Your Profile Picture Is For More Than Just Social Media

Image of Neil McKenzie Author of The Artists Business and Marketing ToolBox

Your profile picture should be well done and tell a story.

You have seen them – pictures of people on their websites, social networking sites, brochures and business cards. It is important that the images of you that you post on social media, your websites and other marketing materials support your brand. This is especially true for your social media profile pictures.

Your profile picture is one of the most important elements in having an effective social media or web presence. It is the first thing people will see when they visit your profile or “About” page. Many people will make an opinion of you from your picture and this will influence whether they want to connect with you on social media or spend more time on your website. Make sure that your personal image makes people want to know more about you, your art and not turn them away.

Some Tips:

  • Make sure your personal images are well done and of professional quality.
  • If you can tell a story about what you do and your art then add some props or appropriate backgrounds. This could be you creating your art or posing with your art in the background.
  • You don’t have a lot of space so make sure that YOU are the focus of attention.
  • Present yourself in an honest and authentic manner.
  • Be consistent in your profile picture and use it across different social media platforms, your website, other marketing materials and public relations.
  • Give your profile image some time to work and change it only as needed.
  • Goofy pictures may be fun but they may do more harm than good – besides, do you want to be known as the artist with the cat on your head (if you create cat art then maybe yes…)?

When the Virtual World Meets the Real World

The main idea behind your personal image is to be authentic, honest and tell a story. In many instances, your profile picture may be the only time your customers, prospects or social media connections will get to see you. In other cases people may see you in person or in other media. This could be at a gallery show, a social gathering, a personal sales call or in an article about you and your art.

Many times when you meet someone in person there is what I will call a “disconnect”. The image they use to support their brand on social media or their website does not match the reality.

Here are some examples of “Disconnect”:

  • The images show someone with a full of head of hair – the reality is someone who doesn’t have a full head of hair.
  • The images show someone who is sleek and slender – the reality is someone who has gained weight.
  • The images show a young vibrant person participating in sports or other activities – the reality is someone who has aged 20 years and is not really very active.
  • The images show a glamorous young woman – the reality is a mature woman who is probably still beautiful.

As a photographer and marketing professional who helps people build the images for their brand I see this disconnect quite often. Don’t get me wrong, there are times and situations where the disconnect between the image and the reality may actually reinforce your brand. Something like “I have lost all of my hair in the many years I have been doing the worrying and stressing for my clients – that is what they pay me for”. For most of us this may not be the case.

I did a quick market research project by asking several people what they thought when they saw the disconnect from the images on a business card or social media profile from the reality of what the person actually looked like. Some of the responses surprised me and I thought some were really quite harsh like:

  • “I think this is dishonest”
  • “I don’t know if I would trust this person”
  • “It shows that they are insecure in who they are”
  • “I don’t know if I would do business with them”
  • “I don’t know if I would hire them.

The Bottom Line

Your profile image is a very important ingredient in building your brand both in the virtual and in-person worlds. Make sure that your images are authentic, interesting, well done, tell a story and reinforce your brand. And lastly, don’t create a “disconnect” between your media face and the real you.


Neil McKenzie is the author of The Artist’s Business and Marketing ToolBox – How to Start, Run and Market a Successful Arts or Creative Business available in softcover from Barnes & Noble and Amazon and as an eBook from iTunes, Amazon and Barnes & Noble.   He has developed and teaches the course “Artrepreneurship” at the Center for Innovation at Metropolitan State University of Denver, and is also a visiting professor at University College at the University of Denver.

Neil has over 30 years’ experience as a management consultant and marketing executive, working with some of the world’s top brands. Neil is a frequent lecturer to artists and arts organizations, a guest columnist for Colorado Biz Magazine, where he covers the creative sector of the economy, and the author of several articles for Americans for the Arts, a national arts organization. Follow Neil on Twitter: @neilmckenzphoto

4 thoughts on “Your Profile Picture Is For More Than Just Social Media

  1. Tienny

    Normally, I put my own mascot rather than a photo of myself. Is this okay? Because my mascot is my logo I put to my name card and every blog and social media. Neil, please give me guidance in this. Thank you

    1. Neil McKenzie Post author

      Hello Tienny,

      I think it is perfectly fine to use your logo on your social media and other marketing materials. I like your character (logo) and it represents well the type of art and design you create. I think it is important to be consistent using a profile image over time and across various marketing channels (social media, web, business cards, etc.) – good job!

  2. Kimbrella

    I have a website but I’m also trying to use Facebook business social media & what I found out is all of the interconnections can create confusion. I uploaded some fun videos from bvines & it ended up on my business fb. Now I have to spend time valuable trying t figure out how to remove them and I think it’s hurting business in the meantime. I’m thinking about dropping Facebook for business and just keep fb with friends/family because of this and because fb keeps changing. I just purchased your book on kindle & it’s very helpful. What is your opinion?… Drop friends & family!!!

    1. Neil McKenzie Post author

      Kimbrella, Yes it does take a bit of work to keep up with all of the FB changes. I think FB can be of use to your art business but having profile for both personal and business might be confusing. How about a FaceBook page just for your art business?

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