Personal branding Facebook style

Let's sign into Facebook, and take a look at some Charlotteans today.

Hold it, this isn't a lineup of similar head-shot photos. This looks like the bar scene in “Star Wars.”

There's Lydia Stern, owner of the Beadlush Shop in Charlotte. But instead of a picture, her profile shows a cartoon drawn of her as a superhero. And Becca Schultz-Burger of Charlotte is pictured getting licked right in the kisser by her dog. And Jeff Hartlage, an alum of UNC Charlotte, doesn't even appear in his Facebook profile pic — it shows the 49ers football helmet.

It turns out there's way more to a Facebook profile photo than, say, a driver's license or work ID photo. In a whole new way, Facebook has given us a chance at self-expression – some would say personal branding. The chance to present ourselves as we would like to be seen.

“Yes, we play ‘dress-up' with the avatars we choose, profile photos of ourselves we upload, and the way we fill out our Facebook profiles,” says Howard Rheingold, a pioneer of social media who helped start the medium in the '80s and now teaches at Stanford University and the University of California at Berkeley. Rheingold's Facebook photo shows him in front of a leaflet-splattered city wall.

Rheingold points out that we present some things about ourselves consciously, but that we also send out other messages. Choose a picture with your kids? You're obviously telling the world you love them. But you might also be surreptitiously telling your high school friends that you've achieved domestic bliss.

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