How to Choose Better Profile Pictures

Learn what makes a great social media profile photo.

Lisa B. Marshall
5-minute read

How to Choose Better Profile Pictures

What do most social media sites, like Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn have in common? Give up? All of those sites ask for an image of you to include in your profile. So what makes a good social media profile photo?

Why Good Profile Pictures Matter

OK, I'll admit it. This week I am taking advantage of this platform to address one of my personal pet peeves. It really bugs me when I see social media photos that are of poor quality (or worse--there's no image at all).

It turns out that first impressions are critically important. They set the tone for the relationships that follow. Perhaps more importantly, first impressions are also extremely difficult to change. And if you think about it, today, especially with the increased popularity of social media, first impressions are mostly online.

Come on admit it. You Google people. I know I do. I Google clients, customers, competitors, my critics, (and all right, I admit it, I occasionally Google old flames, too.)

We ALL do it.

First Impressions Are Important

Why do we Google? Because busy professionals need to decide quickly--based on initial impressions--if they want to spend time with you (and your content). Your online image is going to be a big part of that first impression. Whether we like to admit it or not, we do often judge a book by its cover. And your online photo--your outward appearance--has a big impact on the perceptions that others form about you.

In fact, our eyes naturally look to photos first and then to text. In fact, according to author of the book Brain Rules, "the brain processes a picture much better and in much more detail, and there's much more robust retrieval than normal text." That means that not only will others be looking at your picture, they will likely remember that (and the impression it made on them) more so than the text of your profiles.

Using a great photograph is the easiest way to present yourself in a friendly, approachable, and memorable manner.

A Great Photo Makes You Approachable and Memorable

But keep in mind, the idea behind networking sites is to encourage people to have conversations, to form bonds, and to create memorable impressions. Using a great photograph is the easiest way to present yourself in a friendly, approachable, and memorable manner. It’s the fastest way to make a good impression and to encourage interaction.

In fact, I was fascinated when I read the following on a Yahoo! Personals website:

A profile with one personal photo receives five times as many replies as a profile without a personal photo. A profile with three photos receives seven times as many replies as a profile without a personal photo.

So, the lesson is to be aware that WITHOUT a photo some folks will form a negative impression.  Most likely they will form the impression you have something to hide and will choose not to not interact with you based solely on this. Is that right? I don’t know, but it certainly happens. What is important for you to know, is that NOT having a photo at all will likely raise a red flag in the minds of many viewers.

So how do you choose a photo that best represents brand "you"? How exactly do you put your best face forward?


About the Author

Lisa B. Marshall

Lisa B. Marshall Lisa holds masters with duel degrees in interpersonal/intercultural communication and organizational communication. She’s the author of Smart Talk: The Public Speaker's Guide to Success in Every Situation, as well as Ace Your Interview, Powerful Presenter, and Expert Presenter. Her work has been featured in CBS Money Watch, Ragan.com, Woman's Day, Glamour, Cosmopolitan, and many others. Her institutional clients include Johns Hopkins Medicine, Harvard University, NY Academy of Science, University of Pennsylvania, Genentech, and Roche.