Recently, we provided an introductory guide to personal branding in sales. Today, we’re continuing our series by looking at personal branding on social media. It’s one of those things that sounds simple in theory, but in practice can be more difficult to implement successfully than most people realize.
Act is if the whole world is watching.
You’ve seen it before – an argument breaks out on someone’s Facebook status and the original poster says, “It’s my page! I can say what I want. If you don’t like it, unfriend me.” While true, as one of our team members’ mother so often said, “You’re free to make whatever decision you want. But you must also be prepared to accept the consequences of your choices.” So be careful about what you post on social media. Even if you set your account to private, you never know who might see it and spread the word or screencap and share it.
Know your target market.
While the prior point carries with it the implication that controversy should be avoided at all costs, there’s one principle that stands even above caution: knowing your target market. As Exhibit A, the Nike ad that featured Colin Kaepernick. Although the backlash was polarizing due to the politically charged nature of the issue and the company stock price dropped, Nike went on to smash revenue records over the next few months. Why? Because they knew their target market would respond favorably to the ad.
Here’s the caveat: Nike could make this bet because they no doubt performed extensive market research prior to the ad’s production and were well aware of their buyers’ demographics and psychographics. As a sales rep or a business owner, you probably don’t have the resources or wealth of one of the world’s biggest athletic apparel manufacturers.
But you can still track information about your buyers, prospects, and target market, tailoring your social media personal brand to their preferences and needs. For example, if you’re an architect whose primary market is single family home designs, the content you post and share and the topics you discuss are going to be different from someone else in your field who caters to corporate office designs.
Figure out what you want to project as while still being honest.
So much of personal branding is centered around the notion of what image and persona you want to display to the outside world. This is especially true of social media, where one can literally present whatever picture of themselves they want to their audience. As a sales professional, you need to figure out what you want that picture to be – both literally and metaphorically, taking into account the above two points. But alongside that, you also need to be honest in your social media presence. You might want to be the very best, like no one ever was and want to depict yourself as that, but if that’s not really who you are – perhaps you’re a small organization without the capacity to handle large-scale projects, for example – then you’ll greatly damage your credibility and personal brand.
Pay attention to how what you say could be received.
Ask any writer or artist worthy of their craft and they’ll tell you what they mean in a work isn’t necessarily how their audience will interpret it. This happens in daily conversation, too. Someone texts something they intend as a joke, but someone else takes it seriously or considers it an insult or a personal attack. The upshot is that tone, nuance, and meaning are difficult enough in conversation, when we have verbal and nonverbal cues to give us clues. In written or visual form, which is what much of social media is composed of (both in the case of memes), the disconnect between what we intend and how it’s received can be even greater.
It then becomes paramount to look at how people might interpret your social media presence. You may want to consider asking those close to you as a sounding board – it can be worth getting preliminary reactions to content before posting.
Social media can be one of the best tools for constructing your personal brand. But before you hop on Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn, lay the groundwork by establishing the persona you want to project, researching how your target market uses and reacts to social media, and ascertaining how your planned social media presence is likely to be received.