I was in the shower this morning (is that too much information, already? If it is, pretend I was just in the kitchen) and I began thinking about America’s Next Top Model. For those who know me, that’s not out of the ordinary… at all. For those who aren’t familiar with ANTM (if you aren’t, we should talk), it is a reality TV competition for models created by Tyra Banks. The current cycle of ANTM is called America’s Next Top Model All Stars because Tyra has brought back girls from past cycles to compete for the ultimate Top Model prize package and also for redemption. You see, none of these “All Stars” won their previous cycle. Most did not even come close.
There’s the girl who’s remembered for not wanting to take her clothes off, the model whose food was stolen, and there are one or two girls who I’m convinced were never even on ANTM. Despite not winning, all have gone on to successful careers. How did they do it? Brand recognition. The girls who have used their experiences (negative or otherwise) to their advantage, have a career. At the very least, it got them back on the show. So what does all of this mean in social media? Let’s talk about online personal branding.
Before I began working for an internet marketing company, a close friend said “remember, you are a brand.” I had never really thought about it in those terms. Sharing my life on Facebook and Twitter seemed far from social media marketing but she was right. I am a brand and you are as well. I was reminded of this conversation when I started at DragonSearch. I’m sure you’ve experienced something similar with colleagues or your close friends. It’s usually in terms of personal information vs. professional information. A few of my colleagues and friends have separate social media accounts for their personal lives and for their professional. In my case, I talk about everything on my personal account.
What Tyra Banks is teaching this cycle is a lesson in personal branding. All of these models have a past and unlike many of us, a bit of their past has been captured in a season of television. For the rest of us, it is social media that’s captured our pasts. In a poll by the girls’ “fans,” the question was asked what words described each girl. These were words such as “candid,” “daring,” “unexpected,” and “free.” So if you go to my Facebook page and catch me posting about how terrified of escalators I am, you may remember that and tell all your friends. Your friends may then go share with their friends that Ryan L Waterman is scared of escalators. If I didn’t want you to know that about me, I probably shouldn’t have shared it. The lesson? Be careful about what you’re sharing because you may not be perceived in a way you’d like. But you probably already knew that. In the world of social media, you have to consider your audience.
So what do you as a brand want to say? Everything that you put online influences how others see your brand. It starts with you and then brand recognition is built when others begin to discuss your brand. What your friends and followers say about you is how they perceive you and if it’s positive, they stick around. If they don’t like what they’re seeing, they may disappear, and they may influence a few others as well. The customer engagement must be there in order to keep them around. Personally, every time I gain a follower on Twitter, it seems I’ve lost one or two. If someone does not like what I’m putting out there then that’s their choice to unfollow.
I recently had a discussion with someone about my online sharing. The thing is, I share it all. Okay, well maybe not everything. There is a filter to what I say but certainly not to what I’m afraid to discuss. But no matter what, I am always representing Ryan L Waterman. I live my life according to my values and I’m not ashamed of my behavior so there is no need to consider that what may be posted online might make me so. If you go onto my Facebook, you can check out the past six years or so of my life, completely unedited. No need to untag a photo, or delete a comment because I wasn’t doing anything I’m ashamed of. In fact, most of the time I’m proud to see a moment or two documented, no matter how silly. If every company behaved in ways they could always be proud of, there would be no need to “spin” a negative situation. If you follow me on Twitter, you can check out the past two or so years, also unedited except for that whole 140 characters thing. Plus, you’ll see how I’m currently feeling.
What do you see immediately after you hit my page? You see my face. And it’s a pretty current picture. If your avatar is a photo of your cat, dog, baby or a rowboat, how do I have any idea what you’re about on first glance? I know you’re not supposed to judge a book by its cover, but why wouldn’t you want to make your cover just as enticing as the read? It’s not effective marketing if I can’t tell anything about you from first look. If your company doesn’t represent itself honestly from first glance, I won’t be making a purchase. I won’t buy Ugg boots from a cat, but nice try.
If I make it past your avatar to read more, what is the first thing I read? Look at what you’re posting. If you don’t think you’d be inspired to read further, delete that post. Share as much or as little as you want about yourself, but remember that as much as you’d like it to be, it isn’t all about you. You wouldn’t want to read a story where the main character never interacted with anyone or anything else, that’s boring. You decide what to share, but make sure you’re sharing all of the important information. If I’ve decided that I like what you’re posting then I want to know more! Your company shouldn’t always talk about how great you are, I’m interested in what other people think as well!
I asked everyone in my office this morning the following question, “If you could describe me in one word, what would that word be?” The responses I received were: hilarious, snarky and amusing. Also, my personal favorite response when everyone claimed they could not describe me in one word: “I’m an optimizer, so I just want to long-tail you.” I am flattered by these answers, but is my online persona living up to these standards? I don’t want to be forgotten. So if I’m not feeling particularly hilarious, amusing or snarky, you’ll know about it. Then you might tell someone that I’m no longer any of those things. You have to remember that having control over your personal branding in social media is as simple as choosing whether or not to share. It’s your company and your brand so do as Tyra says so you can still be in the running.