“Who are you, who, who, oh I really want to know …” Pete Townsend, The Who.
Sometimes, musicians say the most profound things. This famous line from a late 1970’s classic is the best advice anyone can get prior to dipping their toe in the social media waters. You must first make a conscious decision of the personality you want to convey independent of whether you enter social media as an individual or a brand.
This is always the first conversation and exercise I go through with clients – defining who you are. The recent announcement of the Web 2.0 Suicide Machine magnifies the importance. As NPR reported, the idea of Web 2.0 suicide “is to abandon your virtual life — so you can get your actual life back.” That is, if you have said something stupid or do not represent your intended personality or brand, you just erase it all (and then start all over again if you wish). Facebook responded that it would block such an application service.
I am sure there will be legal battles over this issue, but get it right from the beginning and there is no need for anxiety or worry. Here are some suggested steps:
1) Determine who your desired audience is – friends, professional associates, customers/clients. This is likely to be different depending on if you are using social media personally, professionally, or for brand awareness and loyalty. If you want to engage in social media for multiple purposes (personal, professional, and/or branding), I recommend keeping separate social identities. For example, my Facebook account is for friends and family. I once had someone I was doing consulting for “friend” me on Facebook and I accepted. I still regret this. Now when it happens, I reply to the “professional friend” that I value our connection and I am interested in building a stronger professional relationship with them … let’s connect on LinkedIn. Here is my litmus test for Facebook friends – Do I want this person to see me and my family in our beach pictures. (Yeah, not too harmful – there are much worse things said or shown on Facebook.)
2) Define your positioning statement – while this is typically a “brand term”, it is most certainly applicable to individuals as well. When one defines a brand position it is usually defined by what is offered, the target market or audience, the value and/or benefits delivered, who the competition is, and how the brand is differentiated. Similar attributes can be set for individuals; even in a social setting. This really becomes the bases for how you want to be perceived. Not that the positioning is communicated, but it becomes a stake in the ground that you can test your social communication and participation against.
3) Reinforce your position – your conversation in a social media context should underpin and emphasize your position and desired portrayal. If you are using social media on a personal level, remember, history is hard to erase. Also, this is not to say that you can not put any personal information in a professional social media context. I use Twitter professionally and I tweet about music (because I am a music junkie) and things I do with my family (because they are extremely important to me). This may not be on topic of a social media marketer, but there is a person behind the SocialSteve Twitter account and including some personal touches builds connections and relationships.
I strongly recommend you at least think about these three areas independent of using social media to engage with friends, family, professional colleagues and partners, network extensions, or as brand. There are slight twists to strategies and formality of implementation, but all should be considered on some level. On a personal level, you may not need to produce formalized definitions, but at least think about it. For brands, I strongly recommend looking at this as procedural steps that receive organizational buy-in and are communicated internally. If you are using social media to strengthen your professional network and image you may want to consider taking the formalized steps.
I’ll just close with one more point to think about … It used to be that when you applied for a job, you would go on the Internet and research the company of interest. Now, companies that consider you for employment are turning the tables and researching you. There is likely a catalogue of information about you, out there, that you have authored. Does it portray you as you want to be perceived and seen?
Make it happen.