Setting Up your Twitter Profile
It’s a little alarming how many people new to Twitter skim over these details. Failing to set up your profile is a bit like heading out on a first date without making that last check in the mirror. Before making that first impression—you know, the unforgettable one—it is always a good idea to check the small details: breath check, teeth check, and wardrobe check. Skipping those precious few minutes of preflight puts you at risk of making your first night on the town your last night on the town, which is why we always run down the basics before heading out.
Twitter is no different. You are now registered and ready to make new friends and connect with current ones. To people who don’t know you, what does your home page say about you? Does it say too much? Does it say enough? What kind of introduction are you making on the Twitterverse? This is what the profile is all about: your chance to introduce yourself and make a good first impression. You want to let people know as much as you can (in a short amount of characters), who you are, and what you will bring to Twitter. The more you let people know about who you are, the easier it will be for you to foster a strong community.
What’s in a Name? (Quite a Bit, Actually!)
Let’s begin with the name. Right now, you have your username displayed, the default option for Twitter. Many people stick with this as their identity, perhaps out of that nervousness in revealing too much online. A legitimate reason? Maybe, but it is not like you are giving out your credit card or Social Security number as your Twitter name. You are introducing yourself, and if you want to go with a nickname or a company brand name, you can do that as well. This moniker is how people will see you in their Twitter clients (Twitterific, Twhirl, and so on). (More on that in Chapter 4, “Working Beyond the Website”)
So how do you want to be seen on Twitter? If you are not comfortable with your real name on Twitter, give a nickname a go. It could be an alias hung on you in college, which went on to become my username here, or you can use a character’s name from your favorite role playing game or latest read. Or come up with your own clever spin from the last book you read. For example, if you’re a fan of Dan Brown’s riddle-solving hero, Robert Langdon, call yourself “PuzzleGuy” or “SolutionGirl”. When you deduce how people will see you on Twitter, take a few moments to move beyond your username.
- Log into Twitter (if you haven’t already) and when your home page (found at http://twitter.com/home) loads, click on the Settings option, located at the top of the page.
In the Name field, you can set up your real name, nickname, company moniker, or your own moniker-of-the-day.
For your name, you are allowed twenty characters. That includes spaces.
- In the Username field, you see the identity you logged in with. Although you can change this, it is best to stay with the one you originally came up with, for simplicity’s sake. Same goes for the email address, unless you decide to give your Twitter account a complete makeover, which you can do here.
- In the Time Zone field, select what time zone you currently reside in or where you are in the world. These are for the time stamps appearing in your tweets and details that other clients report to their users.
More Info URL is where you can enter in a website that best represents you. If you have a personal site or are using Twitter for your day job, here is your chance to invite potential members of your network to see you beyond that 140th character.
Figure 2.4 At the top of your Twitter homepage are options for your Twitter account. Settings is where you can customize and adjust your Twitter presence to fit your mood or intent.
- In the One Line Bio field, enter in a message, a personal tagline, or a quote that best represents you. Twitter limits what you can say here to 160 characters or less.
- In the Location field, enter in where you are hailing from. This can be a literal location, a state of mind, or (for some Twitter users) coordinates from Google Maps.
If you tweet in a different language, you can change your dialect in the Language drop-down menu.
The final options under Language are security options: Protect My Updates and “Delete My Account.” We cover those later in this chapter.
- Single-click on Save to save your changes.
- When your changes have been verified, click on the Profile option at the top of the screen to take a look at your profile in progress.
And so begins the building of your Twitter profile. You can see in Figure 2.5 by the small icon (also known as an avatar) to the left of your username that Twitter is making a suggestion: Add a photo. Why not? Anything (within reason) can serve as your avatar, but your avatar is much like your Name on Twitter. It can fit your mood for the day, week, or in general. Some images do make better avatars than others, but these are also easy to add to your Twitter account.
Figure 2.5 The Profile option in the Twitter menu gives you a look at how your page appears to others in Twitter and displays your public tweets and replies independent of other tweets in your network.
The Importance of a Good Avatar
It might seem like a tiny detail to concern yourself with, but in the same way a name, bio, and URL say a lot about you, so does your avatar. The icon you create for Twitter becomes (to coin a marketing term) your personal brand on Twitter. When using Twitter for business, it stands to reason that your company’s logo (used with permission, of course) serves as your avatar. With your own personal account, your avatar can work as a “mood ring” and can be replaced within a few clicks to reflect what kind of a day, week, or life you are having. The avatar can take the “What are you doing?” aspect of Twitter to a visual level.
- Click on the Settings option at the top of your Twitter interface, and then single-click on the Picture tab.
Currently displayed to the left of the blank data field is your current avatar. Single-click Browse to search through your computer for an avatar that best represents you, your business, or your current mood.
Images you consider should be no larger than 700K in file size, no larger than 600 × 600 pixels in dimension, 72 pixels per inch in resolution, and saved as either JPEG or PNG formats in RGB mode.
- When you find the image you want to use as an avatar, select it and then click OK.
- Single-click on the Save button.
You receive confirmation that the avatar is in place when you see That’s a Nice Picture along the top. (This message disappears after a few seconds.)
- Single-click on Profile and then click on the image. Twitter shows you the image at its full size with the Name you entered.
When creating an avatar, you should consider that impression you want to make. The priority is, of course, to get away from the default image that Twitter has given you; but what do you want your avatar to say about you? Is this a professional impression you want to make or are you wanting to introduce yourself to your growing network with a sense of humor? And although you might find one picture to be a terrific picture representing you, does it work as an avatar? Camera phones and simple photo editors make avatar creation a breeze, but what should you use and what should you avoid?
Using your Own Likeness
Perhaps the simplest and best way to introduce yourself to people is to use the headshot, a photo of you preferably from the neck up. With this avatar people now have a face to put with a name. It is a more personal connection you are making with the people you’re reaching out to and communicating with through Twitter; and depending on your creativity, the avatar of you can also work on reflecting your particular mood that day.
One of the arguments against personal avatars is that you might not consider yourself photogenic or you don’t want to make such a personal connection with your network, and that is your own choice. The personal avatar is just that: personal. If you are comfortable in sharing your likeness with your network, then feel free to do so. The important thing here is to represent yourself as accurately and as honestly as possible.
When selecting a photo of yourself, here are a few things you might want to consider:
Find images that are taken either from the waist or neck up—Images that will become avatars are usually reduced in size. Any full body shots of you will be discernable on Twitter and third-party clients. The curious (such as myself) will probably follow the links to your profile picture (as shown in Figure 2.6), but if you are trying to give people at a glance who you are, the full-body shot may be lost. Try to keep the avatar tightly cropped and close up.
Figure 2.6 Once a new avatar is in place, Twitter renders it in your Profile full size for potential followers to see. (How’s this picture for a first impression?)
- Use images that are square—Although you can use images that are rectangular, Twitter—for your avatar—crops it for you and might crop out a detail you wanted to point out. Refer back to my suggested settings for your avatar featured in this chapter, and then consider your scanned image or digital photo from that perspective. Many inexpensive photo editors allow you to preview an image cropped before actually cropping it.
Avoid images with busy backgrounds—If you take a closer look at Figure 2.7, you notice that what is behind me in the photos does not overpower or distract you from me. What is happening behind you is just as important as the picture of you because too much detail (or what some photographers refer to as “noise”) in the background can make avatars on Twitter difficult to make out. Keep it simple.
Figure 2.7 Here are a few examples of personal avatars from my TeeMonster account. They range from simple to candid.
- Avoid offensive imagery—No, this is not some sort of “Oppression of your Right to Expression,” but this is Twitter laying down its law: If you use the site, you need to keep it clean. No nudity. Refrain from obscene gestures. Keep your gore level to the barest of minimums. Does everyone follow these rules? Not always; but on a whole, the community does a good job in policing themselves. Still, Twitter asks that your avatars remain within the boundaries of good taste. It’s not asking a lot, and your network will appreciate it.
Using a Logo on Twitter
Branding has been a term associated with big business, public relations, and marketing strategies for years. Although there are many definitions and practices involved in building a brand, the simplified definition of branding is an approach to your business through association with a word, catch phrase, or an image. If you see two golden arches, you’re probably pulling into a McDonald’s. When you hear someone say “Are you in good hands?” then you might be working with Allstate Insurance. You can even brand with music. If you were to play the theme to Star Trek, it might surprise you how many people “can name that tune in four notes.” (Another kind of branding as well with a reference to the game show Name That Tune.) If you have a product or a service that people associate with a phrase, name, or some other identifier, that is successful, effective branding.
With the rise of Social Media, this concept is no longer reserved for advertising agencies to pitch and charge corporate entities top dollar. Now, other Social Media enthusiasts, small businesses, and even the passionate Twitter-from-Home are taking the same principles of branding and applying them to their networking outlets. Outlets like Twitter.
When using a personal brand as an avatar, keep this in mind:
- Using a logo lacks the personal touch—One of the intimacies of using a picture of yourself is that your network feels as if it is getting to know you. That is a really nice feeling, but when your avatar is a company logo or podcast artwork, is your network getting to know you or getting to know the company’s or media’s communication outlet? Again, there is nothing wrong with using brands as avatars, but in making that all-important first-impression, keep in mind that those joining your network already have an expectation level in place. They know you are the voice of a business, group, or professional perspective.
- With a brand as an avatar, you speak with the voice of that entity—I admit, that does sound rather ominous, but there really is no way around that. If you are branding your Twitter account with a logo, be it for a podcast, a start-up, or the business you are working for, you are now speaking as the voice of this company. Maybe you knew that from the start and think, “So long as I stay in the parameters....” but with Social Media being as new as it is and so many businesses clamoring to become part of it, there are no guidelines in place. (Don’t worry, I offer a few suggestions in Chapter 11, “Taking Care of Business.”) What exactly are the parameters? What if there is a talk on my network about politics? About religion? How much interaction should you take with this network you have built up? When you are working Twitter from a professional status, you need to stop and think before you tweet, and ask yourself, “how will this reflect on me and my company?”
- As with a personal avatar, avoid text-heavy or busy images—Some Twitter accounts attempt to fit in tag lines and show slogans and key names or locations into an avatar that, at first glance, will appear in a space smaller than 50 × 50 pixels. How you create your professional avatar is up to you; but the busier you make it, the harder it will be to recognize it at a glance.
When using a professional brand for your Twitter account, this does not mean you cannot give it your own flair or personal touch. As seen in Figure 2.8, I use a photograph of me looking over my faithful PowerBook G4 at a rendering of the double koru, the logo I use for Imagine That! Studios. In the early days of Imagine That! on Twitter, I simply used the double koru image, but during the Christmas holidays, I used an image of myself with the computer and logo, a stocking cap clearly visible and setting a festive air. The response to it was so positive I went with a more personal avatar from that point on. Imagine That!’s end result is a professional brand with a personal touch.
Figure 2.8 When using a personal brand on Twitter, you can give it that personal touch to remind your community that there is a person on the other side of the username.
A personal approach to the corporate brand can be highly effective if you have a number of employees of the same corporation on Twitter. What is important in creating the avatar for your professional Twitter account is that it represents you and your company or organization in the manner you are happiest with. Much in the same way you create an avatar for personal use, take a moment to consider your company’s avatar. Are you going to keep it professional, or do you want to give your branding a personal touch?
Using Interests, Hobbies, or Out-of-the-Ordinary for Your Avatar
Then you have the not-so-personal and I-really-hate-to-be-photographed avatars, and there are many online at Twitter. Some avatars I’ve seen on Twitter that make me tip my head to one side have included a zombified George Washington, a variety of characters from anime (Japanese animation), video game icons (both of the 8-bit days and the modern Halo resolutions), popular characters from television and film, and political posters during the 2008 Election.
You might think these nondescript images don’t say a lot about a Twitter account, but they speak volumes.
Twitter users that choose not to use their own likeness are simply choosing to keep their visage to themselves, but the same precautions and considerations for the other avatars discussed here apply. You want to avoid the overly busy imagery, too much text (especially when you consider the 50 × 50 space you’re filling on your Twitter home page), and the nature of the image you choose. Also, you need to consider what the avatar says about you. During the last race for the White House, it was clear by the Obama/Biden—McCain/Palin avatars where users were showing support. If your avatar is an image of William Shatner being carried off by a group of Imperial Stormtroopers, you are a fan of Star Trek, Star Wars, or all of the above. If your avatar is your profile picture from World of Warcraft, then chances are you are a gamer. While you are protecting your identity by using a generic image, you are still telling the community something about yourself.
Most important, you are taking a moment to create or select an avatar for yourself. The default avatar from Twitter should be regarded as a placeholder, not a solution, temporary or otherwise.
Fitting Your Mood: Switching Your Avatar
As seen in this chapter, changing your avatar only takes a few minutes. Why would you want to swap out on image for another? After all, it’s just a picture, right? Why would anyone really care?
The amount of people that do pay attention to your Twitter avatar might surprise you.
Picture those mornings when you wake up in a bad mood. No matter how good that morning shower feels or that morning’s cup of java tastes, you can’t shake that grumpy feeling. And what makes the day worse? It’s Friday. Now comes the time to get dressed for work. Are you going to don cheerful colors or that wacky Tobasco necktie? Probably not. You’re going to dress down and, if you can find it, head into the office with the giant travel mug that reads “Talk to Me if You Dare.”
Taking a moment to swap out your avatar is your “shot across a ship’s bow” for the community, letting folks know that the following tweets might be slightly punchy. On those days when I want my network to know that I’m not in the best of moods, I have two avatars on call: one of R. Lee Emery giving “good drill sergeant” from Full Metal Jacket, and another of me holding a cap gun with a perturbed look on my face. This is my nonaggressive way of telling friends “I’m in a state.” They work pretty well.
Not all avatar swaps need to hinge on your mood. Sometimes the avatar can be a tribute, such as my “HAL 9000” and “Paul Newman as Henry Gondorff” avatars. Sometimes, it can be a theme such as my Robocop or Star Trek avatars for when the conversations turn particularly geeky. On holidays, avatars can be festive and lively, stocking caps are quite popular around the Christmas season. Avatars can also help you promote events, as seen in Figure 2.9. With every tweet, you can remind your network of an upcoming event where you are either making an appearance or promoting a cause. Again, hop ahead to Chapter 11 for more on using avatars to promote. You can even offer the avatar to others, making it viral in nature and spreading the word about your special date. Make sure, however, that you keep your avatar timely and swap it out for a more-current one when the date has passed.
Figure 2.9 Authors have used their avatars as reminders or countdowns to their respective networks of upcoming book releases and special promotions.
The problem you run into with swapping out avatars on professional Twitter accounts is that you are no longer branding yourself or your company. Part of what makes branding work is the repetition of a logo or image so that consumers associate you or your company with it. If you want to take advantage of establishing a personal brand or identity, consider keeping your avatar consistent. (Of course, there are exceptions to this advice, but consider the branding aspect of your avatar before swapping it out.)
Protecting Updates: The Good and the Bad
If you take a look under the Account tab of your Twitter settings, you see under Language the Protect My Updates option. This is explained in brief, but as seen in Figure 2.10, your home page looks a little different than the other Twitter pages that are not taking advantage of this security feature. Protecting updates not only keeps your tweets off the public timeline, but also anyone who comes across your profile—whether by random or following the email link that informs them you are following them on Twitter—must wait until you approve them, and only after approval is granted will your updates become visible.
Figure 2.10 Twitter accounts with protected updates can offer you the option to send a request to the user for approval. When granted, the user’s updates are revealed, but only to those in their Twitter network.
A positive in protecting your updates is that no one enters your network or even becomes privy to your activities or whereabouts unless you grant access. For people who want to enjoy the benefits of Twitter without dealing with cyberstalkers or abrasive individuals, protecting updates gives users the best of both worlds, allowing for the social aspect of Twitter’s network while providing security, if desired.
The only adverse effect of protecting updates, though, is how the action completely works against the whole intent of social networking. After all, you go onto Twitter for more than just connecting with friends. You are there to cultivate a community and make new contacts. Arriving to a page with protected updates can seem a touch defensive, especially after visiting other Twitter accounts requesting to follow you sans such security measures in place. Why request a follow from me if you are so protective of your own updates? It could be interpreted as a mixed signal, and some may not want to request a follow back.
Another deterrent for potential followers is that the protected updates limits them to only your name, bio, and any website you offer to serve as a reference to you. A lot can be found out about people based on their updates (which we find out more about in Chapter 3); but if these updates are protected, potential followers will either move on to other accounts or take a chance, watching you carefully as some phishers and spammers are using this security measure to get their numbers up.
Working with Protected Updates is a judgment call. There are pros and cons to having your updates protected, but remember where the option is located in your Settings. When you decide it is time to turn the measure on or off, you will know where this option is located.