It takes just one-tenth of a second for us to judge someone and make our first impression. Like my mother always told me, “you don’t get a second chance to make a first impression,” and, in the case of social networking, your profile picture is the number one biggest visual impression that you make, every day, with every contact.
Your profile picture may be THE most important piece of information about you on the internet. Really – just think about it! It is the visual key to your digital brand. It is the only visual connection that internet contacts may ever have with you. Are you sure that the picture of you at your family picnic 30 years ago, or the one where you are making that weird face, is really how you want people to know you?
Your images matters. And because we have less opportunity to be in each others physical space, the image of you in your little tiny profile picture matters even more. That digital representation of you is all that your colleagues, employer, prospective new employer, clients, followers, and so on, may ever see.
I’ve noticed that my profile picture shows up everywhere these days: when I comment on someone’s posts, when someone sees me on Twitter or LinkedIn, when I send an email – it is that little ‘Lorian-head’ that people relate to first, before my text.
C.G. Lynch, writer of Social Media Matters for CIO magazine said: “Truth is, this photo may be used by people whom you don’t know very well as they try to size you up – personally or professionally. So it matters.” You may not get a second chance to show them your face.
10 Tips To the Right Profile Photo
Here are a bunch of tips that I put together to help you pick the right photo for your online accounts:
- Use a current photo. When I went to buy my house, I picked a real estate agent who looked about 35 years old in her advertising photo. When we met face to face, she was in her 60’s. It made me a little concerned about trusting her. Realize that someday you may actually meet the people who see your profile picture, make sure that you are as recognizable as possible.
- Use a human photo of YOU — not an object – not an avatar. (Though I do love my avatar because she is eternally young and she may be the right version of me on my personal Facebook page, but not professionally.)
- Use a photo of ONLY you – no pets – no children – no vehicles – no drinking buddies. Also, make sure that there are no errant body parts in the photo – like someone’s hand from an arm that you cropped out (that would be tacky).
- Smile! Your face should radiate warmth and approachability. Smiling gives a positive signal, even in one-dimensional viewing.
- Make eye contact with the camera. People want to see your eyes – it’s a trust thing. Look directly at the camera. Don’t take pictures with a webcam, they just don’t look right.
- Create visual contrast.: There should be equal balance of dark areas and light areas. Take note of what you’re wearing, along with your hair color, when choosing what will be in the back drop.
- Chose your best clothes colors. Think about other pictures that you look good in – what color were you wearing near your face then? Wear clothes based on the professional appearance you want to present. For most of us that is no t-shirts, busy patterns, or Hawaiian shirts. Black and blue outfits always work well. Photo experts say avoid white.
- Have a quiet background. The less you have in the background of the photo the less visually distracting.
- Take a head and shoulders shot. Look at other people’s profile pictures and see how much of their upper body they show. A shoulder is always good. But the profile shot is very small, so you want to be able to really see your face.
- You don’t need a professional photographer (though it would be nice), but take multiple shots. Then ask people for their opinion on which one makes you seem most “approachable.”
“The goal is for your photo to reflect how you will look when you meet a customer, not how you looked at that killer party in Key West four years ago. The best profile photo isn’t necessarily your favorite photo. The best photo strikes a balance between professionalism and approachability, making you look good but also real.” – Social Ben Martin from his Social Media business blog
Do you have more profile tips to add to the list? What has worked or not worked for you when it came to your profile picture?
Keep up the good attitude. See you next blog.
(All the Social Butterfly’s views are her own)
- Willis, J., & Todorov, A. (2006). First impressions: Making up your mind after 100 ms exposure to a face. Psychological Science, 17, 592-598.
- Image @ Trevor Aston Photography Bad Profile Pictures Are Like Limp Handshakes
- What Does Your Social Networking Profile Picture Say About You? How you portray yourself on social networks like Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn matters. June 17, 2009 by C.G. Lynch
- Careerealism: Because Every Job is Temporary ,11 Tips For Choosing Your LinkedIn Photo, Norine Dagliano
- Analogue Chic, How To Look Better In Pictures: The Profile Pic, January 19, 2011
- Ben Martin, 6 Steps to a More Marketable Linked Profile
- BrandYourSelf, 5 Ways To Make Your Website Profile Photo Work For Your Personal Brand Image, July 15, 2009
- NJ Ledger, Allan Hoffman: Does that profile picture make you look like a schlub online?, May 10, 2013
- Photo from “President Barack Obama: Inauguration Day 2009“