As part of my support duties, I often get to respond to curly customer questions. Like this one from yesterday in regards to Sparrow, an up-and-coming email client for Mac OS X:

“How can I add an avatar image to the email campaigns I send out with Campaign Monitor, that shows up in Sparrow like your emails do?”

Here’s what this image looks like when you receive our monthly newsletter, or an email from support (in our case, it’s our logo):

Campaign Monitor email in Sparrow

Gowalla email in Sparrow

Here’s another example from our friends at Gowalla (pictured).

Despite the fact that we display email client usage stats for Sparrow in your reports (and indeed, a lot of folks are now using it instead of Apple Mail), I’d never really thought about how Sparrow sources this little image. It sure adds to the credibility and branding of an email newsletter viewed within the app, so I decided to look into how email senders can set their image of choice.

It turns out that Sparrow uses Gravatar and Facebook to source the avatars of email senders in the message list. This means that Sparrow runs each sender’s email address against Gravatar’s database of email addresses and images and the email recipient’s Facebook friends list (if enabled). If a match is found, then an avatar is displayed next to the sender’s name.

If you or your clients have been in business for a while now, chances are that you already have a Gravatar set up, as well as a Facebook page. If not, it takes only a moment to sign up for a Gravatar account and upload an image to link to the email address you send from. From there on in, your campaigns will be instantly recognizable in Sparrow inboxes.

Gravatar is widely used on blogs and social sites – not to mention, in worldview and the recently-updated subscriber snapshot that can be found in your account.

Many thanks to Max Lielje for sending in this curious question – we’re glad we could help! After this prompt to check our reports, it turns out that more folks now use Sparrow to read our monthly newsletter than Yahoo! Mail or Android (when we can detect it, of course). So, if you have a lot of Mac-loving email subscribers like us, it may be worth your time to make sure you have an appropriate avatar linked to your sending address.

  • gavjof

    Thanks for the tips. Not being a Mac user it’s useful to know.

  • Constantin Schneider

    Thanks Guys,

    Just got here from your newsletter. We will add “setup a gravatar for customer” to our checklist.


  • Jorge Alvarez

    This are the kind of small things that make a big difference.

    I love Sparrow just because of things like that.

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