Social media profile picture best practices.

Your profile picture is an essential factor in creating a mind-share with prospects and building your followers, and it is one of the first things a viewer sees when visiting your pages.

Many people will draw conclusions about you and your brands in seconds. Use the following best practices to give your profile a leg up over your competition and allow your brand to put its best foot forward.

(1) What kind of image should I use?

That depends on what industry you are in and if you are the brand. For instance, service providers like consultants, lawyers, real estate agents, etc., should use a headshot. At the same time, companies should use their logo, avatar, or significant brand elements.

Consultants & Service Providers:
It can be natural to want to put a picture of your avatar, photos with your friends and colleagues, or other images, but don’t. Be as professional as possible and use a headshot.

Best practices when creating your headshot pic:
– Smile with teeth.
– Dark-colored suits, light-colored button-downs.
– Jawline with a shadow.
– Head-and-shoulders or head-to-waist photo.
– Squinch.
– Asymmetrical composition.
– Unobstructed eyes.
– Make sure the background isn’t busy or complicated.

And things to avoid:
– Hats
– Sunglasses
– Hair, glare, and shadows over the eyes
– Laughing smile
– Sexiness

For those that want to go deep into the science, research, and psychology behind some of these recommendations, check this study from the Department of Psychology at York: http://www.pnas.org/content/111/32/E3353.full.pdf

Companies or Brands:
Using your logo is the most recommended option, as viewers should be able to associate your profile picture with your brand in their feeds. For some brands using your mascot or avatar can work. However, stay away from using an image of your store-front, products, etc. Ask yourself, “Does this image tell a user who we are, and will this image create brand recognition over time?”.

(2) Prepare the image to look great everywhere.

Every social network has its unique guidelines and dimensions for the profile picture. You can find links below to each network help article for exact specifics.

You don’t need to create a separate version of your profile picture for each network. They all use a Square ratio of 1:1, so if you crop your profile picture too, let’s say, 1080×1080 pixels, that one image should work perfectly on all social networks. If you want to use one image everywhere, don’t go lower than 400×400 pixels. 

Remember, this image, in most cases, will be seen on mobile devices and can be cropped into a circle by a social network. So it’s important you have spacing/padding around your logo or headshot, so your logo/face does not get cut off or look stuffed into the page’s profile picture.

To keep your images looking blurry, make sure to use the correct square size as mentioned above and set up your image using a higher resolution image type like PNG file format.


Taking the time to think through this element of your social page and put your best foot forward will go a long way into creating brand recognition and building your following on social media.