Are You a Social Media Idiot?
Mitch Joel says Facebook is crushing your personal brand and you don’t even know it. I disagree. Facebook isn’t hurting your brand, you being a social media idiot is.
Mitch chose to pick on Facebook, but what his post really does is highlight the problem that arises when marketers jump into fads without first deciding why they’re there and what they hope to accomplish. If you joined Facebook to build professional brand equity and now spend your days throwing sheep at your colleagues and trying to bite your customers to turn them into vampires, well then, yeah, you’re a social media idiot and probably hurting your brand. That sure ain’t Facebook’s fault.
Mitch is right in that marketers who leap into things with no purpose and spam everyone around them will absolutely tarnish their image. No one wants to be friends with the guy who’s going to sit next to them, talking during the movie and then stick their finger in your ear all day. Marketers have to be cautious when they enter the social sphere. If you don’t know why you’re there, you’re likely to spend your days gift giving, cause-hopping and SuperPoking your day away while branding yourself as a total annoyance.
Those of us who are not social media idiots know that participating in sites like Facebook or Digg or StumbleUpon or even Twitter help build our personal brands, not destroy it. It allows us to break down the cold exterior we sometimes give off and invite people into our lives to get to know us, or at least the version of us that we want them to know. It’s about building personal recognition and associating your name with warm, fuzzy things. Looking at the experiences I’ve had with Facebook and the connections I’ve made, it’s impossible for me to buy into Mitch’s theory that my personal brand has been tarnished. If you don’t know how to play well with others or manage your privacy and notification settings, that’s your flaw, not Facebook’s.
The thing with Facebook and most social networks is that you have to be clear what your purpose is for entering that space from the very beginning. Are you using it as a tool to reconnect with lost faces and current friends? Or is it a marketing channel for business? Often times, you have to choose one or the other. It can’t be both.
Depending on how you answer these questions, your interaction with the site will be quite different. If you’re using it mostly for business and as a branding tool, you probably won’t want to befriend that guy you went to college with and had that total wild rager with that one night. You don’t want to give him permission to leave inappropriate wall messages or do naughty things to you via SuperPoke while your boss, colleagues and clients are watching.
Most of you reading this are probably using social media as a branding tool. In that case, you have to know who you are and what your brand is about. You have to know your audience and respect their tolerance level. For example, this is what my Twitter feed looked like yesterday.
It was all Rae Hoffman, all the time. And you’re just looking at a glimpse of what I had to suffer through (Hi Rae!). There was way more. But this works for Rae because she’s built herself a brand of being a loudmouth, lion on the loose, search marketer who will bite your head off if you make a misstep (she’s so going to hurt me). She can post 87 consecutive twits without annoying or angering her core audience. But that doesn’t work for everyone. Scoble has gotten a ton of flack for spamming his Twitter followers into oblivion with how often he updates, so have people like Guy Kawasaki. It’s up to you to know the brand that you’ve created and how best to promote it.
But you can’t throw the baby out with the bathwater and blame the network for what people choose to do with it. There’s an enormous potential for marketers looking to use sites like Facebook to build brand equity. There’s Facebook’s new advertising platform, the ability to not only create, but do something with Facebook Fan pages (the "do something" part is important, otherwise you’re just spamming me), and there are applications you can create to promote whatever it is your company does outside of Facebook’s walled garden. You can make it work for you.
You build your personal brand every time you participate intelligently in the community and act like a good social media citizen. The more users are able to associate your name and your brand with positive, thoughtful things, the more likely they are to remember you when it counts. The more smart decisions you make, the more you’ll be able to expand your personal network and have more eyeballs tuned in to see what you’re doing. The more you add to the community, the more influence you’ll have over that community.
Being a social media idiot on Facebook is no different than the marketers on MySpace who spam their friends with worthless bulletins, bloggers who post nothing but noise, the chain letters once ever-present on AOL or the constant twits people send each other. You have to know how to use the medium to work for you and build your brand. And that’s your responsibility, no one else’s.