Although the name sounds like James Cameron’s hit movie about Earth in the distant future, a Gravatar is a great tool that you can use now to brand yourself in our online world. Essentially, your Gravatar is an image that follows you from site to site, appearing beside your name when you leave a comment.

Why is this important?

Think of your business card. Do you use a plain vanilla design with simple black letters? Or do you ensure that it stands out from the crowd and represents you in a professional way? The same is true for your Gravatar. You don’t want to be represented by the same bland default image as thousands of others.

How do you get one?

It’s easy – and free.

  1. Go to the Gravatar website, and click “Get Your Gravatar Today.”
  2. Enter the email address that you’d like to associate with your Gravatar image. (Just pick one for now. You can add other email addresses later.)
  3. Check your email, and click the link in the verification email you receive.
  4. Select a username and password for your account.
  5. Upload an image. And you’re done!

When selecting an image, there’s lots of advice out there. Some people use a company logo or other picture to represent them. However, I’d suggest you use a picture of yourself from the shoulders up. Think casual and friendly, not stuffy or formal. Remember that people prefer to interact with other people, not brands or things.

Want to see Gravatars in action?

Look at these great blog posts where the best dialogue is in the comments. Notice how you’re immediately drawn to reading the posts that include the author’s picture.

Blogging by Numbers – from Tim Ferriss
What Are They Saying About You Online – from Michael Hyatt
The Agenda Part I: Ask Why – from Chris Guillebeau

When you’re done, be sure to comment below and show off your new Gravatar!

(Note: It takes about 5-10 minutes for it to populate and show up online.)