Your Twitter avatar, that little picture that accompanies every single message you publish on the network, is important. Probably more important than you think – a poll I ran a couple of years ago revealed that only 5% of my readers didn’t care about the avatar of the people they were following.
Here are five quick tips to help you get it right.
1. We Want To See YOU
You should always use a recent photo of your face for your avatar – 58% of my readers prefer and expect that.
And just your face – not a close-up of your eyeball, not a picture of you (at least, we think it’s you) from a mile away, and definitely not a picture of your pet, your baby, your favourite celebrity or all of the above. Just your face, shoulders up, and nothing too staged or iStockphotoesque. A good, but regular picture of you.
Exceptions: if you’re a brand with an established, recognisable logo, and/or your Twitter profile is managed by a team (as opposed to one person), then it makes sense to put your ego to one side and use your logo.
Otherwise, no exceptions. Face, face, face.
2. Your Avatar Needs To Be BIG (Not Small)
Upload a large image in as high a resolution as you can manage taken with a decent digital camera – go for a JPG or PNG over a GIF. Twitter allows up to 700KB and will shrink it down for you to 48×48 pixels, but when somebody visits your profile page and clicks on your image it should get bigger, not stay the same size. I’ve requested a close-up – please don’t disappoint.
(I’ve actually seen a few that get smaller – just how low does your self-esteem have to be?)
Moreover, many Twitter clients (i.e., TweetDeck) enlarge the avatar when somebody clicks on a profile, and a small, low-res image will display extremely pixelated.
I recommend uploading avatars of at least 400×400 height and width. Twitter will take care of the rest.
3. Animation Sucks
Nobody thinks your dancing banana, spinning vortex or crudely hacked together 3-second movie clip is cool or interesting. It’s an instant turn-off. I don’t want to see that crap in my stream – so I unfollow or block. Make it your face, and make it static.
4. Be Sparing With Charity
Twitter is a great place to raise awareness of charities and causes, and lots of people like to use ‘twibbons’ and similar avatar bolt-ons to do their part. That’s nice, but putting aside how effective these things are at the best of times, if you’re always promoting one cause or another the message quickly gets diluted and lost.
If you do it very occasionally, somebody might actually notice. Do it all the time and it becomes just another banner ad.
5. Stick With It
Once you’ve found a profile photo you love – and this should be approached en masse, much like a beauty magazine editor finds that perfect picture of this month’s pretty young thing – stay with it for a long time. Don’t change it the next week, or even the next month. Your profile image is part of your brand. People become accustomed to your face, and start to look for it.
Which means that once you’ve found that perfect avatar, don’t just use it on Twitter – use it everywhere. Facebook, Google, LinkedIn, your blog, and so on.
And when you do change it, announce it. Otherwise you might just disappear.
Bonus Tip: Keep Things Under Wraps
Male or female, avoid showing too much flesh. Unless you’re:
(a) working in an industry where that is expected or
(b) really, really desperate
in which case knock yourself out. But showing a little too much skin means that nobody is going to take you seriously, and you’re only going to attract a certain kind of person. Which is fine if that is what you want. But, deep down, I don’t think it really is. Amirite?
Your profile picture matters – it matters a great deal. That doesn’t mean you have to spend eons aching and obsessing over the perfect image, but it does mean you need to give some thought. Have fun with it, but make sure it serves its purpose and does the job.
Because as much as we’d like to think that people don’t judge books by their covers, or that first impressions don’t count, they absolutely, positively do. And unfortunately, they probably always will.
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