I have your basic Facebook personal profile, like most people. On here, you’ll find my interests, favorite quotes, connections, links to my website, a short bio…basically the essentials for a social media page.
Facebook wasn’t my first social network. Before I went to college, I had a Myspace page and a LiveJournal account. At the time, it’s where all my friends were and I wanted to be part of that. I, like every other teenager, slathered on the angst and went to town with emoticons, surveys, and quiz results. It was a messy time, but looking back on it now, it was my first foray into personal branding.
I picked usernames that hid my identity but still “said” something about my personality. They were usually similar to my AIM screennames and could best be described as words mashed together. I wasn’t much of a numbers person, so I left off the customary digits at the end of my name. The way I looked at it, everyone else was using numbers and I wanted to be different. I kept it simple but lofty. Oh yes, I was quite the lofty teen. All those poetry books…
When it came to content, I was a sparse publisher. I had friends who would post to their online journals or Myspace pages daily. I was more of a weekly or whenever I would remember sort of person. As time went on, pages were abandoned and I became bored. The things I had created were basically out there in the ether and based on my comments and page hits, no one was reading.
I moved into Facebook at the start of my freshman year at Marywood. Some of my classmates talked about Facebook, saying it was a better alternative to Myspace because it was only for college students. Fewer creepers and less spam. Sounded good to me.
I signed up for an account and started adding friends. I filled out a pretty thorough bio and added a user picture. As time went on, I’d join groups, create events, and share things with my friends and professors. By this time, I had learned that Facebook was an awesome way to network and communicate with other students, teachers, community leaders, industry professionals, and yes, businesses.
I majored in Advertising & Public Relations in college, so I was no stranger to discussing social media in the classroom. Most of the time, we looked at Facebook through a lens of it being a communications tool. How did it perform in a crisis? Which brands used it well? Which ones didn’t? Who held the copyright for the photos posted? How did creativity and digital publishing come into play?
As I started using Facebook regularly, I became much more conscious of the things I posted. Maybe it was because I spent time talking about it in my classes and how my Facebook page would impact me getting a job or internship. I spent time looking at my profile, finding areas that could be tightened up to sound more interesting, or at least make me sound more interesting. I began to transition from strictly personal to more professional updates. Around this time of transition, I also started working in internet marketing. That’s when my eyes got opened.
Working with client pages gave me awesome experience in social media. I got to update statuses, post photos, and best of all, watch how those updates affected web traffic, leads generated, or conversions (TRANSLATION: YOUR ACTIONS HAVE CONSEQUENCES). It was pretty awesome for a geeky chick like me.
This experience in social media for business equipped me with a lot of tools to use when it came time to start developing my own personal brand more. As I was given more opportunity to showcase my skills and experiement with new communications tactics, I saw a need to become more noticeable. I meshed together what I learned in the classroom about public relations with what I was doing at work in the social media sphere. As for what popped out? Well, that’s what we’re discussing. Trust me. I can go on about this for days.
But to keep things simple, let’s just dive into the biggest part of my Facebook brand: my profile page.
My Facebook Profile
If you look at my Facebook profile, you’ll notice I’ve done a few things to enhance my visibility and at the same time, paint myself in the best light. We all want to look our best. It’s just the way we are. Anyways, when you look at my profile, you’ll notice some of the following things (and lessons for personal branding):
- My Photos:Yes, I have embarrassing photos of me on Facebook. I’ve been photographed in scenes that are less than flattering, but not so much that I have to worry about my professional reputation or career. Most everyone understands that people get caught in unflattering positions from time to time. We’re human. We look like complete idiots on occasion – but that’s okay. However, there’s a fine line.A few posts back, I wrote about social media following you well after you’ve posted. When it comes to the photos, there’s definitely an argument there for keeping things clean. Teachers in particular are faced with harsh scrutiny over the kinds of pictures posted on their pages. We’ve seen photos lead to lost jobs.My perspective on photos is to keep things professional, but still show some personality.If you are covered in vomit and look like a hot mess, don’t post it. If you’re doing something illegal or if you’re somewhere you shouldn’t be, don’t post it. If you’re scantly clad doing a keg stand, don’t post it. If you’re marveling at your physique in an Anthony Weiner-esque moment, you probably shouldn’t post it. Unless you want a scandal on your hands, of course.
- My Info: I give links to my website and list my interests, as well as my relationship status, schooling, employment, and a few other tidbits. It’s basic information that serves as my elevator pitch. Anyone who looks at my info tab can get a pretty good overview of who I am and what I may know about.So, when it comes to your info tab, say something. Anything. It drives me crazy when people leave all bio information blank. We, as human beings, thirst for more information. The more you provide, the more we’re likely to consume. So, when it comes to your personal brand, be aware that your bio is one of the first forms of information consumption, next to your photos. Take the time to put something together that’s worthwhile or in the very least, put a link to your website so people can learn more about you.
- My Links: I give links to my other social media profiles, my work, and my website because it’s good cross promotion. I get a fair bit of traffic from Facebook, so something is telling me that it works. If you have an online presence on other sites or have good work to share, post a link – but do so in moderation. I’ve followed marketers and marketing agencies that just throw craptons of links at me. I hate it. I know all of their other connections hate it too. So don’t be that guy. Post links to your stuff and give yourself a shameless plug every once in a while – but don’t make it a habit.
- My Status Updates:I tend to update a few times per week. When I was in college, I updated daily. No, several times per day. Now that I’m in the 9-5 world, I have less time to update my Facebook. Instead, I update other people’s Facebook pages for a living…hehehe…Back to status updates: keeping your Facebook page updated is a great way to demonstrate your humanity. The things you post can relate back to your expertise, your knowledge, your interests, or even what you’re doing that day. All posts are a gateway to connection and making an impression. If you want to brand yourself a certain way, think about posts that go along with the image you’re trying to promote.Also, be helpful. I’ve built my personal brand around being a helpful person, so you’ll usually find me answering questions, posting resources, or giving feedback when asked. I’ve seen the rewards of being helpful come in a variety of forms. Give it a try. In the meantime, focus on posting updates that reflect YOU. If you’re a writer, post a link to your latest blog post. If you’re an artist, post a photo of your latest work. If you’re a marketer, share a tip. There are plenty of ways for you to demonstrate who YOU are.
- My Contact Information: This is where personal privacy and preference come in. You’ll have to use your judgement, but for me, I only give some social media networks and an email address to contact me. I don’t want to give other information because, well, it’s just too personal. From a branding perspective, I think giving an email address or an alternate social media profile should suffice. There should be one alternate way to contact you listed besides Facebook.
- My Likes and Interests:My likes are pretty diverse. You’ll find that I like musical theater and blogging. But I also like Blair Candy. The brands I’ve chosen to like on Facebook are ones that I’m connected with in one way or another. Sometimes it’s a client that I’ve worked with at SC. Other times, it’s a brand I’ve purchased and was pleased with. Like it or not, people make assumptions and judgements based on the brands you like.People who like Apple products are a great example. Apple has found a way to make their products appear cooler than all others on the planet, and because of that fact, they have troops of brand loyalists spreading iGospel. Anyways, your likes say a lot about you, so consider them when you’re building up your Facebook presence. Seeing that someone “likes” a page can be a great segue into discussion and interaction.
- My Friends: My great-grandmother use to tell me, “Show me your friends and I’ll show you who you are.” A phrase like that sticks with you, so when it comes to my Facebook page, I’m conscious of who I connect with. If you have a friend who keeps posting things on your wall that make upset, you don’t have to be connected with that person. If you have a Facebook friend who thinks it’s funny to tag you in an obscene photo, well, have your 15 seconds of laughter and then deal with it appropriately. The friends you surround you on Facebook are just as important to your online reputation as you are. Trust me – people notice those posting around them.
Why I Keep My Page PG-13
The thing about my Facebook page is that I’m connected with a variety of people. Family members. Friends. Classmates. Clients. Co-workers. Industry professionals. Friends of friends. These are people who all hold a stake in my online and offline reputation, which I think most people fail to realize. Everything you put out there on Facebook is there. It will be seen and in some cases, it will be indexed on Google. I tend to keep things light on my Facebook page and always make sure to reread what I post. Some statuses are better left unposted.
Some people may think I’m weak of opinion because I censor my comments. I do use slang and occasional profanity, but for the most part, my Facebook is PG-13. That works for me. Some people build a brand around saying whatever is on their minds, like Redhead Writing. Other people choose to stay pretty vanilla. Personal branding is all about what works for you.
When I do express my opinion, I provide an argument to back it up. When I post about things that are controversial, I make sure that I’m passionate about it first. I’d rather see my Facebook connections disagree with me over something I’m passionate about then start up a personal branding mess with a subject I’m indifferent about.
A solid reputation takes years to build and only seconds to destroy. I wouldn’t want to throw something like that away because I couldn’t control hitting the update button.
Personal Branding Takeaways
I know I just dumped a lot on Facebook and personal branding in this post (and rambled), but the key takeaways you should remember are:
- Be careful with what you post. Every photo, status update, comment, and interaction with your connections is a direct reflection of who you are. Make sure you’re sending the right message about yourself.
- Take time to fill out your Facebook page. Give us a picture of who you are by providing us, your connections, with information. You don’t have to give your life story, but at least write down a sentence or two about who you are.
- Actively network. Facebook is a social network - so get social! Most Facebook users are lurkers, using the network to check in on old classmates and ex-boyfriends. Instead, maybe make a comment or two. Wish someone a “Happy Birthday!” Like the page of your favorite TV show. You get the most out of Facebook when you actually participate.
- 80% of Social Media Users Prefer Facebook for Connecting With Brands (hubspot.com)
- How I Build My Personal Brand (mandyboyle.com)
- The Ultimate Facebook Marketing Cheat Sheet (hubspot.com)
- Why Facebook’s Timeline Might Be Bad News For Brands (searchengineland.com)