No matter how much quality information or witty repartee we send out into our social networks, first impressions are almost always visual. It doesnâ€™t take a rocket scientist to understand that the first thing we see when checking out a new Twitter () follower, Facebook () friend, or LinkedIn () connection is a profile photo. And in a world of quick clicks and divergent attention, if the photo you present isnâ€™t eye-catching, or illustrative of your personal brand, you may miss your shot at making a positive first impression.
We asked social design experts for their take on what makes for a killer profile pic, and theyâ€™ve provided some strategies on implementing your personal brand, and a few tools for snazzing up that boring Facebook self-shot youâ€™ve been clinging to.
1. Start With a Quality Photo
This may seem obvious, but weâ€™ve all come across countless social profiles with blurry, dark, or low-res images. When your initial photo is inadequate, thereâ€™s no amount of post production or digital magic that can bring it up to snuff.
â€œIf there is one element that lets so many profile images down, itâ€™s a lack of sharpness,â€ said Grace Smith, owner of Postscript5, a micro-design studio based in Northern Ireland. â€œOf course now there are numerous Sharpening Photoshop Actions, but in order to cut down the amount of work in Photoshop, itâ€™s best to adhere to a few simple tips. Namely, use a tripod to avoid camera shake, shoot in continuous mode for more challenging conditions, try to invest in good quality lenses, and aim for a low ISO [image sensitivity] to keep the amount of noise low.â€
Smith cites the Digital Photography School website as a great resource for learning how to capture better digital images.
2. Be Consistent
A rule of thumb touched on by many is consistency. Because followers and friends will be looking out for your face first, itâ€™s important that once you find a photo that works, stick with it.
â€œDonâ€™t change it every few days. Donâ€™t even change it every month,â€ said Chris Coyier, web designer and curator of CSS-Tricks. â€œMake one, do a good job, and leave it alone for a long time. Peopleâ€™s attention is split a million different ways these days, and you only get a split second to try and make an impression and forge a connection. Consistency makes that easier.â€
This may be especially true for Twitter, where networks tend to go beyond personal friends and family.
â€œYour Twitter profile is your personal brand and with any brand, consistency is key,â€ said web designer and illustrator Brad Colbow. â€œWhen you market yourself, your avatar becomes your logo. It will be seen on Twitter, Ning networks, Flickr (), and in blog comments, everywhere.â€
3. Be Conscious of Formats and Dimensions
Social networks often play by different rules when it comes to images. If you plan to look your best on all your networks, you should brush up on some of the technical requirements of your profile pictures.
â€œTo ensure that you maintain a consistent and professional brand identity in various social media/networking sites, you should rescale your avatar in a graphics editor like Photoshop or GIMP (),â€ said Jacob Gube, chief editor of the design blog Six Revisions. â€œIf you upload a file that is too big or too small, the site might render your avatar in ways you might not expect. For example, on Twitterâ€™s profile pages, the standard size is 73 by 73 pixels, while on Digg (), your profile pageâ€™s avatar size is 120 by 120 pixels.â€
The ideal image dimensions are not always apparent on every network, but Gube offers a trick for discovering them. â€œIn Firefox (), what you can do is to navigate to someoneâ€™s profile page, right-click on the avatar, and choose â€œView Image Info,â€ which will display details about that image, including the dimensions of it.â€
Another great post from the masters at Mashable.