Think about your avatar

April 2, 2013

The whole social media thing evolved at such a phenomenal rate that typically when most people joined the rush to be on Facebook or Twitter they simply scrabbled around and grabbed any old image for their avatar.

Bish, bash, bosh and with little thought to strategy, it was up there for all the world to see where probably it remains to this day.

But whether you’re online as an individual, a company or brand, we’d venture to suggest that the image you choose needs a bit more consideration.

As has been commented on ad nauseam elsewhere, if you’re online you should have a strategy….or at least have given some thought as to why you’re Tweeting, on Facebook or whatever platform you’ve chosen.

For strategy, read: who, what, where, when, and most importantly – why!  Oh yes, and how?

Who do you want to communicate with?

What do you want to talk about?

Where will you be doing it – at home, work, on the move?

When and how often?

Why do you want to?

How – what tools are you going to use – laptop, desk top, iPad, smartphone, TweetDeck, HootSuite?

Which brings us back to the image or avatar.  Your avatar should be – as the OED (Oxford English Dictionary) puts it – a ‘visible manifestation of an abstract concept’.

Some Top Tips

1. As a company or brand, using your logo as it appears in the corporate identity manual seems the obvious answer – but isn’t that just a bit too corporate and obvious?  It also completely misses the point behind social media which is about engaging with your audience and joining them in conversation on the same level, not preaching to them in the authoritative manner of yore.  If you do use a logo, at least come up with a creative interpretation to help communicate the brand’s personality.

2. Your avatar should be an expression of who you are or what your company is about.  It should also be distinctive and instantly recognisable, especially as your online reputation will be associated with the visual icon you select.

3. If you choose to use a head and shoulders shot, make sure it’s clear and recognisable as you or associated in some way to what you’re writing about.  And under any circumstances, do not use a cut out from your best mate’s stag do or hen party!

4. Use the same avatar to link your profile on different channels – this will aid recognition so your friends and followers can easily find you.

Here are a couple of examples worth checking out from Twitter:

Richard Branson gets trotted out as the exemplar of ‘best practice’ for so many aspects of business, and no change here. He is the embodiment of Virgin, so no surprise he chooses an image of himself over the brand logo: @RichardBranson   @RichardBranson
 Mipaa  @MajorGav

@mipaa does use its logo, or at least part of it and creatively.

Blogger @MajorGav employs a distinctive avatar that visually communicates his subject area.

 @ButlerSherborn  @SYMotorUK

Estate agents @ButlerSherborn took the lime leaf from its identity which stands out well from the crowd.

SsangYong @SYMotorUK utilises the badge on the front of one its cars, while the colour combination is both distinctive and memorable.

5. If you’re considering refreshing your avatar or even changing it to reflect a particular initiative, season or campaign, give this careful thought.  Aim for evolution rather than a complete change to retain some identifiable element to aid recognition.  Alternatively, use an evolved image temporarily and return to the master avatar in due course.

6. If you are ever tempted to apply a Twibbon in support of a particular cause, do make sure you remove it afterwards. It doesn’t look good to still be sporting a Remembrance Day poppy on your avatar weeks after the event!

For more tips on ‘Creating a Better Professional Online Profile’, click here:

Oh please, let’s put the ‘customer’ first!

July 13, 2010

The arrival of social media has opened up the age-old angst felt by PR, advertising and marketing folk; into whose domain should this new fangled idea fall?

PR people say that because it is all about the written word, it’s rightfully theirs. (And actually I don’t disagree!) Whereas the other lot talk about ‘integrated digital communication’ and ‘understanding the technology’ blah blah, so they should be responsible.

At the recent MIPAA (Motoring Industry Public Affairs Association) Masterclass, Simon Sproule, director, communications at Renault-Nissan Alliance expounded the view that perhaps now was the time to put an end to these turf wars, and for a new profession – a third-way – to steer a path between these warring factions.

He spoke about organisations still largely structured in functional chimneys – or silos – and gave a number of illustrations to ask the question: Is it marketing or is it PR?’

See presentation:

A brand’s involvement at an exhibition, say, is likely to have been led by marketing, had the PR people take over the stand for the first few press days, and then left for the sales people to look after the great unwashed and do their selling bit!

And that seems to be the nub of the problem. Communications – or as I have long preferred to call it, ‘the management of reputation’ – should not be process driven through tightly defined channels, but all-embracing. Neither should it be a top-down function: surely social media has taught us about inclusivity and dialogue, and torn up the rule book of one-way propaganda from organisation to audience?

Let’s just remember that the customer – aka the audience – doesn’t give a toss about any of the ‘mechanics’. All they want is a seamless join between the editorial they’re interested in, the Tweets, the ads, the exhibition stands, the guerrilla marketing stunts, the shop (sorry – retail experience!), how the ‘phones are answered, the brand values and yes – the product as they experience it, right from purchase through to after sales and repairs for the next umpteen years.

For them, whether they’re driving a Polo, sucking a Polo or watching the polo, it’s the totality of the experience – good, indifferent or bad, and from the first to the last encounter; that’s what forms their opinion and perception of a brand’s reputation.

So yes – I agree with Mr Sproule. We need to think beyond the platforms and processes and focus on changing behaviours and opinions. We need to tell a good, coherent and consistent story, and we need to do so in the round – the full 360 degrees. And critically in my view, we need to do all of this from the recipient’s perspective – the customer, rather than at the organisation’s convenience and via a traditional and evidently outmoded structure.