The title may ask an obvious question to search marketers but the reality is that most of your offline friends have very little clue as to what social media marketing, social media optimization and personal branding online are or why it is of any importance. Unless you are in a related vertical, or own/manage a website which is dependent on the traffic from online visitors, there is probably not much need to be well versed in these subjects.
When I first started exploring the social media space, I probably did what most have done in the beginning; read a few social media resources, created a profile here and there, and started adding “friends”, networking and investigating what seemed to work and not work in each community. I’ve tried creating the ambiguous profile, the company profile and the “hot girl” profile among others, all with varying degrees of success.
In the end, my experience would indicate the truth in being open and transparent. Honest contribution seems to work best, even though it may be the more difficult road to take. I concur with other people in the industry, that my perspective on why I value each social community I am involved in has changed, and sometimes it’s difficult to explain why this change has occurred.
One Friend Request Add Too Many
Given this history, it really shouldn’t have been much of a surprise when my wife, “interested” in what I was doing online, came across one of my online profiles and uncovered a connection I had made to some questionable material (think “whitehouse.com” style). It turned into a fairly heated debate about online media, morals and what’s going on in these “social communities”. I can honestly say that it was an honest mistake, but it got me thinking a lot more on how your personal reputation (brand) is affected by social media marketing and how important it is to understand, manage and evaluate why and what you are doing in each community.
Your Social Media Portfolio Is Your Personal Brand
Experts like Chris Brogan talk about the branding effect of social media optimization. Lyndon Antcliff is one of many SEO folks whom argue how your personal brand is affected by gaming social media websites or not paying attention to the etiquette involved. The reality in my personal situation was that I did not take the time to investigate whom I was networking with and what they represented. I sacrificed my personal brand for the need to accumulate numbers. It’s a lesson well learned and something to think about in the future.
But Consider These Things About Social Media:
Looking at my social media involvement as a whole, questions and observations arose.
- At one point I had over 100 friends on Digg and still have over 200 “fans”. The reality is that I don’t know more than 10% of them in real life. Are these people “good people”, “bad people”, or does it matter?
- How do you separate your personal relationships in social communities with your professional ones? Particularly in places like Facebook, MySpace or LinkedIn. Is it even possible to do so?
- Active (quality) participation in each community means more friend requests, more invitations and more followers; it’s pretty much a given you will connect with people you have never met (and possibly will never meet) in real life.
- Each social media community has its own purposes, opportunities and potential pitfalls. Being able to recognize these things are important, particularly in relation to how it may affect you and your personal brand.
So What Does That Mean?
There’s really two things that people involved in social media need to consider as it relates to their relationships in “the real world”.
- Understanding each community you’re involved in and how it affects your personal brand.
- Being able to effectively communicate the value of each community, beyond traditional marketing speak, to the people that oftentimes matter to you most.
Understanding the Community
Tamar Weinberg said it best when she explained that each community has its own personality and guidelines (spoken and unspoken) to work within. You can’t own a community without understanding it. In that vein of thought, individuals involved in social communities need to think about who they interact with, why they are interacting and how that may be perceived in relation to their personal branding efforts.
- Digg is a social community, less about personal background and more about an individual’s interests in news and information. Keeping your personal information private will not necessarily impact your ability to be a successful contributor.
- Facebook clearly has more personal inflection associated to it, with photographs, current activities and personal interests all tied into one location. That has to be kept in mind when considering how or if you intend to use Facebook as a professional marketing tool.
- MyBlogLog is about the blogging community, and people interested in connecting through common blogging interests. Not only are personal interests connected, but also the blogging communities you represent, either in a professional sense or in your own individual initiatives.
What Each Community is About (Beyond the Marketing Hype)
When I reflect on why I am a part of social media space, I understand the marketing needs professionally, but that makes little sense to those unattached to the community from that perspective. Here are some ways I convey that value:
- I’m a part of the Digg community because I enjoy how quickly I can access news and information. Whether I am looking for tutorials, industry news or the random interesting story, Digg almost never fails at delivering.
- LinkedIn allows me to stay connected with professionals and business associates far better than a Rolodex of business cards or Outlook contact lists. The opportunity to field questions to a professional community and share answers based on experience further enhances the networking value.
- If you follow the right people on Twitter, you’re immediately connected to new information, resources and opportunities you may never have found by yourself. This can be a tremendous advantage, both professionally and personally.
Google “yourself” today and see how your own search rankings communicate who you are and what your personal brand is. It’s more than a few simple profiles; it’s also the conversations, submissions and networks you are a part of (or perhaps not a part of), as all of your social media endeavors can be documented and archived. Is your personal brand represented the way you want it to be? Can you explain to the people you care about why you are so invested in these communities and why they are important? Do you even need to?
(Thank you Reem, for helping me work through some of key points and objectives for this post.)
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