I joined twitter around early 2007 and during those early months I toyed with a number of different avatars. At some point I settled on the avatar I have now - just a quick snap of me in front of my desktop.
However, as the years went on, I got chubbier, I usually sport a light beard and I have longer hair. When people meet me in reality they quickly realise I don't look like my avatar.
So I changed it and it worked badly against me.
Disclaimer: sorry folks, this is a very me post, I'm not mad on them - but really it's here because I'll forget in another 3 years, and this post will be a reminder of why I don't change my mugshot too often!
I've tweeted around 14,000 messages. That's not to say it's alot, but people following me have a certain unspoken agreement with me: I'll tweet about tech and a few personal things, and they'll recognise me as the guy in the white tee.
It doesn't really matter what my avatar looks like, but what I had done, without realising, is create a brand around my own name, and my brand image was my avatar. This is marketing 101 to most people, but I'm just a developer, and I wanted to update my avatar to represent myself a little more honestly.
It's like salt & vinegar vs. cheese & onion. Walkers, some time ago, used to have salt & vinegar in blue packets and cheese & onion in green. Some point along my life they swapped the colours. Ever since I'd always grab the wrong packet if I didn't carefully read the packaging.
By changing my avatar to what is mostly white, pink and black, to a mostly dark colours, when I tweeted announcing my new workshop tour project, I couldn't work out why the reception was so poor. Then I realised: most folks didn't spot my tweet because it came from a brand they didn't recognise. My tweet was filtered out as noise via the native RT in twitter because folks didn't recognise me - rightly so.
So I changed it back within 24 hours of changing my avatar.
The lesson here is that, even without knowing it, nor actively trying to do it, we're creating a brand, and on twitter our brand is our avatar. That doesn't mean you can't change it - I've heard of some people who constantly change their avatar, but that's their brand - it just means if you use twitter for both personal and business, just be careful to maintain a consistent appearance.