When it comes to e-mail signatures, there are two schools of thought: "keep it simple," with little more than your name; and "make it count," meaning pack in every tidbit you possibly can.
My two cents: You've got the recipient's attention for at least a few seconds, so why not make the most of it?
BrandMyMail helps you make the most of it. The service "brands" your e-mail with a photo-enhanced signature, Twitter and/or Facebook updates, embedded blog posts, links to your social networks, and more. It's free for Gmail users (and cheap for everyone else), and it works like a charm.
To get started, you simply choose a theme and layout for your e-mail template (the service offers about a dozen color schemes and five basic layouts), then assemble it using your choice of plugins.
These include just about everything you could imagine embedding: Facebook and Twitter, Picasa and Flickr, Quora and Google+, even eBay. You can pull blog posts from Blogger, Tumblr, WordPress, or any RSS feed. And, of course, BrandMyMail has custom signature, image, and text options.
You can stack multiple plugins within any of the main content areas. Of course, you'll want to be careful about overloading your e-mail with this stuff, as too much of it will distract the reader from your actual message -- and perhaps even prove annoying, like a Web page with flashing banners or flying toasters.
I recommend sticking with the bare essentials, like an informative signature and perhaps a Twitter or blog feed. Of course, there's nothing wrong with piling on icons for the social networks you frequent.
When you're done, you'll need to install the BrandMyMail browser extension (currently available for Chrome and Firefox) and perform a one-time approval in your Gmail account. Then, just compose mail like you normally would. The extension lets you preview messages before sending so you can make sure they look okay. You also have the option of bypassing your template and sending messages normally.
When the service made its debut late last year, it worked exclusively with Gmail. A newly added Premium option provides a custom SMTP server, meaning you can use BrandMyMail with just about anything -- including Apple Mail, Outlook, smartphones, tablets, and so on. BrandMyMail Premium costs around $4 U.S. per month; you can try it free for 14 days.
Although most e-mail clients let you add simple signatures, not one gives you the kind of flexibility afforded by BrandMyMail. I definitely think it's worth a look, especially if you're a Gmail user.
Looking for more e-mail advice? Check out "How to Email Like a Pro."