[IMGCAP(1)]Maybe the post office isn’t the best place for it, but don’t underestimate the importance of having a picture associated with your professional presence. Your Web site and your social media profiles absolutely need one.

But what if you’re shy? You value your privacy, and your mother repeatedly told you that fools’ names and fools’ faces always appear in public places. Modesty and safety alike demand that you remain veiled in secrecy, cloaked with a classy reticence to show your face in the forum, right? Wrong. Sorry Mom, this is one of those situations when times really have changed.

A social media presence is mandatory for the successful modern professional. Like it or not, it’s a fact. Many of us who are old enough to remember a pre-internet era, when simply being good at your job was enough to lift you to great heights in the work force, are still resistant to this truth. Though we may participate, we do so grudgingly and half-heartedly, and often draw the line at a picture of ourselves. It’s time to get over it.

Today’s reality is that more people will meet us through our online presence before they meet us in person. There’s a huge upside to this in opportunities to reach vast realms of potential clients and industry peers from whom we can learn, of course. The marketing possibilities are endless, and I’ve never met someone who claims to have learned nothing of value from the Internet. Even so, it’s hard to let go of those lessons about modesty and propriety we learned so long ago. But those standards just don’t serve us well anymore. In fact, not having a picture will cost you a high price.

Let’s say you’re an accountant without a picture. You’re smart, you work hard and you contribute meaningfully to your niche. Great. So you tweet into a conversation with deep knowledge and make some important points that impress your followers. Or you submit a well-received article to a leading publication. A significant number of the people who read your contributions care enough to want to learn more. What do they do? They Google you. They go to LinkedIn and maybe Facebook. They find…a creepy blue-grey silhouette of a gender-neutral humanoid. At that point they do one of two things, neither of which you want. They either forget about you or they assume you are a hideous freak, someone who’s not really a serious presence at all or a spambot. If you have no picture, you won’t be considered legitimate. EEK! That’s not what you intended!

Or perhaps they do manage to remember your name. With no face attached to it, when you’re at the same quasi-social event they don’t connect it to the wonderful insights you shared and thus don’t engage you in conversation, don’t invite you to speak at their next conference and don’t offer you that amazing job you’d give anything to have. Is your loathing for pictures worth it? Probably not.

With a picture: interesting new colleague, speaking gig, awesome career move. Without a picture: bupkus. You do the math. Not only that, but face it – it’s hard to remember faceless names. At a certain age (mine) a picture is a hugely important visual aid to keeping track of the people you’ve met, or would like to meet. Without a picture firmly in my mind, half the time I can’t remember if you’re the dude who’s widely recognized as the King of the Industry or the guy who held up the line at Whole Foods last week looking for a coupon.

And don’t forget that having a picture on your profile is the very best kind of marketing there is – free. Face, name, contribution. That’s what most people will remember, and probably in that order. Why throw away that opportunity?

Before you snarl and go dig up an ancient New Year’s Eve photo to crop for LinkedIn just to shut me up, listen to this and listen hard: you need a professionally taken picture. It is simply not acceptable to use words like “leverage” and “proficiencies” in your online resume and associate them with a picture that includes:

• Other people’s body parts, even minor ones
• Dirty laundry on the floor
• Cocktails
• Drumsets
• You get the idea

That’s OK for Facebook if you’re comfortable with it, and candid shots of you enjoying your life are more fun for everyone to see. Still, no matter how youthful, thin and hip you may look in that one of you having drinks with Dave Grohl, you may not use it on LinkedIn. Get a photographer.

Only reclusive millionaires get to go through life with no picture. I know this is hard, but perhaps you’ll forgive me when I remind you that you can deduct the cost on your taxes. See? It’s not so bad after all.

Sarah Warlick is a writer and copy editor for bbr marketing. She is in charge of ensuring that all copy is well-written, accurate and free of pesky typos, as well as writing and ghostwriting a great deal of content. bbr marketing provides marketing services and strategy to professional services firms.

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