Your profile picture! Remember: this is the answer to the following questions. What's the first thing a potential employer or client or business colleague notices when they check out your LinkedIn page? Your Facebook page? Your Tweets? The Google results on your name? The Google Images results on your name? If you are a small business owner, what about all of the above on your business's profile pages.

Your profile picture is about branding you and the business you own. Are you handling it that way?

Let's start with first steps:

1. If this is for your business, should you be using your company logo or your picture? Answer: what or who are you trying to brand?

2. If you choose your logo, you may need to come up with a simplified version of it. If your logo has tiny details, it will not translate well as a thumbnail icon on Twitter or as an iPhone app, for example. Google, for example, realized this and uses a simple lowercase "g" on a blue background as its Apple app.

3. If you choose your face, you need to look a) professional  and b) in context with your line of work. For example, if you own a surf shop; then it doesn't make sense to see you in a jacket and tie. You shouldn't have your head thrown back taking a tequila shot either. For something like that, perhaps you would have a nice head shot of yourself in a collared polo shirt looking healthy, tanned and well-groomed at an outside location.

4. Invest the money in a professional photographer. Profile pictures are a booming sideline for many professional photographers. Hire one. It should cost about $200 depending on where you live and what you need specificially. Like anything else, talk to the photographer first. Ask for samples of other profile pcitures in their portfolio. Make sure they understand how you are going to use your profile. If the photographer thinks this is for, instead of your business, then you have a recipe for disaster.

5. Get feedback from employees, colleagues or friends that you trust for a unvarnished opinion. You need brutal opinions that will be less brutal than unwittingly making a public joke of yourself.

Here are some basic do's and don'ts:


- Keep "touch-ups" to a minimum. Yes, you can photoshop away the red dots in your eyes, airbrush a wrinkle or two, even smooth out the skin. However, it you do it all and then some; you won't fool anybody.

- Update your picture every couple of years. You should look like yourself. You should look your age. You should look your weight and the shape of your face that comes with it. You may not like how you look, but it is who you are. If you grossly misrepresent your appearance on your profile, it will serve as a huge distraction when you meet new contacts in person struggling to reconcile the real you with the virtual you.

- Be careful with special effects and other visual gimmicks. For example, what would be the benefit of converting your profile picture into a water color affected image of yourself or into four Warhol-esque neon pictures (think Campbell soup cans). What are you trying to convey and how soon will your contacts find it tiresome.

- How often do you change your company logo? Exactly. Once you upload it into use, keep it there for a long time. Otherwise, no one will ever find you in their feeds.


- The obvious: "Glamour shots", cleavage, toupes, mugging for the camera for affect, bad hair, not enough or too much make-up, chin on hands and other cliche staged positions, distracting facial hair, tattoos, piercings.

- The less obvious - to you: visible flop sweat, clothes or hairstyles from another decade, insincere or forced smiles, hats, glasses or a wig that masks what you really look like.