Jumping in to social media requires putting your best foot forward…

Using headshots may help more than you know…

clip_image002If you have a blog, then you likely have an “About Me” section. And if you’re using social media, you certainly have a picture of yourself for your profile. As you become more engaged in online communities, creating content and sharing online reviews, you may have an interview opportunity or an article written about you. You may need to provide a bio for a corporate website, webinar, or other online activity.

As you build your online brand, you will want a photo of yourself displayed whenever you create a new account, make a post, etc. Because technology often disconnects us from our readers, a great headshot is essential to social media strategy. Personal brand success can be obtained more rapidly when people feel a level of authenticity and a sense of who you are.

A horribly lit and unprocessed photo taken at a friend’s birthday party or a cell phone picture from a summer vacation in Florida is not the way to represent yourself to the world via your professional online social channels. Surely you would not choose the classic self-portrait with your camera held at arm's length. These shots may alienate you from people — based on where you were, what you were doing, or even who you were with. It’s bad enough that some in the social ecosystem out there may critique you for the color of your shirt. Don’t provide added reasons for them to tune you out.

I approach personal social media, like Facebook and Google+ profile’s, differently but I recommend presenting yourself in the best light possible as you update your profile images. It’s often said that what’s posted online lives on forever. As more and more companies look into social media activities of people they consider for hire or presently work with, it’s important to consider who may be the recipient of that compromising profile picture of a crazy weekend in Vegas. Is it possible that an ex-spouse/associate may repost a less-than-desirable photo for the world to see? Don’t make the mistake of thinking your privacy settings will protect you.

What happens in Vegas may stay in Vegas but the pictures don’t always follow suit. Facebook and Google+ are great ways to allow people to get to know you on a more informal level. It is true that all of your profile pictures do not have to be “professional,” or look like an 80’s Olan Mills photo shoot. However, you must keep your career in mind while revealing your personality. I prefer pictures taken in an appropriate environment perhaps in your office, or maybe outside the building where you work. You might consider employing or at least requesting advice of a qualified photographer. Communicate what you want to achieve and ask for ideas.

How do you find this qualified person? Well, now that you are in social media, the answer may be as close as your search bar or a status update. Ask your social network for recommendations in your area; look through profile pictures of some of your peers and ask who did their pictures. Yelp.com might be a place to look if you are not having luck with your contacts. I am lucky enough to know a professional photographer, Kevin Hall here in the Austin / Round Rock area, whose “day job” is in B2B sales. I know he understands what I want, based upon purpose and audience. He provides a good consultation on all available options. It’s important to be comfortable with the person who is taking your pictures and to see work samples. It’s acceptable and expected by most photographers that references be provided to potential customers.

So what can you expect to invest in this step toward social media success? Usually around $75 to $500 depending on the number of poses and/or wardrobe options you need, distance photographer would travel for pictures at a specific location, and the photographer’s level of experience. One of the most important things I found in hiring a photographer was that you find someone whose work shows the kind of headshot you prefer and whose demeanor makes you comfortable. Your level of comfort during the photographic setting will likely be revealed in the prints. Some photographers have all inclusive packages while others may charge a setting fee. Just make sure to ask.

Being super anonymous, shy, humble, or hidden behind that cartoon avatar may have its time and place. However, creating your social media presence necessitates putting your best foot forward, finding a photographer you’re comfortable working with, and knowing that you will soon be represented at your very best within your online experiences.

About the Author: Roger Pilney