Your profile picture is the first impression you make on the world and the one you choose really says a lot about you whether you realize it or not. I’ve been spending a lot of time on social networking websites lately, like Facebook and Twitter, and I’ve noticed a few things when it comes to profile pictures.

If you’re on Facebook for the sole purpose of connecting with family and friends, then your main concern should be whether others can recognize you in your photos.

However, if you are on Facebook for business reasons, there are many other factors to consider. Your profile photo establishes how people perceive you, so you should always keep that in mind when deciding which profile photo to upload.

1) The photo smiling directly at the camera: I start the list with my absolute favorite profile picture. When a person seems to be looking directly at you while smiling, it says a lot. This type of photo leads people to believe that you are confident, outgoing, and happy. It makes people feel like they can connect with you and even more than that, it makes people want to connect with you.

2) The photo of a random body part: Whether it’s your hair, ears, legs, or feet, photos of a particular body part can mean a few different things. Either you have REALLY amazing toes, your face isn’t that attractive, or maybe you just like to be mysterious. Either way, know that when a person can’t see their real face, they’ll wonder why.

3) The embarrassing image: Thankfully I don’t see this too often, but every time I do I am always speechless. The embarrassing photo is the one that literally makes you feel ashamed for the person every time you see it. This is the profile picture that makes you wonder, “WHY would they post this?” Having an embarrassing photo as your main profile photo makes people question your common sense and sanity.

4) The photo of a celebrity: I’m always curious why someone would choose to use a celebrity profile picture over a picture of themselves. Do they actually like that person SO MUCH that they give up their right to show the world what they look like or is it just that they want people to somehow associate them with that particular celebrity? I get it on Doppelganger week, but using a celebrity as your main profile photo at any other time is weird and a little creepy.

5) The Random Photo: We have ALL seen this. The profile picture that’s of something completely random, like a cartoon or a pair of striped gym socks, that you don’t even know what to say about it. Having a random photo as your default image leaves people wondering what to make of you.

6) Company logo: When a person uses your company logo as their main profile picture, it probably means that the main reason they are a member of that particular social community is to network and with other professionals. However, if you’re just trying to network, it’s always a good idea to allow people to put a face to your business name. So taking professional photos and uploading them to Facebook is definitely not the worst idea if your goal is to look professional and make connections.

7) The photo of your children: Choosing to set your main profile photo as one of your children instead of yourself shows that you’re on Facebook to connect with family and friends more than anything else. If this is not the case, you should save family portraits for Christmas cards and photo albums, and instead upload a photo that shows who you are.

9) The random photo of the dog/cat/fish/other pet: This, to me, is the absolute worst. It’s okay to love your pet, but ONLY posting photos of your four dogs makes you look like you don’t have much life. Yes, photos of your cats sleeping on your bed and your birds eating ice cream are extremely cute, but they’re not exactly the best profile photos. Choose a profile photo that shows your best side, not your animals.

10) The mysterious profile picture: The default mysterious image is the one that only shows half of your face, thus making you look somewhat mysterious. Setting a mystery photo as your main image usually makes people curious to find out more about you.

11) The photo where other people are clearly cut out: We’ve all seen the poorly cropped photos that only show the missing person’s hand or shoulder. I always feel bad for the person cut out of the photo because even though you took the time to take a photo with them, you also took the time to crop it out, which is saying a lot. Photos that exclude other people make the world wonder what the story behind the photo is. Is the clipped person an ex-lover? A former friend? Who is the missing person?

Other things to consider when choosing a profile photo:

1) Alcohol: Photos that contain alcohol, even if it’s ‘just a beer’, will make people see you as less than professional. If you’re not trying to be professional, upload a photo of you and your friends taking photos or playing beer pong. But if you want to establish a somewhat professional online presence, definitely steer clear of photos that contain alcohol or look like they were taken in a club.

2) Skin: The amount of skin you show in your profile picture really says a lot about you. A little chest or leg never hurt anyone but guy– Posting pictures of yourselves in the bathroom mirror, shirtless is SO MySpace and it really needs to stop. AND girls– Those pictures of you in a bathing suit or worse still, in a bra, don’t say much about you other than that you’re willing to let complete strangers see you almost naked. He usually seems pretty desperate and is definitely not professional. Is that the impression you want to give to the world? Think about that before posting.

3) What kind of faces are you making? The attitude that you are presenting to the world is also a very important factor to consider. You’re smiling? Are you looking the other way? Are you making a kissy face? Are you telling the world to go to hell? what you really are doing in your main profile photo says a lot about you, so be sure to keep that in mind when uploading a new profile photo.

The bottom line:

Your profile picture on social networking websites is an introduction to the world. Think about the main reasons why you are on Facebook, Twitter or any other social community and then choose your profile picture accordingly.

What category do you fall into?! If you’re not sure, leave a comment with your Facebook link and I’ll tell you what I think your profile picture says about you. 🙂

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