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  • 11 Rules for Best Personal Branding Results with Avatars

    Here are the best practices to using avatars in reinforcing your personal brand online:

    What is the goal of your personal avatar?

    If your avatar is meant to help people recognize you online only, the choice of image isn’t as important as the necessity to use the same image wherever you can.

    However, if your avatar is meant to help people recognize you on AND offline, you should use a portrait photo of yourself for the avatar image, and that’s the case I’ll focus on here.


    11 Rules for success

    1. Use a picture of yourself, not a logo

    Considering that we’re discussing “personal branding”, the avatar image should be a person – you. Most people say they never forget a face; help them by showing your face.

    2. Use the same picture everywhere

    This is key. An avatar is your personal logo online, and every appearance should reinforce your personal brand’s identity. If repetition is reinforcement, this single concept may have the most impact on your personal brand’s success. The best part of this is that reusing the same picture everywhere is just simpler to manage too.

    3. Full head shot only

    A consequence of using the same picture everywhere is that the image will appear in different sizes. If people are to recognize you, your face should appear as prominently as possible wherever it will be displayed. Considering that avatars can be seen as small as 16 x 16 pixels, only a full face image will give you any chance of being recognized universally.

    4. Use a professional self-portrait

    This is a no-brainer. Make the best impression with a picture of the best quality.2889434908_acf8145f88_m

    5. The picture should resemble your real face as much as possible

    While trying to look as good as possible in the picture, don’t go so far with makeup or Photoshop touch-ups that you’re barely recognizable in reality, defeating the whole purpose of the avatar. On the other hand, do cover up or digitally remove any temporary facial blemishes that were visible on the day of your photo shoot.

    6. Only use special effects for shock value

    For some people, it’s more important that the image be memorable than an accurate portrayal, such as a professional clown who’s trying to make you laugh. In that case, it’s ok to use special effects (facial distortions, etc.) to further your goal.

    For everyone else- special effects will only make you less recognizable in real life.

    7. Have your picture taken when you’re feeling fine

    Sleep well the night before or even the few nights before. Also, avoid a photo shoot when you’re sick. It’s a bad sign if the pictures haven’t been taken yet and you already know that Photoshop will be needed.

    8. Keep makeup understated unless you have a good reason

    If you only want people to recognize you when you have makeup on, use slightly more makeup than usual for the picture. Otherwise, keep it understated so that people can still make the connection if you’re not wearing any makeup at all when you meet.

    9. Your facial expression should inspire the right emotions

    Most people will want to inspire confidence and professionalism with their avatar.

    The quickest way to make a good impression is with a nice smile or slight grin, something we grew accustomed to seeing as babies.

    For other people, like boxers or prison wardens, a grim face is better to show toughness.

    10. The photo background should contrast well

    A background that contrasts well with your head or face will make it easy to look at the image online. Another reason to get a professional photographer to take the picture for the avatar.

    11. Only use images in the jpg format

    Most social networks like LinkedIn or Facebook will let you upload gif, png or jpg images but of those 3, only the jpg standard compresses photo quality images well.


    If you take the time and thought to create the best avatar for your personal brand just once, you can multiply the benefits with every view your avatar gets online.

    Next week- the avatar size guide.


    Jacob Share, a job search expert, is the creator of JobMob, one of the biggest blogs in the world about finding jobs. Follow him on Twitter for job search tips and humor.


    Jacob Share is the founder and SVP of Share Select Media, a company focused on empowering quality bloggers and blogs such as Group Writing Projects, The Original Home of Group Writing Projects. His JobMob blog has attracted over a million page views last year alone. He grew up between Canada, France and Israel where he had his first Internet experience in 1994 and was hooked. Since then he’s enjoyed playing a part in growing the Web as a manager-developer and project manager at Amazon.com and other e-commerce companies before starting up his own venture.

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    14 comments on “11 Rules for Best Personal Branding Results with Avatars
    1. avatar
      Torley says:

      Jacob! These rules, which I’m thankful you’ve outlined, are certainly worth for most personalities to apply. It’s intriguing to note who doesn’t follow the rules — does the inverse or twists them — and succeeds on those terms.

      For instance, the many Flickr users who use an stylized image of their eye, or another eye ( http://www.flickr.com/photos/melodioussource/ ). Even Thomas Hawk, who’s built up an incredible personal brand revolving around his photographic prowess, has a Flickr avatar where he obscures his face — quite suitably — with a camera. http://www.flickr.com/people/thomashawk/

      I suggest backing up your avatar to Flickr (which auto-resizes it into several versions) and/or having differently-sized versions on disk. Some services can resize and crop, others can’t.

      Often, avatar space is too cramped to show fine facial detail, and you’ve illustrated this with the near-favicon dimensions above.

      I found my “personal logo” (as you see here) was more effective than my actual face, so I went with that as well as the WATERMELON WOW found in http://www.flickr.com/photos/torley/sets/72157604357899854/ . But I can’t think of an exception to “#2”; that, for practical intents and purposes, is universal.

      • avatar
        Jacob Share says:

        Good to hear from you again, Torley. There’s no question that your avatar makes it easy to recognize your comments universally.

        It’s true that there are good reasons to use an image other than your face. And it’s nice to hear that you’ve tried different things to see what worked best, not enough people do that.

    2. avatar
      Olaf Gradin says:

      My wife is a professional photographer, so I have an obvious in. But even if you don’t have a photographer in your life, you need to put some effort into finding a quality image. Some pointers include good lighting (daylight from a window works well) and a minimalistic background.

    3. avatar

      Hello, Jacob!
      You made some excellent points that increase awareness in our everlasting quest to develop a strong personal brand. I particularly paid great attention to your opinions about connecting (or not) the online presence and the real life presence.
      I’m glad to have applied most of your suggestions! Nevertheless, I will review my Personal Avatar process and will definitely pass on the information you posted here to others who may benefit from it.
      Many thanks!
      Denise Zaldivar

    4. avatar


      Thanks for that list. It’s a great help, especially for people who are just starting to build up their online ID. I think I followed your rules with my picture/avatar, some of them on purpose (e.g. the consistant use of the same picture) and some of them instinctively.


      btw, how can I include my avatar in the comment section here? Do I have to log in or sign up anywhere here on the site?

    5. avatar

      Great artticle – good rules
      i will add another one:
      Update your avater at least every 6 months

    6. avatar
      yinka olaito says:

      Jacob, this article is very “insightful”. We must understand the goal of everything. Doing it for doing it sake is worst. Others will get greater result while the followers will be left behind. But the issue is i have account with avatar but despite the fact that my headshot is there, I always appears invisble, is there anything I have have not done right?

    7. avatar

      It is important to use a photo that would make you look professional.Remember that you are representing a certain company. People should see real people with decent photo. I think these rules would also fit in applying for a job. It’ll give employers an impression that you are professional.

    14 Pings/Trackbacks for "11 Rules for Best Personal Branding Results with Avatars"
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