Be honest: Do you look the same in your professional and social media photos? If not, you have a branding problem.
Here's the problem with social media: It's turned everyone into his (or her) own personal PR agent.
Think about a businessperson you know, preferably someone with a reasonably high profile. Find his photo on the company website, or the photos he uses for promotional purposes. Most of those photos look pretty good, right? (Except the ones where the person's face appears to have been cropped out of a photo taken at a party.)
Now go to his or her Facebook or Twitter profile. Or do a quick image search.
Do the photos you find look like the same person?
Not quite... and the disconnect is often more than a little jarring. The George Clooney you see in the profile photo turns out to look more like, say, me. (Now that's a jarring disconnect.)
Of course you should try to look good in your photos. The research is clear: People want to do business with attractive people.
But don't try to look too good, because people also want to do business with real people. Plus, someday you may meet your customers; even if you won't, while they're checking out your business your potential clients will probably do a quick search on you, too.
Either way, potential customers will eventually find out you're not quite as handsome, quite as trim, quite as young, and definitely not quite the focused-yet-sensitive-artist-with-a-knowing-but-whimsical-smile as your photos make you seem.
Use personal photos that flatter but don't mislead.
Pick photos that look natural. Think about how you will look when you first meet a customer and try to match that look. Avoid disconnects between photos and real life (or website photos and Facebook photos) as much as possible. Look good but look real.
Otherwise, when customers meet you they will naturally wonder what else you're hiding or misrepresenting.
Never use stock photos.
Stock photos look cheesy. And they don't fool anyone.
The worst photos of the real you are better than any stock photos.
Don't misrepresent your facilities, either.
Ever seen the Leaning Tower of Pisa? Ever walked the Hollywood Walk of Fame?
In photos many landmarks look a lot different simply because the surrounding areas are usually cropped out. While you're at it, check out any other business-related photos. Certainly show your facilities to their best advantage, but don't over-do it.
And always remember you're not a celebrity.
Actors, musicians, and performers earn their livings based at least partly on how they look.
In most cases, you don't. You make your living based on what you do, not how you look.
Keep that fact in mind where your photos are concerned and you can't go wrong.
JEFF HADEN learned much of what he knows about business and technology as he worked his way up in the manufacturing industry. Everything else he picks up from ghostwriting books for some of the smartest leaders he knows in business. @jeff_haden