Why Your Twitter Profile Picture is More Important Than You Thought

It’s Twitter Tuesday, and my study of good Twitter profile pictures has yielded some blog-post-worthy results. But first, a question:

If a tweet falls in the forest, will anyone read it?

You’re churning out 140 characters of brilliant headlines and observations. You’re promoting great content through links. You’re participating in relevant hash tags. And you’re not getting the response you hoped for.

You might think that getting more followers will be enough to get your tweets read. That helps. But that’s like sitting in the nosebleed section of a hockey game–sure, you still get to watch grown men fight, but the t-shirt gun will never reach you.

So what’s standing in the way of you and that over-sized cotton tee?

Your Twitter profile picture

orange Twitter egg

Look familiar? When you create a Twitter account, this egg will pop up as your avatar.

An egg. With a color background (randomly selected).

Isn’t that nice?

If you haven’t changed your avatar since joining Twitter, please do. When active Twitter users see an egg in their feed, it’s a clear sign that the user is blindly driving through Twitter traffic (while texting and doing their makeup).

BUT the egg is doing one thing better than most Twitter avatars.

It’s bright orange! How can you not see that?

Yes, seasoned Twitter pros know that users sporting the egg aren’t big tweeters, but there is still a lesson to be learned here.

Make your Twitter avatar POP

Do you think anyone has trouble noticing Rob Delaney’s tweets?
Probably not. His 320k followers found him somehow.

Delaney is a comedian that has risen to significant fame with Twitter. The popularity of his Twitter feed has even landed him a television show.

So is Rob Delaney so popular because of his bold profile picture?

Not quite. Delaney delivers incredible content on Twitter. His jokes are amazing. He links to more amazing comedy content. He promotes others in his niche and responds to fans. He’s doing Twitter right, and that speedo just ensures that all eyes are on him from the start (or at least part of him).

Delaney wrote in his Vice magazine column that he selected the worst possible picture of himself he could find when he started his Twitter account, a picture a friend took at the beach after saying, “You look awful, let me take a picture.”

Well, it worked.

Go buy a speedo to be good at Twitter

That’s not what I’m saying.

But your Twitter profile picture should be original and attention-grabbing, like Delaney’s. How about a colorful background? An unusual object? A weird facial expression?

Size matters

Oh. That’s not so great. It’s just a bland mess. Nothing in there grabs your attention or tells you who is tweeting.

Update: American Apparel read my article and changed their profile picture. (They also changed it again later)


Quite a bit better. The hands help it stand out in a sea of faces. The red lipstick awakens something in me that I should probably keep to myself.

American Apparel is now passing my Twitter profile picture class with a solid B.

Kris Jenner of Kardashian fame has a similar problem in her profile picture. Uh, what does the text say in that image? If it’s too small to read, get rid of it. Twitter avatars are only 48px square. It’s tough to be clear and bold in such a tiny window.

How about making your image stand out with a white background like Portent’s CEO Ian Lurie?

Taco Bell uses their iconic bell image with a colorful background to become visible on Twitter. No brand name necessary. It’s right there next to the picture anyway.

Update: Taco Bell switched from their excellent and engaging purple and red profile image to a bland black and white one with nothing going on. What a shame.

What I did


There I am! @jackthemartin.

The bright green background makes it easy to locate my tweets in a busy feed. For good measure, the Clint Eastwood-like stare lets my followers know I mean business.

What have you come up with that will make the scanning masses of tweeters stop and notice? Have you seen any other great profile pictures on Twitter?

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