The first time I wrote about gravatars, also known as avatars, was back in 2008. I wrote specifically about them in 2009, and again in 2013. Then, over the course of 7 years I’ve mentioned them from time to time, but I haven’t written specifically about them.
Last month I wrote an article talking about 9 ways to recognize spam. One of my points was that most spammers don’t have avatars/gravatars. Someone asked me about it and indicated he didn’t know how to get one. So, I decided to not only tell people how to do it, but republish some of the reasons why an avatar should be used if you’re going to comment on other blogs.
Before I go further, let me add that I’m waffling between avatar and gravatar because almost everyone calls them avatars, but back in the day when we set up avatars we went to a site called Gravatars, which is now owned by the WordPress.com people. That’s the site I’m going to send you to if you need to get an avatar, or even multiple avatars. However, I’m not starting with that; I’m starting with the reasons you should have one.
A gravatar is that image that you see next to some people’s comments or posts. It’s mainly used in blogging terminology because every other social media platform (I consider blogging a part of social media) uses avatars for pretty much everything. If it’s your blog you either have a picture somewhere on your blog of you or your business logo, but if you have a blog and respond to others, it helps to have a gravatar as much as it helps people who comment to have their own gravatar.
Let’s look at some reasons why everyone should have one beyond what I’ve already covered:
1. A gravatar lets people know who you are and that you’re a real person; most of the time. Sometimes people use them for misdirection purposes, but if you’ve savvy enough or have read the first article I linked to above, you’ll be able to tell when the entity commenting is real or spam.
Whether you write posts on your own blog or post comments on other blogs, a gravatar will be associated with your email address, which is required for any blog you comment on. When you set up your blog, you probably set it up with a specific email address, especially if you use WordPress software. The gravatar is set up with the email address, and thus people know it’s you.
2. You can use either a picture of yourself, your business logo, or anything else. Overall no one really cares, but of course there are reasons why you might want to select one thing or another.
For instance, I use images of myself because I’m an independent consultant, but also because my name is also associated with the former drummer for Jimi Hendrix. Thus, my face is my way of branding myself whenever I’m somewhere on social media, but also when I respond to comments. Some people like to use logos or cartoon avatars, the first for professional reasons, the second for privacy reasons. Others select something they like, such as animals or flowers or some other such thing, mainly because they’re not worried about doing anything in a business fashion online.
3. You can set up a different gravatar for every email you have if you’d like. I have 3 different blogs officially (I actually have 4, but I’m thinking about repurposing one of them), so I have multiple gravatars since I have multiple email addresses. This helps you decide if they you want one gravatar for business and one for personal use, since many of you have more than one account on sites like Twitter and of course multiple blogs.
4. You look more legitimate with one than without one. When people see your gravatar along with the url to your blog or website on a consistent basis, they’re more comfortable with you and they know you’re legit and trustworthy. True, some scammers have learned how to scrape your identity, but it’s easy enough to know when you see something that just doesn’t look right. It definitely helps if you have a common name to separate you from someone else.
5. With a gravatar, you stand out from all those people who might be legitimate but don’t have one next to their comment. I’ll admit that I’m more likely to visit a commenters blog if they have a legitimate looking gravatar next to a great comment. That’s actually what branding is all about, whether you’re branding your business or yourself.
6. When people get used to seeing your face, they look forward to seeing what you have to say. Most of the time when I get comments without gravatars, my initial thought is it’s going to be spam… and I’m correct way more times that wrong. Yet, when I see I’ve gotten a comment from a face I recognize, I’m usually elated because it means it’s coming from a person who visits you on a regular basis. There’s no better thrill than repeat visitors, is there?
With all I’ve mentioned above, I need to let you know that even though you have a gravatar, certain types of blogging software isn’t going to show it. I’ve seen that happen with Typepad and Joomla. They require a person to be on their platform before they’ll show your avatar. I figure that’s their problem; luckily they’re not as popular as WordPress is.
Now let’s get into the nitty gritty of how to use Gravatar. First, go to the site I linked to and set up an account with an email address. After that, you’ll have the option of either choosing one of their pre-made avatars, which I’d have to say are yucky (professional term lol), or you can upload an image from your computer, which is the best way to go. You can upload an image of yourself or whatever you wish to use, then you get to resize it so it’ll capture what you want people to see.
Since every avatar ends up being the same size, don’t select an image that has lots of stuff in it because if you’re going to try to get a lot into a small picture it’s going to look messy. As a recommendation, start with one email address first, then follow the steps below so you can see if it’s working for you. Once you know it does, then you can go back and create as many gravatars as you wish, as long as you have a different email address for each one. One last thing; you can use the exact same image for multiple email addresses, but you’re under no obligation to do so.
The next step is to go into your blog settings and activate gravatars. In WordPress, you’ll find it under Settings, then Discussion. When you change the settings, first allowing images (which you can also decide which ratings level, like the movies, you wish to allow; I picked ‘PG’), then deciding what to put if someone doesn’t have an image (I use a blank space). Once you do that you’re good to go.
There you go. I hope it’s an easy enough description of the process for those of you who haven’t set up an image yet, and I hope my reasons for having one make sense to you. Now you have no excuses; go get your gravatar/avatar now! 🙂