You’ve seen thousands of social media profile pictures. You see dozens every day. And every time you see someone’s profile picture, you form an impression of that person. In a split second, you decide if they are likable, trustworthy, smart …or not. You judge them.
Everyone judges your profile picture in the same way.
On Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and everywhere else, they are swiping right or left in their mind, connecting or dismissing, engaging with your content or ignoring your connection request.
So your profile picture is key to your personal brand and online networking. It has an impact on your job opportunities and ultimately, your career.
Note! I’m skipping the online dating impact, but this post could help with that too…
And fixing your picture is a one-time action that gives you lasting benefits. So invest some time in the most important aspect of your online presence. Here are nine ways to nail your social media profile picture.
This should be obvious, but if they can’t see your face, you’ve got a problem.
Faces are a uniquely powerful type of imagery. Studies about the psychology of images show that faces leverage a cognitive bias built into our brains.
Of course, you have passions. You love dogs or helicopters or skiing. But your profile picture isn’t the place to make this point.
Are you an avid mountain climber? Great! Put your face in the profile picture and your passion in the background image.
The world’s most popular website is called FACEbook, not SILHOUETTE-ON-A-MOUNTAIN-book.
I also recommend against cartoon heads, dogs and babies. Show. Your. Face.
Some headshots are too close to the camera. Others are too far away. Making sure you are properly framed within the shot so people can see you and a bit of background. Your face should fill most of the image.
Not too far, not too close. Let them see your face but don’t crowd the camera.
If your face is too small, they won’t be able to see your smile when the picture appears in smaller sizes. Remember, in the social stream, this image may be as small as 50 x 50 pixels. That’s the size of your fingertip.
Body language is either open or closed. Arms, legs and hands can either express an openness to connect or a closed-for-business message. Faces are the same.
There are levels to the open expression on a face, from the scowling mugshot (“don’t you dare look at me”) to the high-beam open-mouth grin (“I love the world and everyone in it”).
Here is Jimmy Klatt, Orbiteer and Ambassador of Love, demonstrating five examples of openness in smiles.
Notice the openness in four and five. If you want to show an openness on your face, try opening your mouth!
You can imagine which of these would trigger more engagement in social media. Which would you connect with? Follow? Share?
According to two studies of college students, people who smile in their social media profile pictures are actually more likely to be happy later in life.
“Smile intensity coded from a single Facebook profile photograph from male and female participants’ first semester at college was a robust predictor of self-reported life satisfaction 3.5 years later.”
Those same studies found that bigger smiles correlate with better social relationships.
“Participants who exhibited a more intense smile in their Facebook photo had better social relationships during their first semester at college.”
So what’s the smile setting of your profile picture? I recommend a three or four at least. Number two might be good for attorneys. Social media marketers often turn it up to a five.
Social streams move fast. Color is a great way to stand out. When colors contrast with the colors around them, they stand out. This is simple and obvious when you think about it.
Since LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter use a lot of blue, putting on an orange shirt (or any top with warm colors) will make you immediately more visible. These are also less common colors for clothing.
Just look at this grid of profile pictures. Which of these stands out?
The focus of the image should be your face. Busy backgrounds can take the focus off of you, which isn’t ideal. Best practices are to use a simple or flat colored background.
The background is also an opportunity to use contrasting colors without changing clothes. Just use a different background. Cyrus Shepard once tested the effect of background color on click through rates and found a warm color got the best results.
The winner was the image in the top left.
Get some data from a focus group by uploading some options to PhotoFeeler. For less than $20, you can get 100 people to vote on your photo on three criteria. You can also earn credits by voting on other people’s photos.
Upload several pictures to see how they do against each other. You’ll have your results in just a few hours. Here are the results of my tests…
Apparently, the speaking picture on the left just isn’t very likable. And the jacket/sweater combo makes me look competent.
Big thanks to Vanessa Van Edwards for finding this! Vanessa has a great list of LinkedIn profile tips here.
Here are five ways to sneak elements of your brand into your profile pic.
Here are examples of how brand elements can fit into a profile picture:
Warning! Avoid the logo profile pic.
As we said in tip #1, faces are powerful imagery. Using a logo as a profile picture is a missed opportunity to be human and personable.
If you’re a mega-brand, of course, you’ll use your logo in your social accounts. But for most companies, avoid posting from behind a logo if at all possible. It just isn’t as social. Use the face of someone on the social media team.
|“Your company is not just choosing a picture. You’re choosing a voice for the account, a personality, a strategy! If you’re like me, it’s extremely difficult to connect to a logo. I think it puts a company at an immediate disadvantage.” – Mark Schaefer, Personal Branding Expert and Author of Known.|
This is especially important for people with common names. If someone sees you in one place and wants to connect in another, make it easy for them by using the same picture on all of your professional social media profiles.
For example, I was emailing with someone named Brian and decided to reach out on LinkedIn. But there are 430 Brians with his last name. And his profile picture wasn’t helpful.
I haven’t given up. I’ll find you someday, Brian!
ProTip! It’s easier to become recognizable if you don’t change it too often. Be consistent and keep the same profile picture for a year or two at least. These pictures are identifiable because they were used for years.
If you’re serious about social media marketing, seriously consider this. The difference in quality between professional and amateur work is huge.
|“You are the face of your brand and your profile photo is the first impression a potential lead will see. Make it uniquely YOU. I suggest shooting in a variety of environments that you feel comfortable in. You can use these assets at various times across all platforms while remaining true to your brand’s message.” – Zack Smith – New Orleans headshot photographer|
Right now, as you read this, someone you’d like to meet is scrolling through a social stream, filled with faces. You are in that stream. Did they slow down? Stop? These tips and ideas will give you an edge in the ultra-competitive context of social media.
But …there’s more to life than marketing.
Your social media profile may have nothing to do with marketing. Sometimes, social media is just social. So if you want to use a picture of your car or your cat. Go for it!
Everyone has an opinion. What do you think of these three profile pictures? Let us know in the comments below!
Thank you Crestodina, this article was incredibly helpful, and it gives me the confidence to get a descent profile photo out there, thank you again.
This is very useful information for the students like me.Thanks for sharing this piece!
Yes, student research is always true, because the more often a person smiles in life, people begin to trust him much and much more. a smile should be sincere. I once did my assignment myassignmenthelp.net/nursing-assignment-help/ when I lived in Australia and later on moved, wrote a research paper about which people are most often trusted. It took me a lot of effort to do it in such way.
Thanks for your article.
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I’d like to say it’s a cool research! Interesting to read about some photo sizes and simple background. I changed it there movavi.com/photo-editor/ Can you show us what do you prefer for editing, Andy? Don’t like all the three pictures. What’s wrong with the nose of the first guy? The third one looks disturbing. Respect for the dolphin!
This is an amazing article ! https://www.orbitmedia.com/blog/perfect-profile-pictures-9-tips-plus-some-research/#comment-15453
Nice article, Nowadays the social media used to the digital marketing also. So it is used to improve the business skill and strategy. The tips are useful to upload the perfect profile for the business and the some of the projects also. Thank you for sharing the information.
Yes, student research is true, because the more often a person smiles in life, people begin to trust him more. The central nuance, a smile should be sincere. I once did my homework https://essayontime.com.au/homework-help-in-australia (when I lived in Australia), wrote a research paper about which people are most often trusted. And as a result of those people who usually help others and smiling people.
Interesting ideas that everyone should follow, Thanks Andy
Loved your post, Andy. Social media has taken a huge leap forward in the field of marketing in the last decade. It’s the smallest of elements on social media that can actually shape the brand image in the mind of the customer. For example, a creative name for the brand page can act as a reflection of the brand’s commitment towards innovation.
Very informative article–as usual! As I’m currently working with dozens of super-talented pro photographers, so of course I heartily agree on Tip #9 (use a Pro Photographer). 😉
The value their photo skills bring to the party is immense. You have no idea how a skilled pro can make the most camera-reticent person look warm and approachable in their bio pic.
Even lawyers. LOL!!
Now you’re just showing off Andy–I count three different profile pics/variations between your article and comments! Are you breaking rule #8 or just changing it up every couple of days? Practical post as always–a painful reminder that I’d better update my profile pic. Looking up pro photographers now…
I’m breaking my own rules! I actually don’t mean to be inconsistent. I’m just trying some new things. Your comment is a good reminder to try to update my picture in more places. Thanks, Jon!
I really love how you providing a graphic example after each tip! That makes it so much easier! Would you mind if we posted this to our social media for the company I work for?
You are welcome to post or share this anywhere!
None of the three pass. And thanks for your always helpful tips. As a result, I changed my WordPress (Gravatar) profile pic to match the main one I use elsewhere.
But of course the new pic didn’t “take.” Maybe after their servers catch up, it will correctly propagate across the internet.
Ha! And it DID take after I hit enter on the comment!
Looking good, Paul!
Or you can grow a 10 inch beard and share your pic with a parrot:-)
Mitch, your photo breaks a lot of rules …but I somehow love it anyway. 🙂
Great post. I’m going to try PhotoFeeler. Photo#1 – not a good choice for so many reasons—cropped out of a photo, the look-alike shirts, the costumes. #2 Would be more appealing if the person was facing toward you, and the dolphin shot is only appropriate if he works with marine mammals. #3 Cartoon/comic profiles aren’t recommended, even if you’re an illustrator (that’s what your portfolio is for). Vanessa Van Edwards’ 31-segment class Master Your People Skills is streaming for free July 8-9 at Creative Live: http://bit.ly/vvedcourse It’s a worthwhile course, and is usually available a few times each year.
I agree, Leslie. Here are a few of my thoughts:
Photo #1: Obviously not serious, but it’s so obvious that I somehow don’t mind it that much. He’s goofing off. Maybe’s he’s planning to have this up for a very short time. Also: feels a bit like a gun show.
Photo #2: Good for a dolphin dating website. But weird that the dolphin put a person in this photo.
Photo #3: Really bad. Not only not a photo, but not even showing the face. This person is hiding from us on several levels. What viewer would feel a connection to this person? Maybe a cartoon optometrist shopping for blinds…
Haha – the dolphin. Thank you for the chuckle, Andy.
Great article but sadly your share buttons are not working.
Working fine for me. Which one did you try?
Number 1 photo makes the worst mistake of all, cutting someone else in half! Even if he does have a dog nose. Bad dog, get a picture by yourself.
Love the post, but I feel like not quoting Tyra Banks could have been a mistake. People really need to smize more. Fun fact you #smilewithyoureyes even when your not smiling.
I love it! Is that a thing? I need to update this. Yes, smizing is the key. Great tip, Marty/Tyra!
What are your thoughts?