Three reasons your Avatar has a shelf life

First and foremost, if we ever do meet in real life, I might not recognize you because that glamour shot you insist on using already has some miles on it. Plus, this isn’t a dating or casting site, so put it in play somewhere else.

But it was the best photo I had.

I hear ya; once I found one half-way presentable pic of myself it’s been all downhill from there. I’ve tried to come up with a newer, better version of me, but when you only have so much to work with you better run with what you got, right?

Your Avatar tells a story

Because the majority of the people we interact with online and don’t know in real life, we have to pick up on the subtle nuances going on with them online to try and judge their personality.

Avatar’s are a good starting point.

Some use their picture, some do not. When you have a mug like mine maybe I should think twice about what I’m trying to project, huh?

What does that tell you about the people who don’t post their own picture? To me, it screams witness protection program or bad divorce, but either way that is the spice and flavor of this online world; we would like to assume there is much more intrigue and glamour than is reality, right?

What about the ones who have never changed their Avatar? To me it screams lazy as hell, I know, because I am that guy. The reality is, I don’t go out seeking someone to take my picture just so I can change my Avatar. Plus, I am much better looking in real life, right Adam?

What about the ones that change it weekly? Restless souls? I don’t know; sounds like work to me so just refer to the above paragraph to see how I feel about work.

What are your thoughts on the three different scenarios; where are you in the mix?

Have you ever?

Followed or not followed someone back based on their Avatar?

I have used it as a deciding factor; maybe not 100% based on the Avatar, but if they had a cheesy about me to go along with it and I didn’t know them, they might not have made the cut.

The flip side of that is, most definitely I have used it to decide. I have followed back some just because of their Avatar; isn’t that right, ladies?

If you still have some type of follow back policy on twitter, how much does the Avatar come into play?

For the record? It’s a good thing I got to know some of you clowns first, or you might not have made the cut. What? It goes for me too? Well I never….

Have you ever two?

Been surprised at how much different a person looked in real life compared to their Avatar? Of course, in real life you get the whole package, with an Avatar it’s typically just the head shot.

I have, but not in a bad way; it’s just in real life it was much more current. Of course, I shouldn’t talk, everybody probably thinks I’m this relatively young, hip dude and when they see my big ol’ tired ass head, go whoa, what the hell happened to you.

I’m not that shallow thankfully; I look for the essence of someone and can say for most part everybody I have met in real life matched up pretty well.

But I am visual in that every time I correspond with you it’s the image of your Avatar that pops into my head.

So what does that say?

Well, since this is my educational series I would say this:

  1. Your Avatar is the face of you online, so what story does it tell? Do you care?
  2. Your Avatar can make or break a deal; even if that is a very shallow statement, it’s true.
  3. Every once in awhile, your house needs a coat of paint; so does your Avatar.

I guess it says maybe we are all shallow to a certain degree…hey, I’m not going at this alone, I’m dragging you with me, so when I say we I mean all of us.

Am I right or wrong, what do you think? I haven’t changed mine in two years, would you rather see the real me or reasonable facsimile from two years ago?

When we have fertilizer plants blowing up and terrorist bombers at the Boston Marathon, how important is all this stuff anyway, huh?

Have a great day.

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50 thoughts on “Three reasons your Avatar has a shelf life

  1. Hey Bill, I recently wrote an article on Gravatars and suggested that people don’t change their Gravatars very often. As you point out, your Gravatar becomes your face to the world and changing it is almost like changing your logo. If you want to change your photo often, probably best to change it on your Facebook page.

    You’re right, the photos can get dated, but changing them every week or month may be a bit much.

    Yes, when I’m approving comments and trying to decide if they’re spammy spammers, a decent Gravatar can make or break my decision. But don’t use a photo from a local news anchor. I am not fooled.

    Just look like yourself and smile. That’s all it takes. 🙂

    • I agree with Carolyn – your Gravatar ultimately speaks to your brand. Sometimes your brand needs a refresh, but if you play with it too often, you lose out on the traction you have already achieved.

      I’ve considered whether or not to replace my Gravatar with my corporate logo (which is the Gravatar for my MarketingWise’s social media accounts). But ultimately, I feel pretty strongly that even corporate brands need to be represented by real, live, breathing human beings. Especially in the world of social media, which is so much about relationship building.

      The worst Gravatar is the shadow man. You are 100% correct – that smacks of witness protection! I think my Gravatar resembles me to some degree. It’s not a gross misrepresentation (though it is about 2 years old!) We’ll just have to connect IRL so you can let me know if I’m deceiving the masses. At least it’s not airbrushed :-).

      • Speaking of air brush, do you know how to do that? I think Carolyn mentioned some cool apps that maybe I could get this done…what a great idea.

        I’m such a ham bone, I want people to recognize me. I don’t want to be that ‘creepy’ guy on the dating site that’s using a 20 year old picture and you have to show an ID just to make sure you are the ‘right’ guy.

        For better or worse, this is all I have to work with and as long as I’m comfortable in my skin, then it’s a good day, right?

        I’ve met Ralph Dopping in person from the Great White North, so maybe you can make a trek down to sunny F L A too, huh?

    • Sometimes it surprises me when people change and it’s like night and day; it makes me think ‘whoa, what picture were you using the first time around?” Of course, I used a rented one of a news anchor for my first few months…:).

      I just checked mine, if I replaced it with a similar ‘pose’ it would essentially look the same; I haven’t changed much in the last couple of years.

  2. I like to show my own picture in order others know me well and can consider what kind of person I am. It does not a matter for me if they judge me good or bad. We cannot avoid other opinions about ourselves. I can not force others to say that I am good or vice versa.
    It is their rights to judge others as far as it is objective and factual. I always try to be honest to me myself or even to others. Even though it will result in bitter and uneasy situation but I have to able to accept it.
    I recommend to use your own picture. It will be convenient to speak or have a conversation with others who have clear image. Anyway I must accept the different opinions and thoughts. It is democratic, isn’t it?

    • No, it’s my site so there is no democracy about it……….:).

      Personally, I don’t think I take a particularly good picture and feel I am much better looking in real life; as long as I believe that, then it must be so, right?

      It’s funny how some people put a lot of thought into it and actually pose and others just throw something against the wall.

      Different strokes for different folks I suppose.

  3. I do think an avatar makes a first impression, and in some cases could be the reason one follows/doesn’t… but for me, I tend to wonder: what is that person trying to tell the world by the use of that particular photo, or image, or cartoon, or whatever? If I know the person, or have had decent communications with her/him, then it really doesn’t matter. The thing is, our networks are so scattered, chances are we don’t get to have that kind of interaction all the time. That’s when the avatars start to matter.

    • True story? When I first interacted with you and based off your Avatar I thought you were going to be a lot more formal and professional when we met; real business-like. But when I met you in person, you were very warm, friendly and personable which was good. I would have liked you either way, but you just never know, huh?

      Of course, you thought I was going to be a lot taller so next time we meet I’ll make sure to wear lifts in my shoes like Tom Cruise…:).

  4. Hi Bill! Interesting topic! I don’t know how often one should change their avatar but I agree with Carolyn, it becomes your recognizable brand. I believe the avatar is important, though. It does create a first impression and you have to know what kind of impression you want to create. We are multi-dimensional people so there are many aspects of our personality we could feature. I guess the avatar should compliment your goals for being online since it’s an important part of the package.
    As for aging the avatar as you yourself age….no comment!
    Lori

    • You were around in my early days when I was dragging around that studio shot w/ a coat and tie. Just by looking at that you might think I’m pretty serious. But once people read my comments, they knew I was just a clown.

      Fortunately I figured out how to take my own picture from the camera on my computer, and the rest is history, right?

  5. On most sites I’ve stuck to my red baseball hat picture because it’s easy to see (and I can hide under it). I want a new picture though. I’ll get around to it this summer. I don’t like Avatars with no face of the owner. I’m as shy as the next guy, and I can use a real picture, so anyone can! I find it very difficult to trust someone without a real picture.

    • The cap is your trademark now…:). I’ve seen other pics of you, but if your signature Avatar becomes something else it might throw people for a loop.

      I don’t think there is a right or wrong way, but a pic does make an impression.

  6. I am 100% with you Bill, and YES, I have heard and understand the argument that your avatar becomes your brand and to change it hurts branding. I think that argument is only accurate if you ARE a brand, but we’re not, we’re people… and the entire point of social initially was REAL people communicating with each other.

    I had a dreadful shock once when my mature but attractive Realtor I met online looked as if she’d spent 20 years since the photo was taken on a beach drinking vodka.

    My rule is New photo at LEAST once a year.

    • Real people? You mean these are real people in here and not some fat, balding middle-aged dude living in his mother’s basement cranking this stuff out?

      If you hold onto a pic too long it’s almost as bad as a comb-over for a balding dude. At some point get comfortable with yourself and don’t make it a ‘whoa’ moment when we meet because your photo is so outdated, right?

      Of course, if I had your mug I would gladly display it; I need to take mine in a semi-dark room and shake the camera a little bit…:)

  7. “What does that tell you about the people who don’t post their own picture?”

    For some, it’s about brand recognition and that’s why they post a logo instead of a photo. As far as I’m concerned, what matters most is what a person does in real life and online and not what a person looks like … or whether they have a photo of themselves as an avatar online.

    • Hey, look who showed up. How have you been? How’s your son doing?

      It really doesn’t matter and people should be able to not be so shallow. HOWEVER, people are impressionable and sometimes that picture does have an impact, even if it is subtle.

      Personally, I don’t feel I take a good picture anyway, but it’s me and all I have to work with and since I’m all about networking and meeting people it’s ok if I’m recognizable.

      • Hi Bill. Thanks for asking. My son’s gearing up for more surgery in May at Sick Kids in Toronto, so I won’t really know how we are until the end of May.

        And I show up often … I just don’t post much. I do like how your posts give reason to pause and consider your point of view. Thanks for writing what you write, the way you write.

        Now back to the picture and gravatar issue we’re discussing. As “Elyse Bruce” I run with a colored pencil sketch I did back in 2007. I haven’t changed it since it went up as my gravatar, partly because it stands out in a sea of gravatars. Anyone who wants to know what I look like (or have looked like over the years) can Google me and like magic, anyone who really needs to know what I look like will see exactly what I look like (provided they have the right Elyse Bruce — there’s a couple others out there).

        As “Midnight In Chicago” I go with the initiative’s logo … again because it’s instantly recognizable, especially for those who are part of the disabilities communities in Canada and the U.S. as well as abroad.

        I don’t doubt that a photo has a subtle subconscious effect on people. However, I also believe that how one acts gives quite a bit of information about the person with whom you’re interacting online.

        I remember the first time we met online. I liked you then; I like you now. If I met you, I might not recognize your face (allowing for all sorts of variables, none of them negative), but I would recognize your professionalism and your personable nature. 🙂

        • Good luck with your son, I know he’s something special.

          Ultimately how you act trumps all, right? You can only fake it so long and your true colors eventually will show regardless of your mission.

          I appreciate your kind words and the fact you are still ‘hanging’ around; I’m surprised I’m still hanging around at times too…:).

    • I shaved my mustache about 10 years ago when grey started creeping in; that’s about all I will do for my vanity. No hair coloring, comb overs or toupees. So far I think I have aged somewhat gracefully and you get to a point it just doesn’t matter any more, huh?

  8. Bugs me when someone uses a photo of their pet or their kid. For the longest time I had some guy following me and leaving comments only to find after a couple years it was really a woman and she was using a pic of her favorite movie actor as her avatar. It totally changed some of the perspective of some of the comments I had been receiving from her.

    • That’s interesting indeed. I’ll bet it put a whole different perspective when you found out the person was a different gender. I would really be surprised if someone popped up and ended up being someone different than they were portraying online. Of course, I’m sure I can be easily fooled.

      Thanks for stopping by.

  9. Yo, Bill! I’m in agreement with the rest of the comments in the community here.

    The only avatar’s I really have a problem with or rarely ever connect with are logos, or anything for that matter that is not a picture of person I want to connect with.

    The bio which typically follows the avatar weighs on my decision to connect as well; for example, I am not interested in your religious or political point of views. That’s not something I’m the least bit interested in conversing about.

    Let’s talk about what we’re doing, what we can get done and how we can contribute positive things into the world of business and in general. I’m very interested in those topics : )

    • Hey, if you and I can put our big ol’ domes up there then it should be pretty easy for everybody else, right?

      I actually tried to take a picture today (because I was having an extremely good hair day) but when I looked at it, it looked exactly like my current Avatar so I’m good for awhile I think.

      Talk about cheesy, trying to take a picture of myself and looking into the camera instead of the computer screen and I’ve got this big ol’ goofy grin and somebody walks in my office and says ‘what in the heck are you doing?’ At least I wasn’t looking at porn, huh?…:).

      Man it’s hard being popular…….

      • You’ll be surprised at how many social connections won’t recognize you 😮 That’s the only reason I haven’t changed my avatar again…

        Funny, you’re probably one of those peeps who gazes in mirror cracking a smile at how dang handsome you are, yes? 😮

        Do you break out an air guitar or mic every now and again?

        Ladies man :p

  10. Well I do declare…! Hey just finding a decent picture, since few are taken was a challenge. It was a fun day when my picture was taken. Had to crop someone else out of it. I have tried a few more picture taking series and it looks as if I am unhappy, like extremely unhappy! Never did take a good picture except when I was 3 – 5 years old, and I don’t think that would work to well for my Avatar. Besides it would be in black and white. So until the photo gods can transform some essence of happiness on the occasional photo that is taken, you are stuck with the best I got!

    I do agree with others on what we expect and to change it, would be totally confusing as to our brand. Well that is my opinion and I will stand by it …of course unless some magic happens.

    Mary

    • I hear ya about finding a decent picture; I’m sure to an outsider it looks like me, but to me it’s like “who invaded your body and put that old ass head up there?”…:).

      I’m probably much more critical of myself than others, but that’s probably natural.

      Oh well, I guess we gotta plat with what we got, right?

  11. Bill – having an avatar is really important and it’s surprising to see many that still don’t get it. When I first started on Twitter I did not and learned from a photographer how important it was and he was right. Made a huge difference. I don’t think we should change them too often – like others said on Facebook that’s fine. But other places it is good to have consistency. There are some folks I will not follow or approve their comments due to the avatar unless I know them.

    • I probably see more changes on FB than I do on twitter; twitter is still a different animal. I just keep hoping I will find a better picture of myself and then I’ll change it…:). I think I missed the curve however…

      Maybe we can have a contest and pick 10 random twitter Avatars and have everybody put down what type of personality they think that person is, and then go to that person and have them describe themselves. It would be interesting to see the results, don’t you think?

  12. Remember when you used the Santa Claus avatar and it took you ages to get rid of it? This funny episode (well for me in any case) showed me how important an avatar is and that we should pay attention to what we choose. I use personal pictures (WYSIWYG, mostly outdoors in the sun – when it shows up), never replace it on my gravatar but ever so often on other platforms.

    And yes, I am influenced by an avatar, no cats, dogs and kids please, I want to see the real face and not a facade.

    • I think that damn Santa Claus is still hanging around somewhere; I will never do that again. However, I do notice some change their Avatar pretty frequently and it never seems to come back and bite them like mine did. I think I was still Santa at Easter….sheesh….

      I like the real face too…

  13. You want the serious answer?

    You are what you eat. Plain and simple. You also project who you are. It’s inherent.

    People who constantly change their avatar are not sure who they are yet. When I got into this game I read Mitch Joel’s book and one of the first things he said was be consistent and keep to the same image long term. I don’t necessarily agree but the “presto chango” every week is definitely not the way to go.

    My motto is be real.

    • Be real as real can be, right? I tried to be cute and changed mine to Santa the Christmas before last and man it was a pain getting it to totally go away.

      Plus, if you can find a semi-decent picture then run with it right? I’m pretty sure no matter how hard I tried it would still be the same pose and the same ol’ goofy grin.

  14. Uh… you might fool these folks, but I remember your first avatar buddy. I’ve got a screenshot, and I’m not afraid to use it. 🙂

    I’m definitely from the camp that you should not change your gravatar often, which means that you should pick it with care up front. (Like yours, my first one was too stuffy and Corporate.) I think people underestimate how recognizable they become and how when doing quick scans of a page of comments or of RSS feeds we use that quick reference to find the people we know.

    • Yeah, that Avatar was a little cheesy; I’m surprised I didn’t lose my ‘social’ card on that fox paw alone. Whew, it’s a good thing social can be forgiving at times, huh?

      I tried a couple of times to see if I could do a little better job, but every photo pretty much looks like the one I have so I guess I better leave well enough alone.

      Hope your new dog isn’t chewing up your house; talk to you soon.

  15. I changed my avatar within the last few months. For over a year, I had the picture with the Longhorn shirt and Oakleys…decided to go with the more casual photo from some professional family photos we had done over Thanksgiving. Easy to change Gravatar, but then I had to hunt down a few of the other places where I had a different avatar.

    LinkedIn was an example. I had a picture with me in a suit, but that isn’t really me. I had it there as “look, Brian cleans up well”…but my latest avatar is a better reflection of my personality.

    And it is sporting the beard…Fear.The.Beard. Oh wait, no…the beard is FRIENDLY. Do business with The Beard!

    • So, don’t fear the beard, huh? Is that a Colorado woodsmen thing. Mine would be way too grey….

      I think the casual look is a much better fit for me too. Going to see the Rays play tonight since you need someone to keep you up to speed for baseball season. Now that the Bucs have Revis Island, they are expecting big things. I think if the team stays healthy, they have the players….

  16. I ‘unfollow’ people who do NOT have a pic! I feel they are not paying attention to details. Why should I read anything they write if they can’t even post a picture of SOME sort? It almost seems like they are unreliable in a strange sort of way.

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