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Avatar Optimisation in the Social Media Spheres

Following on from our previous post on the top ten Sphinn avatars some debate arose about the need to tailor you’re avatar to the specific social networks audience. It’s certainly something I can agree with and there seemed plenty of evidence while researching this post. I found that many of the top Digg users have more graphic based avatars when compared to their Sphinn counterparts.

Digg is a [tag]social media[/tag] network where it’s vital you to grab the attention of the page viewers; much more than Sphinn, because (a) the [tag]avatar[/tag] is significantly smaller and (b) because there are thousands more people uploading content on [tag]Digg[/tag]. Some SEOs have even talked about Digg as being de-humanising (link lost, post comment if you know which one I am talking about) whilst others believe it’s a cultural thing reflective of the user base.

So lets try and understand why top Sphinners have photo avatars whilst top Diggers have graphic ones.

The Sphinn Community vs…

Understanding the nature of the user base is an important element Lyndon underlined in one of his posts. On Sphinn, the user base is almost entirely constituted of [tag]SEM[/tag]s and [tag]SEO[/tag]s which creates a sense of community as everyone has at least one thing in common. It is fairly reassuring to know who you are talking to when leaving comments, and also quite fun to find out what your ‘stalkers’ are like, but the main reason people have photos on [tag]Sphinn[/tag] is because what is promoted is the story itself; as SEOs, we know that great title lines can attract clicks, but they can then deceive you when you read the content. If you do that on Sphinn, you will get a bad reputation, and your face will be remembered! Combine this with the desire to be seen as a industry expert it’s no surpised everyone has their mug shot on show.

… The Digg Market

Some will say that Digg avatars are simply too small to upload photographs, but I believe the main reason for graphic avatars comes from the goals of the user base. Digg has far too many users to form a close knit community like Sphinn’s; even though you can add friends, the Digg interface is not as good as Sphinn’s when trying to keep in contact with them. Also it seems there is far more competition amongst the user base, where the community battles to get their items to the front page; there are even people that sell ‘diggs’, which you can buy for $1/digg! The fierce competition means that visitors use every weapon in their arsenal to conquer the first page results, and that includes optimizing your avatar.

Systems of Representation

On Digg, it is highly frowned upon to submit your own content. Promoting yourself is therefore something you have to do through submiting other people’s content and participating in their conversations. You have therefore become a significantly less important part of the publishing process, and do not require the same picture you would put on Sphinn to show other SEOs that you actually are human. For example Tamar Weinberg (great posts) has got a photo avatar on Sphinn, but a graphic representation of the :* smiley on Digg. This is because she is not promoting herself on Digg, simply feeding good content to the website, and commenting on it to make everyone else’s life easier. (Though I sure a few of her submissions are for clients…)

What I am putting across here is the difference in goals between the two websites. The representation of ‘me’ can and should change depending on my goals, in the same way that you do not approach the Queen and your mate down the pub in the same manner.

Immagined Communities

The Sphinn community is a group of people that share values, beliefs, symbols and traditions (Benedict Anderson 1991: Imagined Communities), in the same way a nation is formned by its collective memory (Ernest Renan 1996: the Nation). The Digg [tag]community[/tag] only shares a common goal (getting diggs) and minimal interaction: comments on digg are shorter and less personal than the ones on Sphinn and usually aim at expressing agreement or divergence as opposed to contructive criticism

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