An honest look at personal brands and social media

I read an article Unlike Advertising, Social Media Can’t Save A Bad Brand, Product Or Service . When I read further down, the author clarified what he meant:

Maybe Social Media is the last thing you should be doing if…

  • The majority of people have nothing nice to say about your brand.
  • Your customer service center is over-worked with complaints and issues.
  • Your current brand strategy revolves around trying to make your products sound better than they are.
  • You don’t have the time, passion and/or commitment to do Social Media with transparency, credibility and authenticity.
  • You really don’t care about customers and only care about selling.
  • Your heart isn’t into it.
  • You feel like you don’t have the time to do it.

What the author describes is a bad company, which of course, has a bad brand. No, social media cannot save a company that is making bad decisions, making inferior products and has unsatisfactory customer support (for example: Zynga…wait for it). Neither can get a business advertising. Eventually, word gets out one way or another.

Social media also cannot save someone who makes bad decisions about their personal brand.

Back in the day…

It was hard to establish a personal brand unless one was a celebrity. News about activities, successes, and failures stayed local. Even if someone messed up royally and their screw up ended up in the newspaper, the person could move and start fresh. The mistake would not follow them.

Then came computers…

Connecting events together came slowly, such as, credit ratings. Your financial history follows you no matter where you live. You can use the same credit card globally. Adding the internet, your words are now being archived in many ways for many purposes. The newest things being archived (connected together): your activities. If you share them, what you did, who you did it with, and when you did it can be easily accessed.

When credit ratings and credit card transactions first became traceable, many people found themselves in a ton of debt that was not easy to erase. Bankruptcies rose and they had a penalty of being on your credit report for 10 years. People began to take their credit ratings seriously when it started to interfere in all aspects of life, like getting a job, renting a car, buying a car, or even something small like getting a cell phone.

The same thing is happening with social media and personal brands. Back in the day with credit ratings, the ones who paid their bills timely were rewarded with more credit and better deals on the things they wanted to buy. The ones less responsible (making unwise decisions), paid a price and will still pay a price.

Personal brands ARE important

Personal brands are simply what comes to mind when someone thinks of you. Just as people did not take credit ratings seriously when they first came out, people are not taking social media branding seriously. They do not seem to grasp how what you say and do online is not only about what is being said in the moment but who said it and how it will be interpreted over time.

The ugly truth…

With credit ratings there is a time limit on how long negative items can stay on your record or how long a creditor can collect a debt. Using social networking tools, everything you say and everything you do can be “held against you” forever.

Odds are you will not be at your current job until you retire, nor will you be dating the person you are dating forever (it most likely will not lead to a long-term marriage), and you will not be living in the same place you are living until you die. Odds are you will want to get a new job, will find the true love of your life later on and will move if only for job purposes. The time is coming where these activities will involve social media. I know, that’s impossible, right? It’s already happening.

People who have the task of going through resumes are using the internet to narrow down applicants. I know this because I often train management how to do this and you hear about more companies using the tools available to them to find qualified people. Let’s face it, many people lie on their resumes in trying to get an interview. They feel if they can get in the door to make a good impression, the odds are higher to land the job. What if companies could spot the liars without having to do the interview? What if they found a resume that seems great but, looking at the person’s social profiles online, cannot tell the difference between a nine-year old’s profile and the person who submitted the resume who is supposed to be so awesome? Which one do you think is the real, the resume or the social profile being updated regularly?

Social media plays an important part for many in the dating process. Guys told me many times they Google’d me and thought it was cool I was in Wikipedia. Or they found my site and was able to read my perspective on things. Yes, they actually looked. I’ve seen many women meet a guy they initially like, politely excuse themselves to go to the bathroom only to Google or Facebook the guy to find out more information. Facebook is known to cause relationship issues. Now that the technology we use embraces social networking sites, we are using social media tools more and more everyday.

People renting apartments and houses receive a lot of applicants as well, especially “good” places. Social media is a good way to narrow the list down because they will be seeing the type of person they are renting to. This can be valuable in saving them money on repairs or even complaints.

Social media is quickly becoming a way for us to attempt make more informed decisions. Of course, just as people were warned about how important credit ratings would become (and did not listen), people are not listening to how important personal brands are. History tends to repeat itself.