedIn work for your research
  • Day 9: Find your community on Twitter
  • Day 10: Social media automation for academics
  • Day 11: Make your data discoverable on a data repository – NOVA
  • Day 12: Publish in Open Access for more citations
  • Day 13: Submit your post-prints
  • Day 14: Claim your ORCID ID
  • Day 15: Establish your expertise with Open Peer Review
  • Day 16: Stay up-to-date on your field
  • Day 17: Get your research to the media: The Conversation
  • Day 18: Track your scholarly social media and website impact
  • Day 19: Make your work permanent and trackable with unique identifiers
  • Day 20: Discover when your work is discussed and shared online

We are not reinventing the wheel here, in fact the Impact Challenge was originally published by Stacy Konkiel from The Impact Story Blog. It was created by drawing on years of experience measuring and studying research impact. However, some of the content has been changed to suit the tools we have available at the University of Newcastle. Plus, following the challenge together will provide an opportunity to share the journey with your peers, ask questions and gather feedback on the effectiveness of tasks.

Register now!

If you have any questions or difficulties signing up, leave a reply below or email