5 Mistakes to Avoid When Picking Your Social-Media Profile Photo

The photos we post online of ourselves are an important opportunity for creating a first impression. Your selection deserves more effort than a recent selfie.

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By Christina Baldassarre • Jan 21, 2015

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Profile avatars grace the profiles and pages of countless social media networks and are constantly interpreted by others - whether we want it or not. According to Psychology Today, minimalistic changes in headshots of the same person, such as the direction of the eyes, alters the first impression as much as the looking at photos of different people.

Being aware of what is perceived positively on social media is key to a successful personal brand. Here are five ways your social media profile avatars might be holding you back and what to do about it.

1. You have the same profile photo everywhere.

There are countless articles recommending to have the same profile photo on all social networks to be easier to recognize. At the same time, Facebook and Twitter are hardly ever used the same way, people who are on Tumblr might not be on Pinterest, and what you share on Instagram likely differs from what you share on LinkedIn.

Related: Projecting a Professional Image on LinkedIn

2. You only have one professional photo.

Most entrepreneurs and business professionals have a full schedule and have only one current professional photo. If that sounds familiar, consider using photo effects to adapt the same photo to different networks.

Picmonkey is a popular photo editor that allows users to add filters and overlays among other things.

3. You did not pay attention to your hair.

While the first impression is most impacted by the direction of the eyes and the smile, hair is the third most important thing both men and women look at when judging a profile photo according to psychologist Vivian Diller, Ph.D. The former model adds that commercial photo shoots frequently feature "wind-swept" hair to suggest a natural look, vitality and movement. These three factors dramatically increase approachability and confidence, which are the two factors that make profile pictures most popular on social networks across the web.

Who thinks that the importance of hair styles only matters to women is mistaken. Hair also impacts the way men are perceived. Shiny hair gel or spray can come across too polished and off-putting. Additionally, men frequently choose a photo that they feel represents masculinity, which more often than not translates into strong color contrasts between the hair and the photo background. Strong contrasts are not appealing to look at and can be perceived as arrogant and self-centered.

Related: How to Build a Strong Social-Media Presence

4. You never got feedback.

Most people neglect to get objective feedback on their profile avatars because they do not have anyone to ask. This is ironic because the only reason to choose one profile photo over another is the way it is perceived. Therefore, to never ask how it is perceived would be like starting a long-term promotion out of the blue without knowing whether the promotion is relevant to the potential customers.

LinkedIn groups are an effective way to get feedback instantly from professionals similar to you. Ideally, the groups are presented with the task of making a choice which profile photo they prefer out of two or three you submit. This way, it does not come across insecure and still retrieves the needed information.

5. You only use your profile photo as an avatar.

Ideally, there should be several variations of the profile photo that is most used. The different angles are useful for brochures, flyers, social media headers and other marketing material and contribute to a cohesive look and increased brand awareness.

One size does not fit all social media profile photos. Different audiences do not find the same photo appealing and the lack of customization can impact the bottom line. Adapting the same profile avatar with photo effects is a quick and cost effective solution for busy professionals across the board and increase approachability.

Related: I'll Have My Avatar Call Your Avatar

Christina Baldassarre

Entrepreneur, Blogger & Social Media Branding Consultant

Christina Baldassarre is a German writer and branding consultant as seen on the Forbes 30 Under 30 List 2018. Christina helps brands and influencers reach their target audiences and increase sales with effective social media strategies, impactful branding and converting content.

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