Archive for August 2010
First a bit of background to why I’m discussing photo versus non-photo Twitter avatars: My friend @JohnAntonios mentioned me in his blog post Personal Branding – Your Avatar is Important, Stick to It. He was discussing how it is important not to just randomly change your Twitter icon or your handle since that is often how your followers know you. All great points. John used myself and another non-photo avatar user (@MrWordsWorth) as examples. Then SuperAvatar.com developed John a cartoon avatar that he is thinking of using as opposed to the photo he currently has. He asked me which I prefer. This made me think of a debate that is currently raging amongst marketers that is profiled in the book I’m reading, Twitterville. I just had to respond with a blog post instead of a simple Tweet.
The debate is about whether or not branded/logo avatar Twitter accounts are better than company spokespeople accounts. I think this applies to personal cartoon accounts as well.
Now in the book, author Shel Israel (@shelisrael) is unashamedly biased in preferring spokespeople accounts, like Dell’s policy of having employees use Twitter handles using the @NameatDell template and real photos for their avatars (here’s an example). This is opposed to having accounts like the @Starbucks account which is entirely business and has a logo for an avatar. Israel does a good job of showing the other side of the argument, however, through interviews with “branded tweeters,” or the folk behind such accounts as @Starbucks. (Full book review coming)
But how does this apply to personal accounts? Does it? The arguments for businesses using a logo account are not the same as for an individual using what I’ll call a cartoon account, or a cartoon/non-human avatar. Businesses use logo accounts usually to maintain a consistent, branded message, which would get diluted if people used their personal accounts and talked about baseball games. Individuals use cartoon accounts to better display their personality, perhaps as a part of their personal branding strategy. If their personal brand is best served by a picture of dandelions, then that’s what they would use, according to this argument.
The argument against logo accounts does apply to personal cartoon accounts. Social media is all about interacting with people, not logos. What about to dandelions? Or Muppets, like @MrWordsWorth? Or cartoon faces, like my own avatar. @BryanRicard left a comment on John’s original post saying, “In @KateDavids case, her real picture is used in her Twitter background, so if she wants to use a cartoon image for her profile picture, why not.” But my background is not visible in people’s personal Twitter streams, and many people use 3rd party apps like TweetDeck. They only see my cartoon. Your avatar is your face and what people interact with.
So, in response to my friend John’s question, yes, I like the new avatar. But I like the real picture of him better because his face is more expressive in the photo than in the cartoon. Does that mean that I don’t think people should use cartoons? No, I use a cartoon avatar, after all. But I think that the logo avatar debate applies to personal accounts and must be considered in making an avatar choice. Personally, I think that a dandelion avatar isn’t good if you want to attract followers, but as long as there is a face, cartoon, Muppet, or otherwise, that people can identify with, then the avatar works.
What do you think? Do you think that the logo account debate applies to personal accounts? Do you not distinguish between cartoon accounts and photo accounts? Do you follow brands?
Just because it is your day off doesn’t mean you’re free from business lessons, as my trips this week to Starbucks showed me. When a company does something it right, it does more than win me as a new customer. It inspires me in my own work.
Up until now, I avoided Starbucks. I love the company. I think they are an awesome, eco-conscious, and community friendly corporation. It’s just that, as a general rule, I hate chain stores. I shop in them, and I’m a passionate fan of some of them (Borders!), but I would plunk down my money at a local shop before a chain store any day of the week.
Then my friends gave me a Starbucks gift-card for my birthday. Give me free spendy-money, and I’ll use it, so the next day I could go to a cafe to write, I went to the closest Starbucks. I was expecting what I usually got at a Starbucks, smiley people and a calorie laden beverage.
Check to the first, but I balked at the second. If you haven’t caught on, I’m female and hooked on this diet nonsense. Dylan, the shift manager, helped me choose off of a list of drink choices that satisfied my “watching the girlish figure” requirements. And while he was making the drink, he chatted with a gentleman who obviously came in regularly. That was the first sign I was somewhere special.
I sat down to work on my most recent fiction writing (a short story I will post here when it is ready). Around me, people where conducting business meetings, chatting with friends, stopping by for a drink after dropping the girls off for dance lessons at the nearby dance school. You name it. It was a local place. Smaller and cozier than the cafe I usually go to, where I often have to share a table with someone to be by a wall outlet.
These things all speak to more than just a good location and interior decorating. They speak to “local.” The service I got is something you get when the people behind the counter see themselves not as employees of a big chain but as members of the community. And that’s important. It’s what keeps the dancer moms, friends, and business people coming in. This is what can happen when people do their job right.
Customer service is a tough gig. You have to listen to bitchy people bitch. But it can make an international chain a local hangout. If that isn’t magic, I don’t know what is. And if they can make logo magic, then I think I can, too. This Starbucks has inspired me to reach new heights in my dedication to my customers, clients, and coworkers.
This blog post has two points: 1) to show how businesses can inspire us, and 2) hopefully someone at Starbucks will see this and give Dylan and his people (Thunderbird and Tatum store in Phoenix, AZ, now) some props. I filled out the form online, but it seemed more geared for complaints. I would have liked to fill out an applausogram (what we Cast Members received at Disney when a Guest wanted to compliment their customer service). However, I think that’s a post for another time.
As the business world becomes more and more international, more professionals are traveling, taking them abroad for everything from conferences to two year stints in foreign countries. Besides dealing with the logistics of hotels and currency conversion, these professionals are going through the visa process. I’ve done it once so far, am working on a second time, and have seen my brother do it twice himself. We’re an international family, and being one gets me some insite into the schizophrenia of visas.
Welcome to the first post of the Getting a Visa Blog Series.
Besides relying on my own experience, part of my preparation for this blog series was asking a Question on Linked In about what people thought of the visa process and doing general research. This is not a step-by-step guide to how to get a visa but rather an exploration into what the process is like. I would love to do a step-by-step guide, but the process varies tremendously depending on your country of origin, destination country, and the time of the month (this last might be an exaggeration, but I’m not sure).
This time, we’ll cover one aspect that seems particularly burdensome in getting a French visa, but can also nip you in the bum with other countries: documents.
To get my French student visa, I had to have my documents, including my birth certificate, translated into, yes, French. This ties in to a little bit of French law many Americans at least might not realize–all contracts must be written in French when they are with a French company. I had to get a bunch of documents, too, each translated into French by a certified translator. Everything from my birth certificate to my college transcripts. I even seem to remember my high school records getting caught up in that. If you don’t believe me that the French are document prone, Maggie Kim, a writer and musician who moved to Paris from New York to be with her husband, had a similar experience. After my list of documents was acquired and translated (my translator was in Florida. I did a bit of mailing), I had to then get to a French Consulate and submit them for inspection.
Maggie lived in Manhattan, so when she got turned away because she didn’t have the right documents, she could go back without being tremendously put out. I live in Arizona, so my nearest consulate was in LA. Those plane tickets aren’t bad, but I am not made out of money. I had to get everything right the first time. I made my appointment and showed up. Surprisingly, I thought the people working at the consulate were kind, though I don’t doubt that my ability to actually speak French had something to do with that. A nice little note to all folk thinking of going to France for anything: at least try to speak French. The French people will love you for it and then whip outtheir (generally) amazingly good English.
No one will say that this love of documentation is a French monopoly. Other countries can be just as insane. My mother and brother once almost got turned away from getting an Italian student visa because the woman behind the counter didn’t like the type of paper the photocopies were on. To hear my mother tell the story, the only reason my brother was able to legally immigrate to Italy for his bachelors degree was that Mother glared at the consulate worker with enough passion and threat of imminent danger that the woman meekly took the documents and issued the visa.
If you have any of your own stories, please share them in the comments. I don’t know how long this series will be, but next up, I tackle paperwork!