I'm sure you've seen the default images that seem to gobble up your avatar picture when you leave comments on some blogs. The biggest monster lately is the big blue Gravatar. Why does that happen and what is it costing you in terms of branding and promotion? This post talks about how your avatar image might get lost. But don't worry there is a simple solution to reclaim your identity.
What is a Gravatar?
The Avatar is an optional icon image at all social networking sites, to distinguish you on profile pages, internal messaging, discussions or when splattered in a widget of recent visitors. You have to add an image to each site's database or else you get their default. These are usually quite ugly and anything but unique. e.g.:
BC MBL SU Twitter
Blog commenting systems, plugins, widgets and hacks have learned to use the big profile databases set up by Google (Blogger) and Yahoo (MyBlogLog) to show your custom icon.
Definition of Gravatar: (The system was acquired in 2007 by Automattic which runs WordPress, Askismet and IntenseDebate to name a few)
A gravatar, or globally recognized avatar, is quite simply an image that follows you from site to site appearing beside your name when you do things."
Notice the words "follows from site to site." In essence you can have one icon image per email address to use "across the entire web." The gravatar system now "fits directly into the WordPress.com grid." In that grid there is only room for one avatar system --- Gravatar!
Where did your Avatar Go?
Here's the wording in our WP 2.7 blog that lets us select the default gravatar we want:
For users without a custom avatar of their own, you can either display a generic logo or a generated one based on their e-mail address."
You might ask, why do I get a default when I have my own avatar on Google? Well in the WordPress world the only avatar is a gravatar! So if you have not claimed your gravatar then you suffer the consequences of one of these defaults, depending on the whims of the blog owner (in discussion settings). I'm not a big fan of the wavatar and other generated icons. There's more variety to make the blog look better but your identity is still trapped.
What it costs you to not use gravatars
As someone who visits and comments on other blogs:
a good and thought-through Gravatar is a way to be seen, and get a message across, in addition to your actual comment." - DevLounge
The gravatar not only makes your comment standout but is an extension of your branding. You want people to recognize you, your product or your service. That's a big part of promoting traffic to your site. It could cost you that visitor who might become a loyal reader. Or the visitor who clicks on your affiliate ad. How memorable is Sandy in the composite snapshot below? You may have a lovely or funny BlogCatalog avatar, but it doesn't play here!
As a blog owner:
If you have a true community around your blog, then you should give special attention to those who take the time to interact. Give them the spotlight in Recent Comments, Top commentator widgets, as well as in the actual comment threads. People like free things and this one is another reason for them to take the leap from Google Reader to your blog. So it could cost you that extra comment or two that could increase your 'comment to post' ratio.
The Solution to No Avatar
Are you willing to fight back and restore your identity on other blogs? If so,
- Prepare the image you want to be seen around the blogosphere as you interact with other blogs. It is probably already on your PC or laptop.
- Go to Gravatar.com where you sign-up and upload your image.
- If you are a blog owner then follow the implementor's guide:
- Since it's built-in, nothing could be easier to implement in WP;
- There is a plugin to impement in MovableType
Unfortunately Live Journal is not supported and there is currently no Blogger interface. Gravatar says "We are in the process of discussing with Blogger the possibility of adding a gravatar template tag to their arsenal. Until then, however, there are a few third-party commenting systems you can use instead of Blogger's built in commenting system" - like Blogkomm and HaloScan.
What's holding you back from branding your gravatar? The writers here are on a hunt to get rid of all default gravatars. Don't make us come after you!