Imagine it’s 3 a.m. and you’re sound asleep. On the Internet your next new client is still awake. Maybe she is reading your blog or watching one of the YouTube videos you created. It answers exactly the question she’s been wondering about. She’s excited that you understand her needs. She clicks on your “About Me” link and finds … nothing. She moves on. She’s someone else’s new client now.

Great social media content without a completed profile to introduce yourself to others is like having a fish hook floating in space with no line attached. It might look interesting, but there’s no way to reel it in.

The profile information associated with your social media accounts provides one of the most important opportunities you have to let other people know about what you do and what you have to offer. Here are some elements that make for a good profile:

Your Picture

Your photograph is also called an avatar. Your avatar is usually very small. Choose a portrait shot with a clean background. You may have climbed Mount Everest and have a great picture of you at the summit, but reduced to less than a half-inch square, you’ll look like an ant standing on a mound of sugar.

Your profile picture shouldn’t look like a passport photo with flat, featureless lighting. Google “three-point lighting” for tips on how best to light yourself in order to give your avatar a three-dimensional appearance.

Finally, you’ll want a picture that stands out and flatters you.

If you’ve never heard of three-point lighting, have no idea how to set it up with the lamps in your home, or you just don’t want to do it, help is available. Professional photographers have lately been adding a digital snapshot to their list of services. One person I met takes about a dozen photos against a plain professional backdrop and then uses Photoshop to touch up the best of the group. For $25, this is a great solution.

About You

The next step in creating your profile is completing the “About Me” section. When people click to see your profile, they’re seeking to learn more about who you are and what you do. If your profile contains nothing but a pitch for losing weight with a link to your opportunity page, don’t expect anyone to click to find out more—and don’t expect that new person to even look at your profile again.

Follow basic rules of social engagement: help people understand what you do for others. The best three words you can use to start off a great About Me section are “I help people …” Use this framework to paint a picture and show why you are there. Here are a few examples:

I help people plan family vacations to uncommon destinations that are fun and affordable.

I help people discover how great they can feel through a few simple dietary improvements.

I help realtors stand out in their area and attract more referrals and listings through simple guerrilla marketing techniques.

On Twitter, your About Me information is limited to 160 characters. The sample sentences above should fit and make the best impact.

Other sites, such as LinkedIn or YouTube, allow you to write much more in the About Me areas. Start with the same formula, and then expand if you want to. The idea is to let people know how you help others and to let them get to know you. You want to build a connection.

Expanded Information

Don’t be all business in your profile. Social media is about building relationships. Some sites give you the ability to fill in more information about your hobbies and interests. This is a great opportunity to share your favorite books and movies. It also helps you associate your name with other great thinkers in your field.

When listing books and movies, be aware of the story told by the things you list. A list of your favorite slasher flicks might not send the right message to your audience.

When a social media site such as Facebook or MySpace gives you the chance to provide more information, engage the reader with more than a simple listing. For example, group your favorite inspirational books and write a phrase about why you like these books before listing them. This brings your personality into the profile and also helps establish your personal brand with the reader.

Here’s an example:

“I enjoy business writing from Joe Vitale (Buying Trances), Dan Kennedy (No BS Direct Marketing), and John Assaraf (The Answer) because I like the way they bring their full personalities into their writing. For inspirational authors I devour books from Max Lucado (Facing Your Giants) and John Eldrige (The Ransomed Heart). The way they deliver such a clear message gets my attention. When I’m in the mood for fiction, I like Stephen Donaldson (The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant), David Weber and John Ringo (March Upcountry)—what incredible skills they have as story tellers!”

The biggest missed opportunity when it comes to social media is leaving your profile information incomplete. When other people look at your About Me box and don’t find anything, they’re led to assume you’re not there either. It’s difficult for a ghost to engage a community.

Many social media sites include much of the same information for your profile. To make your process of setting up social media sites more efficient, open up WordPad or a text editor on your computer and start compiling the information so you can copy and paste it into your profile anytime you set up a new account. Having this information on hand also makes it much easier if you want to have an assistant set up your social media sites for you.

DAVE SAUNDERS is a social media and personal branding expert
who enjoys showing professional networkers how to stand out and attract
business online by harnessing the raw power of social media. He’s
the creator of where he teaches the best
practices for social media marketing and personal branding.
Dave is also a faculty member of Networking University