More and more employers also are using Facebook as a way to examine potential employees before hiring. Now, researchers at the University of Missouri have found that comments left by users on Facebook profile pictures strongly affect the level of perceived attractiveness of the profile owner: physically, socially, and professionally.

MU researchers found that Facebook users whose profile photos include social cues, additional information about the user, and other positive comments, are viewed much more socially and physically attractive than users who have fewer social cues and negative comments on their profile photos.

For instance, a photo with a social cue of an athlete would be a picture of that person playing sports, or a musician with a photo of that person playing an instrument. People with such photos were perceived to be more attractive than those with plain headshots.

“These findings show how important it is to present yourself strategically on Facebook,” said doctoral student Seoyeon Hong, who conducted the research along with associate professor Kevin Wise. “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 should be monitored as well. Positive comments are very helpful, but negative remarks can be very damaging, even if they are silly or sarcastic.”

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