You have a blog, or comment on blogs, or hang around on Facebook and Twitter for a reason.
Usually, it is because you want to get noticed. So you can sell your book, or get customers, or find business leads, or whatever your goal is for being on social media.
I have written before about how important it is to have a platform and a believable author brand. But did you know that your online avatar is an important part of your brand and image?
An avatar is merely a graphical representation of you. It can be a real photo or an illustration, such as a cartoon portrait of you, or your business logo. Whatever it is, it represents you online and is connected to your name in blog comments, on your own blog, and on social networking platforms.
A gravatar, which stands for Globally Recognized Avatar, is the same avatar that follows you from site to site. It is connected to your name and gives you a consistent brand across the Web.
Dump the generic avatar.
A generic (default) avatar is one in the pool of avatars a blog owner lets you select from.
You have seen them before. Perhaps you even have one yourself. They are those icons, usually silly little faces, that every other person who hasn’t created their own unique avatar gets.
Having a generic avatar means that you are leaving it to someone else to define who you are. You might want to consider dumping the generic avatar for one that connects with people in a more personal way.
Consider how important privacy is to you.
I say this to my blog coaching clients:
Unless you are in the Witness Protection Program, you should have your own, unique online avatar.
Now, I know, that’s a simplistic statement. And there are always exceptions (domestic abuse situations, stalkers, child custody disputes, to name a few). But if you are marketing yourself online in some way, we need to see who you are, so we can trust you. So we feel we can build a relationship with you.
So we know that you are not a spammer.
If you use a real photo, think about who you are first.
You have certain characteristics and personality traits that are unique to you. Your avatar should give people a sense of who you are. I prefer to use a real photo for mine (and like to see others in real-life format, too).
Once, when I was part of a group of teachers at a school for gifted kids, we were sitting around a table planning our lessons when my friend Jayce said, ” Okay. Here is a question. What do you want inscribed on your headstone?” (We were a strange group and our conversations could be unpredictable).
We went around the table. Each person before me had something dry or witty or clever to say. When it was my turn, I said, “I don’t know. I’ll have to think about it.”
The other five teachers burst out laughing. I frowned at Jayce. “What?” I said.
“That’s perfect. It’s exactly what should go on your headstone!” she said: “‘I don’t know. I’ll have to think about it.’”
She was right. First and foremost, I am a thinker and dreamer. I don’t like replying off the top of my head.
I like to think about things.
So my avatar photo strikes a thinking pose. (Oh, and by the way, professional photos are nice, but if your budget doesn’t allow that, don’t let it hold you back. I took that photo of myself one day sitting at my desk, using Mac’s Photo Booth program.)
Think about your biggest asset, your most positive, prominent personality trait. Try to portray that in your avatar. And whatever you do, make yourself look approachable.
I have made the decision not to follow someone on Twitter based on their avatar: maybe their arms are crossed, or they are pointing at me (I hate being scolded), or they are shaking their fist at me (yes, one popular social media figure actually does that in his avatar).
Think twice about using crazy colors or tints in your photo.
Colors carry with them emotions. You may love that green tint on your face, but it may look downright scary to someone else. A purple face can make the person look cold or angry. And so on.
Also, in this election year, know that political candidates’ names or political issues on your avatar can alienate some of your followers. It is good and fine to care about causes, but consider the possibility that you might be turning away some of the very people you are trying to attract.
Look at several possibilities and think carefully about your choice.
Play around with different poses: some serious, some playful, some thoughtful. Lay them all out and start eliminating some of them. You will eventually be left with the one you that best says “you.”
I snapped 40+ photos of myself with Photo Booth and kept narrowing it down until I found the just right one.
Oh, by the way. If you’d like to create your own gravatar and join the smiling faces in the comments section of Cat’s Eye Writer blog, go to Gravatar.com and sign up for a free account.
What about you?
What do you use for an avatar?
Do you stay with the same one or switch them out?
Which type of avatar are you naturally attracted to on the Web?