But I Don’t Feel Like a Brand…

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Back in the days before the advent of the Internet and social media, everyone was able to live their lives in relative peace of mind. There was no Facebook, Twitter or Tumblr where we would need to tell the world our thoughts and activities. No, that was kept to a circle of friends who, if impressed, would take credit for the thought and tell others. Brands were those big nameless, faceless corporations whose products littered our shelves. We were not brands, we were just people.

Then, the beast known as social media rose from the pit of hell and the sane world ceased to exist.

In today’s world, we have to update our Facebook, create or join pages for the causes that we support, tweet our every move on Twitter and tell the world about ourselves through blogs. And no, I did not forget the comments that we make on random people’s social media profiles because they are wrong, IMHO, and we have to set them straight.

What we were happy to keep private amongst our circle of friends is now broadcast to the world. We get into knock-down, drag-out fights with people who don’t share our opinions, rejoice at our happiness and cry with our sadness. Social media is not able to keep up with the direction that we are headed, so new technologies, like podcasts, Vine and Instagram emerged to allow us to express ourselves both vocally and visually.

Each one of us has become a brand, knowingly or unknowingly, and it has changed the entire scope of our daily lives. For a marketer, it means that we must be concerned about, and must consider what Joe Public says; we have to change the nameless, faceless corporate brand to a kinder, gentler, more personable image so that Joe Public doesn’t bash us everywhere.

My favorite comment is “I don’t do this because I am a brand. I just want people to know what I think about things.” That is what media personalities get paid for. I know that you are not a media personality, but in the social media world, where you can go from being a nobody to an Internet superstar in a matter of hours, only to have it reversed in a matter of minutes, you are now a brand. So how do you go about doing it right?

Who do you want the world to see?

The answer to this question will dictate how you run your personal brand. I, unlike many of my friends, broadcast my opinions publicly, inviting dissenters to engage on the field of battle, but that is me. The impression that you want to create is controlled by you… until one of our friends shares something publicly with their friends that you didn’t want the world to know.

What does your voice sound like?

No, I am not talking about in real life. Your digital voice is what the Internet world hears, so you have to decide what is the voice and tone that you want them to identify with you. Are you the shareaholic that pushes other people’s opinions out via your social media profile or are you the town crier that just announces the headlines and events? Do you want to be known as the thoughtful commentator or the rage-filled screamer? The distinctions may seem to be very broad, but each one has a voice, whether they know it or not.

Throwing Down the Gauntlet

When you are creating or deciding on your voice, you need to understand that there is another side to the equation – engagement. The tone of your voice will bring people to you or send them running in another direction. If you share something on Facebook and no one comments, does that mean that no one heard it? No, it means that you didn’t make it inviting enough to get people to engage with you.

Having a voice is nothing if you have no one that listens. When you create a voice, you need to understand that at first, only your friends may like, comment or re-tweet it, but as you become a regular in the Hyde Park that is known as the Internet, more and more people will get involved. This is where the problem for most personal brands starts. When its just friends, there are few disagreements or harsh words exchanged. However, when you enter the public square and start sharing your opinion, you will get tomatoes thrown at you along with some eggs. How you respond is what defines your brand. If you get into constant screaming matches, figuratively, you will go down as a hardhead and people will run from you. If you continually cave in on your opinion, you will be seen as having an immature thought process and people will pelt you with tomatoes. Again, there is a fine line.

When you engage, you need to know your facts and where you stand. Hold that position unless someone can prove that you are incorrect. This brings you credibility and loyal followers. If you are able to convince others that their opinion is faulty, then you become worthy of being shared by non-friends. Personally, I keep track of who has shared my content around the social media sites and make an effort to get involved in the discussions on their profiles. That can be done with a simple like or a thank you comment because that rewards the person who shared your opinion and gets updates sent to you when others comment, allowing you to reach outside your own network and influence others.

Be Humble

None of us are rock stars… unless you really are a rock star. We are individuals with opinions and thoughts that we share to be part of the conversation. We can be wrong and we can be impulsive. Too many people with social media profiles, unaware of the impact of their public statements, get into foolish arguments over minute things that really don’t matter to the world at large. Understand that there are limits to how long a conversation can go on before you need to put on the brakes and stop talking.

Think of it like this.

If you have a friend that states a position and continues to pound that position, you tend to avoid them. Don’t be that friend. Most of the people that engage with you on social media are doing so because they wanted to get their thoughts into the conversation, not get into a knockdown drag-out fight with someone they will never encounter again. Make your point and move on. Respond to the people with their name (show them that respect) and clarify your position, but don’t beat a dead horse. It’s already dead.

While I am sure that there are many other things that you would like to discuss in relation to personal branding, if you follow these few principles, you should be ok for now. Everything else is just gravy for the potatoes.

About the Author

Khalid Muhammad is the Group Managing Director of the emagine group (http://www.emagine-group.com) and a soon to be published author with his first novel, Agency Rules – Never an Easy Day at the Office (http://agencyrules.com). He can be found on Facebook at http://facebook.com/khalid.muhammad or twitter at http://twitter.com/AgencyRulesPK,

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