It’s been a while since I posted something on my blog and the reason for that is that I’ve been working on post graduate diploma project for my management consulting program at Grenoble Graduate School of Business. A couple of days left on that and then I’ll be back in full throttle. That doesn’t mean I haven’t been contemplating different things topics I would like to share with you. I usually note down all the different ideas I have for my blog on a scrap book that I keep with me wherever I go – looking at that list now, it seems as though I will be busy all throughout September and October – this is my subtle way of saying I’ll make it up!
Nevertheless, I have wanted to write about this topic for quite some time now and I could use a break – so here it goes!
Why are avatars so important and how do they serve your personal brand? I’ll start off by explaining what the word avatar means. According to Wikipedia, an avatar is a “computer user’s representation of himself/herself or alter ego whether in the form of a three-dimensional model used in computer games, a two-dimensional icon (picture) or a one-dimensional username used on Internet forums and other communities …” For the purpose of this post, I’m interested in discussing the latter two, with emphasis on the visual avatar.
So an avatar represents us! It is how we want people to associate with our name. It is the perception of our brand. I would go so far as to say, you are one with your avatar. This morning, I logged on to twitter, let me rephrase that, I pressed the spacebar on my keyboard to wake my pc up but I was already (and always) logged in everywhere; anyway, my friend, Mark, on twitter, who goes by the name of @MrWordsWorth, sent me a message telling me that he has gone back to his old avatar. I told him I can relate that particular avatar to him much more than the he had on for the past month or so. On a similar note, Kate changed her handler from @KateTheRunner to @KateDavids and changed her visual avatar to a cartoon character. So what’s my point exactly … well as I insinuated to Mark today, we tend to associate your brand with different attributes, your name, your picture, your style … as trivial as some things might appear, they are part of your brand image. Wilson & Blumenthal talk about the difference between brand image and brand identity in their book, Managing Brand You. In short they define brand identity as the set of attributes you would like to associate with your brand and project onto other, in other words, what you would like to stand for; whereas, the brand image is the perception of your brand by the intended audience.
My advice for you is to choose the elements of your brand wisely and carefully, and stick to them. We are creatures of habit – think about it, how many times did you scroll down in your twitter list of mentions to find a certain someone, but you forgot their handler and you were looking for their icon? Does that make you a horrible person – how could you forget their name – no it just makes you human. Pictures tend to stick – I’m not sure of the scientific explanation behind that and I’ll leave that to the pros – but all I know is that they do for one reason or another! When I meet people face to face after having made their acquaintance online, the first thing they do is replicate the hand gesture I have in my avatar and smile.
@MrWordsWorth, or Mark, is a creative, prolific Marketing & Communications writer/editor who has this sarcastic tone, which is amicable. His avatar, as you can see from the picture, is a Muppet, and for some reason I just find that is fits his character perfectly – in other words it serves his brand image.
Certainly, nothing is carved in stone, and you can always try until you find the avatar that suits you best, but when you do, try to stick to it. One more thing, if you happen to change it, be it your handler or pic, do let you friends know. When Kate changed her handler, I kept on using her previous one since it was also stored in my Hootsuite application. It wasn’t until she sent me a message informing me of the change that I realized it had happened. So do let others know, when and if you do! I know you would tell everyone if you had changed your number or your email. This is as important!
Here’s a list of things to keep in mind when it comes to your avatar:
- Make sure your handler and pic reflect your brand attributes
- If you change either, make sure to let others know
- Try to use the same handler and pic across all social media platforms – it helps strengthen the rapport people have with your brand
- Sign up to DISQUS (a comment system and moderation tool for sites) – it allows the comments you post on different sites to be associated to your brand (use the same pic for your DISQUS profile)
So what does your avatar say about you? Does it reflect your brand image? Think About It!
In answer to this post, Superavatar.com has developed my toon avatar. Thank You superavatar.com for this kind gesture!
I wanted to share that with you my toon avatar and ask you for your thoughts given the discussion on this post. Share your thoughts.
Here’s a new update to this post (September 7, 2010) : @katedavids and myself developed a survey to explore the difference between identity and perception of avatars. We’d love your thoughts! Link to survey.