What are NFT profile pictures and why do people use them?

Profile pictures (PFPs) have long been used as visual representations of individuals on various online platforms, allowing users to personalize their accounts. With the advent of nonfungible tokens (NFTs), they have transformed from mere visual identifiers to valuable and tradable assets, attracting individuals who see them as a way to assert ownership, showcase status, express personal identity, engage in communities and even generate financial returns.

The rise of NFT avatars

In recent years, the rise of NFTs has transformed the crypto landscape, revolutionizing the way people perceive and value digital assets. Within this trend, a captivating phenomenon has emerged in the world of digital art and crypto collectibles: NFT avatars, also known as nonfungible token profile pictures (NFT PFPs). Quickly, these unique social media profile images have become a symbol of individuality and personal expression in the online environment.

Originally popularized by CryptoPunks, a prominent experimental NFT art project, the concept of owning an NFT as a profile picture quickly gained traction in the Web3 sphere during the NFT craze in 2021. This was followed by the emergence of popular collections such as Bored Ape Yacht Club (BAYC), Hashmasks and World of Women, to name a few. People were drawn to the idea of showcasing their digital identity through these distinct artworks even in traditional Web2 socials. 

Today, NFT profile pictures are not only used by the crypto community but have also been adopted by celebrities and projects around the world, as NFT profile pictures allow individuals to stand out in a crowded digital space and establish ownership over their online brand. While owning an NFT avatar, individuals can assert their exclusive rights to exceptional digital artwork that reflects their personality and preferences. With each avatar being a unique digital representation of its owner, these digital personas have the potential to transcend traditional boundaries and foster new forms of self-expression in the digital realm.

What are NFT profile pictures (NFT PFPs)

NFT PFPs are a rising trend in the digital world where individuals use NFTs to acquire and display unique digital artworks as their profile pictures. In contrast to traditional profile pictures, which are typically photographs or illustrations, NFT profile pics have transformed this concept into a new form of personal expression and ownership.

Mainly, NFT PFPs are nonfungible tokens, digital assets created on blockchain networks, leveraging the technology's capabilities to certify their authenticity, scarcity and ownership. Each NFT PFP is a one-of-a-kind item, meaning that no two are exactly alike, ensuring its uniqueness and individuality. A blockchain that underpins NFTs serves as a decentralized ledger, recording and verifying the ownership history of these digital artworks. This transparent and immutable record ensures the security and trustworthiness of NFT PFP history.

NFT profile pictures have emerged as a highly popular feature on social media for several reasons, as they allow individuals to establish ownership and provenance in the digital world. By owning NFTs as profile pictures, individuals can assert exclusive rights to a unique piece of digital art, with blockchain technology ensuring transparent and immutable ownership records. This digital ownership aspect has attracted individuals by offering a tangible and verifiable way to possess and display digital assets.

Additionally, NFT profile pictures have become status symbols within certain communities and online platforms. Some of them are considered rare or highly sought-after, leading to increased value and exclusivity. Owning such a profile picture can signal social status and convey a sense of belonging to exclusive groups or communities. The desire for exclusivity and the opportunity to stand out in a digital space has contributed to the popularity of NFT profile pictures.

Moreover, NFT profile pictures enable personal expression and showcase unique identities. Unlike traditional profile pictures, NFT profile pictures can be customized and tailored to reflect personal aesthetics, interests or affiliations. This level of personalization allows individuals to visually communicate their individuality in the digital environment and express their creativity. NFT profile pictures have become a means for self-expression and a way to curate one's online identity.

On top of that, NFT profile pictures have fostered communities and social interactions among collectors and enthusiasts. Dedicated platforms and projects have emerged, creating spaces for individuals to showcase their digital avatars, connect with like-minded people and engage in discussions and collaborations. The sense of community and shared interest surrounding NFT profile pictures has fueled their popularity and contributed to their widespread adoption.

In addition to their personal and social aspects, NFT profile pictures have attracted individuals due to their investment potential. The market for NFTs, including profile pictures, has experienced rapid growth, with some profile pictures selling for significant sums of money. While investment in NFTs carries risks, the potential for financial gains has attracted individuals who see NFT profile pictures as assets with appreciating value. 

How to create an NFT profile picture

The process of creating an NFT profile picture encompasses several stages, commencing with the creation of the artwork itself. People can either design their own unique digital artwork or commission an artist to create it for them. The artwork should reflect their personal expression and identity, taking into consideration visual elements, aesthetics and overall concept. 

Once the artwork is ready, the next step is to select a suitable blockchain-based NFT marketplace. Popular platforms such as OpenSea and Rarible offer the necessary infrastructure for creating or minting and selling them. It is important to research different platforms to understand their differences and specifics — including minting fees, user interface, community engagement and reputation — before making a choice.

After selecting a platform, users need to create an account and connect their crypto wallet to the platform. They must then prepare their artwork file in the required format and ensure it meets the platform’s specifications in terms of resolution, file size and other guidelines. Following the platform’s instructions, the NFT can be minted by uploading the artwork, providing relevant details such as title and description, and setting a price or auction format.

Minting the NFT may involve paying a gas fee in the native cryptocurrency of the chosen blockchain. The most popular one is Ethereum, and most NFT marketplaces leverage it to mint and store NFTs. It is important to have the necessary amount of crypto in the connected wallet before proceeding.

Once the NFT is minted, it is assigned a unique token ID on the blockchain. The artist can then list the NFT profile picture on the platform's marketplace, where potential buyers can discover and purchase it. Effective listing and promotion involve providing engaging and accurate information about the artwork to attract buyers. Additionally, leveraging social media platforms, online communities and other marketing channels can help increase visibility and potential sales.

How to set up an NFT profile picture

Twitter is in the lead for using NFT profile pictures on social media. Facebook, Instagram and Reddit are also experimenting with similar features.

Twitter users can add an NFT profile picture to their own account. Before getting started, users need to check if they meet the necessary requirements. The main requirement is the Twitter app on a phone with a Twitter Blue subscription, which is available in several countries — including the United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand — and costs a few dollars per month. 

Also, users need to have a mobile app for their crypto wallet and make sure that their NFT PFP is Ethereum-based (for example, ERC-721 and ERC-1155 tokens) and static (formatted as JPEG or PNG), as no other blockchain-based NFTs and video formats are currently supported.

Basically, adding an NFT profile picture to a Twitter account involves a straightforward process. To get started, open the Twitter app on your phone and navigate to your profile. Once there, select the “Edit” button to make changes to your profile settings.

Within the profile editing options, you will find your current profile picture. Tap on it, and a menu will appear with two choices: “Choose NFT” or “Upload a photo.” For the purpose of adding an NFT profile picture, select “Choose NFT.” It's important to note that even if you don't have a Twitter Blue subscription, you may still see the option to choose an NFT. 

After confirming your Twitter Blue subscription, you can proceed to connect your crypto wallet to your Twitter account. Twitter supports several popular wallets, including Argent, Coinbase Wallet, Ledger Live, MetaMask and Trust Wallet. Choose the wallet you prefer and follow the instructions to establish the connection.

Once your crypto wallet is successfully linked to your Twitter account, Twitter will initiate a verification transaction. This transaction serves to confirm that you are the rightful owner of the connected wallet and have control over its private keys. You can either scan the provided QR code or approve the transaction within the wallet itself.

Having completed the verification process, you can now choose an NFT from your wallet to serve as your profile picture. Twitter will display a list of supported NFTs that can be used for this purpose. Browse through the options and select the NFT that you wish to set as your profile picture.

Once you have made your selection, Twitter will automatically update your profile picture with the chosen NFT. To highlight the verified ownership of the NFT, a hexagon will be placed around the profile picture. This indicator will be visible to anyone who visits your Twitter profile.

By following these steps, you can successfully add an NFT profile picture to your Twitter account. It’s worth noting that the process may vary slightly depending on updates and changes made by Twitter.

The future of NFT profile pictures

The future of NFT PFPs is poised for remarkable innovation and growth, with several trends shaping their trajectory. One exciting avenue is integration within online gaming. Ownership of specific NFT profile pictures could unlock special features, exclusive content or access to restricted areas within these platforms.

Another intriguing possibility is the spread of NFT profile pictures into augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR) and metaverse experiences. Users might showcase their NFT profile pictures in virtual environments or project them into the physical world using AR-enabled devices. This convergence of the digital and physical realms could yield immersive and interactive encounters.

Moreover, the functionality of NFT profile pictures may extend beyond visual representation. They could serve as access tokens or membership badges for exclusive communities and decentralized autonomous organizations or could be linked to decentralized identities, enabling seamless verification and authentication across diverse online platforms.

Written by Sasha Shilina