Develop an Avatar Strategy for Social Media & Blogs

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A lot has been said about avatar strategy already. However there is still something new to add. Choosing the right avatar is so crucial for a very important reason: it creates first impression of your (personal) brand.

Seth Godin discussing avatars in his recent post, put it the following way:

If you use any online social network tool, the single most important first impression you make is with the 3600 to 5000 pixels you get for your tiny picture.

Seth shares a few details that should make your avatar stick:

  • Use white or neutral background;
  • If you decide to use some cute details in a hope to stand out (like hat, for example), make sure to pick those details professionally. In other words, make sense of any detail you are adding to your avatar: “...remember the cocktail party rule: if you wouldn’t wear it there, don’t wear it here.”
  • Your photo is the best choice. “Conceptual photos (your foot, a monkey wearing glasses) may give us insight into the real you, but perhaps you could save that insight for the second impression.” Here is what Donna has to say about being “real you” when crafting your avatar strategy.
  • Don’t try to look like a ‘super model’, your avatar should communicate “openness and enthusiasm”.

Of course, I am adding a few tips from my own experience

  • be consistent: the key is to use one and the same avatar everywhere you join and participate – thus you will very soon be noticed and recognized;
  • be only as much creative as necessary: too abstract or creative images won’t do;
  • better don’t use your company logo as an avatar. Don’t get me wrong, a company logo can be used for corporate social media profiles but you will succeed in social media much faster if you brand yourself as a person instead of the company;
  • don’t try too hard to stand out. It’s a common mistake to try to make your avatar as eye-catching as possible to make it stand out in Blogcatalog, MyBlogLog, etc widgets. By being consistent and using recognizable avatars, you’ll achieve the same effect without irritating people.

And now a piece of more practical advice:

  • don’t use any of these avatar types (despite the fact that others seem to be successfully using them):

Simpsons avatarSimpsons avatar – it was once a great idea, you could even create your own Simpsons-like face and use it throughout all your social media communities. But now I guess, Simpsons are so numerous that I for one just stopped “seeing” and remembering them.

No matter how much fun this might mean, don’t follow everybody’s trend: use your unique approach.

Celebrity avatar

Celebrity faces – they do catch an eye due to the fact people already know them very well and they are recognizable but they won’t bring you any brand awareness: all people might remember about you is that you are using some pretty well-known face as your avatar.

Any third-party association will prevent you from creating a clear brand image.

abstract avatarAbstract images – they might look nice and colorful but you are likely to have problems making people remember you and quickly associate you with your business.

One clever image optimization rule is: use quality images with clearly recognizable details that can be associated with real-life objects.

Recently there have been a number of avatar-related posts offering awesome advice and sharing personal experience that definitely should be recapped here:

  • Register and upload your avatar to Gravatar to make it appear near your comment at multiple blogs (including Blogstorm that reminded us of that useful tip). It takes no more than a few seconds and if you are an active commenter, you will see the effect soon;
  • You can have much fun creating an avatar with these tools but honestly with me it all ended up as fun and nothing more. Like I said, per my experience, the good old KISS method turned out the most effective with me.
  • And of course, look at this Sphinn avatar collection and Twitter avatar tips and make your own decision.
Ann Smarty
Ann Smarty is the blogger and community manager at Internet Marketing Ninjas. Ann's expertise in blogging and tools serve as a base for her writing, tutorials and her guest blogging project,
Ann Smarty
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  • Christopher L. Jorgensen

    You covered most of these, these, but avatar selection is often done poorly. I have making jokes for/about social media marketers with my @SMmonkey account on twitter.

    Some of mine:

    Attn. Social Media Marketers: If you use an animated avatar it sends me into an epileptic fit and I twitch as I unfollow your ass!

    Attn. Social Media Marketers: Nothing says you don’t know what the hell your doing like having the default Twitter avatar!

    Attn. Social Media Marketers: If your avatar is ugly, creepy, or idiotic, & doesn’t make me want to spend time with you…you’re failing!

    Attn. Social Media Marketers: If you’re butt ugly use a logo as an avatar. Using a fake hot chick just means you can never meet clients!

    Attn. Social Media Marketers: Use of someone else’s copyrighted material as your avatar or background only shows you are unethical.

    Attn. Social Media Marketers: 9 times out of 10 I can tell if you’re worth following by your avatar. I really can judge you by your cover.

    I’m not sure if I agree with the not allowing abstract avatars. They are less obnoxious than many, and I think a lot of people eventually start to recognize these and associate then with the users. Some are quite pretty.

  • Loren Baker, Editor

    One Twitter avatar which really stood out to me today was a nice black and white photo, a head shot, but with a yellow border. Why did it stick out?

    Because I was using Tweetdeck which is a very dark application in terms of its color scheme and that YELLOW border stuck out in my long stream of Tweets.

  • malcolm coles

    Good tips I recently assembled several examples of good and bad ones, particularly faces and logos.
    You can see them here, plus some rules (like may sure your face is lit, not the background; and we don’t need to see your chest – zoom in on your face!):

  • Mark Dykeman

    Ann, I think you might be familiar with my avatar. 🙂

    My avatar kind of breaks a few of Seth’s rules but, hey, I’m smiling and I look like I’m having fun, so I guess it’s not too far off… (except for the blue skin and green, glowing brain…) 😉

    I like how you elaborated on Seth’s article with additional tips.

  • Riscario Insider

    Thanks for the post and the comments.

    I’m not sure about using the same avatar everywhere, though. I have two Twitter feeds, each for a different audience. Those who subscribe to both would have difficulty telling the feeds apart. Having similar avatars may be the solution (e.g, wearing a suit for a business audience and dressing casually in the other).

    Seth points out the importance of cropping, which I’d ignored.

  • firmi

    The avatar may be very marketing brandable 🙂 I also use several different avatars for different blogs and social media

  • Ann Smarty

    @Christopher – thanks for making me smile 🙂 Good additions.

    @Malcolm – checked your post, loved it and included the link in the post – thanks!

    @Mark, no one says breaking SOME rules won’t make you succeed 🙂 If you describe your own avatar case study, we’ll be happy to publish it on SEJ. Your case is classic 😉

    @Riscario, one avatar per one online identity. No one says you can’t have several online lives and separate them by using different avatars. To be frank, you’ll be very surprised if you found my other online identity. It is not so Ann and not so Smarty at all 😉

  • Marko Manninen

    Its all about, which sort/group of people you want to target. I’d like to know, what is the most acceptable and magnetic symbol or figure in the world. I’d be happy, if only half of the population would go with it. 🙂

  • @FlowerBox

    @FlowerBox changes avatars 3 times a week! Always a new species of flower.

  • Boston SEO

    The good thing about an avatar is there is no way to search for it. The number of one’s blog posts and the right use of hashwords can bring more traffic to your profile than a pretty picture. I’m pretty sure it all comes down to what you are using your twitter profile for. If it is for business, then provide a picture of yourself in a suit. If it is to show that you are good with computers, then have an avatar of a picture of yourself with a green brain and a blue face. This isn’t neuroscience!