A Mug Matters

You may not have given much thought to this question until the recent popularity and emergence of social media touched the masses. Beyond the social implications of this new media, social networks and social online tools play an essential role for all professionals, entrepreneurs, and business people. Posted content and images either add or subtract from your desired brand.

With over 800 million profiles on Facebook, Twitter, MySpace and LinkedIn, and millions more on micro social sites, a mug shot or profile avatar has quite a bit of brand power.

Mikolaj Jan Piskorski, Associate Professor and Mervin Bower Fellow in the Strategy Unit at Harvard Business School conducted extensive research on the subject of social media and images. His findings indicate 70 percent of all social media actions are related to viewing pictures or other peoples’ profiles.

The day when only authors, rock stars, celebrities, and other gurus needed to consider their photo images is gone. Today everyone has a new stage on which to shine or look like a goofball.

And this is not limited to online social communities; the same goes for speakers at conferences. Regardless of your professional status as a speaker, if you are contributing to the program and the organization is promoting you on a Web site, your image counts. This also applies to printed association directories and what you put on your own Web site.

Don’t fall victim to the crappy, old, and tired photo thing. You can control this part of your brand.

Your mug is your surrogate persona and a voice for your brand.

If your goal is to build an online footprint that supports your professional substance and brand, here are some tips I recommend to get the biggest bang from your mug shot.

1) Consistency is key.
Use the same image of you in all of your social communities. This will build equity in your visual mark and strengthen the memory factor.

2) Production quality says a lot about you.
Grainy, wrong, and low-resolution images scream cheesy, unprofessional, and that you are foreign to the online environment.

3) Project your true you.
If you are a creative soul, let your photo image convey that. Cropping, adding a compelling prop, and the right facial expression can achieve that.

Are edge and risk part of your brand? Then demonstrate this with the style of image.

Are you serious, conservative, or highly intelligent? A traditional portrait may best suit you.

For any of these personas, consider your wardrobe, accessories, and the background. All of these elements project a message.

4) Keep your image current.
There is nothing worse than meeting someone who is 25 years older than his or her published photos. Update your photos every couple of years, unless you look pretty much the same—and good for you! This can be a trust issue too.

5) Invest in your brand.
Using a group shot where others were cropped out of the original, or posting a poorly-lit image with no contrast to feature your brilliance are often the product of being cheap and not valuing your brand. Your photo image is often the first thing people associate with you and your qualities.

Remember, first impressions only happen once and people make immediate judgments based on what they see.

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During our transition, some items in the Community section of the site are not functioning properly. We are working on all of these.

Thank you for your patience!

About the author: Karen Post, a.k.a. The Branding Diva® is an international authority on branding, marketing, and entrepreneurial matters. She has been featured as a business expert in print publications; on TV, radio, and on Web channels. Karen authored the best-selling book Brain Tattoos Creating Unique Brands That Stick in your Customers’ Minds and she is co-founder and CEO of Oddpodz.com.