Managing your Personal Brand on Facebook

Posted by on Apr 30, 2013 in Featured | 0 comments

Managing your Personal Brand on Facebook

Someone once commented that I had “presence”. At the time, I had no idea what he meant.  Since then I have come to understand “presence” to mean something that is distinctively you. When you enter a room, without even speaking a word, who you are communicates messages to others. That presence takes on nuanced understanding in online settings.

When I first got on the social media bandwagon, I did so reluctantly. I soon realized it was the way to communicate with friends, update them about the children, send invitations and share pictures—e-mail was so yesterday. At the same time, I was getting ready to establish my business and everything I read about branding, emphasized the importance of establishing an online presence. Now even as I complete this article, I am thinking about the company brand– the logo, pictures, layout, and content. Is this article consistent with my company brand? What do I want to communicate about the “Nexe” and the owners? What is distinctive about who we were and what we do? I am a bit leery of trade books that suggest a little too much for my liking that one strategy for achieving online presence successfully is through gimmickry, for example, selecting certain font styles, colors or website layout. The online presence I hope for is one that communicates in spite of these frills. It is an authentic message that communicates personhood.

This is as true for an online business as it is for one’s use of social media.
It is critical to think intentionally about our social media brand– the presence that we are creating through our use of technology. Now, I admit that it took me a while to get to this point. But a few weeks into Facebook (FB), I decided to back track and establish some personal guidelines for how I would use it and to what end. I knew I wanted to take advantage of FB as a tool to reconnect and stay connected to others, but I also wanted to escape the “me-ism” that seems to be a hallmark of our time (me on vacation, me at work, me with someone famous), as well as not be drawn into another activity that would use up my time without advancing me towards my life goals.

Though I am still thinking through how to craft an authentic online presence, I have found the following five questions to be useful in helping me along this journey:

For what Purpose?
Technology is only as good as the use to which it is put. I have spent time observing some of my friends who have been on FB for quite some time. These pioneers of-sort, have clued me in to how to use it well. Social media can be used to educate and inform. I am grateful to friends who forward wonderful articles on topics of mutual interest–which have helped me to stay current with the literature around my research interests, and widen my reading repertoire around personal interest topics including health, diet and exercise, food and nutrition, and natural living.  I can count on some friends to keep me up to date with fast breaking news stories. Sans cable and spending most of my work day typing away at my computer, it is easy for me to miss important happenings. It was on FB that I learned about a building collapse in downtown Philadelphia, and I immediately called my husband to make sure he was okay.

Others take the time to post daily motivational quotes that sometimes seem crafted exactly for my situation or to share messages of inspiration, in scripture, poems and songs.

Primarily though FB is a great way to connect with individuals whose addresses span the globe. Friends we knew from childhood and people we have been trying to find for years are sometimes no more than a type and click away. It was as a result of FB that our extended family was able to plan an 80 person plus Thanksgiving Family Reunion.

Questions related to purpose are important considerations for anyone using social media: What is my purpose for using social media? What are the expected outcomes? What activities will help me achieve these outcomes? How well am I doing in achieving these outcomes?

When and How?
Choosing between virtual or face-to face interaction is a “no-brainer”. It is analogous to the difference between processed and unprocessed food. Wherever possible, choose the one that will yield the most nourishment to your soul. I have found, however, that “type and click” is a monster that wants to take control of all our communications. After all, it is so easy and convenient. Don’t let it!

Some communications are best done face-to-face or at least through a phone call or video conference where we can look someone in the eye, provide a context for two-way verbal exchanges, watch their response and be there in real time to manage the emotions around what is said. If faced with the task of communicating critical feedback or information that has the potential to hurt or be misinterpreted, weigh the options of media that is best suited to the task.

Your choice of media in such situations tells much about who you are and what you value.

How Much Time?
Social media can be highly addictive. Setting an allotment for how much time to spend on it is critical. Since I work from home quite a bit, I decided that checking in to FB in the mornings or during my lunch break is a great way for me to feel connected to a wider social circle. On weekends, I take a break and spend face-to-face time with my husband, children, relatives, and friends instead.

To the point that FB or twitter become distractions where you find yourself spending hours looking at photos, reading miscellaneous articles and hitting “like” ad nauseum” it is time to reprioritize in response to the following questions: Is this activity moving me closer to my goals? Am I being as productive as I need to be? Need I say more! Make the necessary changes to advance you in the direction of your dreams.

How Many Friends?
At a party, I am the kind of person who will probably have extended conversations with one or two individuals rather than work the entire crowd. Now, in a professional social setting, I know how to network, but it requires extra effort and I am happy when I can return to one-on-one conversations beyond—“So what do you do?”  To deal with this aspect of my life in the virtual setting, I set up two FB accounts—a personal account and a professional account for nexe consulting.

My desire on my personal FB page is to cultivate more than perfunctory interactions Acceptance of a friend request is my commitment of time and effort to such relationships. As a result, my friends list is intentionally small. My apologies to all whose “friend requests” I have ignored. I am happy to exchange a few messages to catch up, and then move on. But realistically, who has time for 500 friends?

On the other hand, perhaps, you are a “life of the party’ kind of person. If so then go for it– as many friends as you want. With an extended friends list you can then create sub-categories of close friends, acquaintances etc.

What About Ethics?
As a social scientist, I cannot escape the ethical implications of social media. With the ubiquity of phone cameras and wireless Internet services, the FB poster and twitter enthusiast faces several ethical dilemmas daily.  Questions of ethics refer to the rules that should govern our online behavior especially as it relates to the rights of others?

I have hesitated to post pictures on FB which included others because I did not have their consent. After all, I reasoned, I would not want someone else to do that to me. Yet, on quite a few occasions, I have been informed after the fact that someone had posted a picture of me or my children on FB! For the present, it seems that what constitute ethical online behavior remains a matter of conscience or is still evolving.  My conscience provokes me to be deliberate in my postings and if in doubt inform others before the fact.

There are other related ethical issues to consider as well. For example, what is one’s responsibility to do some fact checking or value sifting before sharing information that may be false or harmful? I learned my lesson when I shared a made up story I had read on FB about a popular media personality and was corrected by others. Likewise, I have been shocked by some of the demeaning comments in response to video clips or pictures of others. Even in a virtual setting it is important to consider the implications of these actions. This necessitates a clear personal code of conduct that governs our behavior online and offline.

In sum, social media offers the intentional user a wonderful cache of tools to support  relationship building or re-building. Shortly after I joined Facebook, I found one of my best friends from high school online. I was excited to reconnect with her because just before graduation we had a misunderstanding which pulled us apart.  I had thought of her many times over the years with some sense of remorse–wished I could go back in time and hit “re-do”. Then through FB, the healing began. We reminisced about high school friends, favorite reads in high school, did a little “where are they now”, and exchanged phone numbers. I was grateful for a second chance to revive one of the best friendships of my lifetime. Finally, I mustered the courage to call with a very belated apology and words of appreciation for a rare and beautiful friendship. After leaving several messages on her answering machine with no response, my phone rang early one morning as I was finishing breakfast with the children. It was her sister calling to inform me that my friend Alyson had passed away suddenly.

I have kept those messages in my inbox, and I read them occasionally. They remind to use the tools available to me to be true to my brand online and offline—to connect with significant others thoughtfully, responsibly, and authentically.

For more useful information about Netiquette, you can check out several articles listed on the Huffington Post website at the following link:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/news/facebook-etiquette

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