The trick is, however, to find the line between eye-catching and annoyingly distracting. I've seen web cam video used as well as screen recordings. Slide show videos would work as well.
My first attempt was annoyingly distracting, and a Follower asked me to tone it down a bit - which I did. Some people will simply stop following, but that doesn't bother me. I love looking at other people's animations - it's like looking through a virtual window to their soul!
1. If you are going to use a video clip, pull it into a video editing program to grab about 4 seconds worth (Twitter avatars must be under 700 kb). Or create one from scratch, like a slide show video, web cam recording or slide show video. REMEMBER that it will LOOP over and over, so watch to make sure there isn't a jarring jump between the end and the beginning of the video. Windows Movie Maker, the Commercial Creation Center (http://www.CommercialCreationCenter.com) or Camtasia are great creation and editing tools - you just decide which one is easy enough for you to learn quickly. Save the video as a .wmv if you are NOT creating it in Camtasia. You'll see the directions below for how to "produce" it in Camtasia.
2. The most important thing Camtasia will do is produce the video as an animated GIF. If you have Camtasia (there's a free version available), you can do the creating, editing and outputting in there as well. Choose 150 x 112 pixels as the final size, which is the standard thumbnail size. If you don't want to use Camtasia, there is a site that will convert the video to GIF for you (http://www.gifninja.com), but the final file sizes are larger, so you will have to cut your video down even further, possibly to 2 seconds or so.
3. Upload your saved, animated GIF to your Twitter Account Photo. We've seen Firefox give error messages that Twitter is overloaded, but just keep going or switch to another browser. It will take eventually.
Get feedback from your followers about whether or not it is too busy, and refine your photo until you and your favorite followers are happy. But remember, you can't please everyone, so don't bother trying. If you're happy with it, then let yourself enjoy it, and change it around from time to time to break up the monotony.
Penny Haynes has served as Podcasting Consultant for Lifetime Television for Women and hosted the Online International Podcasting Expo. She is the designer of the Commercial Creation Center, which allows ANYONE to create, upload and post audio, video and images to Social Media & Social Networking sites.