Cartoon Icons & Logo Twitter Debate
Posted August 26, 2010on:
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?