"Don't judge a book by its cover," is a popular saying. It's true, of course, but the fact remains that we're all guilty of doing exactly that. And the same goes for profile pictures on social media: We can't help making assumptions about people based on what their profile photo tells us.
So, what's the right photo for your professional profile?
LinkedIn is not Facebook. Potential business relations don't want to see you feeding giraffes in Kenya or scuba diving in the Caribbean. And they definitely don't want to know what you were doing on Saturday night while you were out celebrating your promotion.
Follow these simple rules to ensure that your profile pictures works in your favour:
1) Look the business
Wear neutral or business clothing and don't let patterns or strong colours dominate the overall expression. And remeber to look friendly - don't frown or look like you've just won the lottery. A subtle, approachable smile is what you're aiming for.
Your face is what's important so don't fill the frame with distracting elements. In fact, you should keep the background clean and non-obtrusive. Your face should be the primary point of focus so don't place yourself too far from the camera.
3) Re-use on other social media
If you use other social media (e.g. Twitter, Viadeo, Zing) professionally, you should upload the same profile photo to all your profiles. This makes you instantly recognisable and contributes to your personal brand. If your Facebook profile is strictly personal you can let your hair down a bit there, but please make sure that you apply the appropriate privacy settings to avoid any embarrassing holiday moments from leaking out.
There you have it. A good, professional profile photo is worth the effort and you should definitely spend the time or the money to get it done right.