The Ultimate Social Network Avatar: 1. What Works

Ultimate Social Network Avatar - What Works

Avatars are the little images that represent you, your brand or your company on the web. While some take them for granted, they’re an integral part of social media branding. If you stand out, you get more eyeballs – it’s as simple as that. As you would wear a suit to a meeting, why not tidy up your avatar? Here are some things that work on Twitter, the hottest social network to hit the web:

The Shape Does Sell

Shape

Shape

Senko Rasic uses a PNG photo with a transparent background. Why does it work? Shape. This avatar stands out because of it’s shape (Senko’s head) and not the actual image. It stands out on Twitter on the white background as well as in Tweetdeck on the black background.

How to Use Contrast

Contrast

Contrast

Collis Ta’eed uses a bright yellow background which functions as a nice contrast to his face. Why does it work? Contrast. The photo first of all looks nice because of the rule of the third, but also because the bright orange background obviously stands out among all the mixed or plain backgrounds most avatars have.

Keep it Simple

Simplicity

Simplicity

Chris Garret’s and my own backgrounds blend more with our faces, but again the plain color  dominates the background. Why does it work? Simplicity. While most people’s avatars are overly busy and try to cram as much as they can in just so many pixels. That’s why avatars with a simple solid background stand out.

Surprise Us

Unexpectedness

Unexpected

Nebojša Grbacic’s avatar has his face and a plain background. In the avatar, he’s wearing a black blindfold in sharp contrast to the color of the rest of the avatar. Why does it work? Unexpectedness. We expect a face, not a blindfolded geek smoking a cigaret. It’s hard not to notice him and even chuckle a little when you do.

Make it Your Own

Uniquness

Uniquness

Muhameed Saleem uses a simple spade symbol for his avatar, yet you always know it’s him. Why does it work? Uniqueness. While we see the spade symbol in casino pa natet every deck of cards, Muhameed is the one who made it his own in the social media space. It’s characteristic enough to stand out while at the same time simple enough not to seem cocky.

Break Rules

Break Rules

Break Rules

Patrick de Laive’s avatar uses space in an awesome way – by not using it. Why does it work? It breaks the rule that you have to actually put yourself, your brand or even your logo as the centerpiece of the avatar. The background is highlighted while drawing our eyes to a unexpected placement of Patrick’s face. Original and makes you wonder what else he can surprise us with.

Short and Sweet

K.I.S.S.

K.I.S.S.

CoTweet’s avatar is a good example for companies whose logos just don’t fit into a little square known as the avatar. Looking at it, it seems that they indeed just put their logo inside. However, they shortened the logo while still staying inline with their own brand design guidelines. Why does it work? Consistency. The logo is kept in the same style and sends the same message even when it’s been heavily modified.

Bonus: Does Sex sell on Social Networks?

If you don’t have a brand, don’t want to showcase it or your own likeness on your profile – there are other possibilites. One is to choose a sexy avatar. While sex sells on Twitter as well as anywhere else, don’t get too carried away. To the Twitterati blatantly pornographic photos with weird usernames will indeed look very spammy. Start following people like crazy and you’ll be known as a spammer for sure.

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Twitter Web Interface on Your Windows / Linux / Mac Desktop with Mozilla Prism

Prism

It seems that after our article on how to setup Twitter’s web interface on one’s Mac desktop a lot of Windows and Linux faithful got up in arms. Well, my friends, don’t worry. If you prefer Twitter’s web interface to that of Twhirl or Tweetdeck, Mozilla has your back. As a part of Mozilla Labs, Prism is an application that lets you get your favourite web application out of the browser and onto your desktop. Unlike Fluid, it’s available for not only Mac, but Windows and Linux as well.

Firefox for the Win

Built on the base of everyone’s favourite browser, Prism supports HTML, Javascript, CSS and everything else just like Firefox. Since web developers test their projects with the Firefox Gecko rendering engine more than Apple’s WebKit (which Fluid runs on), even more web applications work as they are intended to.

Setting up Twitter with Prism

Setting up Twitter with Prism

Prism lacks some of the features of Fluid but makes it up in its ease of setup and use. Specify the URL and name of the application. Enable any of the added features you want and choose where you want the shortcut to appear. After that, either use the favicon as the icon or specify your own. You can grab one of the icons in the Fluid icon Flickr group or Chris Ivarson’s awesome icon repository. There you’ll find not only Twitter icons, but also ones for Google Reader, Facebook, Basecamp, etc.

The Web on Your Desktop

The Web on Your Desktop

We’ve also prepared a Shout’Em PNG icon if you want to use Prism to make your very own desktop Shout’Em application. You can download Prism for free… With Prism you can make your web experience – a desktop one.

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Get Your Shout’Em Desktop Icon

Shout'Em on Your Desktop? Awesome!

Shout'Em on Your Desktop? Awesome!

For those who use Prism or Fluid to get their favorite web applications on their desktop, we’ve prepared a 128×128 pixel Shout’Em icon. You can find articles on how to setup both Fluid for your Mac and Prism for your Windows / Linux Mac desktop on our blog. It’s simple and quite useful if you love the whole web interface experience:

So, no more favicons for you. Download the Shout’Em icon for free and use it for your own Shout’Em network. Enjoy!

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Twitter Web Interface on Your Mac Desktop with Fluid.app

Fluid

While there are Twhirl, Twitterific and other great Twitter applications, some of us still prefer Twitter’s standard online interface. We might like it’s design or it’s feature simplicity. Whatever the reason, we might like to have Twitter or any other social network we use open in our browser. The problems start when you end up running your browser just for your social network, with more tabs open that is safe or sane. Oh, and let’s not forget the random site crashing and causing you to lose your data which was in another tab.

On the Desktop, Please

Say hello to Fluid. It’s a free Mac OS X application that helps you create SBBs (site specific browsers), which basically means running your favorite web application (Twitter or Shout’Em for example) as one native to OS X.

Get Fluid for some web/desktop applications!

Get Fluid for some web/desktop applications!

The setup is quite straightforward and takes only a few minutes. You specify the URL, give the application a name and optionally choose an icon. You can find hundreds of icons on the Fluid icon Flickr group. While most are quite basic, some of them are absolutely brilliant. If you use Google’s web applications, Chris Ivarson’s icon repository features icons for Google Reader, Google Docs, Facebook, etc.

Twitter on your desktop

Twitter on your desktop

The Dock and Beyond

As any other OS X application, your Fluid powered Twitter application will be able to appear in your dock. For more popular applications such as Gmail, Yahoo! Mail, Facebook and Flickr, Fluid displays the “unread message count” dock badges just like Apple Mail. Some added features this little, yet useful application supports:

On your dock!

On your dock!

  • Tiny-URL support for quick linking;
  • Browsing history, identical to that of Safari;
  • Popup blocker;
  • Growl notification support;
  • Cover-flow view style photo browser.

If you love your web applications and aren’t satisfied with existing desktop applications for whatever reason, get Fluid. We’ve also prepared a Shout’Em PNG icon if you want to use Prism to make your very own desktop Shout’Em application.

10 Ways to Build Your Blog Community with Twitter

Every blogger, no matter how ambitious or dedicated to his or her blog – wants a community around it. Easier said than done of course. To build a community you have to get people engadged around the premise of your content and then make it as easy for them to interact as possible. Both with you and each other.

Create Your Blog Community

3 Reasons Why Twitter Rocks for Your Community

It’s less tedious than forums. As any other type of website, forums have a specific organization scheme that users need to learn. Put in there signatures, private messages, subforums – and it’s not really the simples solution. Also, a forum you create has to start from scratch. From zero users to a community. What if you have both article comments and a forum – what will the user choose to do? With too many choice, he may just end up staying quiet.

It’s more effective than e-mail because you’re communicating to the community. While e-mail is personal, what happens when you get to much e-mail? What happens when you stop responding to people? Ok, so they might understand that you’re busy, but that’s not the right way to get your community going, is it? With microblogging, people know you’re around. They get it. The community is getting it’s feedback – in public.
Accessible everywhere – browser, desktop, mobile,… With all the tools and ways to access both Twitter or your own microblogging network, you choose the way you want to engage your readers. You might have 10 minutes on the bus perhaps. Just pull out your iPhone and get some feedback in. Never again will you want to share a thought with your readers and not be able to do so.

10 Ways to Empower Your Community with Twitter

  1. Ask questions to your readers. What do they think about the topics you are covering, covered or plan to cover? Thoughts? Opinions?Since microblogging networks put a limit on how many characters you can write people have to get to the point. Keeping it simple means all the feedback you get is meaningful.
  2. Answer questions. Ok, so answering all your e-mail is going to lead to e-mail bancruptcy pretty quickly. By having a Twitter account or maybe even your own dedicated network you can crowdsource your community questions. You may not know the answer, but I’m one of your followers does. Or one of his followers. Microblogging lets information circulate quickly, giving people the i nformation they need – when they need it.
  3. Share the passion and linkup. What makes a real community are shared interests and passions. Your readers may love reading your articles, but why stop there. Link up other articles on the topic you cover. Give your readers a chance to explore videos, PDFs. By doing so, you strenghten your relationship with them. There on the inside, and you’re one of the guys sharing the good stuff.
  4. Follow the trends and create hashtags. Trend such as #FollowFriday have become rituals in their own right. By participating in them you can gain exposure since a lot of users monitor certain hashtags. Also, you can create your own meme. Love movies? Start #ThrillerThursday and encourage people to recommend interesting thrillers.
  5. Monitor the Twittersphere. With the help of Twitter search, you can monitor Twitter for terms relating to your topic. Say you write about stocks. Monitoring the term “stocks” lets you engage people who are interested in your topic. They have a question? Well – go on – help them!

    Your Community + Microblogging

    Your Community + Microblogging

  6. Be accessible yet private. With a blog, you become a public figure. Yes, your blog gives you a celebrity-like status to your readers. You the blogger. With time, people want to know more about you, but forums and e-mail make it hard. Microblogging on the other hand gives your community a backchannel into your life. So we discovered that Jason Calacanis loves his dogs and Kevin Rose drinks a lot of tea. The same applies to your own followers. They do want to know those little interesting quirks that sum you up as a person. Through Twitter you can share the little moments you want to share, while still keeping your privacy.
  7. Host contests and offer goodies. Namecheap runs “Fun Facts” Twitter contests. Every hour on the hour Namecheap asks a question and if you answer it correctly you get a $10 credit to your Namecheap account. Two of the players who answer the most questions in the period of two weeks get a Dell Inspiron Netbooks. Basically, they are teaching their community to pay attention. Their tweets don’t go unnoticed. Hosting a contest in terms of getting a response from the community is not hard since there’s basically no entry barrier.
  8. Feature your fans and retweet. Retweeting is also part of the Twitter culture. Basically, if you find something interesting on Twitter, you quote or “retweet” the message, crediting the user who posted it. With your own community you can do the same thing. When a prominent blogger features one’ tweet its like saying “This guy /gal is cool, and this tweet is even cooler”. Social proof you need to use.
  9. Offer them the world. By letting people engage you through Twitter or your own microblogging network you’re introducing them to a whole new level of social networking. By teaching things like how to retweet, use various tools and so on you’re impowering the community. People like to learn stuff and they respect people who show them things. I know I still respect the guy who taught me what RSS feeds were, and yes – I follow him on Twitter.
  10. Let them speak. Giving your community a chance to speak is at the essence of each and every of the things we went through in this article. In that spirit, what would you do to build your blog community with Twitter and microblogging?
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Meet the Elite with ExecTweets

ExecTweets - Powered by Twitter & Federated Media

ExecTweets - Powered by Twitter & Federated Media

Twitter, Microsoft and Federated Media just decided that executives need executive treatment on Twitter – and so ExecTweets was born. Basically, the site is a directory and aggregator of exectives – browsable by industry. It features among others Guy Kawasaki, Jay Adelson of Digg, Michael Arrington of Techcrunch and Richard Branson of Virgin. The goal of the aggregator is to make it easier to follow industry leaders, expecially for those who don’t use Twitter. As a monetization method, sponsored aggregators such as this one could be a good stream of revenue for Twitter. With inherent value and low execution costs, it’s a good way to go forward. On the other hand, for Twitter pros, applications such as Tweetdeck already solved this issue. Lots of people shot down AllTop when it launched, only to see it’s value to mainstream users later. Lets see where ExecTweets leads us – what do you think?

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The 15-Minute Guide to Microblogging in Education

Microblogging for EducationSocial networks and web technologies have for some time been used in education. Like business and media, web 2.0 has had a profound influence on the future of what we now call – education 2.0. Both teachers and especially students have been using blogs as well as social networks to get the job done, have fun and learn something in the process.

The end goal is to make education more efficient, but also a little bit less of a task. That’s why microblogging might be the answer to a lot of educator’s needs, and here are a few reasons why:

Share Media and Materials

While wikis are great to share large pieces of information, and Flickr is awesome for sharing whole galleries – most of the time you’re working with small snippets of information. Maybe it’s an article you found somewhere on the web, a link, a photo of something interesting. Organizing galleries or file repositories also takes time. Uploading a file or single photo on the other hand – takes just a few minutes. It took education expert Steve Dembo, the Online Community Manager for the Discovery Educator Network, only 10 minutes to setup his own microblogging network with Shout’Em.

Learning Curve? Just Get It

While students might love Facebook or Myspace, for a lot of teachers classic social network sometimes prove to be a little over their heads. Not to say they won’t learn how to use them, but the learning curve is not really a benefit. A text field and friend list on the other hand, found in most microblogging software, is simple and easy to grasp. Also, with such applications as Twhirl and about hundreds of others, users can access the microblogging network any way he or she wants.

Microblogging Get Education Going

Microblogging Get Education Going

Create a Community and Get Feedback

After the user has started using the community he needs to focus on the forums… Groups… Statuses… Galleries… Wait, where did the learning go? While letting people express themselves in lots of ways is great, it doesn’t mean you need to have special areas to do so. Discussions, feedback and ideas can all be expressed in 140 characters (although Shout’Em does let you specify our character limit ;)). Better yet, 140 charaters makes people get to the point.

Share or Keep Private – It’s Your Choice

Learning is about sharing information, and you can have your network public to anyone seeking the information you offer. This can bring in people who would have never have crossed your path. On the other hand, keeping your user’s information private takes just a flick of the switch. Having your own microblogging network and not just a private Twitter account is an obvious benefit.

Do More with Less

While Moodle and Blackboard are nice pieces of software they are basically the Microsoft Office of the education space. Big, bulky and you need to get the IT department every time you want to change one little thing about them. Most teachers use these systems for their basic, yet most powerful features, such as messaging and file sharing.

Tweet This Article

Since microblogging networks offer exactly that and nothing more, teachers themselves can setup the networks as they please. No more need to get the IT department’s approval or “advice”. The frugality of having less features also lets you focus on the essentials. In the end it’s about learning and not just passing notes of files.

The basic premise of education is passing knowledge to the next generation. So lets finally stop looking for new bells and whistles and focus on getting students and teachers engaged – with microblogging! You should try out Shout’Em and see if it works for you!

Create Your Own Microblog

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5 and a Half Things You Can't Miss at The Next Web 2009. (+20% Off Your Pass)

tnw_0naslovna

[digg=http://digg.com/tech_news/5_and_a_Half_Things_You_Can_t_Miss_at_The_Next_Web_2009]If you’re into web technology, we’re sure you’ve heard about The Next Web conference. It’s one of those crazy European technology events you’re not entirely sure exists in fact. Well, it is very real. So real you have to come to Amsterdam on the 15th (Get 20% off your ticket for The Next Web). Here are a couple of reasons to stay for 3 days of inspiration, networking, showcasing innovation and fun:

1. It’s the Speakers, Stupid!

Speakers

What, a conference? You may have come for the parties, but you’ll stay for the sessions. This years speakers include some beloved as well as somewhat controversial web personalities. Matt Mullenweg leads Automattic, the company that’s leading the web publishing revolution with such products as WordPress, Akismet, as well as their social networking offspin, Buddypress. Getting back to basics, we’ll have the pleasure of hearing Eric A. Mayer, the “CSS guy” whose web standards advocacy helped guide a lot of today’s frontend developers. For those who think Wikipedia is awesome, Andrew Keen might be a rude reality check. Describing himself as “The Anti-Christ of Silicon Valley”, Keen’s “The Cult of Amateur” spurred a lot of controversy. Why? Read the book. Better yet, come to The Next Web!

2. Meet the Three Crazy Dutchmen

Boris, Arjen and Patrick

Boris, Arjen and Patrick

While Arrington might have told Boris, Arjen and Patrick to: “Get the f*ck out!” best online casino when they famously appeared at Techcrunch HQ sporting white suits and Dutch accents. These three geeks are not only web 2.0 entrepreneurs, but also the founders of The Next Web conference. While we’ve only had the pleasure of meeting Patrick at Web.Start 2008. , it’s going to be a pleasure meeting the other talented folks behind The Next Web.

3. Mobile BarCamp

Mobile BarCamp

Mobile BarCamp

Photo by Termie

The first day of the conference is going to be quite unconference-like. Since we do love BarCamps, attending Mobile BarCamp Amsterdam is a must. Standard BarCamp rules of engagement apply, so get up to speed if you haven’t yet attended one. As far as the content, we’ll talk mobile, breath mobile and pimp mobile – all our mobile apps that is.

4. Just A Little Reality with Van Gogh

Between all the sessions and parties, you’ll probably try to see at least a couple of sights of Amsterdam. Apart from the weed and beauty of the city itself, the Van Gogh Museum could be something that inspires you for the future. Containing the largest collection of Vincent Van Gogh painting anywhere, you have to come and enjoy the work of the 19th century master. They’re on Flickr, Youtube and Facebook, for goodness sake!

5. Wake Up & Party

Party time!

Party time!

Photo by Boris

Geeks just want to have fun, right? Well, there will be plenty of that. Starting with pre conference drinks in the lobby of Hotel V and ending up with The Next Web dinner and party on the 17th. Did we mention these guys know how to party? On the morning however, join us at Open Coffee Amsterdam!

The Half? Yep, we’re that humble!

tnw_6shoutem

You knew this was coming. 🙂 The official Shout’Em delegation including CEO Viktor Marohnic and myself will be on hand at the Next Web for both microblogging as well as a pint or two. Find our booth at the conference and let’s talk about what Shout’Em can do for your idea or startup. Investor? Don’t worry, we love you guys.

Wondering what Shout’Em is? Shout’Em lets you roll your own microblogging service, like Boris says on The Next Web blog.

We’ll probably be handing out some goodies, so make sure to shout out at the Next Web Conference (Get 20% off your ticket for The Next Web)!

Want Shout'Em Support in TweetDeck? Vote in Under 2 Minutes!

Vote for Shout'Em

Vote for Shout'Em in Tweetdeck

So you might or might not use Twhirl with Shout’Em, but you have to admit TweetDeck is one awesome microblogging application. Yes, it’s available on Windows, Mac OS X and Linux as well! The neat feature of is that it lets you create groups from your contacts, as well as separate columns for replies and messages. Add to that custom search groups and you see why we’d love to get Shout’Em supported on TweetDeck.

What we need is your help! Go over and vote for Shout’Em integration with TweetDeck. No registration required, less than 2 minutes to do it.

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How to Add Your Microblogging Network to Ning – In 5 Minutes or Less

ning-shoutem

So, you like Shout’Em and your users are shouting all the time. However, you want to integrate it with your site even more. Well, for those using Ning networks, it just got that much easier.

What is Ning?

While Shout’Em lets you create your own microblogging network similar to Twitter or the now defunct Pownce, Ning lets you create your social network (think Myspace). While Ning has lots of neat features, it does unfortunately lack microblogging. This is where Shout’Em comes in – with widgets!

Do I have to be an administrator of the network?

No, certainly not. While we let admins add their Shout’Em networks as full pledged parts of the network, users can add the Shout’Em application for Ning themselves (to their profile) and load their message streams. So let’s get to it:

For admins – How to add Shout’Em to your network

  • Select the Manage tab;
  • In “Your network” settings click on Features;
  • Select Text box from the available features and drag it to your layout;
  • Go to your Shout’Em network and click on Widgets in the footer;
  • Copy the code from the “For Ning admins” option;
  • Locate the Text box you added on your network and click Add Text or Edit;
  • Paste in the code and save;
  • You’re done – Howly Shout’Em Batman! Good job!
Select the Manage tab

Select the Manage tab

Click on Features

Click on Features

Add the Text box to your layout

Add the Text box to your layout

Arrange it as you want

Arrange it as you want

Click on Widgets in your Shout'Em network's footer

Click on Widgets in your Shout'Em network's footer

Copy the code for admins

Copy the code for admins

Edit your Text box

Edit your Text box

Paste in the code and save

Paste in the code and don't forget to save

Ning has microblogging!

Your Ning network has microblogging!

For users – How to add Shout’Em to your profile

  • Click on Add Applications on your profile page;
  • Click on Add by URL under the categories in the applicationa library;
  • Go to your Shout’Em network and click on Widgets in the footer of your network;
  • Copy the URL from the “For Ning members” option;
  • Paste the URL to the “Add application by URL” dialogue;
  • Accept the terms of use;
  • On the newly added Shout’Em application, click Edit;
  • Enter your network address (such as team.shoutem.com) and username;
  • Save it;
  • You’re done – Shout’Em in the house! Bravo!
Click on Add Applications on your profile page

Click on Add Applications on your profile page

Click on Add by URL

Click on Add by URL

Click on Widgets in your Shout'Em network's footer

Click on Widgets in your Shout'Em network's footer

Copy the URL for users

Copy the URL for users

Paste the URL

Paste the URL

Accept the terms of use

Accept the terms of use

Click on Edit

Click on Edit

Add your network and username

Add your network and username

Your profile feat. microblogging! Awesome!

Your profile feat. microblogging! Awesome!

So that’s it. It’s that easy to add your Shout’Em microblogging network to Ning. If you have Ning but haven’t played around with Shout’Em yet, we invite you to create your own network and see what happens!

What do you think? Do you like this setup?