Thursday, 27 October 2011

Square versus Oblong! Which is best for profile images on facebook?

In last week's article I looked at a brilliant marketing campaign in Canada, where they'd taken the boring old square shreddie, tilted it to the side, and invented the wondrous new diamond shreddie.

Very much tongue in cheek, but very effective, with the humour really connecting with the audience and hence, significantly increasing sales of the breakfast cereal.

After giving squares such a kicking, I felt a little guilty, so this week I'll look at where they're top of the pile... at least in my opinion. It's an opinion that a lot of 'experts' would disagree with, but I'll give the arguments and you can make up your own mind.

Like many specialists, Marketers will give you opinion and advice and this may sometimes differ from what you'd get from others in the industry. If it's based on theory or personal experience, there's not always going to be a right and a wrong or it might be a new approach or a unique solution specific to the client.

Either way the client has to either simply trust the Marketer or examine their reasoning and past experience, then decide for themselves on the best course of action.

So, as the headline pretty much gives away, the contentious opinion I'm offering today is that a square profile picture on facebook is best, better than the long, oblong image recommended by the majority of Social Media Gurus and experts.

I've written for eskimosoup before on this subject and regularly recommend to clients that they don't use long profile images. However, as facebook and other Social Media platforms regularly update and change their layout and functionality, it's always worth reassessing practice.

One objection I used to hold on long profile images was how they appeared in thumbnails.

Unless a user is actually on a page, they will only see the thumbnail of a profile image. In searches at the top of the facebook page and in the newsfeed, it's the thumbnail that people see. As this is how the majority of people interact with a page, it's hugely important that the image displayed well.

Thumbnails for long profile images used to display a square from the center of the image. Though some savvy design, placing the logo or an appropriate image within this space, could solve the problem, many businesses didn't do this.

Because either they or their Marketing agency had no awareness of the importance of the center of the image, they'd have the vital information elsewhere. The company's name or logo might not display in the thumbnail or be cropped, leaving somewhat abstract thumbnails, looking unprofessional and meaningless.

At this point, we recommended a square image, with a 'bleed' of blank space around what was to be displayed in the thumbnail. It worked and meant that the facebook pages for our clients often had the edge on their competition.

Facebook then introduced the functionality whereby a page could define which portion of their profile image would appear in the thumbnail.

This certainly helped the problem, but around the same time, facebook also removed the horizontal navigation for a page. This meant that if a user wanted to visit the 'photos', notes', or anywhere else on a page, they needed to use the links beneath the profile image.

Unfortunately, the long profile image then pushed this navigation 'below the fold'.

If you're not familiar with this term, it harks back to good old fashioned paper marketing, when a letter would be folded into three before being placed in an envelope. The most important information should be placed in the first section, 'above the fold', as there would be a 'drop off' of people who wouldn't continue reading further.

This same idea applies to the internet, where 'below the fold' is when a user has to scroll down to see more. A large screen may increase the initial visual area, but not everybody has that, and you can actually presume that many may have a lot less, as the small screens of mobile devices become an ever more popular method by which to connect with the internet.

This to me, is currently the main reason for not choosing the long images. As I've said above, that attitude isn't set in stone and may change as functionality and layout changes.

But for the time being though, and especially while facebook and google, the unarguable kings of the internet, themselves choose the square, I'm very confident in recommending the same to our clients.

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