Profile Pictures Make a Difference!
If you are just fooling around on Facebook, then go ahead and use your dog’s photo for your profile picture. But, if you want to be seen as approachable and competent, then having a good profile picture is a must in creating the impression you want to make.
There has been some research on this very matter. I just came across a blog post that demonstrates this well, 8 Rules to Create a Perfect Profile Picture. They give research based examples demonstrating the differences certain things can make in how you are seen online. Smiling versus not smiling? Smiling wins. Looking into the camera or wistfully staring off into space? Eye contact rules.
Of course, the degree of formality also depends on which social media account you are using and the degree of formality or not of your ideal clients. The photo of the attractive young man in the suit makes a great Linkedin profile photo but would be way too formal for his personal Facebook pic. Whereas the pose of the woman would be perfect for Facebook but might be a bit too comfy for Linkedin.
But the biggest takeaway of all should be, what a difference a professional photo can make. Check out the article and let me know in the comments what you think.