Wikipedia defines “avatar” as “…a computer user’s representation of himself/herself or alter ego…” That is to say, an avatar is the “you” of the computer world. Most of us think of the word to mean the graphic we use alongside our social media account, but that’s only part of what defines an avatar. In this post, we’ll talk in a somewhat more rounded what about how your avatar on the web becomes quite important to doing business in this new world.
It Starts at About
To me, your main website needs a good strong about page that tells the story of who you are, as well as your business story. Note that I want both. It can’t just be “We make great oriental rugs,” but instead that “we build great oriental rugs” and “My name is Denise Sanders.” Why? Because when people finally click through to wherever you’ve made your home base, they might want to know more about you. So start there.
A Good Graphic
I’m a fan of using a picture of yourself for your avatar. Let me be clear what kind of picture: it should be candid, but not a red-flash-eyed close-cropped clip of you from a party with someone’s cheek nearly touching you. It should be a decent snap of you, but not one of those corporate in-front-of-a-blue-cloud-screen shots. And if you want your logo in the avatar snap, consider making a really tiny avatar that you can wear at the bottom. Example: Look at Scott Monty’s avatar. You see that little Ford logo? Plenty. We know who he is.
Same Graphic Everywhere? Same Graphic Always?
I change my avatar picture frequently. The reason is that I change my looks frequently (beard, no beard, short hair, long hair, no hair). I want people to be able to find me at a conference. I don’t have a really strong “same graphic everywhere” policy myself, but I can tell you that it’s probably best if you do some kind of graphics management. Sites like Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and others all have a spot for your avatar. Maybe you should sweep through every two months or so, when you decide to change your avatar. It’s a pain, but might be useful.
Quick note: some folks adhere to the “you should keep the same avatar all the time, because people won’t recognize you if you change it” school. I don’t subscribe. I think it’s okay to change who you are.
The Bio – Where The Meat Is
Your avatar biography is very important. If you’re big on LinkedIn, I wrote a post about how to make your LinkedIn profile work for you. For Twitter, there are fewer words you can use. I recommend a link to your blog or to your about page. One great idea I got from Laura Fitton of OneForty is to write a specific blog post that welcomes people who’ve come in via a specific service, and make that the bio page link for your accounts. I do like that.
From the biography on your avatar, people should get some small sense of how/why they should do business with you. Even when it’s brief, that’s the real goal.
Linking Things Together
Depending on the site, it’s a great opportunity to use your avatar to point people towards your home base. For instance, add your URL to LinkedIn, to your Facebook profile, to your YouTube and Flickr accounts, to anywhere that lets you put in a website URL. And don’t forget your email signature. You don’t think of it as such, but your email serves as an avatar between who you are and your intentions.
Linking things together is a strong way to build attention and attraction between you, the social networking person, and your home base, your website.
Things To Do
You and your avatar should spend time connecting with others on social networks like Twitter or LinkedIn, or even Facebook. Join a few LinkedIn groups (that apply either to your geographical region or your trade). Search a few blogs to see if anyone’s talking about your products or services or competitors or whatever will get you into a conversation you find is useful. You might look around Alltop to find the right blogs for your space. You might poke in a Twitter search to see who’s talking about your town, your product, etc. Make sense?
You might also look into setting up a few passports.
Passports for your Avatar
Passports are what I call accounts that you might find useful to have, should you find yourself in need of commenting or participating in certain sites. Here are just a few sites to consider getting an account through, for passport purposes:
- Google Accounts
- Disqus (for commenting)
- BackType (which tracks comments, too)
- and probably many more (you can add in the comments section, if you want).
Get Out And Visit
In my estimation, using social media tools for business splits into three buckets: listen, connect, and publish. The avatar we’ve created for you is for that middle one: connect. Get out there and use it to meet new people, to talk about what other people are doing, to build some awareness and a reputation on other platforms. Help people to understand who you are, and then they’ll want to know more about your business, too. We buy from people who are like us. We buy from people we understand.
In the next installment, I’ll write about what to do with your site before you seek business.
Are these helpful? Questions?