In a previous post I talk about tips and tactics for helping to make a good first impression. That got me thinking. In our crazy, social network driven culture, what does our profile picture (Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, Google+, Twitter, etc.) say about us and are we making a good “virtual” first impression? You can’t deny it, everyone, including myself, has a tiny obsession with how we look online. Mine started nearly a decade ago when I signed up for my MySpace account. It doesn’t stop there, I’ve been known to untag a few particularly unflattering Facebook photos of myself from time to time. No one needs to see those photos from Atlantic City where we danced onstage alongside a relatively obscure 80’s cover band! Turns out, paying close attention to your virtual identity isn’t vain, it’s kind of a big deal.
I just read an article the other day on this subject. Researchers from Princeton and Columbia University are actually studying the profile picture phenomenon. In their study, 800 participants were instructed to record their instinctual reactions to a series of straight-on headshots of 20 individuals making a number of expressions. Researchers found that participants developed completely different opinions of each person depending upon the specific expression they had on their face in a particular photo. [Side note: again, another reason to be aware of your BRF!] What’s more is the respondents reactions changed when they were told how the picture would be used (i.e. different photos were preferred for a Tinder profile pic, versus a campaign photo for a potential politico…duh, obvi!).
In the end, this isn’t earth-shattering new stuff. Moral of the story, choose your profile pic wisely and monitor your virtual presence. Here’s a great article from the WSJ with some things to keep in mind when selecting your LinkedIn profile picture – a completely different beast than your other “personal” social networks.