Best Profile Photos to Increase Followers

Smile for the Birdy

Smile for the Birdy

Recently I was asked on Twitter by Richard Mackney, Creative Director of Fish Media, whether I had any information on the effects of changing your avatar (profile photo) on social media sites.

It’s not something I had looked at in depth but always up for a challenge I had a look to see what I could find.

Now I don’t have the resources to run any research myself so I had a dig around online. There is quite a lot of discussion on profile pictures or photos and their effects.

Most though was subjective, fact and hard data was more difficult to find.

Hubspot was the first place I came across useful information. According to a study they carried out on over 9 million Twitter accounts they found that those with profile pictures had an average of over 250 followers. Those accounts without profile pictures averaged just 25 followers.

9 million Twitter profiles to produce this graph

9 million Twitter profiles to produce this graph

Now there is some tempering to be done to this data, in that a lot of abandoned accounts will have less followers and therefore lack a profile photo. Whilst regularly updated accounts, more proactively used, will have a tendency to have a profile photo.

Though it makes sense that if you are taking your presence online seriously you will want to represent it professionally which will nearly always mean with a custom image of some sort. Which brings us to the question what type of image should be?

Company logo or personal photo?

I couldn’t find any hard stats but general opinion seems to be that if the account is about your company or brand then use a company logo. If it is about you, professionally or personally then use a photo of you.

Dating sites may hold the answer

As with many new market sectors on the Internet we often have to look at more long standing sectors for insights into what does and doesn’t work well. Social Media is too young an industry to draw many conclusions from, the dating industry though, is not only a lot older but relies an enormous amount on imagery for it’s clients success.

In a survey by DatePro, unsurprisingly 61% of those asked said that the profile image was the main part of a persons profile they looked at.

The OKCupid dating site had some of the more pertinent research from a survey of 7000 user accounts.

As it was a dating site the research was focused on men’s reaction to women’s profile photos and vice versa. The reaction by both sexes differed quite significantly.

New contacts gained in a month

For Women: A flirty attitude away from the camera was the worse performing in terms of new monthly contacts. Whilst a flirty attitude or a smiling face toward the camera produced the best results.

Effect of Woman's Facial Attitude

Effect of Woman's Facial Attitude

For Men: A non-smiling, facing away from the camera profile picture producing more contacts by a long way. A flirty attitude for men is a definite no.

Effect of Man's Facial Attitude

Effect of Man's Facial Attitude

Showing your face not a requirement

I was very surprised at this result, as were those who produced the survey and they performed even deeper research to ensure the results were correct.

Subject Matter: Whether you show your face or not produced very similar results. As long as the resulting photo was intriguing there was little difference in numbers of new contacts an account gained on a monthly basis.

Showing Your Face

Showing Your Face

So if you want to attract more followers on Twitter, fans on Facebook or connections on LinkedIn, “smile for the birdy” ladies, gents please look away and if you’re camera shy, it may not matter much!

Would love to here your views on this in the comments below.

About Sean Clark

With over 14 years' experience of building successful online companies, we help you market your business online. Whether you need help with Search Engine Optimisation (SEO), Paid Search (PPC) or Social Media Marketing call us today on 01379 330330 for a free initial consultation.

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  • http://richard.mackney.com Richard Mackney

    Some great insights Sean and It’s nice to see what followers may prefer – Thanks for this.

    Over the years I have changed about three times and am wondering about changing again. My main thoughts/concerns are over the impact of the change – will a totally different avatar mean that you may get missed in the timeline?

    I was thinking how you could change the avatar but keep the same overall colours and amount of zoom on the face – basically change the expression without loosing the current brand recognition? It would also need to be rolled out to every platform you use to keep it uniform (using Gravatar helps massively).

    I did a quick study here: http://richard.mackney.com/pushing-the-brand

    What would be really good, is a study on how followers change after a re-brand. Loss of followers or loss of reach (RT’s etc).

    I notice that some people change every few months and some have never changed their avatar once.

    Rich

  • http://seanclark.com Sean Clark

    @richardmackney:disqus To measure the impact all the other variables have to stay the same so a bit difficult to asses real-time. Anecdotally, I changed my Twitter photo about 18 months ago and someone commented they missed my Tweets because of it.

    I did come across this interesting stat, but it didn’t fit the rest of the research: 

    “…the average Facebook user will change their profile photo 18 times this year” http://www.allfacebook.com/how-often-facebook-users-change-their-photo-infographic-2011-05

    As Social Media plays a greater part in business and ultimately profits we are sure to see all types of usability studies like these.

  • http://seanclark.com Sean Clark

    @richardmackney:disqus To measure the impact all the other variables have to stay the same so a bit difficult to asses real-time. Anecdotally, I changed my Twitter photo about 18 months ago and someone commented they missed my Tweets because of it.

    I did come across this interesting stat, but it didn’t fit the rest of the research: 

    “…the average Facebook user will change their profile photo 18 times this year” http://www.allfacebook.com/how-often-facebook-users-change-their-photo-infographic-2011-05

    As Social Media plays a greater part in business and ultimately profits we are sure to see all types of usability studies like these.

  • http://www.careerwindowonline.com Dumontowen

    Sean, great comments.  I have encounterd the different reactions to nonverbal expressions between women and men.  Thanks for an observant article.

  • http://seanclark.com Sean Clark

    @f9275f6eb49b5566bac6ce35ed5311fe:disqus Body language can play a key part in interactions between people; profile pictures are the online equivalent of body language.