Is Your Social Media Avatar Killing Your Business?

Despite its small size, your social media avatar packs a big wallop when it comes to making a first impression for your business. Make sure it's not turning customers away.
November 18, 2014

These days, social media is such an integral part of both our personal and professional lives. We can connect with friends and customers whether we’re sitting at our desks or on the go.

That’s a good thing when you’re running a small business. At no other time in history have there been so many opportunities to connect with your target market.

But it’s also an opportunity to make new mistakes in the way you do business. Saying the wrong thing or acting inappropriately on social media can have a negative impact on your business growth—and it all starts with your social media avatar.

Making an Impact

There are varied definitions of the term social media avatar, but basically, it’s that tiny picture that represents you or your business on a social media network.

It’s important to remember that even though it’s very small, it can have a large impact on the impression you make on prospects and customers. Your avatar is your business calling card, so you need to make sure it truly represents who you are and what you represent.

If you haven't given much (or any) thought to your business's avatar, you may be unaware of the impression you're making. Here are three ways your social media avatar could be hurting your business:

1. No one knows it’s you. On every social network, your profile allows you to upload a photo or logo that will represent you or your business. If you don’t take the time to upload an image, the network will place a default image in its place. I’m sure you've seen the famous egg on Twitter and the blank silhouette on Facebook: 

Twitter Egg


Facebook Silhouette


To other people on those networks, seeing the default image will scream that you just don’t care. When people do business with a company, they want to know exactly who they're connecting with. It will be a challenge to make connections with others if you don’t make a point to upload a photo or logo so people get a sense of who you are.

2. Remember, it’s for business. Think carefully about the “first impression” factor of your business profile. Prospects and customers will make a split-second decision about your business based on your avatar. And once they’ve dismissed you, they typically won’t give you a second chance.

Here are the results of an informal poll I took on social media avatar “gripes” and what might prevent someone from connecting (or staying connected) with your business:

  • Constantly changing your avatar. Our social media streams run by so quickly that we mostly scan for avatars we're familiar with. Changing your avatar on a regular basis will only serve to confuse people. Conversely, if you haven’t changed it for a few years, it may be time to update it.
  • Having an avatar that’s a photo of your dog, cat or kids. It’s about business, not your family. Besides that, your dog, cat or kids probably don’t make your avatar recognizable to your customers.
  • Too small to tell what the picture is. A photo that has you or your company in it with an inspiring background probably looks great when it's a normal size, but when it’s reduced to avatar size, it’s just a big glob of unidentifiable nothing.
  • Political memes. Unless your business is directly related to politics in some way, you should stay away from an avatar that broadcasts your political preferences. Yes, you have the right to free speech, but it sure can hurt your business if your customers disagree with you politically. 
  • Cartoon characters or face caricatures. Either of these just scream fake or immature and will put off a lot of your connections.
  • Pictures of nature. Just as posting a photo of your family or your pets is a bad idea, an avatar of nature won’t make your business recognizable online.
  • Chopped-off family snapshots or wedding photos. These type of avatars tell your connections you don’t care enough to take the time to add a thoughtful picture to your profile.
  • Using an old picture of yourself. Vanity doesn’t win any prizes on social media. Nothing's more shocking that meeting someone via video or in person and finding out they look nothing like their avatar.

3. You use a logo when you should use a photo (or vice versa). Your social media presence is part of your brand strategy for your business. Facebook and Twitter both allow you to have a personal and a business presence. LinkedIn does, too. The last thing you want to do is confuse people by using a business logo on your personal profile or a photograph of yourself on your business pages, so think long and hard about the long-term effects of your avatar choice before you leap.

Of course, it’s often appropriate to have your personal photo on your business profile, especially if you're well known or are the face of your brand. Just make sure you're consistent across the different social networks. Many people use multiple networks, so having a similar avatar on the different social networks you use will help you brand your business.

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Photo: iStockphoto