"Managing a Brand through Social Networks" sounds like it should be a training course designed for corporate marketing professionals. Such a course, though, might as well be targeted at an average Joe or Jane, the everyday person who - intentionally or not - is building an online brand of his or her own.
For the average Joe, that brand is him - his name, his reputation and the conclusions that people might draw just from reading his tweets, watching his videos or reading his posts on Facebook. Let's face it. If this Joe has a beer in his hand in every picture, poses with rifles and dead animals and is a member of the Girls Gone Wild fan club, you might draw a different conclusion about him than you might about Jane, the executive who posts Wall Street Journal news stories, tweets about a networking conference and is a member of a group working to preserve business ethics.
It used to be that young people were warned to be careful about what they posted on their MySpace pages. Pictures of you doing Jello shots at a strip club might be misunderstood by the hiring manager of a Fortune 500 company someday.
None of this is new, of course. We've been hearing stories about employers digging into job candidate social network sites for some time now. So why bring it up now? A couple of reasons, largely tied to recent news.
- Social Home Pages: Last week, I posted an entry about GizaPage, which allows users to create a social home page, a single Web page with a single URL where a user can showcase all of his social network profile pages for all the Web to see.
- Social Business Cards: Like GizaPage, up-and-coming social sites DandyID and Retaggr are offering users a clickable business card with all of the user's social pages that can be embedded on blogs, Facebook profiles or email signatures.
- Facebook's Vanity URLS: Last month, the company allowed users to choose a custom URL (such as www.facebook.com/myname) so that outsiders can easily find their profile pages, as opposed to searching through the entire Facebook network to see a person's page.
- Facebook's new privacy settings: Facebook is about to launch new privacy settings and it looks like the user will have far more control over who sees what on a profile page.
I've actually been wanting to chime in about responsible management of our social presences on the Internet for some time. But it was the privacy settings announced by Facebook last week that really drove it home.
Facebook is giving everyone an opportunity to re-examine their privacy settings by allowing them to determine who will see their pictures, posts, notes and so on. Here's a moment when you'll be forced to think about what you're sharing on the Internet.
Do yourself a favor and take this time to re-examine your privacy setting across all of your social networks. Ask yourself how you might come across to people who "know" you online but might not necessarily "know" the real you. If you're OK with that perception, then keep doing what you're doing.
But if you suddenly see yourself as the as the drunken, ultra-political loudmouth and don't like what you see, now's the chance to change that perception of you.