Nonprofits have been utilizing social media for five years now (beginning with Myspace and YouTube in 2006), and while most at this point have invested the time and resources into designing a solid, visually distinct, social media-compatible avatar, many nonprofits still make the very common (yet completely obvious) mistake of using a cropped logo as their avatar in their social media campaigns.

Would you ever put a cropped logo on your website or in your e-newsletter? Or sign off on a proof for a print newsletter or funding appeal where your logo was cropped or shrunk so small it was made completely unreadable? No. Of course not! Yet everyday on Twitter and (especially) Facebook nonprofits are sending out hundreds of thousands of Tweets and Status Updates with completely wrecked avatars.

Twitter :: Needs Improvement

Twitter :: Examples of Excellence

Facebook :: Needs Improvement

Facebook :: Example of Excellence

I could understand making this mistake a year or two ago when everyone was still experimenting, but at this point its clear that social media is not a fad. It has forever changed how nonprofits communicate and connect with their supporters and donors online. The visual appeal of your social media avatar is very important to the success of building your online brand. In many cases, supporters will recognize your avatar on social media sites long before their brains even begin to register the name of your nonprofit. Please do not underestimate the power – or lack thereof – of your nonprofit’s avatar.

That said, it’s time for some nonprofits to ramp it up a notch or two. Call your designer and get a square version of your logo designed (350 pixels by 350 pixels). In some cases all your designer will need to do is increase the canvas size of your logo to create an avatar, or simply crop out a graphic within your logo that can be used as your avatar. Either way, that takes less than 10 minutes. Your nonprofit needs a square avatar for Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Flickr, your blog, Foursquare, Gowalla, TwitPic, etc. and likely many more sites in the future. The sooner you start using an square avatar, the better.

Finally, if you are using a photo for your avatar, then you should have a “Twibbon” of your avatar on the photo. If you rotate photos often, always include the Twibbon. Otherwise, you are fragmenting your brand recognition online with each rotation of your avatar. There is a very good reason why the most successful nonprofits on social media rarely, if ever, change their avatars. 🙂

Related Links:
Social Media and Mobile Technology Webinars for Nonprofits

The Most Common (Yet Completely Obvious) Mistake Made by Nonprofits on Social Media