Social Media Profile Photos – Why You Need One

Putting your best face forward: Your profile picture

In the media relations world we are always working with clients to enhance their images and grow their brands.  Today over a billion people are online using social media, blogs and websites.  All of these sites allow users to publish images of themselves and others.  Image is everything and it starts with the photos of yourself that you use online.  A recent Wall Street Journal article citing LinkedIn research showed that LinkedIn profiles are seven times more likely to be viewed if they have a photo than those that do not have one.

It is clear that profile photos get attention.  A Pixable analysis of 500,000 Facebook profile pics showed that the average shot receives 3 likes and 2 comments.  In addition, EyeTrackShop, a startup that runs eye-tracking studies for advertisers, conducted a study of popular social networks that recorded participant’s eye movements to see what they looked at on each page and in what order.  The study found that profile photos attracted the most attention on Klout, Facebook and StumbleUpon.

For many people being online is an integral part of their social lives as well as their professional lives.  Image matters in both of these worlds.  Your profile picture should project a positive image of you.  When promoting any brand or product a quality photo is important.  Brand recognition is achieved when images and logos are used repeatedly in different context.

Your profile photo is used to project who you are.  This image is one of the most important building blocks of any social media profile or online personal branding effort.  The profile picture is frequently the first image people see when they look at your profile or search for you online.  Your photo is an integral part of the first impression you make to people in the cyber world.  Your online photo is your identity it allows people to recognize you (cyber world and later in the real world), and fortunately or unfortunately provides people with their first opportunity to make judgments about who your are and your professionalism or lack thereof.  Image and appearance matter now more than ever.

On the most basic level, you must have a profile photo on each of your accounts.  Without a picture you have no identity.  From a business relationship-building perspective not having a photo limits the ability to build trust between parties online.

Social media experts, marketers and recruiters agree that not having a profile picture is self-defeating.  People are less likely to connect to you if you do not have a photo because they: (1) are not sure if you are the right person (who they may know in the real world); (2) think you are a newbie and not ready or worthy to connect to; (3) question your commitment, (an incomplete profile may mean that you will not or do not check your social media accounts often); and (4) are not sure if they can trust you. Additional reasons why you should have a photo on LinkedIn are included in this article from Executive Career Brand.  Lack of having a photo on LinkedIn prevents the user from reaching 100 percent of their profile. This is detrimental when it comes to searches of profiles.

Image recommendations if you use social media for business or personal branding

  1. Use your own photo – Don’t use photos of celebrities or others in your place.
  2. Use a quality image (not overly “photo shopped” or enhanced).
  3. Crop the image to allow people to see your head and part of your neck and shoulders.  Anything more than your “headshot” makes the profile image appear small and hard to see.  Use other images of yourself in photo galleries or other places on your sites.
  4. Use an updated photo (within the past few years).  It’s ok to change your photo.  When images are changed it shows up in your stream or wall.  The advantage to this is people may want to see your new image and visit your page. The disadvantage is that people will not recognize your new image.
  5. No sunglasses – People are less likely to trust you if they can’t see your eyes.
  6. Funny image – A humorous image can be used, but remember you have to live with this image and the possibility of it being reused or shared by others.
  7. If you use a cartoon or other image it should be recognizable and part of your overall branding and marketing.

From a business perspective your online profile image should help you improve your networking.  People should be able to recognize you in person from the image that they see online.  How great is it when people you have never met know who you are because of the social networking you have done?   This alone makes having the right image online exceedingly valuable.


Executive Career Brand: Does My LinkedIn profile really need a photo?

Wall Street Journal article citing LinkedIn research

Pixable analysis of 500,000 Facebook profile pics




  1. Thanks Bill, good suggestions. I can never understand why people leave their photo out on social media. I agree that it creates a void and inevitably a negative void (or is that redundant). Anyway, very important and valuable points. Happy New Year and welcome to the group.

  2. So now why do I get a quilt icon with my comment and not my picture. Does anyone know how to fix that so my picture is there?

  3. Greetings – I appreciate the chance to leave a comment on your website. I like discovering excellent material associated with Online marketing, Search engine optimization, and related ideas because there’s too much inadequate information being circulated lately. I honestly think that such areas like mobile, offline/local business, and social networking are highly increasing segments and to underestimate them is to assure that a business (both the client’s and our own) will fall behind their rivals within the next year. When was the last time anyone opened a telephone book to search for a product or service? It’s all on the net now, and especially with the younger 19-34 market you can see this on a high growth curve. Again, thank you and keep up the good work on your site.
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  4. Useful information, thanks for sharing.
    Although it requires some dollars, I use a professional photographer for my profile images.

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