Ironically, not a spambot. Just a very lonely fish. Image courtesy of Flickr user ducttape30. Licensed under CC BY 2.0.Welcome to TweetMemeFace , my new column on social media. I am qualified to write this in that I run the HackCollege Twitter account. I am less qualified in that the phrase “social media guru” makes me want to strangle a kitten. We will see how it goes! And now, on to the column.

Imagine this scenario:

Internet Twitter Lady: Why, someone new has followed me! I wonder who they could be?

Their profile picture: *is a picture of a tree*

Internet Twitter Lady: Well, my doctor told me not to talk to trees, so I will be ignoring you from now on!

Their profile picture: *actually has a great story behind it, which ITL will never read because she’s busy following Neil Patrick Harris, whose profile picture is of his head*

So here’s the thing–this happens to me all the time, on my personal Twitter account, the HackCollege account, and Google . Your profile picture is the easiest way for other people to identify you at a glance. Particularly if you’re operating in a length-restricted medium (for example, Twitter), the profile picture is the first way through which someone is going to filter you into one of three categories: person I know, person I don’t know, and spambot trying to sell me iPads. If your profile picture is of a tree, you’re almost automatically going into the last pile. You do not want to be there, because it is really hard to network with iPad spambots.

Your social media profile picture needs to get you moved into that first pile or second pile as is appropriate. Luckily, picking a good profile picture is not hard. The photo needs to meet two criteria: it needs to be a clear shot of your face, and it needs to be consistent across networks. The photo doesn’t even have to be recent–it just needs to be the same as it is anywhere else, and recognizably human.

As a personal example, the photo that I use as my HackCollege bio picture is the same as I’m using for my Twitter photo is the same as my Google account is the same as almost anything professional that I do. I look nothing like that in person, but for easy identification online, it works very well. When I do decide to change the photo, I will do so on all of the sites, until that new photo of my face becomes the digital symbol for me.

For extra snazzy social media points, spend ten minutes this weekend pre-cropping your profile picture of choice into a square centered around your face at the highest possible resolution. Then, when you’re asked to feed your photo into an engine that wants a square, you don’t have to deal with online image editing. If you really want to get fancy, you can resize your original photo into several standard profile sizes, in order to avoid bad compression juju when your large photo is resized online.

If you can manage to unite your professional digital presence with a cohesive, well-chosen profile picture, it will make your digital life much easier to track. No matter what you’re talking about, you want people to know that you said it–the profile cohesion makes it just a little bit easier.

Got any good profile picture tips? Share in the comments!