Until Facebook and its ilk came along and spoiled things, I had personal branding all figured out. I could easily make any CEO, celebrity or celebrated author look and sound brilliant in traditional media. As long as clients didn’t do anything horrifically embarrassing between board meetings, movie premieres and book releases, I made certain their reputations — and monetary worth — held up.
Social media turned personal branding into a 24/7/365 challenge. Everyone makes blunders, including business owners who keep personal branding coaches on their payroll.
Don’t fret about minor gaffes. Correct them, make amends and move on.
But here are seven social media mistakes too serious to ignore.
Too much pride is among the 7 Deadly Sins, but it’s having too little that will put your personal brand on life support.
What am I talking about? Your social media photos. Not too long ago, you could get way with using a stock photo of a model, a 20-year-old photo or yourself or even a silly icon for your profile picture.
Social media demands greater authenticity and, now that your photo will be made public every time you post a tweet or comment, make sure your photo creates the image you desire.
Get rid of distracting background objects — a headrest can make people think you work out of your car –and, if your weight or hair color have changed in real life, change them in your social media photo, too.
Hate posing for photos? Ask a friend to take candid shots of you when you’re relaxed — reading a book, talking on the phone or petting your dog. Choose one that makes you look professional and approachable.
Disconnect yourself from social media when you’re irritated with a client, your spouse or the world in general.
Go take a walk, write a rant in an old-fashioned paper journal or pummel a punching bag until you’re too exhausted to hit the keyboard. Do not demonstrate hostility online. No matter how justified your outrage may be, don’t make it public — and permanent — in social media.
If you absolutely must address the source of your anger, do it in person or by phone.
If your mom didn’t teach you manners, enroll in an etiquette class. Written communication often sounds harsher than you intended. It’s hard to be too polite in social media, easy to come off as abrasive when you meant to be clever.
Every keystroke affects your reputation so choose — and type — your words carefully.
Please be a good social media citizen and, if you already are, thank you!!
Share your successes on social media. Your followers want to celebrate with you. But show some restraint and gratitude when you do.
A post that says, “I’m so honored to be named as one of the most promising young entrepreneurs in Memphis,” sounds better than one that reads, “Guess who made the top 10 list — again — and look at all the posers who didn’t make the cut!”
Social media is a conversation, not a bulletin board. I average nearly 40 percent engagement on Twitter, a platform that does not inspire much discourse. There’s no trick to this — I simply make myself available and act as I would at any offline gathering.
Automated posts are convenient, but there’s nothing social about them. Formal invitations often include this language, “the honor of your presence is requested…” because the host wants you to show up for the party.
Honor your followers by being present on social media, not by sending automated messages while you sleep.
Anyone in business wants to make money, but social media is not the place to announce that this is your sole objective.
In recent weeks, I’ve listened to people boast that they use Facebook only as a way of extracting money from friends, that there’s no point in writing a blog unless you charge readers a fee to access it and that Google HOAs (Hangouts on Air) make sense only if you can collect money from sponsors or guests.
I disagree with the premise — social media is an amazing, free-to-use marketing tool that makes it possible for start-up CEOs to compete with major corporations — but, even if you want to tap your Facebook pals for cash, don’t announce your motivation on Twitter, Google+ or LinkedIn.
Ambition is attractive. Greed is not. It’s ugly and a guaranteed way to seriously damage your personal brand.
There’s only one deadlier sin you can commit in social media:
This is the career killer. This is the one mistake you cannot afford to make.
Before social media, it was OK for an entrepreneur to be mediocre. No one but you and your clients knew your work was average, and many of your clients didn’t care. You competed on price or speed or some other variable that distinguished you and satisfied your customers.
Social media and its never-ending demand for content is making it increasingly hard for an average professional to succeed. Every time you write a blog, produce a video, appear in a podcast or post a Google Plus comment, you reveal something about yourself, your talent and your business.
Most of the content circulating in social media these days is mediocre or worse. Writer Geoff Livingston calls it the zombie content apocalypse. And, while the quality of your blog should really only reflect your writing ability, what you say in social media makes a powerful statement about you, no matter what your profession.
Let’s say you’re a shoe store owner and you write a generic blog about shoe care — a post similar or precisely the same as the material found on 100 other shoe shopping sites — you will be perceived as caring little about shoes or your customers. This may be wrong and it is certainly unfair, but consider this: Why should a customer spend $200 buying a pair of shoes from you if you can’t spend the time or money to produce content the customer cares about?
I regularly witness business owners, lawyers, accountants, graphic artists, marketers and other professionals reduce themselves to mediocrity in social media. The damage they inflict on their personal brands cannot be undone by their resumes, some of which are pretty impressive.
Social media is a powerful public platform. The fact that it’s easy to use doesn’t make it safe.
Don’t pull the trigger on your career. Aim for excellence instead.
Want to know more about how you can build a rock solid foundation for your business and build your brand? Contact Katherine Kotaw, the chief storytelling, marketing strategist of KOTAW Content Marketing, a digital marketing agency that helps you make all the right moves and stand out from the crowd. Subscribe to KOTAW today and be inspired to grow your business.
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