First impressions are important.
There’s no second chance to make a first impression. Our online profiles often introduce us to the world. Getting the best profile photos helps shape that introduction, coloring people’s perceptions in subtle ways.
How much does your profile photo really matter? What are the qualities of a successful avatar?
Let’s take a look at some successful profile photos to determine what works and what doesn’t.
Why Profile Photos Matter
The Social Butterfly Guy’s DJ Waldow was extensively job hunting a few years back. Thousands of people were seeing his online portfolio as he launched a new venture, #ProjectAwesome. Some of this new audience would send him some unsolicited advice about his profile pics.
A Twitter user named Alex Kaufman suggested Waldow’s profile photos were too active and intense. Waldow thanked him for his input but didn’t change his avatar. It did get his wheels turning, however.
DJ Waldow turned to his Facebook followers to get their take on profile photos. He was seeking to understand why some folks use avatars that are more than just a headshot. The answers were surprising.
Profile Photos Are Your Personal Brand’s Identity
The first insight into why profile photos matter comes from DJ Waldow himself. He thanked his users for their insights but ultimately didn’t follow their suggestions.
As Waldow puts it on his reflection on profile photos, “your profile picture represents who you are, what you stand for, what’s important to you.”
We are often marketing ourselves just as much as any product or service. Your profile photo can be so much more than just another selfie. They often need to be.
A Profile Photo Show Who You Are
Many of the respondents to DJ Waldow’s respondents talked about why they chose to use a non-conventional avatar. Some saw their family as being an important part of themselves.
Others expressed insecurities about their appearance. Finally, some weighed in on some of their pet peeves, which includes people using avatars and pictures of their kids for their profiles.
DJ Waldow’s own answer puts it best. When Alex Kaufman told him to tone it down a bit, Waldow didn’t agree. His personal brand involves being high-energy and full of passion. His profile photo reflects that.
Profile Photos Show You Are Who You Say You Are
DJ Waldow’s study also reveals some of the potential shortcomings of using an unconventional profile photo. If you’re using your avatar for your resume or dating site, your profile pics need to be recognizable.
In a post on why profile photos matter for job-seekers, Huffington Post author Susan P. Joyce talks about a few misconceptions about online portfolios. Some were resistant to posting personal pictures for their profiles to avoid discrimination. This just leads to a different kind of discrimination.
Not having a profile photo is a sign of an illicit or unofficial account. In this era of fake profiles, having a quality profile picture helps verify you as a real human being.
Your Profile Photo Increases Recognizability
If you’re using your online profile for professional purposes, it pays for people to be able to find you.
Having a quality profile pic means your colleagues will be able to pick you out of a crowd at industry events. If you’ve met in real life, they’ll be able to match you to your online portfolio.
The same goes for former colleagues. There are lots of people with the same names. Matching your profile pic with a recognizable photo shows you’re the real you. This can lead to job opportunities down the line.
Creates A Cohesive Brand Identity
When we’re working in the digital world, we are more than just a person. We become a brand. Like any brand, a cohesive online brand identity becomes important.
You likely have more than one social media account. Having a recognizable profile photo means that people will be able to find all of your channels and connect with them.
A Good Profile Photo Is Appealing
LinkedIn accounts with a profile photo are seven times more likely to be clicked than those without. They are inherently more trustworthy and verifiable than anonymous-looking profiles.
Having a candid profile photo shows you have nothing to hide. It broadcasts trustworthiness and authority. These are very attractive traits in a new hire.
Tips For Taking A Good Profile Photo
Think of your online resume as your business card. Or a calling card, if you’re old-fashioned. A good profile photo can open doors, either way.
Find A Photographer
It’s best to avoid taking a selfie for your profile if it can be avoided. It’s hard to get the right angles and lighting without being able to see the viewfinder.
You can find a friend or family member to take a flattering photo. Or you can find a professional photographer in your area. Try and find someone you’ll be comfortable working with. They will help you to feel relaxed and like yourself.
A professional appearance broadcasts authority. There’s more than one definition of professional, however. Your profile pic is essentially your personal brand’s logo. Make sure it enhances your brand identity.
If you’re offering office services, a shirt and tie or nice blouse will do. If you’re a pit mechanic for stock car racing, however, you may need something more high octane.
Strike A Pose
Photos tell a story about who we are. They often broadcast subtle things about our personalities. These can be drawn out with different poses and camera angles.
A top-down angle will make you seem slightly innocent and playful. A picture taken from below transmits a commanding, powerful presence.
These are just a few ways that your profile photo matters. Our online presence is often our first impression, so best to make it count! A great profile photo is your chance to show the world who you really are.