Designing a social media brand for yourself

How to spend lots of time on your computer - design your social media brand.

You might as well work on this project during the summer months.  If you plan on writing on that blog, update your blog's design.  For myself, it was time to order new business cards before the ISTE conference.  I always find having mini moo cards tucked handy in a pocket to be a valuable way to make connections at conferences.  Now I'm not a graphic artist by any means. My first sets of mini moo cards were designed using one of their graphic designs with just a text label on the front side.  They were cute and served me well for the past 3 years.

Since I wanted a new design, I knew I wanted to create images that I could use across my social media platforms.  I started working on a few ideas that coordinated photographs, QR code blocks, avatars, and colors. Let's just say this was a long process as I kept clicking and changing even the most "tiny" imperfections as I saw them. How to get started?

Step 1: Read Gwyneth Jones' Daring Librarian blog entry 5 Easy Tips to Making Out of This World Mini MOO Cards.  Gwyneth has updated her 2013 blog post with updated links for more goodies. Check out her latest webinar on the TL Virtual Cafe wiki Digital Image Factory.  When it comes to knowing her way around digital creations, she is my "go to" guru.

Step 2: Big decision! Do you use the online design template for the business cards or download the PSD file to use in a graphics design software? I had purchased the Photoshop Elements software for my home computer...figured this was as good time as any to push my learning curve.  

Step 3:  Plan what images you want to use for everything - business cards, Twitter headers, blog headers, Google+, and everything else that you communicate your social self. 

Photograph:  If your school yearbook picture works, use it.  I always check with the school registrar who receives the CD or download of staff directory. The last school picture I used was from fall 2012.  Time to update! My middle daughter took several pictures of me - trying not to laugh - against my blank kitchen wall.  I watched her "tweak" them in PS Elements.  Even though my daughter Ann is a graphic design artist, she was hopping on a plane for her summer job in Alaska. I was on my own. My learning curve kicked in when I had to figure out how to erase the white wall, make it transparent (without erasing my hair), and coming up a different background.

I used PS Elements to erase the background.  However, I went to my favorite PicMonkey to really make the photographs pretty and play with backgrounds. You can use the backgrounds PicMonkey offers or upload your own images.

First photo included an actual library bulletin board as the background. I even added my signature Twitter hashtag pin using the Text mode in PicMonkey. For this try, I liked the softer look to the image. This image was used for my mini moo cards.
I couldn't stop tweaking my images, especially after I found tutorials on the PicMonkey Blog.  This version became my profile image.  I did use Photoshop Elements more while working on this picture.  Check out PicMonkey's Pinterest board for more helpful ideas. Just don't do as I did, search PicMonkey in the Pinterest search box.  You will lose hours of your day!

QR Code: Just use Gwyneth's recommendation - QR Code Monkey. You can link to just about anything, rainbow of colors for the code and you can add an image into the center. Use an image that connects with your other images.  You are on your way to developing your brand.

Avatars: There are so many choices for avatar generators! Great list of avatar choices are listed on the Daring Librarian's wiki.  Honestly, cartoon avatars just haven't been high on my list.  When I would design them, they usually looked like this.  This was even one I considered using.  Still not what I was looking for in an avatar.  

I admit I'm spoiled since I still wander the Second Life virtual grid that provides awesome photography today with shadows and super details.  Why not use my SL avatar? Since my real self was wearing a denim jacket, I pulled myself together as a virtual librarian. Not bad, but I was running out of time to really pose and take photographs.

When I was checking with graphic designers regarding my project, I found out that a graphic artist, Melanie Olivier, was drawing anime versions of avatar portraits. Success!  For less than a coffee at Starbucks, I had a new "me". I changed it up with a royal blue background and added my professional PLN's to the library books.

Final Products:

3 versions using variations of images for the front side.  The flip side includes contact information. My order took less than a week.  If you want new cards for summer conferences, you probably have time to order them.

Blog Header - Used the mini cards template but increased it in size. Adjusted images accordingly.

Twitter Header - New changes 2014! Read over the specifications at The New Twitter Profile Page:  Complete Image Size Guide.  Google Twitter header templates.  Several will be listed.  I downloaded Pauline Cabrera template and tweaked it to suit myself. You will need to compare the computer version to the mobile version on your smartphone or tablets.  
Linda's Twitter page
The Daring Librarian Twitter page
Tiffany Whitehead Twitter page

Keep this handy cheat sheet link to a great infographic that details all the pixels for your social media headers.  Social Media Today provides Social Media Dimensions Blueprint.  

Am I finished? Probably not! Now that I have learned just enough Photoshop Elements, I can see I'll be working on images for the school library website. At least, I'm ready for ISTE 2014 in Atlanta!