Social networking websites have become the norm for many individuals to communicate aspects of their lives. It has also become a way for many companies to examine their potential employees. New research suggests, by demonstrating positive social cues in your profile picture, you may maximize positive self-presentation for future employers.

At the University of Missouri, researchers discovered comments left by other Facebook users on profile pictures affect the level of perceived attractiveness of the profile owner physically, socially and professionally.

Of the 850 million individuals who use Facebook to communicate, many are aware the profile picture is the first photo visible. Many users are able to post comments about each profile image, which is visible to other people who may view the same photo. It was discovered photos that included social cues, additional information about the individual and positive comments are viewed more socially and physically attractive than other users who have fewer social cues and negative comments.

Images with social cues included photos that gave you further information about who that person is. For instance a social cue of a musician may be a photo of that individual playing an instrument.

Seoyeon Hong, a doctoral student, conducted the research along with Kevin Wise, an associate professor at the University of Missouri School of Journalism and other doctoral students.

For the study, hundreds of college students were instructed to rate and view Facebook profile photos of a particular individual. Hong and Wise discovered individuals with Facebook profile photos with social cues were seen to be more physically and socially attractive than images with headshots.

"These findings show how important it is to present yourself strategically on Facebook," Hong said. "If you want to be perceived positively by people who view your profile page, including friends and potential employers, it is important to include profile pictures with positive social cues. No matter what the profile owner does to tailor their Facebook page, comments left on their page from other users should be monitored as well. Positive comments are very helpful, but negative remarks can be very damaging, even if they are silly or sarcastic."

Hong recommends using profile pictures with social cues to demonstrate who you are in a positive light, as well as keeping track of negative comments.

The study was published in the journal Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking.