Facebook, MySpace and the many other social media “hangouts” are such great concepts. A forum in which to advertise yourself at no cost is beneficial for anyone. It would also appear – at first glance – that being able to link yourself to hundreds, even thousands, of friends and colleagues is beneficial.
Facebook and MySpace – and similar forums – have their places and their uses. However, if your goal is to get noticed in business, you might think twice before putting yourself out there on one of these Internet sites.
The problem, you see, is not what you’re saying about yourself. It’s what everyone else is saying – and not just about you.
We’ve all seen the pages and pages of friends that some of the folks on these Internet forums boast. The more “friends” you have, the higher you move in the world of these particular social media.
But what if some of these friends have less savory sides? What if, when someone clicks on their site from yours, it turns up something really unpleasant?
Remember – it’s called managing your brand. You can’t do that unless you have control over every single Web site of every single person linked to your Web page. Because MySpace and Facebook, and sites like them, can attract those looking to view and/or post matter that is lascivious/nasty/crude/rude/totally unprofessional, it is not always – in fact, almost never – the right place to post if your brand is purely a professional one.
Oh, you can make your site private. But I’m here to tell you – that doesn’t always work. It’s not that difficult to find what you want on the Internet.
I know a woman who got herself sued by writing – on a purely private site – some unkind things about her former business colleagues. Not that I didn’t say untrue things. It didn’t matter. Her former colleagues did some Internet sleuthing and found these joyless nuggets, and their lawyer got involved, and then her lawyer had to get involved, and the information she could have used to get money from them ended up costing her a bundle.
Another person I know posted on one of the big social network sites. His space was innocuous, really: a few mild photos of himself enjoying a wine tasting with people from work (which, by the by, might have made his boss angry because many companies have rules about putting out any unauthorized publicity about the company, which can include these kinds of photos), a photo of his dog catching a Frisbee, and a happy little reference to his own life that was neither intensely personal nor amazingly insightful.
However, his boss’ representative one day did a little routine employee backgrounding, and discovered this guy’s page. The wine-tasting photos were not what got him canned – that would have resulted in a mere reprimand. However, his list of friends, once clicked and double-clicked, pointed to a woman who had less-than-clothed photos all over her site. She called herself a “model,” but her real profession was far older.
The state in which he lived being a right-to-work state made it very difficult for him to argue with the fact that his company just didn’t want to give him a paycheck anymore.
Add the potential dangers of being linked with the wrong person to the fact that many people are beginning to look at these sites as being, well, a little young, and you’ve got yourself a lot of reason to look elsewhere for public recognition. What teenager doesn’t have their faces, thoughts, Hello Kitty icons, and lists of friends and enemies plastered all over these giant high school cafeterias of the ether?
Even sites like Twitter can create a risk for those who lack the emotional intelligence skills of self-awareness and self-management. I won’t name names, but there’s a person on Twitter who runs a marketing company and is even an public speaker at marketing forums. If you were to look at his Twitter stream you’d note that nearly every other message is him calling someone an “Fing idiot” and he also throws in other racist and bigoted terms. Is this really his “brand” by which he wants to be known? I respect straight talking, bottom line people, but abusive and obviously filled with hate and self-loathing, not so much.
How do you want to be seen?
You absolutely need to get your brand out there. Before you start advertising yourself, though, you need to think carefully about how you want to be perceived. There is a place for social networking sites like MySpace and Facebook. It’s up to you to decide if it makes sense for these forums to be the medium by which to convey your message.