Brand You: The Strategy of Social Media
Twitter, Facebook, Foursquare and other social media platforms can be pleasurable diversions. But using these services as tools rather than timewasters is the difference between a strong personal brand and a really high score on Farmville.
When using social media strategically, experts say blogging is the indisputable starting point.
“Anyone interested in building up their personal brand should start from some sort of home base,” said Jacob Morgan, principal of Chess Media Group, and author of TwittFaced—Your Toolkit for Understanding and Maximizing Social Media. “A blog is the best place for people to see what you’re thinking and share your knowledge.”
Though time-consuming, a blog establishes your story and showcases your personality—something 140-character dispatches don’t permit. Twitter, however, famed for its enforced brevity, has become the dominant place for people to explore topics of interest and engage in a conversation with others who share them.
“You can connect with anyone on Twitter,” says Morgan. Following, say, an athlete, or prominent wine writer is entirely appropriate, while friending them on Facebook may overstep some boundaries. As in real life, good Twitter etiquette demands conversing with others, not just tossing out self-promotional tweets.
Michelle Ward, a life coach whose clients work in creative fields, relied heavily on Twitter while stuck in a 9-to-5 cube farm, working toward the goal of establishing herself as the When I Grow Up Coach. She’s quite selective about who she follows, cultivating what she calls “my tribe,” a group of people who share her personal and professional interests.
Facebook, the largest social media vehicle with 600 million members, has become a place for more personal matters. If developing your personal brand, Morgan recommends reserving your profile for coworkers, friends and relatives, so complete strangers can’t looking at your personal photos. Anyone building up a following for their music, art or other endeavors, should consider making a separate fan page, so online acquaintances or potential business contacts can still interact.
Though popular in big cities, Foursquare doesn’t have much use from a personal branding standpoint, said Morgan, unless the businesses you visit offer deals through the site. Though if you’re trying to establish your bona fides as, say, a film buff, it doesn’t hurt to log regular check-ins at local movie houses.
A variety of other social media outlets also offer branding benefits. Once simply a place to store photos, Flickr has become a forum for regular dialogue about photos and their subjects. Looking to establish yourself as an expert on a certain topic? Head to crowd-sourced question and answer site Quora. Ward also confessed to wasting hours of time on Pinterest, a “social catalog” site currently in the beta phase where users curate images from the Web on a virtual bulletin board, letting followers view, share and comment. A pinboard can feature album covers, architectural drawings or wine labels—any topic that reinforces your personal brand.
It’s easy to get sucked in to all of these sites. Just make sure your efforts are indeed aiding your personal development and not simply a way to kill time.