If you’re one of those people who thinks that the new year is a good time to post an updated profile picture to your Pinterest page and other social media sites, I would agree. Visuals are a key component of many social networks. Let’s face it: We have all shaken our heads those unfortunate profile photos of people doing tequila shots in their bathrobe. Don’t let this be you.
Some people even think that foregoing a profile photo is OK. It isn't. By some accounts, social media profiles with photographs are seven times more likely to be viewed than those without. The picture you choose may seem like a simple thing, but it can have an immediate and weighty impact on a potential customer's first impression of you and your business.
If you use a personal photo rather than one of your business logo, here are seven things to keep in mind when selecting an image.
1. Avoid the avatars. Unless the essence of your brand is a cartoon character you have created and whose face is what you show the social media world, skip the avatar. Let us see the real you.
2. Face the camera. While sexy over-the-shoulder looks and sideways glimpses might work for a fashion shoot, they are the opposite of what you want in a profile picture. The best option is a shot of you looking straight into the camera, full face forward.
3. Lose the accessories. The purpose of your profile photo is to give a visitor a quick hint about who you are as a person. Think carefully about the signals you'll be sending. Odds are good that you'll send the wrong message if you're wearing sunglasses, shown with someone else, or holding Fido, your surfboard or a glass of anything.
4. Keep it current. If you start showing up to client meetings and hear, “Wow, you look different than you do in your profile,” call a photographer today. You may really love how you look in that headshot from the past decade, but unless you’ve found the fountain of youth, it’s out of date. A good rule of thumb is to update your photo every two to three years. This covers changes in hairstyles, fashion and -- sigh -- aging.
5. Go light on the airbrushing. If you’re 50 years old and have no wrinkles, you just look like you are trying too hard. Remember, people do business with people they like and trust. If you don’t look reasonably like your online photo when you show up to a meeting, your credibility is compromised, even if unconsciously, in the other person’s mind.
6. Be consistent. Consider using the same profile pic across all the social media sites you're on -- LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest and others. A consistent image across platforms can be a visual personal brand strengthener.
7. Stay within the size range for the site. For example, the exact size of your Pinterest profile picture is 160 by 160 pixels. Any image you select will be stretched or shrunk as needed to fit those proportions. For this reason, the ideal image is a square photo around 200 by 200 pixels in size.
If you follow these seven simple guidelines your picture will be heads and shoulders above most others on social media sites. So smile, say cheese and put up a pic that shows off your star quality.
The author is an Entrepreneur contributor. The opinions expressed are those of the writer.
Karen Leland is an author and president of Sterling Marketing Group, a marketing and brand-strategy firm based in San Rafael, Calif. Her book, Ultimate Guide to Pinterest for Business, is available at entrepreneurbookstore.com and other booksellers. Find Leland on Pinterest.