Firm Blog

What Your Social Media Image Says About You

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Michael Bogdanow, Managing Partner, Meehan, Boyle, Black & Bogdanow, P.C.

Without looking, do you remember what your profile picture, blog image or twitter thumbnail are? Can you recall your last post? Have you ever regretted a post? Those are important parts of the story that you have been telling the world – a story very much about you.

Shortly after the Boston Marathon bombing, profile pictures began emerging with a Boston angle – Facebook was flooded with them. People used their images as one piece of the story they needed to tell, the story of the bombing’s impact on them and their loved ones, including the city they love.

Social media is a platform for story-telling, and the social media image is one part of that platform. Science Daily has reported that in “most cases, your profile photo on Facebook tells viewers what they need to know to form an impression of you — no words are necessary, new research suggests.” (“With the Right Photo, Your Facebook Text Profile Hardly Matters”) Brandon Van Der Heide, lead author of this study, believes that positive (but not negative) photos “seem to be the primary way we make impressions of people on social networking sites.” (Negative photos lead to further inquiry.)

The story you tell may involve sports, home life, work, personality traits, etc., and your photograph provides the story’s book cover. Your photograph is one component of your social media image. Your profile also conveys your image. As explained in Clearly Conveyed Communications, “What’s in a social media profile? Everything,” the profile picture is important, but so are your contact information, cover photo and profile, which combine to create your social media image. Use your profile to express aspects of yourself that would interest the types of people who you hope to connect with through social media. For your story, this is the “about the author” component.

As a lawyer and a visual artist, I am usually responsive to both text and imagery. However, when it comes to social media, my impressions of people are formed not so much by their “book covers” but more by what they say over an extended period of time. From my point of view, one’s social media image isn’t simply a picture or profile, it is the person’s entire use of social media, conveyed through posts, tweets, etc.

Some people post numerous publicity pieces about their career. Self-promotion is one of the primary uses of social media, but too much self-promotion may result in the audience tuning out. The goal should not only be to tell your story, but also for others to listen to it. Some posts include expressions of dislike of work, or address something personal such as “how did your surgery go?” Storytellers should ask themselves whether the posts belong in the public domain, and whether they are telling the story that they want told. As explained by Darren Sherrard in “What does your social media page say about you?”, “If you would not want your boss, your wife or your mother to read it, do not write it.”

There are positive ways to express your social media image. I’ve gotten to know people who I didn’t know that well, and learned much more about them through social media: their travels, interests, families – whatever they find the need and incentive to post about. A friend often posts what he’s cooking; I enjoy it, and usually respond with what I am cooking. From 300 miles away, I’ve learned how important cooking is to him. His story involves cooking, and that’s something that interests me.

My primary use of social media sites is somewhat limited. Although I use Twitter, Linked In and others, the one I turn to most regularly is Facebook. Originally, my use of Facebook was simply for my friends and family, with a focus on family events, travels and my art. Recently, I’ve allowed much more of my whole self to come through; I’ve started integrating my career in law, personal events, blogs and many of my personality traits. This fits the period of my life that I am in: letting the many sides of my life breathe freely and openly. This more holistic approach has impacted my social media image. Everything you do on social media provides others with a glimpse into your life. Use your social media image well, and your story will not only be told – it will be heard.

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