How to Choose a Social Media Profile Picture

Learn how to create a social media avatar and how different styles can impact your professional image.

Aliza Sherman
4-minute read
Episode #64


Hi there, The Digital Marketer here, ready to help you put the power of the Internet and technology to work for your business.

I'm always thinking about how I can make the image in my social media profiles better reflect who I am. These images -- also known as avatars or icons -- are micro-pictures and graphics. Your avatar is often the first visual image others see of you and selecting a good one can present a challenge. After all, your avatar is a chance to show others what you want them to know about you.

What Should Your Social Media Profile Picture Be?

I tend to use a photograph of myself as the image in most of my social media profiles. I don't always use the same photo across all the sites because I like to choose an image that is not only representative of who I am but also appropriate for each site. Still, for convenience, I tend to use a basic profile image when I first sign up, then later as I fill out and then update the profile on a site, I'll switch out the image to something more current or more relevant.

Avatars Are Your First Impression

Why so much thought about social media avatars? Because if you are engaging in social networking for your business, it's important to be strategic about the avatar you use. Some things I ask myself include:

If I use a photo, is the image clear and projecting the right attitude to build my brand and credibility?

If I use a cartoon of myself, is it in keeping with my brand values and does it enhance -- or hinder -- trust?

If I use an illustration such as my company logo, is it lacking a human face or limiting me to purely company-related interactions? Or is that the point?

You might ask how many avatars should one even have? Some people are of the mind that you should have a single avatar and use it across all networks. That can be a good strategy if a particular image is the quintessential representation of you. However, most of us don't have a single side to us and most networks have their own "personalities." You should consider these dynamics when selecting the right avatar for each profile.

How Often Should You Change Your Profile Picture?

How often should you change your avatar? I think updating your profile images can tie into how often you update your social media profiles, but I'd argue you should be more strategic about image changes. For example, replacing your avatar could be event-related -- such as a pink ribbon for Breast Cancer Awareness Month -- but only if there is a relevant or appropriate tie-in to your professional side or business. In some social networking circles, you can become well-known for your profile image and switching it out too often could create confusion.

I'm not saying never change your profile image. Just pause for a moment and think about the impact of switching your avatar before you do.

6 Tools to Create a Good Social Media Profile Picture

Here are six tools you can use to optimize, embellish or otherwise create your social media avatar. Don't forget to check the Digital Marketer web site for all the links.

1. Piknic - If you're looking to manipulate an image with ease without additional software, check out the features on Piknic.com including sepia tone and other interesting tools.

2. Yahoo Avatars - Put together a cartoon version of yourself with additional accessories and backgrounds on this site. The images are a bit more sophisticated than some of the other cartoon avatar creation tools.

3. Shrink Pictures - If you need some quick sizing of an image, try the Shrink Pictures tool. They not only size your image down (and you can input the new size you want), but they also change it into a square and give you several different cropping options so you get the right part of the photo into the tiny image.

4. Meez - You can create a more three dimensional avatar on this 3-D gaming site and then take a screenshot of it and use it on your profiles.

5. Second Life - I love my Second Life avatar, but it was designed by an artist. If you want to create an avatar image using Second Life, make sure it's not only reflective of you but also of a more sophisticated avatar than the default version or a do-it-yourself version, particularly if you don't have strong design skills. You should be able hire someone to create a great Second Life avatar at an affordable price.

6. Gravatar - This site helps you easily manage your avatar at all of the sites and blogs that integrate the Gravatar tool. Use Gravatar to upload any avatar images of your choice. Then when you are setting up a social network profile and they provide a link to Gravatar, you can easily choose from your images for convenience and consistency.

Bottom Line: Thinking more strategically about your social media avatar can make the difference between building and enhancing your image or making the wrong impression. The image you use in your profile can speak so much louder than words.

Contact Me

That's all we have time for today. Visit the show’s website at digitalmarketer.quickanddirtytips.com for links to all of the sites mentioned in the show plus I've thrown in a few extras. If you'd like to ask a question or request a topic for The Digital Marketer, email me at digitalmarketer@quickanddirtytips.com or leave a message by calling 206-339-6279.

The Digital Marketer's Quick and Dirty Tips for Building Your Business With Web Tools is part of the Quick and Dirty Tips network at quickanddirtytips.com.

Tune in for another business boost from The Digital Marketer, the host who's not afraid to go under the Internet's hood & get a little dirty!


1. Shrink Avatar - http://www.shrinkpictures.com/create-avatar/

2. Second Life - http://www.secondlife.com

3. Yahoo Avatars -  http://avatars.yahoo.com

4. Meez - http://www.meez.com

5. Piknic - http://www.piknic.com

6. Gravatar - http://www.gravatar.com

7. DoppelMe - http://www.doppelme.com

8. FaceYourManga - http://www.faceyourmanga.com

9. Twibbon - http://twibbon.com/

Online Community image courtesy of Shutterstock