What’s Better for your Business on Twitter: A Logo or a Photo?

The debate has been raging on the Twitter-sphere for some time now: is it better for your business to have a logo as your avatar or a photo? While there haven’t been any studies done on the effectiveness of either (but we’d love to see one!), we thought we’d weigh on the debate in with our two cents, too.

Mark Schaefer triggered this latest debate with his post on {grow} entitled “Your company’s single biggest mistake on Twitter”. He took a stance, and comes right out and says that if you’re using a logo as your Twitter avatar, you’re making a huge mistake.

Schaefer contends that if businesses really want to connect to their followers (as opposed to simply using Twitter as a broadcast channel for press releases), they should use a photo of the person managing the Twitter account. This will provide a personal touch, and it will encourage followers to interact with the account.

Now, Schaefer allows for the fact that some brands (he cites Coca-Cola) are so big that their main corporate account has every right to use a logo as its avatar. People, in this case, will connect more with that than an unknown person. However, he notes that Coca-Cola signs its tweets with the initials of the person who penned them, which gives it a personal touch.

PR professionals and bloggers jumped on Schaefer’s assertions quickly. Over the past few weeks, some have come out in favor of his claim that personal is better, while other have contended that logos are more easily recognizable and universal than interchanging personnel.

Kullin.net makes one of the most interesting counter-points to Schaefer’s intruitively-right claims that a photo is better. It takes a look at the top 100 Swedish businesses on Twitter, and finds that those in the top ten with logos have a higher reply rate – showing that they engage with their audience – than Schaefer himself, who uses a photo.

Of course this isn’t conclusive, but it’s an interesting argument. It simply points out that a logo-as-avatar Twitter account can have high engagement, as well as one with a photo.

I think the fact that there is a debate around this issue shows just how diverse Twitter is. For some businesses, it makes sense to have a personal photo as their Twitter avatar. This will make followers more comfortable replying and mentioning. However, other businesses shouldn’t ditch their logo right away – it is still possible to engage with your audience if you don’t have a face for your brand.

Of course, there are ways to optimize your Twitter account to get more followers, engage with them better and see growth. But there is no tried-tested-and-true method for doing this – just some guidelines, intuition, and trial and error. A photo might work for you, or it might confuse your followers. You’ve got to figure out what works for your brand by experimenting a little, and by being honest with your followers. If you do this, you’ll find the “secret sauce” that works for you, and your followers will be able to really connect with your Twitter account, whether its avatar is a logo, a photo of you, or a drawing of your pet cat.