Who you are on social media will affect your reputation, shape how people perceive you, and either build up or tear down your brand.
I love social media. My friends, my clients, and my audience are spread out around the globe and social media enables us to stay connected and strengthen our relationships. The thing is, with all good also comes bad, and when it comes to social media, the bad is really bad.
The good side…
Social media is pretty appealing for introverts and socially awkward or anti-social folks because you can be social without actually being around other people. It’s also an amazing solution for maintaining personal and professional long-distance relationships.
Social media also leveled the playing field in the always-on world of online business. Social media accounts give everyone a voice and everyone an audience. It expands each individual person’s reach and amplifies each brand’s message.
The bad side…
On social networking sites, you can be anyone or anything you want to be.
You don’t have to use your real photo or real name and you can say almost anything. The fact that you’re sitting behind your computer safe and sound rather than standing in front of another person face-to-face, has emboldened some to act like jerks, attack others, and behave terribly and justify their actions by claiming to “tell it like it is” or “speak their truth.”
Social media works like Marvel’s Super Soldier Serum.
As explained to plucky Steve Rogers by Abraham Erskine in the movie Captain America: The First Avenger, the Super Soldier Serum “amplifies everything that is inside, so good becomes great, bad becomes worse. This is why you were chosen. Because the strong man who has known power all his life may lose respect for that power, but a weak man knows the value of strength and knows… compassion.”
In some cases, the insecure become confident, the introverted become outspoken, and the social outcast can personify the “cool jock.” Social media has given everyone the ability to speak their minds with reckless abandon and little consequence.
The Rise Of The Keyboard Warrior
More than any other digital advancement, social media has empowered a new type of aggressor: the keyboard warrior.
A keyboard warrior is someone who posts angry messages or likes to get into arguments online; someone who acts tough, puts down others, behaves badly, or makes abusive or aggressive posts. Sometimes these people conceal their identity, other times they own their brash behavior and take pride in being the one who “calls it as they see it,” regardless of who gets hurt.
At some point, a subset of people began to equate rude, bad-mannered, poor-tempered, foul-mouthed behavior as being brave, funny, or even a “badass” online.
What’s worse is seeing that behavior from an account held by a business owner, entrepreneur, or freelancer that not only links to their professional website but is followed by peers, clients, customers, and potential collaborators, partners, clients, customers, and subscribers.
There’s someone in my industry whose Twitter feed reeks of bitterness, anger, and jealousy. Nearly every tweet is tearing someone down, making wild accusations, asking others to tear people down, pointing out what others do wrong, and mercilessly judging the actions of others based on false assumptions.
Publicly, some people keep following this person because it’s like watching a train wreck. It’s so horrifying that you just can’t look away. Privately, they are a liability and few want anything to do with them. I unfollowed them this week due to defamatory language that I will not tolerate.
Your Actions Define Your Brand
Who you are on social media and how you use social media will affect your reputation, shape how people perceive you, and either build up or tear down your brand. Every decision you make on what to post is also a decision about how you want to be seen and how you want others to think of you. Every post is a reflection of your brand, especially if you’re actively building a personal brand.
Your actions will attract or repel both people and opportunities.
It can make people want to follow you, meet you, hire you, sign up for your course or join your membership program, book you, buy from you, or subscribe to your email list. It can also make people keep you at a distance, avoid you, or warn others to be careful when interacting with you.
Your actions can make you a fabulous potential partner or a dangerous liability.
There’s a saying: You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with. When it comes to social media, you are the company you keep. Who you engage with, share content from, retweet, and like will affect how people perceive your brand and what they think of you.
Most people come to social media sites to connect with others, be entertained, learn something new, and enjoy themselves.
Don’t be the person that introduces drama, meanness, negativity, crassness, or hate, and don’t connect with or engage haters, trolls, or aggressors. Be the person that adds positivity, welcomes others, shares value, extends kindness, offers education, links to fun things, and shares photos that make people smile.
People want to do business with people they like. Help them figure out they like you by not being a jerk online.
That person on Twitter I mentioned earlier, according to some they’re nice in real life but relish playing the villain online. While they may constantly complain about “exclusionary practices,” their choice to adopt a vile digital persona is exactly what’s excluding them.
No one wants to be around, associate with, or do business with mean people.
Don’t Be A Social Media Liabaility
Whether you’re a freelancer, solopreneur, microagency owner, or small business owner, if you want to build your brand and grow your business, you need to put what’s best for your brand first, ahead of any emotional outbursts, public venting, and rage posting.
Again, everything you do, everything you say, and everything you post will either add to or detract from your reputation and the perception others have of you and shape your social media brand. With that said…
Not every social media post needs to be sunshine, unicorns, and roses.
It’s okay to be controversial, to offer alternative opinions, and to share thought-provoking questions or statements as long as it’s done to create a healthy discussion and not done to just stir the pot.
It’s also okay to call out problems, challenges, injustices, and obstacles as long as it’s done with the goal of opening positive dialog and working toward solving the issue. You can’t simply throw out accusations and make bold claims about unfairness without also sharing facts, proof, and examples to back up claims, opinions, or accusations shared and an idea for a potential solution.
So before you post next, ask:
- Will this post build my brand or damage my brand?
- Do I have a potential solution or suggestion for the problem I’m highlighting?
- Will this post create a positive experience or a negative experience?
- Am I provoking critical thought or inciting drama?
- Will this post add value to the conversation or be a distraction?
- Am I presenting an alternate opinion to create a healthy discussion or am I being contrary just to stir the pot?
- Will this post make people want to work with me, hire me, or partner with me? Or will it make me a liability?
- Do I have legitimate proof and facts to back up my claims or accusations that I am willing to share?
Remember, whether you like it or not, you are your brand.
Your actions, your attitude, and how you show up each day matter. They matter not only to your own goals and objectives, but to your brand, your clients and customers, and all those who are connected to you.
Be the person whose posts make people think:
- “Wow! I want to work with them”
- “Interesting, I’ve never thought of it that way.”
- “Ooh, that’s good. I’m glad we’re connected.”
Be the person who lifts others up, enhances conversations, gets people thinking, and creates positive experiences. If you can do that, new leads and clients will be attracted to your brand like wasps to a flame or bears to honey. Just set out that candle by the honey jar.