The ubiquity of the social web these days means that crafting a public persona isn't just for celebrities or big brands anymore. If your social presence is something akin to Casper, you might want to keep this in mind. If you think people aren't paying attention to your small startup I have three words for you: Library of Congress. While it might get lost in the 55 million tweets sent each day your personal tweets are still a matter of public record and that means it's searchable. Caring about your public persona also extends into your offline life as well but that's another post for another day.
Going Willy Nilly
We all know those people or businesses who really should do a bit of reputation management. They're the ones come off as very willy nilly in their approach to social matters. They're the ones who send emo tweets or status updates about their terrible past or worse, current employers. The Willy Nilly's are the ones who have public spats on Twitter. Or, announce their break-up with a rant about their ex on Facebook. They're like this guy who goes on an angry rant about a first world problem.
Some use this seeming Willy Nilly approach to great effect becoming digital Pied Pipers with followers avidly waiting their next public break down. Others are less successful. Even though seemingly successful, those Pied Pipers are at risk of doing permanent damage to themselves professionally. When their reputation is at its lowest and professional damage is at it's highest there are a few options to get out of this social maelstrom:
A. Hire someone to do it for them.
B. Declare digital social bankruptcy and start all over again.
C. Not care. Be a social rebel.
Carving As If In Stone
The other side of the social media continuum is just as interesting. I like to call these folks Careful Crafters. They care so much about what other things that sometimes they can come across stiff as an Ironwood tree. Everything is perfect. Their latest crisis is handled with silence or denial. Their inner world might be falling apart but the outside world would never get a whiff of it. Not at least until it's in the distant past–meaning years past. But sometimes being too concerned with your reputation become like handcuffs to that reputation that you're trying so hard to build. When you've tipped over the too overly crafted social media chasm it can make you:
A. Bore people before they're done reading their content.
B. Appear something other than genuine and human.
C. Miss opportunities for connection.
Given my work as a marketing and social strategist, it may be no surprise that I tend to sit towards the middle on the Careful Crafter side of the continuum. My social media communications tend to err on the side of being professional and saying things I wouldn't be afraid to say in front of my mother. I think I've posted one vaguely emo(tional) tweet out of nearly 6,400. While I'm generally happy with this I sometimes wonder if there are hidden costs to this approach. Do I take enough chances? Would I be more successful if I loosened the reigns on my public persona? It's something I'm pondering.
Just because you're not a Careful Crafter doesn't automatically make you a Willy Nilly. There are some who just manage their social presence artfully without a great deal of work at it. They seem to sit at the middle of the continuum with ease. I recently had a conversation about reputation management with a friend who is a fairly public person. Managing public reputation wasn't something he had considered which was interesting because his reputation and that of his company are pretty stellar. While I'm not sure there had been nary a thought to this I think it was largely true. I attribute his success to having an innate ability in knowing when to push things, when to hold back and how to have fun while not taking it too far. Door #3 is likely effective but probably not easy for everyone to do effectively. If you can really make this style work I say go for it.
If you tend to lie at either end of the social continuum you may want to consider my dad's philosophy:
Your assets in excess become your liabilities
Given this philosophy my dad like to advocate doing things in moderation (and he didn't mean just drinking). But in the social world I wonder. Does a balanced approach really work or, can this stray into the unmemorable category?
So. I'm curious about your reputation management style.
Are you a Willy Nilly or a Careful Crafter? Or are you Door #3?