Virtual Branding – Part 1: Are You Missing the Party?

I find the new social media world fascinating. But what I find even more fascinating is people’s reaction to it. There are a couple of things that are pretty clear about this new area.

  1. Its redefining the definition of personal (and in many cases, professional) privacy.
  2. There are lots of people leveraging it in today’s world for all sorts of purposes.

While the hardcore productivity and ROI statistics that the business world craves are pretty elusive and the general efficacies are still debatable, you can’t deny the tools are out there and they are definitely making headlines. Take it one step further – as traditional print media is under siege, social media and web news are also delivering the headlines.
For job seekers struggling with an extremely challenging job market, professional branding has become a necessity. And for many people who view technology with suspicion and who have long viewed tools like Face Book and MySpace as kid’s toys, this is a BIG adjustment. LinkedIn has certainly provided more of a grown-up meeting place for today’s professionals, but even this venue doesn’t reduce many people’s main concern – “who is looking at me?” The anonymous nature of this new world is just plain scary for many people.
The allure for businesses, non-profits and political groups is also intriguing. Most of these social media services are free and they have the potential to reach untold millions globally with seemingly minimal effort. That makes these tools attractive to even the biggest techno-phobs. Also, you hear about social media everywhere these days – even National Public Radio (NPR) uses Twitter.
This overwhelming onslaught of options at your finger tips gives you a frantic feeling that you are missing something, that you aren’t part of the mainstream if you aren’t participating. So not using these tools puts you at a disadvantage, right? Ironically, because the ROI statistics aren’t clear, no one is quite sure what that disadvantage means…
How do you balance? In some ways, this is not unlike proper etiquette at the office, professional presence at a business conference or judicious use of any media venue. Using commonsense helps and showing discretion, particularly as you get started, is smart. Choosing the right tools for your purpose is a necessity as it’s almost impossible to use all these tools to their full advantage without a huge time commitment. All these things require “care and feeding”; they aren’t a onetime affair. You can’t set them up and then walk away – you need a plan for maintaining them long term.
Over the next few weeks, I am working in collaboration with a few of my talented, social media-savvy friends to explore this topic from multiple angles. We hope you will join in the discussion as we probe the interesting new world of virtual branding through social media. Enjoy!

Photo by Prateek Katyal