How to get people to upload a profile image…

Hey social media expert types, here’s a little tip from your friends at 12seconds about profile images. If you’re creating a social network or other social application that allows the user the ability to upload a personal profile image, make sure that the default image is as stupid as possible. Many sites still try to make their default icons generic or even attractive. Many people like the brown twitter icon for instance. Others become apathetic when they see some boring grey box with a simple face or emoticon, such as what Yahoo uses.

The 12seconds default profile image is stupid. It is actually a photo of me (Beach) when I was about 16. I made it black and white and slapped a 12 on top. Who wants that guy as your profile image? That’s right no one.

A little story about this image. It was 1986 or something. I was living in Santa Cruz, but going to high school in Aptos, which is a little south of Santa Cruz. Aptos High was having their annual “Kowabunga Beach Ball” dance. You see, Aptos, like Santa Cruz, is a beach town. Because of this, we have to endure clever ideas such as calling a dance the “Kowabunga Beach Ball”. For similar reasons, and because my last name is Beach, I had to endure being called things such as “Beached Whale”, “Beach Butt”, or “Nude Beach”.

On this occasion in 1986, my friends and I decided not to attend this Beach Ball, because that was what other people did. We were happy to drive around aimlessly tipping garbage cans over and stealing garden gnomes. However even this kind of thing gets boring… so that evening, we decided to crash the dance. Doing so was easier than we expected. And we learned something important about crashing events, all you have to do is look like you know what you’re doing. In future years, this got us back stage at Oingo Boingo, REM, and U2 concerts among others. It also got us beer.

So we snuck in, had a photo taken and snuck out. In all this took about 5 minutes. And now this photo is used as your default profile image. You are welcome! Everything about this photo is stupid. How we took it, why we took it, and who we were. Because of this, it is the ideal photo to use for a default profile image.

I should mention that there are other 12seconds users in this photo. dickhollywood is the guy in the blue plaid shirt and thund3rbox is squatting in the pink jeans flashing the odd gang sign. And of course I am holding the beach ball in all my glory.

I hope this little story has given you something to think about as you create your social media experiences. Sure, you can link to other services like flickr or facebook to use their profile images, but remember that people need an incentive to do so.


11 responses to “How to get people to upload a profile image…

  1. Pingback: All Things Gardening Store » Posts about Garden Gnomes as of January 29, 2009

  2. Genius advice. And it is an awesomely bad photo. So bad, I almost enjoy it.

  3. Backstage at Oingo Boingo!??!


  4. Stories you need to sshhhaarreee šŸ™‚

  5. This is one of the best bad photos evar. I would like to compete, but I’m still hunting for the one of me in the pink (homemade!) pant suit, taken when I was in 5th grade and wore orthopedic shoes, glasses, AND braces. I totally rocked.

  6. I knew a site once that used Hitler as their default image. Talk about something no-one wanted as their profile picture!

  7. I’ve been doing 3D stereo video and still and maybe I should use a 3D photo? NOW THAT WOULD BE UNUSUAL!

  8. Tried to change it but for some reason it wont upload my pic its only 52k jpg.

  9. Now that I know it’s your pic, I wish I had left it as my default: authorities have enough of me as it is.

  10. I’ve been struggling with this issue now since I began my social network. Great idea. I’m going to go find something really heinous to use as the default profile photo image. Right now I have a beautiful teal abstract that some members have given positive feedback about. No more! šŸ™‚

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