How to make your profile pic work for you

We all browse social media much more than we should. And let’s face it, we fawn or feel envy over some people’s profile pics, while others make us cringe. When we are specifically looking for a person or a business across social media, their profile pic is the first thing we see. Keep in mind that first impressions are almost always visual. If that image is not catchy enough, our first perception will certainly not be positive.

Before smartphones and digital cameras and all these gadgets nowadays were invented, taking a picture used to be a special occasion. People dressed up and prepared for the event accordingly. Go back to that. Think that your picture will be spread across several social networks and a quality image can build trust. That trust will at some point materialize into revenue. So invest time and effort into this.

I have seen lots of accounts with a logo in the place of a profile picture, I have used that tactic myself. The truth is, though, that people want to see the person or people behind the business, not a lifeless logo which doesn’t say anything. So don’t be afraid to show your face. Just make sure you show your own face, not that of someone else. I remember a PR workshop where a client proudly informed the audience they had their dog’s image as profile pic. And another client asked whom he should expect to meet if he set an appointment, the dog or him. That was a good lesson for everyone in the room, and it’s well worth sharing.

People do not treat profile pics with the attention they should, they use pictures of their family, of their children, their pets and whatever else you can think of. Or they use pictures which are 20 years old. They have a very poor sense of identity, and extremely limited knowledge of social media etiquette in general, which is surprising given this day and age. Don’t fall into that category.

Going back to the subject, you should start by choosing an outfit and a background. Make sure they match, the coast is clear (no pile of dirty clothes or dog photobombing) , the background is simple enough so the focus is on you, and there is plenty of natural light. You can ask a friend to help you out or you can take the shots yourself, just make sure you are armed with plenty of patience and with a selfie stick or tripod. I would recommend using one of those tools because the camera shouldn’t be too close to your face to reveal all your imperfections, and, most importantly, you don’t want your hand sticking out in an obvious selfie attempt. Always aim to be subtle. Try to make it seem like you didn’t take the picture yourself.

Exercise various poses and mimic in the mirror until you find what you want to transmit. Taking 20 shots in different angles might seem exaggerated at first, but if you judge critically, you will be lucky to have 3 good shots to choose from. Smile even when you don’t feel like it, a full smile does wonders. I had a photoshoot on a very dreary day of my life, and the fact that I smiled completely transformed my mood. I was on the brink of a meltdown, but in those pics I look happy and incredibly at ease and enthusiastic.

Once you have managed to decide on a pic you will use across all social networks (because you want people to remember you), it’s time to edit. Try to crop your image into a close-up showing the upper part of your body, from the chest up or from the elbows up. That should be visible enough even for small sizes. As a tip, bright images fare way better than dark ones. Make sure you have a high resolution and the image is not blurry. Think that even though you are editing on a large scale version, it will be shrunk online, so make sure all the details are still visible and they look fine. Lately, I have noticed that Facebook tends to lower the quality of images, especially low-resolution ones. Check the size of images for each social network and adapt your image to each of them, it’s much better than allowing networks to shrink and crop your picture. I know how frustrating it is to have your image cropped in a weird manner, so try to avoid that.

When you’re done editing, it’s time for SEO. Image SEO is as important as text SEO. Don’t leave the name at IMG1234.jpg, instead use yourname.jpg or yourbiz.jpg. That way, when people are looking for you, they will come across your picture. And don’t forget that Google has image search included.

What other recommendations can you make? I’d love to hear them.


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