When you first thought to choose an avatar, you probably didn’t put much more thought into it than hitting the browse button until you saw one that looked half ways decent and you hit upload. But nowadays, your entire online identity can be tied into your avatar, and it can become an iconic representation of who you are, not to mention extremely useful for branding purposes. So when you decide it is time to choose a new avatar to use across the various social media sites, here are some things to think of before you start.
Look at me!
Choose a pic that is just a good pic of yourself. If you don’t have one, go trolling through Facebook or Flickr tagged photos of yourself to see if you can find one to use. All of the pics I have ever used were taken by other people at parties, events or just hanging our. Some people use professional headshots, but do be aware it can give you a kind of “corporate look” which may or may not be the kind of image you want to portray.
Look at me with a twist
Instead of standard headshots, why not change it up a bit. Make your expression funky, add a background, change the way the perspective of the photo is or add something to make your photo just not the usual photo you see of people online. Here are some great examples of avatars with a definite twist to them which makes them that much more memorable.
A touch more boring, but can help for accounts with corporate businesses, is to go the logo route. While this might not be as effective if you are not as well known, it can be effective for larger companies. But if you are a one person show, definitely consider going with something more personalized than your logo. Logos as avatars, especially on sites where your personality really needs to shine throughout to get the maximum value, can really hinder you. You really want to be identified with you and not simply your company name.
Go logo with a twist
You can chose something different than just your standard logo… why not show your company logo in a different way from how normally someone would see it, or closer to how someone might see the logo in real life. Here are some great examples of how to still use your company logo, but from a unique perspective.
Something representative to your company
Think about something that could be used but that people familiar with the company would clearly recognize as being significant. Of course, you do need to remember that you will be left with some people going “Um, what?”. And for those of you not AdSense publishers, that is the new AdSense icon… it’s actually an ad unit if you look at it 😉 The second example is probably a bit more self explanatory. Actually, many of the Google twitter accounts have avatars that are a spin on whichever program or app it is. And honorable mention goes to @majornelson who used to have an avatar showing himself holding a Gears of War Lancer.
Best of Both Worlds
If you are caught between wanting a photo of yourself plus a company logo, you can successfully do both. Here are some examples where it is done well.
Some people are quite known for their wild and weird gesturing in their avatars, and will actually spawn copycats and clones when they pull it off successfully. Here is one example, and no I am not going to get into the debate of which one was the originator and which was the copycat, although I am sure the originator will pipe up
Other unusual photos of yourself
Some people use images of themselves in situations that, well, are either just kind of too crazy to describe or so unique you wonder why you didn’t think of it yourself. And yes, that is DK in a headlock by Randy Couture…
Sometimes you notice that all of a sudden everyone on your Twitter feed has a theme going on, so feel free to do that. Examples include when many people used Santa hats or changed their avatars to have a pink tint for Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Just do be aware that still wearing a Santa hat in your avatar in May looks kind of odd I was tempted to post some examples, but I will protect the guilty parties
Then you can go the way of a personalized cartoon of yourself, although these aren’t nearly as hot as they were a year or so ago when it seemed everyone was jumping on board to get themselves cartooned up for blogs and avatars. Now you will see South Park versions of people, as well as Wii and XBox custom avatars used for people’s online avatars too.
Just how companies use “booth babes” in the expo halls to drive traffic to their booths, sex also sells when it comes to online avatars, and many companies will use the same approach for their Twitter & Facebook avatars too. And sorry to all the people who really thought that @rishil was a Jack Daniels loving chick!
If this is your current Twitter avatar, or you are using the default avatar on any social site, it should be noted that it is better to have a dancing pig in a tutu rather than the default avatar, because nothing quite screams newbie like the default avatar.
So when you are thinking about updating your avatar, think about all the different ways you can build your online identity through your avatar across a wide variety of social media platforms. While I was using Twitter for the example profiles (mainly because it shows both the avatar and the username together), you will find nearly all will use the same avatar across multiple social media sites, including Sphinn, StumbleUpon, Facebook, etc.
Try not to change your avatar too frequently or else people won’t immediately recognize it as being you, and try and make it unique so that people who see it at a glance know exactly who it is. The point is to build your profile with the same recognizable avatar everywhere, not change it once a week to keep people on their toes 😉 Think of it as an extension of your personal brand.
Feel free to post your own favorite examples of social media avatars.