Late to the party, many small and medium size businesses are discovering Facebook as a tool for promoting and branding themselves. In the past few years, the term “branding” has been a hot business topic, created by the media hype around advertising using social media. But I never fully understood the term “branding”, its implications and the practise, until I started actively participating, reading and writing on my Facebook timeline.
My main reason for exposing myself to the world of Facebook, was simply to understand how it works. I wanted to see if there was merit in using Facebook, as over a billion users worldwide were doing. Whether I connected with my classmates from 30+ years ago or not, was furthest from my mind. What I did discover was that not only is Facebook a powerful branding tool for business but how individuals are unwittingly using it to create a personal brand that may come back to haunt them.
There was much that I didn’t know about Facebook. But by “LIKE-ing” a few people I knew, a few more from my club and hometown classmates, I began to build a repertoire of scrolling real time news. It wasn’t more than a year of regular weekly readings, that the light finally came on for me. Clear as day, I realized how several of my “friends” have casted, stereotyped, say “branded” themselves, and NOT in a good way. I saw a pattern from their postings, that I could have easily used to describe or introduce them, if I was ever asked. I began to label and think of them, specifically by how frequently and what they posted on their timeline. They have managed to “brand” themselves.
I began to detect a consistent pattern with many. Is that how I want to be described or thought of? There was the person that would post just family pics of events with their grand kids. This is commendable, but maybe in a closed family Facebook sub-page; not your general friends list. There was the person who posted pictures that made me wonder, “What am I missing here? Why is this picture being broadcast? It’s just a picture!” All it proved was that they knew how to take a picture and how to post to Facebook. Nice, I thought. They have a heartbeat. There was the friend who spoke of deep inner feelings. Sure; just thinking out loud perhaps, but maybe don’t be posting into words. People will sense you are emotionally unstable and incapable of dealing with everyday life. Then there was the world traveller that would post pictures daily from across the globe. Obviously not current and just drawing from years past vacations. Then there was the person who posts 10 times per day. Well, that person clearly does not have a life and needs constant attention. Some may come across as activists. That’s when I discovered I can UN-follow these while still leaving them in my friends list. And believe me, I did.
So before you write on your timeline, and then click POST, ask yourself the following 3 questions.
1) What is the purpose of my post?
Are you hoping to inspire, inform, motivate, instigate or call-to-action someone? Are you sharing an experience with a picture hoping to get some feedback from others? Or are you just blowing off some steam, perhaps getting onto a soapbox and ranting about an incident that happened to you? Are you hoping for support or sympathy? If you are writing in the “heat of the moment” and saturated with emotion such as anger or vindictiveness, then close your laptop and go for a good walk or other physical activity. Yes, writing can very good therapy, so continue writing, but do so in your personal journal, not your Facebook timeline. No one is interested in reading your thoughts repeatedly.
2) Am I comfortable with others repeating my comments attached to my name?
This is more inline with the “gossip session” or water cooler talk, when others may talk about you behind your back. We can’t control gossip about us, so make sure it is gossip you are comfortable having proliferate about you. Hearing your comments in the third person may make the hairs on the back of your neck standup.
3) If this was my last post, would I want to be remembered by it?
Think legacy. What do you want to leave behind for others or society in general? In what light would you like others to talk about you?
I know I said 3, but here is the bonus question;
4) Is there any value to my post?
Sometimes we get carried away and when others look at our post, they ask themselves, “So what? Why are you telling me this?” This is more along the lines of the “What’s in it for me?” question. If not, then write your post so it will be of value to others.
Today, more than ever, most people reading something are looking for specifics that will bring them value, knowledge or absolute riches. They just don’t want to be an audience, giving their precious time to you, the aspiring author who is going to write the next best seller which will turn into the #1 movie of the year. If not, then your post is simply “noise” and your contacts may not only “un-follow” but also remove you as a friend completely.
Remember, when you are posting on Facebook, you are talking to the world. Statements will never be retracted or deleted. Your post may even proliferate and haunt you with someone reposting on other social media. Even if deleted, people who have already read your post may remember you by that lasting impression you gave them. People can make their minds up about you very quickly and can stereotype you as an activist, anti-whatever and just plain dangerous to have around. Don’t place yourself in the “court of public opinion”. Also, some potential employers hire social media consultants to compile a social media profile of you. Seeing pictures of you volunteering your time with a worthy charity in a developing country is a good thing. But pictures of you getting blasted at the bar on the week-ends, well, not so much.
Facebook is a powerful social media tool. It levels the playing field between a lowly individual and a multi-million dollar company. Done right, you can project as good as the big companies. Use it to showcase your strengths, ambitions and accomplishments. Use it to inspire and summon others to their cause. Use it to stay connected. Use it to develop and advertise “your brand”. I hope my experience with Facebook and tips above will help you “brand” yourself in the best possible light. As a test, you can connect with me on Facebook and practise what I shared above.