Archive for March, 2011

Is your Avatar as Professional as You

Posted by 25 Mar, 2011

Why your social media persona is important. How you can create a professional visual presence for free.         Once upon a time to market your business all you needed were some business cards a telephone and perhaps if you were flush with start up capital – a brochure and an ad in […]

Why your social media persona is important.

How you can create a professional visual presence for free.





Once upon a time to market your business all you needed were some business cards a telephone and perhaps if you were flush with start up capital – a brochure and an ad in yellow pages.

How times change; in today’s multi channel marketing world a whole variety of tools are at your disposal each requiring it own discipline.  And, the pace of change gets faster and faster new technologies are almost tumbling over one another to gain ascendancy.  One of the newest, and probably most controversial, is Social Media Marketing sometimes referred to as Socialnomics, only a few years old but now experiencing huge exponential growth, and whether you believe they are a complete waste of time or valuable tool enabling direct contact with your target audience one thing is certain, this style of communication is here to stay.

From a business perspective, although there are a host of browser based software options, the recognised front runners are Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn (use these links to connect if you like !) and although these are very different marketing platforms they have one thing in common – the ‘Avatar’ or the little square picture sitting top left of screen.  This was the point during your signing up for an account with one of these social media vendors when you were presented with an ‘upload your photo’ button, and thought, “Good grief, where can I find a photo”. Rummaging in the attic and finally resorting to the one of you grinning at the camera whilst in the Costas.  Much in the same way as in the past you might have thought “I need some business cards” and nipped down to the local copy shop.

The result is largely the same – unprofessional, creating negative impact and damaging the perception of you and your business.

Why so?  When you are having a face to face communication, you have an opportunity to build rapport and create a good impression, the business card is secondary, albeit still important.  Not with #SM when someone links to you that little picture is all they’ve got.  That’s why it is important.

So I thought it might be useful to provide a few hints and tips on how to create an Avatar that will give a professional impression and it won’t necessarily cost a bean.

Firstly consider how want to use Social Media and what you think the viewer will be looking for.  If you are marketing  a product you manufacture – a picture of it; a service that you provide – a photo of you; an abstract, like a community or charity could be an iconic image or logo.

Secondly bear in mind size.  Avatars are a tiny squares and you want yours to convey your message. A photo of you in front of your wonderful new premises looks great on the website and press release but will be reduced to unidentified blobs at this size.

Here’s how – First off, get out the digital camera and take your picture. Now I did say ‘for free’ so YOU have to take the picture but if you really don’t get photography then employ the family camera enthusiast or bring in a professional there are super people around who will do this for less that £100 and provide you with range of shots you can use in a variety of ways. Here are some I hadshot by Blue Skies Photography in Redfield, Bristol [OK it did cost me something!). Note the composition and usage of a plain grey or my brand colour background to provide a space to superimpose a logo or keyword.

avatar photos selected for applause

If DIY is your choice here are some handy hints:

  • Use natural light but not direct sun and not flash (window light is good for portraits)
  • Make sure the background is uncluttered (there won’t be room for much background anyway)
  • Wear clothes that contrast with the background and convey your style (professional, trendy etc)
  • Make the subject occupy at least a third of the picture area (cameras today have plenty of resolution for this purpose but bear in mind you might want to use this shot for other purposes)
  • Consider using some bright colour (background, clothes flowers perhaps)

OK so now you have your picture and imported into the computer the final stage is to prepare the image for upload.  You will need some image editing software to do this, if you are lucky enough to have a copy of Photoshop or Fireworks you are good to go. But there are many free applications you can use, GIMP is a good example that will do all you need (‘FREE but do make the donation).

The Gimp open dialogue, applause tutorialThe task is to adjust and crop the image to the size required so that you have exactly the right image to upload.  If you have Photoshop likely you’ll know what to do so I’m leaving you to your own devices.  If not download and install the GIMP from here .  Here’s quick ‘how to’ adjust and crop a photo for your avatar:

1. Open a photo file, I’ve picked a flower photo so we can assume this is for a florist’s Twitter avatar photo.



2. Often the exposure or colour of the picture isn’t quite right so you have a complete range of tools under the <Colours> menu to adjust the image to your liking.

3. Now you crop the area to select the portion of the image you want to use.  On the tool panel on the left find the ‘craft knife’ icon (I’ve ringed it red on my screen image) and select it, you can now draw an area over the image, you can also fine tune your selection by dragging the corner handles (remember you want to end up with a square format).  Once you are happy hit <enter> and save your image (use a different filename if you want to keep the original.  All that remains is to set the image to the correct size, most Social Media programmes use 100 x 100 or 200 x 200 pixel images for avatars. Go to the <Image>/<Scale Image> menu to adjust the size of the final image the whichever size you require and do a final save.

This is clearly a very quick snapshot and there are a host of tools and features within the software that will allow you to manipulate your avatar photo in a host of ways.  Have a play and see what you come up with – but remember the final photo will need to reflect the professional image you want to portray so don’t get too carried away!

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