Perfect You. Perfect Your Brand.
Chris Brogan unknowingly answers part of this question in the same post by saying, "You see, the very best brands in the world do something not addressed in the above definition. They work on perfecting a product/service, and then owning distribution... ...The focus of conversations about branding is quite often about telling people what your product is about, or making sure people know who/what you are/represent." Please note that no where in that quote does Chris Brogan tell you that you can control the conversation. He is talking about perfecting your brand. Your brand is what your company does, who they portray, the customer service, the distribution, the packaging and the way you carry yourself. Step 1. to looking good online is looking good offline.
Who do you want to be? What is your Voice?
Answering the tough questions
How Your Personal Brand Handles Multiple Hats, and in that post she addresses a question asked at one of her speeches. “I have many roles, hats if you will. Does that mean I should have an online profile for each?” asked an attendee at the fifth annual Massachusetts Conference for Women. Maria began by responding, "If you have many hats, then I highly recommend that you determine what your five prominent and consistent brand attributes are that you have inside you – under that hat, if you will. You are still you. You are the consistent and the constant person that plays in each of these roles. What is it you deliver? What makes you unique?" Maria is asking you who you think you are. I can say the same for your brand. I want to know who you think you want to work with, who is your target? I almost always start my consultations with similar questions. My questions are trying to determine goals, a voice for the brand, a design style, and who the audience is. Remember your audience isn't always who you think or hope they are. If your dream audience is virtually extinct, your business will probably be there soon too. Step 2. to "controlling your brand" online or offline is to knowing who you are and being yourself. You can be everything to all people. Take a stand.
Dear Control Freaks, Know that You Can't Control EVERYTHING (Why You Can't Control Social Media)
Sorry to pop any dream bubbles, but not everything in life can be controlled. If social media is the proverbial virtual cocktail party, then think of it like a conversation. Yes, I know that this parable is nearly cliche and over used at this point, but social media IS a conversation. Social media is a conversation you can walk away from, at any time (minus a few addicts who may need a patch or intervention). Like many conversations if you do something embarrassing the conversation may go sour. If you leave a bad conversation it doesn't stop the chatter and if you don't show up for the conversation people may still gossip about you. America is still a free country, so you can't serve us all cease and desist orders for talking about your mishaps. Disappearing is only going to kill your brand. So my best advice is to keep it classy, show up, join in and when you trip and fall be ready to pick yourself up and reinvent yourself. We are human, brands are run by humans and while they can seem surreal and glamorous the people behind them ARE occasionally going to mess up. Do your best to prepare for all possibilities, be humble enough to apologize, and realize YOU CAN'T CONTROL SOCIAL MEDIA.
Shit, I'm freaking out. I've lost control. Now what?
Isn't it a little bit of a relief for you to know that the weight of the world isn't on your shoulders? You're in good company I like to have things in their place. I wish I could know what was going on at all times, and love to play miss fix it.
Fortunately I know better then to try though and over the years have calmed down and laid back a little. Not much clearly because I'm still a work-o-holic who doesn't like not knowing where things where put away but with social media I've realized a few things. I know with social media that I will never be able to be involved in EVERY conversation.
I may never be able to memorize all of my followers names or respond to every message that mentions me. Bless Brogan and Tony from Zappos.. someday they will have to explain to me how many of their interns it takes to keep that well oiled twitter machine of theirs running. I'm guessing lots of interns or less sleep. I'd never thought of their statistics, but as Brogan pointed out to me.. if only 1% of his followers chat with him daily that's still 1,000 people.
Tools to help you know what's being said about you and your brand.
The closest thing you may get to "controlling the conversation" is doing reputation management. Knowing your product, trying not to mess it up and piss people off, be nice and then track the conversation. Their are tools that will help you do this like ReputationHQ, Radian6, Techrigy, Google Alerts, a slew of Wordpress tools, bit.ly and many more. ReputationHQ, Radian6, Techrigy will help you track sentiment (whether or not people are happy or mad). Their are many tools to help you track if your name was mentioned but Google Alerts is FREE. Bit.ly and Google Analytics will help you track how many people visit your website (and are also FREE).
Planning ahead for talking online.
Once you've determined who you want to be, what you want to sell, how you are going to get there (strategy), let go of some of the control, and set up your tools the next step is to respond. Be prepared with an online strategy. Don't just plan on winging it. Figure out what you want to say if someone is mad. Try to plan ahead for the questions people might ask you. If someone calls with an angry customer service issue note the question and plan ahead for next time. I have most of my clients meet with one of our social media lawyers to discuss planning ahead and building an online policy. This policy should cover anything you would consider not classy or stupid. This may seem silly to you but what you think is stupid your buddy may think it's funny. So save your company, your brand and your reputation and don't assume that your staff is all on the same page as you in regard to how you want to portray your brand's voice. Teresa Thompson's example of this are the people who thought it would be funny to take pictures of themselves in kitchen sinks at restaurants and then put those pictures online. In hine-site we think this was dumb, they apparently didn't think so. I'm not saying you need to tell your staff not to hop in sinks and take photos of themselves, but you may want to consider mentioning personal photos, liquor, foul language and the way they might respond to a distraught client.
Do you think I'm right or wrong? Am I at least on the right track in your opinion? Do you think that you can control the conversation? Do you like to manipulate how people think of you online? If you have a better answer to this question or think I'm completely off my reservation, let me know in the comments or on my twitter. I always love to hear from you and know who's reading.
First photo is Chris Brogan and DesaraeV by JoelECarlson
Photo Credit (hats) hedonaut
Photo Credit (bubble gum) pag asa
Photo Credits (weight of the world) Vagamundos
Photo Credits (tools) JanneM
Photo Credits (draft) icedtia
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Thanks for reading!
--Desarae A. Veit