What is an Avatar and Why Does it Matter?

avatarOver the past few months, we’ve talked a lot about using social media to grow your online business. But there’s one thing we haven’t yet covered: your avatar.

If you only know the word “avatar” in relation to the movie, that’s ok. According to Wikipedia, an avatar is:

“…a computer user’s representation of himself/herself or alter ego whether in the form of a three-dimensional model used in computer games, a two-dimensional icon (picture) or a one-dimensional username used on Internet forums and other communities.”

So, kind of like how in the movie Jake is represented by his blue Na’vi character, you can use an image and a name to represent yourself online in social media environments like Facebook or Twitter.

How to Choose an Avatar

Your avatar is literally an online representation of you or your business, so choosing one should be done with a little thought. That doesn’t mean that you can’t have fun with it, but you should keep in mind how the image you choose might impact you or your business in real life.

Here are some guidelines to keep in mind:

1.    Use a clear “headshot”.
Social media and online communication is about establishing relationships – people want to know who you are. The exception to this rule is if you are participating as a company, where multiple people will be handling the account. For example, a few of us manage the CityMax.com Facebook and Twitter accounts, so we use our mascot “Max” for our avatar.

2.    Consider the size.
Avatar images are generally shrunk down pretty small, so make sure that your image is clearly identifiable even when tiny. Try aiming for a very plain background for your headshot.

3.    Use the same avatar for all your online interactions.
That’s not to say you can’t change it from time to time, but consistency is good as far as branding yourself or your business.

Although you want to keep to these guidelines, don’t be afraid to show some personality in your avatar – it can help garner a bit more interest in what you have to say.

Have you seen any great avatars lately? Either personal or for business?

Website of the Month: BombshellStamps.com

bombshellWhat do you get when you combine a creative business mind, rubber stamps, and cheeky retro humor? The answer is our Website of the Month: BombshellStamps.com!

The brainchild of Shannon Lucier, this San Diego-based small business sells vintage style rubber stamps with attitude. Shannon has been using the CityMax.com website builder since 2007, when she first created her business plan. Shannon told us her story:

“I had another company which seemed like a lot of hard work with little reward – so I did a business plan that emphasized balance: between my creative side, time I would have to invest and the income I expected to make. This took me a month of brainstorming, trying to look for a niche that hadn’t been done before.

In August 2007 I decided to go for it, and the CityMax.com tools were so extensive and clean that it was just perfect for my business. I knew nothing about HTML or how to get a website up – but it was so easy that now I have to streamline my content!”

BombshellStamps.com currently averages over 290 unique visitors daily, and generates thousands of dollars in revenue every month. She has even managed to drum up some pretty impressive publicity for her business. Shannon is currently rolling out an innovative new line of digital products for her business to help support new customer markets, rather than compete with other existing products.

Shannon was kind enough to pass on a few tips for other aspiring entrepreneurs:

“If you’re just starting out, really think through the entire aspect of your business: a business plan is so important. I gave up three different ideas that didn’t work because of money, or time. I’m proud of the fact that I planned for everything from pricing to shipping, which made it easier for myself. Those details will make or break your business.”

These are definitely sound words of advice from a veteran entrepreneur. Thank you Shannon and congratulations to you again on making our Website of the Month!

Our Homepreneur of the Year, OvernightPetTags.com Visits!

Last week we welcomed our 2009 Homepreneur of the Year winner, Marco Barberini (of OvernightPetTags.com), and his wife Heather to our Vancouver office – flying in all the way from Traverse City, Michigan. Marco quit his gas station job in 2007 to build an online business, which now grosses upwards of $8,000 per month!

As part of their prize, Marco and Heather stayed at the Pan Pacific Hotel on Vancouver’s Waterfront, were ferried around town in a limo, spent a day consulting with the CityMax.com team, enjoyed a sunset dinner at The Teahouse in Stanley Park, and checked out some of the ‘Olympic’ sights around town.

They even brought a custom pet tags for our two CityMax.com dogs, Jack and Farley.

Check out some of the pictures from the Barberinis’ trip to Vancouver!