In social networking, indeed in all Web activities, quality comes from consistency – consistent messaging, consistent statements, and even consistent imaging.
Some time ago, one of my colleagues was rather shocked when, upon receiving one of my calls on his Andriod phone, he was greeted with an image of my face. He didn’t take the picture, nor did he program his phone to do anything out of the ordinary when I called him. So how did his phone get my picture? It was automatically displaying my globally recognised avatar or—Gravatar.
As the Gravatar site puts it:
Your Gravatar is an image that follows you from site to site appearing beside your name when you do things like comment or post on a blog. Avatars help identify your posts on blogs and web forums, so why not on any site?
This is very different from the “avatars” used on the popular but time-consuming Second Life site (http://secondlife.com/whatis/avatar/). Gravatars are a handy means of presenting yourself consistently throughout the Web – this can have great professional value.
Gravatar is a hosting service which allows you to upload, edit and manage avatar images and associates them with your email address and makes them publicly available. This way, any person, device or software with your email address can request a copy of your avatar from the Gravatar servers and can use your personal avatar image to identify your online presence. Blog posts, cell phone calls, smart TV accounts, and alike will access your Gravitar and use it to identify you.
Here on the right is an operating gravatar as used on a page of articles by Don Tapscott, a leading expert in how technology influences business and society, on which his gravatar appears at the top beside his name.
Gravatar enabled sites are common place these days. Blogs, forums, social media and public opinion sites can display your customised image with your content which uniquely identifies you. It allows you to add a visual element to your online identity. Because they are dynamic, if you decide to change your Gravatar, it will be automatically updated retroactively everywhere it was used.
There are real professional benefits to being able to manage your online presence in this way. As Maggie Fox, founder of Social Media Group (http://www.socialmediagroup.com/) told the audience at a Wired Woman Society event (https://whatsyourtech.ca/2010/01/29/digital-networking-prelude-to-a-handshake-not-a-replacement):
“Choose one professional photo and use it consistently. Further, keep a consistent presence on networks, including your photo, but also in terms of contributions offering your points of views on topics.”
Here’s a blog post about Maggie Fox in which author Allison Boyer takes Maggie’s advice by placing her gravatar beside her bio at the bottom – and there is the same garavatar on the left.
WhatsYourTech.ca is a Gravatar enabled site. If you want to try it out, sign up for a free Gravatar and set up your account. Then, post a comment here to show it off! You don’t have to do anything special. When you fill in your email address to post a comment, our website will automatically display the Gravatar associated with your email address beside your comment.