Are we forced to market our faces?


It has never been a huge question for me: I've been always marketing my personal photo rather than a logo or an avatar (in fact, I can't even change it for anything that could reflect my current age because once I do, people stop interacting with my social media shares, probably because they don't recoghize me).

However far too many people are "stuck" with other types of well-branded social media avatars: Lyndon, @gfiorelli1 and Fantomaster are just a few examples...

Is the social media trend moving away from non-face (anonymous) avatars? LinkedIn has been requiring a headshot as an avatar for ages. Google Plus is more aggressive in doing that:

  • Faces are given competitive advantage because they can make it to search results (unlike any other types of G+ avatars)
  • Whenever you try to upload anything that is not a face to be your G+ profile, you are mildly prompted you are doing something wrong:

Image source


The social trend is moving toward uniform personal profiles

Great topic Ann.  As you point out, Google+ doesn't actually require the use of head shots, but is using the carrot/stick approach to encourage their use:  provide a human face to us and we'll reward you in the search results; give us a cartoon avatar and we'll complain at the time and put the damper on your visibility in the search results.

I've also had fake Google+ Profiles frozen because the name I provided didn't appear "real"!  Once I provided Google with a name they considered more reasonable ("Bartholomew" no less) the account was enabled.

More globally I think this is part of an effort by Google+ (specifically) to encourage to build a single, consolidated, canonical Google+ Profile page that is a single representation of the personal entity that is you in the Google universe.  This helps them out considerably in determining the provenance of Google+-linked aritcles that an individual produces, which in turn facilitates efforts at crafting something like AuthorRank.

An interesting side note to this is the increasing number of times that single or split profiles has come up in my conversations with authors.  Many people are reticient to roll their "personal" identity with their "work" identity, and will consequently produce, say, one personal profile and an alternate professional profile on Twitter.  On Twitter this is easy, but on Google+ this is more difficult by design.

While I've been tempted to do this myself on more than one network, my consistent advice here to authors has been to consolidate their presence in any given network under a single profile, and rely upon other controls to separate "personal" from "professional" content - which I think is supported rather nicely in Google+ with circles.  Usually they can't point at an actual use case where a single profile is problematic; it's more often a general uneasiness with "exposing" information about themselves on networks, even though the same (and more) information is disclosed on a professional author profile.

A long history and tradition of avatars will die...

There are some really insightful comments at this post G+ discussion:

From Lyndon:

The crying shame is - the concepts of "trust" and "security" that are based on "a face" are utterly false and flawed.There is little reason to actually trust a "face" more than an "avatar".The issue is further compounded by the fact that certain bodies seem to have their own preference, and are enforcing it (looking straight at Google and Authorship).Despite various tests and experiences showing that things like "anonymity" and "psuedonyms" have little direct relation to poor conduct/distrustful activities ... these bodies push on regardless :(The reality is - unless they about face, we are looking at "face" only profiles in the next few years.A long history and tradition of avatars will die - for no real valid reason other than the insecurities and false assumption of the masses, and the private agendas of certain companies.

Reasons for not using a photo range

Another one from Gail @Growmap I just can't help sharing:

Reasons for not using a photo range from the necessity to avoid being found by serious stalkers and violent ex whatevers to prejudice in favor of the "beautiful people" and against those who aren't - including both conscious and subconscious prejudice based on race, weight, style of dress, or appearance.Even when we don't think we do it, most ARE put off by particular things and attracted to others. Do you want to make important decisions solely on the superficial rather than on substantive factors? I do not.


Is a person less trustworthy or a less talented programmer if he is balding, has tattoos and rides a Harley than he is if he wears a suit and tie and drives a family sedan? Same person - same ability - totally different impression in photos.

I can't wait to have the LIKE

I can't wait to have the LIKE button here :)

Eric already gave this away

The true cost of remaining anonymous, then, might be irrelevance.” - Eric Schmidt ...

Facial Recognition

It is partially because they want to link the facial recognition data to your real name.

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