You’ve seen them before. The small little pictures that are used to identify profiles online. You may even use one without even knowing it. Those little pictures are called avatars.
An Avatar is simply: “a computer user’s representation of himself or herself”. This could be a three dimensional representation in a game like Second Life, or a 2 dimensional graphic in a website profile.
With all the social based websites out there these days, chances are you already use an avatar on a website like Myspace, Facebook, Linkedin, Digg, Twitter, etc… This is not rocket science… but it is important to follow a couple of guidelines (suggestions) when creating these avatars.
Branding, Facial Awareness, and Improved Visibility
One cool thing that happens when you graphically represent yourself is that you start branding (for lack of a better term), you could also call it “building awareness”, or creating “mind share”. In simple terms, you’re creating a visual reminder of who you are for people that see your avatar multiple times.
An avatar doesn’t always have to be a picture of yourself. Many people make this mistake, in thinking they don’t have any options in this regard. You can really use anything you want.
You need to ask yourself, what are you really trying to create awareness of?? Your face, your company, your website, your logo? The answer may determine what you decide to use. Many people opt for an avatar that really has no meaning, but simply stands out from the crowd. Others use an artistic representation. There really isn’t any right or wrong way to do it except to say that if you are trying to create awareness for you, your business, or your website, you may want to consider using something that relates to that purpose.
Some Twitter Examples:
The “I like to photoshop my face”
The “I brand the first letter of my name”
The “I’ll just use my logo”
The “I just like my face”
The “I prefer a graphic representation of myself”
The “I like randomness”
The “I like using props on my face”
The “I like my dog”
The “I brand my face and company for maximum avatar domination”
Services You Need to Sign up For if you Haven’t Already:
MyBlogLog.com – Sign up for a free account. You don’t even have to have a blog or website. But your avatar will appear on websites that have the Mybloglog widget installed (like this one)… which is a good thing! Why not brand everywhere you go?
BlogCatalog.com – Same as Mybloglog, just a little less popular.
Gravatar.com – Becoming very important. It’s used to identify you all over the internet including when you make comments on certain sites (like this one).
Blogger.com – If you ever comment on a Blogger blog, you’ll want to set up a basic account and upload your picture so it shows up when you comment.
WordPress.com – Same as Blogger.
Avatars.Yahoo.com – Yahoo is such a huge web portal, once you upload your picture to Yahoo Avatars, it will show up in many places all over the web as you participate
Other Places Online That Allow Avatars:
Forums & Message Boards – Involved in any forums, message boards or blogs that make you sign up to participate? 99% of these probably have a way to upload your avatar. I find that this is the place where people forget to upload profile pics the most often.
Industry Specific Sites – There are tons of sites specific to each industry that allow profile pictures. In real estate, you have Activerain, Trulia, REW, Zolve, etc.
Specialty Sites – These sites aren’t really that special, I just didn’t know what else to call them: Twitter, Plaxo, Friendfeed, Facebook, Friendster, Flickr, etc…
Tools for Creating Avatars:
http://mypictr.com – Online tool that helps crop larger pictures
http://www.reducephoto.com/step1avatar.asp – Online tool for creating specific sized avatars
http://www.gizmoz.com – Create animated avatars and place your head on strange bodies, etc.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RP7l8rbn9rA – Video on creating an Avatar in photoshop
Choose Wisely My Son: It’s a true pain in the rear to change multiple avatars if you decide you want to use a different avatar somewhere down the road. You may want to consider using something that will work for you 1 year from now.
Ask Your Friends: This simple tip may save you from using a stupid avatar.
One Avatar in Multiple Places: It would be wise not to use different avatars on different sites. You’ll miss out on a branding opportunity for people that may see you on multiple sites.
Don’t use Random Graphics: If you can’t find something good, wait. This is important. You don’t want to be using an old picture of yourself, or a silly picture of an inanimate object simply because you had nothing better at the time.
Use Photoshop: There is nothing worse than seeing a blurry or stretched picture of yourself, or an unreadable logo because you were too lazy to resize the picture properly.
Be Professional: If you are using your online identity to improve business for yourself and promote professional networking, make sure you don’t use an inappropriate picture of yourself or morally questionable object.