Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Ever wonder what kind of avatar to use for online social networking in the workplace? You remember avatars, right? These are the photos or images that appear next to a users name (see example below). I never really gave much thought to using avatars for social media until today. What triggered the thought was a story I heard from Steve Radick, a collegue of mine at work. During his presentation, Steve said he frequently ran into people that would tell him they read his blogs and that they appreciated what he was contributing. That's when the thought crossed my mind: These people would have never known what Steve looked like if he didn't have a photo of himself as his avatar.

Why should you be concerned with the avatar you use? Because, your avatar is your brand and your brand's purpose, as Tom Mochal describes it, "is to establish an identity that conjures up a positive image (2007)." In Steve's case, his brand worked exactly as intended. If your using social media tools for professional purposes, establishing a positive image is what you should be aiming for.

With that in mind, here are a couple guidelines I have found useful for using Avatars across multiple online social media tools (i.e. Twitter, Facebook, Yammer, and Utterli).

1) Try to stick with using the same avatar for each tool. Again, you're trying to build a consistent message. Using the same avatar will help you accomplish this, not to mention make it easier for people following you online to find you.
2) If face recognition is important, like in the story mentioned above, consider using a photo of yourself as an avatar rather than a graphic image.

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