Setting up your online presence can be an onerous task.
There is a long list of to-do’s between setting up your website, optimizing your social media outposts and creating compelling content that not only resonates with your current readers but draws new visitors to your site.
And typically, the most significant movements forward come from concentrating on the big stuff and avoiding just-one-more-little-tweak syndrome.
When first starting out, most of us are overly susceptible to this condition because we don’t have a hierarchy of importance for tasks – we don’t have enough experience to determine what is critical for building momentum, and what are simply time-wasters.
What makes it even tougher?
Occasionally it is a small thing that can end up making a powerful difference in your ability to stand out, get noticed and build your author brand.
Here is one of those super-effective small things: your Gravatar.
What is a Gravatar?
As you’ve been busily commenting away on influential sites in your genre or niche (you have been implementing a comment strategy, right?), I’m sure you’ve noticed the small images that accompany people’s comments or discussions on the various sites.
These images are called Gravatars, which stands for ‘globally recognized avatars’.
A Gravatar allows blogs, sites and forums to use an avatar (an image, icon or graphic that represents you or your brand online) that you only have to set up once, rather than having to upload an image each time you comment.
Once set up, your Gravatar will be attached to an email address that you provide. So, when you leave a comment on a site that supports Gravatars (there are millions) using the email you’ve linked to the Gravatar, your photo or graphic will show up next to your comment.
If you leave a comment and your Gravatar has not been set up, you will often see a default generic mystery man image, a custom logo that the site owner has created, or if you’re commenting here on YWP, an alien. 🙂
How a Gravatar Can Help You Build Your Writer Platform
Some of you just dipping your toe into the pool of the online world, feel the need to embrace web anonymity–and tend to go deep into stealth mode.
But when it comes to building a platform, covert commenting, having an obscure About page or posting anonymously is clearly counterproductive.
Whether it’s a throw back to your writer ‘nom de plume’ roots, or a fear of revealing too much online, you must avoid secrecy and shoot for transparency, if getting noticed is what you seek.
This means putting a name and a face to your comments so you can develop relationships with both the owners of the sites you are commenting on, as well as like-minded readers who tend to travel in similar circles.
Here are some key ways a Gravatar will help you build your platform:
- Build your author brand. The consistency of your image and identity across different sites, forums and groups increases your brand visibility and authenticity. Your image and words will become reliably linked to the useful and thoughtful comments you make. As people continue to see your image and comments on articles they read, they’ll begin to relate to the person, as well as the brand message you share.
- Increase your influence and authority. Linking your thoughts, insights and expertise with your image increases your credibility and helps develop reader loyalty. Interactions with blog owners and other commenters, the depth and usefulness of your comments, and you ‘visually’ being everywhere, contributes to the perceived influence and authority you wield in your niche or genre.
- Drive traffic to your site. Comments linked with an image, stand out. And what stands out gets noticed. As readers begin to recognize you for the valuable contributions you make to discussions in the comment area, they are more likely to click though to check out your site. As blog owners note the quality of your input and the benefit you add to the conversation, opportunities–like guest posting, which can drive additional traffic–may arise.
Remember, your views and how you express them are very important when commenting on blogs or adding to the discussion in groups and forums. Even the snazziest of Gravatars will not entice a reader to click through if your comment is simply: ‘Great post!‘.
But a highly identifiable image linked with a perceptive response or a unique angle will–if used consistently and as part of a strategy–grow awareness for your work and author brand.
How to Create Your Gravatar in 7 Simple Steps
Step 1: Before you can set up your Gravatar account, you need to create your picture or graphic. Here’s some tips to ensure you have an image that pops:
- If you’re not a photoshop professional, try PicMonkey to edit, resize or otherwise tweak your image. (For a video tutorial on using PicMonkey to edit images, try this post on creating powerful images.)
- Use a clear, professional image that stands out. (For example, too much white tends to fade out on white backgrounds.)
- Consider how your image ties in with your branding as well as how it will be perceived by your target audience. For example, an avatar of you and your kids might work if you write children’s books; not so much if you write steamy romance novels. 😉
- Don’t be afraid to show some personality!
- Make sure it still looks good when reduced to Gravatar size.
- You can use a graphic or icon if it fits with your branding, but readers will tend to want to connect with real people, not a graphic or ‘business’.
- Keep in mind that images for Google Authorship need to be of your face; not cartoon characters, graphics or over-zealously photoshopped).
- Use an image that is easily identifiable as you (or represents your author brand) and try to use it across all platforms. This image can also be used on your About page or in your bio box at the end of your posts (and if applicable, in your bio for guest posts).
Step 2: Go to the Gravatar site to set up your free account, and click ‘Create Your Own Gravatar’.
Step 3: Enter the email address you want associated with your avatar and your comments (You@YourSite.com, for example), and enter a username and password. Click ‘Sign up’.
(If you are a WordPress.com user, click ‘I already have a WordPress.com account!’).
Step 4: You will receive a confirmation email, click on the link provided in the email, and then click ‘Sign in to Gravatar’ to continue with your Gravatar set up.
Step 5: On the Manage Gravatars page, click ‘Add one by clicking here’ and then click ‘my computer’s hard drive’ to choose your file. Click ‘Next’ to upload.
Step 6: If necessary, crop your image, then click ‘Crop and Finish’.
Step 7: Choose a rating for your image. (For those of you who are a little more risqué, please note that the x-rated rating will limit the use of your image on a number of websites). 😉
For more ways to beef up your Gravatar, check out these helpful links:
Test Your New Gravatar
Final step: Lets stop the ‘alien invasion’ on the YWP blog! Leave a comment below to test out your fancy new Gravatar, and so we can all see who’s leaving such valuable feedback and positive comments!
(After this post, I shouldn’t be seeing any more aliens in my comment section!) 🙂
Good luck! And feel free to share this post with friends, colleagues and followers who are commenting incognito via the ‘mystery man’…
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Original top photo by hotblack