Why your horn hath tooted the wrong note
Why do some professionals continue to boast about their drunken antics and personal political views but not their professional effectiveness? Why not use social media to your advantage? Why not build a personal brand as strong as your professional brand? Sure, it’s great that you like the Rolling Stones, but do we really need to know that your first kid was due to whisky and listening to “Honky Tonk Women” in the backseat of a Buick?
Social media missteps have a little to do with ignorance, a little to do with a lack of social media education, and something to do with “who knew my clients would unfriend me”. It’s a hot mess out there. Keep it real, and you could be social’s next golden child.
Social media brings a whole new level of responsibility to our lives. Because we all unwind in different ways, we’ve got to be careful. Let’s be sure we maintain composure when the spotlight is available at everyone’s fingertips. We are servants to our customers, and our world is heavily connected 24/7.
Our customers can perform a thorough background check with only a handful of social media sites. Our personal brand and our businesses brand are linked and equally important. Everything you post, Like, blog about, review, and endorse will influence how your followers interpret who you really are and the values that you have. If this differs from the “professional you”, you have the chance of garnering a little negative press. There are a few concepts to branding yourself that could help retain current clients, and let future clients approve of you personally and professionally.
Jimmy Buffett is lame
Step One: Remove any and all Jimmy Buffett related pages and posts immediately. I am kidding. I actually love Jimmy Buffett (sometimes). But seriously, be advised that what you like defines you. If you publicly proclaim that you love the Republican Party, but you’re trying to get a Democrat to endorse your product, don’t be surprised when you don’t get it. It may feel like you’re stifling your creativity or individuality, but you’re trying to build a personal brand for yourself to represent the most successful you. We all have our guilty pleasures, let’s just make sure that those guilty pleasures are on-brand with the persona that we are trying to sell to the world. Success is built upon discipline, and it takes discipline to maintain social media composure.
Step two: Post something cool, interesting, or valuable. Nobody really cares if you’ve had a bad day. You are being overly dramatic and probably need a Snickers bar. Without seeming pretentious, find a way to tell people that your bad day didn’t get you down because of this rockin’ tune, without actually saying you’ve had a bad day.
Now, people know you like Queen, power ballads, and have what it takes to survive a bad day. It’s inspiring, uplifting, and likable. There is a fine line between self-deprecation and self-promotion. Much like a tightrope, try to maintain the balance of fun and play. Too much of either will result in a social media disaster.
Understanding the value of connecting with people on a personal level will help you to maintain your working relationships. All of this content is important to let people know what you are thinking and feeling. We want to know that you’re a good person to do business with and that you have good taste in music.
You might be asking yourself, “why don’t I just not go on social media”? That seems much simpler. Sorry my friends, that’s just not in the cards.Social media is a giant networking tool at your disposal. Embrace the reality that we all have to live in. Across the world, one in seven people check Facebook daily1. That is a staggering, mind-blowing statistic. You need to continue to be part of the conversation so that people see your name pop up in their feed.
LinkedIn is a great resource for finding new employees and networking professionally and it is yet another online space to keep on top of. If your profile is missing a picture or important information, then you’re demonstrating that your organization is behind the times and doesn’t find value in being part of today’s tech. If you want to attract the right people to your organization, and to you, then get yourself a nice looking headshot and fill out your profile!
Endorsements: Right, right, you’re bloody well right.
Let’s talk about endorsements. Going back to the idea that you are what you post online, endorsements are as impactful as your status updates. When you Like, Favorite, or Heart a post, blog, or picture on social media, you’re adding another layer to your personality with your endorsements. Be wary of liking things that may be funny to the “real you”, but off-brand for the “professional you”. Again, this doesn’t mean you have zero personality, it just means everything you do should fit your character. If you are a leader of a company that has a loose and fun culture, then Like and share loose and fun material. If the company you’re part of is more serious, (say a funeral home for example), you wouldn’t want to Like “Walking Dead” posts.
The point is, you need to understand the power and sensitivity of social media. It’s a record of you. Sometimes you may never live down a post. We see it all the time with celebrity Twitter accounts when something goes terribly wrong.
Control the Messaging
Now the fun part: Controlling the messaging. Once you have a serious understanding of the power of social media, you can subtly control your personal image by posting and endorsing the materials that you want people to associate you with. This is a chance to promote your values and goals. Associate yourself with what you know your customers will resonate with. Display your values by posting moments from your personal life that reassures people of who they are doing business with. Just a reminder: When the little voice in your head tells you not to post a picture of yourself hugging a toilet from that terrifying New Years Eve party, you should listen to it.
The second part of controlling the messaging is making sure your privacy settings are functioning properly. If you absolutely must post something personal that is overly revealing, make sure your privacy setting for that post are set to just friends or family.
The takeaway message is this: As silly as social media may appear at face value, its effects are potent and its venom stings. Be vigilant and take control of your personal brand.
No Ifs, No Buts, No Coconuts
You may think that controlling the messaging is dishonest or even unimportant. My advice is that you simply need to be aware that you can increase your chances of success if you have a strategy in mind. Try playing chess without knowing any strategies and you’ll never win. You’ll look inexperienced and eventually you’ll run out of people who want to challenge you. We don’t want to offend or polarize customers, business partners, or friends because of our personal beliefs, weird Facebook posts, or non-existent LinkedIn pages.
For those of you that haven’t been taking social seriously, I’m here as your fairy godmother to tell you it is time. Take charge of your personal brand. Don’t remove everything that gives you personality—just be careful, be honest, and stay true to your values. Avoid any controversy and keep your views on hot topics or flashpoints close to the vest. You’ll have to bite your tongue, but a good leader evaluates the situation and knows that gripes go up, not down.
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