There are a lot of unspoken rules about using social media, but there is one in particular that needs to be publicly addressed. Houston, we have a photo problem.
Your social media profile photos are sending a not-so-subtle message about who you are and what you do. Amazingly, though, many people who seem to want to be taken seriously have not mastered the fine art of social media photo selection.
Here's a brief photo etiquette guide:
No eggheads! – You wouldn't want to be called an "egghead," so why on earth would you use one on your Twitter page? The use of the ubiquitous egg (the default profile image provided by Twitter) sends one message and one message only: You are not taking your social media efforts seriously. Guess what — no one else will take them seriously, either.
Tuxedo junction – Apparently, a lot of folks think a wedding is an opportunity to kill two birds with one photo opp. "I'm in a tux, anyway, why not use this as my LinkedIn photo?" Here's why: We know you're at a wedding, we see the drink in your hand and, by the way, you look a little drunk, too. If you want to be taken seriously, have a professional photo taken or use a headshot that doesn't show your mother-in-law dancing the electric slide in the background.
Being 'brief' – There seems to be a social media bathing suit epidemic. Unless your future career plans involve swimsuit modeling or professional bodybuilding, put your clothes on. Even if you are careful about your Facebook privacy settings , just about everyone can see your profile photo. Before you choose that shot of you in Jamaica, consider the message you're sending. Long after your tan fades, your first impression will linger.
Logo is a no go – I understand that some people choose to use their logo as their profile photo because it looks professional, but I still don't think it's a good idea. It's called "social" media because it's just that —a way for you to communicate with other people. The social media elite —those with thousands of followers, fans and friends —have mastered the art of relating to other people through Twitter and Facebook by being themselves and sharing their interests with others. Your logo only sends one message: I want to sell you something. That's not social media. It's advertising.
Know thyself – Being appropriate doesn't have to be boring. Your picture really is worth a thousand words . Having one that appropriately represents what you do is essential to your brand. If you're a travel writer, a photo of you on top of a mountain is great. If you're a teacher, take a photo in front of the blackboard. Think of this an opportunity to illustrate who you really are. They may only be the size of a postage stamp, but your social media profile photos make a big impression.
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Jeanette Mulvey is the managing editor of BusinessNewsDaily. She has written about small business for more than 20 years and formerly owned her own e-commerce business. Her column, Mind Your Business, appears on Mondays only on BusinessNewsDaily. You can follow her on Twitter at @jeanettebnd or contact her via e-mail at email@example.com.