The Do's and Don'ts of Social Media Profile Photos

Have you noticed that profile photos are a dime a dozen, until you come across one that stands out for all the wrong reasons? I've heard of many a pet peeve when it comes to social media behaviour, so I polled Facebook and Twitter to get an idea of people's likes and dislikes. Some responses were mild, and some were passionate, but I think we can all agree that first impressions last. So, let's get right to it:

Facebook & Twitter:

How you handle your personal Facebook and Twitter accounts is entirely up to you. Having said that, you're still creating an impression every time you post a new profile photo, so keep these thoughts in mind:

What to do:

  • Represent yourself in a way that you're comfortable with.

  • A natural smile is always nice.

  • Make sure that your photo is properly exposed. Just moving a few steps this way or that can make all the difference.

  • Take photos in the shade when you're photographing outdoors. Photographing people in direct sunlight causes them to squint and it's unflattering.

  • Make sure you use the right resolution when posting online. Photos appear pixellated when the file size is too small, detracting from the image quality.

What not to do:

  • Don't pout, unless that's the look you're going for. There seems to be an overwhelming dislike of pouting among the general adult population. If you're 14, I would say pout away, but duck face doesn't suit everyone, we're not the Kardashians.

  • Don't post nudes or semi-nudes. Your profile photo can be seen by anyone on Facebook, whether your profile is set to private or not. When I see revealing profile photos, I'm always reminded that, while your intentions may not be to entice, there might be someone on your feed whose intentions aren't pure. Just keep this in mind.

  • Don't cut a friend out of the photo. You're leaving us all wondering who got axed, and why they didn't make the grade.

  • You're free to do what you please on your private accounts, but for the love of all that's right in the world, please don't post photos that have been edited to death. You know which ones I'm talking about, right? The photos taken on a white background (good start), with a feather boa around the shoulders (going downhill fast), with no wrinkle or skin texture left to speak of (just no). And just before you ask, none of my Facebook friends are guilty of this, but that doesn't mean I haven't seen it online.

LinkedIn/Professional Facebook and Twitter accounts:

Think of these platforms as online CV's. Colleagues or potential employers will see them, and the impression you create can be the difference between being invited to an interview, or being crossed off the list. Even if you're not looking for employment, keep profile photos on these platforms professional and relevant.

What to do:

  • Use professional photos whenever possible. Professional photographers know how to make you look your best, it's always wise to invest in professional photography if you have the means.

  • Use a head and shoulder photo taken on a white or uncluttered background, especially if you have a corporate position, or are in the market for one.

  • Post industry appropriate photos. You may have a more creative position, in which case you can always use a photo taken of you on the job, like a chef cooking, or an artist painting. This a good way of showing what you do, enticing someone to read your profile.

  • Consider using a photo where your logo is visible in the background, as long as the photo is simple, uncluttered and properly exposed.

  • Smile.

  • Show your whole face, don't crop the photo so that you're unrecognisable.

  • Actually use a photo of you. It's tempting to post your logo, but those who contact you will be connecting with you, not your brand.

What not to do:

  • Don't post photos with your spouse or family, keep it formal.

  • Don't post anything provocative.

  • Don't post anything taken at an event, unless it's taken by a professional photographer. Lighting is usually less than ideal in these situations.

  • Do not hold your chin, or rest your chin in your hand, just a beautiful smile into the lens will do the trick.

  • Don't have your fingers in your mouth (as seen on LinkedIn).

  • Don't wear sunglasses. In fact, photos taken outside don't look as professional as those taken indoors on a plain background.

  • Don't post photos taken with others. How will we identify you?

  • Don't wear a sleeveless top without straps. Once the photo is cropped, it will look like you're naked. Not a good look for a professional site.

  • Don't post wildly edited photos, keep it simple.

  • Don't wear scarves or winter coats, these photos will quickly look dated once summer comes. A shirt and jacket will suffice.

Dating Sites:

The funniest feedback I received was definitely in the area of online dating. A couple of friends have been blindsided by profiles that looked amazing, only to be shocked, horrified or disappointed when the real life version stood before them. Don't be that person. Just be you, there is someone out there who will love all your idiosyncrasies.

What to do:

  • Post more than one photo so that the viewer can get a good idea of what you look like.

  • Post recent photos. '2016 Matthew Perry' and 'Chandler Bing Matthew Perry' will probably appeal to different target markets. 

  • Post photos of you doing activities you love. The exception is drinking, getting your drink on is not the most attractive look.

  • Show both full length and head and shoulder photos.

  • Post photos of you alone. If you do post photos in a crowd, keep it to the minimum. Nobody's got the time to play detective to figure out where you're hiding in the crowd.

  • A friendly smile is always good.

  • Wear a shirt. Topless is tacky. Repeat after me....topless is tacky.

What not to do:

  • Don't post a photo with your wife or girlfriend. You'd be surprised how often this happens. Some photos even feature the wife in her wedding dress. Umm....

  • Guys, don't post photos with your sister or female friends. Girls, don't post a photo with a male friend. How will the viewer know that it's not a romantic relationship?

  • Don't steal photos of celebrities or good looking people instead of using your own. It's misrepresentation, and that's not a good starting point.

  • Don't post photos of anything that's not you. This includes cars or memes or sunsets.

  • Guys, we know you're proud of that giant fish you caught, but most girls probably won't be too impressed. Use it, don't use it.

  • If you've gained weight, post recent photos, there are partners for every shape and size, but being blindsided isn't fun.

  • Don't post sexually suggestive photos.

  • If you want to post a photo with your child, perhaps consider posting one where you can't see the child's face. Protect their identity, it's just safer that way.

What have you seen that's caught your attention lately? What are your likes and dislikes? You're welcome to comment below.

Till next time,