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Notes on social media marketing and personal branding Notes on social media marketing and personal branding
by Joseph Gatt
2019-10-17 09:25:31
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I'm not the social media type of guy. Oddly enough, I took the advice of staying out of social media from... Mila Kunis of all people. Actress Mila Kunis, until recently (I think it's still the case) had no Twitter account, no Facebook account, no Instagram, no nothing. And yet she's still in demand and highly popular. Point is, if you're good at what you're doing, phone and email works best. I'll explain why in a second.

I've given a little more than 50 talks at conferences. Never got into a fight. The closest I got to a heated debate was at a talk I was giving on whether English teachers in Korea should use Korean in the classroom. My take on that was English teachers should use English in the Korean classroom, but adapt their English to meet Korean teacher pedagogical standards, as in asking lots of questions with very obvious answers, asking lots of questions with dual answers (as in: is this good or bad?) and keeping sentences as short as possible. A Korean professor, who did not understand my talk, exclaimed loudly “you should never use Korean in the English classroom!” (which is what I said) when an American participant exclaimed “you Korean teachers lecture entirely in Korean in the English classroom!” after which an Austrian professor changed the topic by asking me something about what I actually said. 53 talks, never got close to a heated debate. And I'm the guy who dedicates around 40% of my talks to Q & A and debate.

brand001_400Now to social media. There's this guy, his initial is R, who tried to use social media to discredit me. He would post my articles in very active groups and encourage people to riot at my articles. His tactics worked, and because it's social media, reactions to my articles were very negative. Now I was still giving talks and the same people who were destroying me in the Facebook comments section were actually praising me at my talks. This did almost have a tragic ending. One of the last talks I was supposed to give got cancelled for security reasons, as one crazy dude threatened to “hurt or stab” me at the talk. Problem is the crazy dude had an obligation to come to the talk, because it was a school requirement. I was told that security measures would be taken, but I chickened out and cancelled the talk. The very last talk I gave in Korea actually had several undercover security staff in the crowd. I also had a couple of drinks before the talk as things were very tense security wise.

How does social media work? Facebook has what I would call six types of people: you have “the newspaper” then you have the “blogger” then you have the “flirtatious one” then you have “the news commentator” then you have the “business promoter.” then you have “the quiet one.” Let me explain.

-”The newspaper.” This guy or girl keeps sharing newspaper articles in his or her feed. Partly an addiction to “likes and comments.” Now the newspaper will usually have a circle of 4 or 5 “readers” who will actually check into their page partly because they find their articles interesting and partly because they like the guy or girl who shares the articles. What do these folks gain from sharing 20-30 articles a day? Absolutely nothing. Perhaps a little dopamine from people occasionally commenting or liking their “shares.” Plus you need to find a job that tolerates that you share articles during working hours. And sharing articles is addictive. Same could be said about “the activist” who instead of sharing newspaper articles shares 20-30 activist memes a day. 

-The blogger. These people post about their daily life three or four times a day, in some cases more. They share private pictures and daily musings. What do the “bloggers” gain? Same thing, as in many cases it's always the same 4 or 5 people reading the posts and no one else. In some cases it can lead to gossip, but a lot of times people see no point about gossiping about people who constantly post about their daily life.

-The flirtatious one. Now these guys and girls like to flirt with their public. This can have dramatic consequences. If girls do that, their group can assume they are sluts and that reputation can stick with them. If guys do that, most girls will stay far, far away, and if girls come close, they probably have STDs or VD or something.

-The news commentator. These people, rather than share newspaper articles, will write their own news commentary. Now if their news commentary was any good, they would be freelancing for actual newspapers. What do they gain? A group of 4 or 5 followers who occasionally like their news commentary or “comment” which leads to an addiction to “likes” and leads to posting more news commentary.

-The “business promoter.” These guys and girls own small businesses and keep posting about business activities. What do they gain? A group of 4 or 5 followers who send them words of encouragement, but rarely come looking for their products.

-The quiet one. These are the guys and girls who rarely post, and when they do post, often delete their posts rather frequently. Often, the quiet ones (they are the majority) will follow 4, 5 maximum 10 people and occasionally “like” their posts or comment on them.

Now how does this social media marketing thing work? How can you maximize social media use for personal branding or business branding? Here's the secret.

-You want most of your interactions to be real life, phone, and email interactions. You want to keep busy, meet a lot of people, and exchange emails and phone calls with a lot of people.

-If you have a good product or have good skills, people naturally come to you. Bragging about those skills on social media will actually do more harm than good.

-Real life interactions often bring out the best in people. Social media interactions often bring out the worst in people. When we meet in real life, we exchange words as well as hormones. When we meet on social media, we are often alone, isolated, lonely, and that brings out the worst impulses in us.

-Social media makes people jealous and competitive rather than happy and cooperative. People tend to be happier and more cooperative when they meet in real life.

-Promoting yourself too much on social media can lead to very dangerous interactions. Such dangerous interactions are much, much less likely to happen in real life.

-Finally, social media will, in most cases, help you gain 4 or 5 followers. Now that Obama is out of office, his page only gets around 1,000 visits a day on his Facebook page. Imagine you're a huge business. Unless you are constantly front page news, you will only get around 1,000 visitors a day or so. That's very little.

-Now the good thing perhaps is social media does help “brand recognition” a little bit. That is people are more likely to know your name, face, likes, dislikes and so on. But they can also use that information against you or your business.

-The bad thing about social media is people no longer dare to ask your personal questions because they assume they can find out on social media. I'd rather they asked me rather than Google the info or look for it on social media.

In sum, I thank Mila Kunis for her wise advice. She says that if you're good at what you're doing, you really don't need social media. I'm paraphrasing her, but she, along with many, many high profile figures, abstain from social media. And so do I, although I occasionally snoop in when I need information.

-To conclude, one area where people do check social media is when you apply for a job. Unfortunately your social media profiles will be very influential when it comes to the decision of hiring you, like it or not. Because when you get hired it's very likely that someone will be bossing you around, you want to avoid public profiles that come off as too “bossy.” You also want to avoid too much assertiveness as your boss is likely not to appreciate assertiveness. Finally, you want to check facts and make your profile “professional” and “accurate” when you apply for a job.

What if you don't use social media and apply for a job? Will that be used against you? In some cases I would have to say yes, not having a social media account can lead employers not to hire you. In today's world, a lot of recruiters want to use social media to corroborate the information you put in your resume, plus to get a general idea of your personality. So you can take Mila Kunis' advice and be so good you won't need social media to get hired, or, if you're an average kind of guy, you want a decent social media profile that corroborates (without overdoing it) your resume and cover letter. Don't use social media just to impress the hiring committee, but do keep in mind that it's very likely that the hiring committee will snoop around and check your profile.

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