Monthly Archives: October, 2012

Personal Branding: Good or Bad?

In today’s world of social media, personal branding has become an interesting and debatable concept. Individuals now have to be aware of their online image because consequently, potential employers can find incriminating information that can affect an individual’s employment. To this end, personal branding may appear negative as people become comparable to products ready to be sold. Yet despite these images, I don’t think personal branding is a bad thing in this day and age. Sure, more caution must be taken in what material we publish about ourselves, but in some ways, it levels the playing field for people seeking out the same positions.

As an introvert with little work experience under my belt, finding a job or even securing an interview after receiving my B.A. was difficult. I’ve look at my resume and become demoralized. I can’t get a job because I have no experience. I can’t gain experience because I can’t get a job. It’s a Catch-22. Though with social media and the idea of personal branding making headway, my situation has looked up.

I’m an avid Twitter user and in the two years between the end of my undergraduate days and the start of my graduate ones, I’ve been building my brand. In a face-to-face situation, my brand is indistinguishable in the first, second, or even third meeting. Shy, I have the inability to formulate what I want to say. I make the worst first impressions. While I may have trouble articulating things aloud, I have no trouble at all writing it down. That’s because I’m a writer.

In comes Twitter. I’m able to brand myself with my words, both in my brief bio and my tweets. Though I’m a writer, I’m actually more than that. I brand myself as a running and fitness fanatic and a literature enthusiast (from classics to mysteries, from philosophy to comics). In addition, I engage in conversations with runners and writers. My tweets also give me a personality, such as being witty and a workaholic (as described by friends). Building my brand has been useful, going so far as being offered a staff writer position because of what I tweeted and the blog link attached to my profile.

Thus I’ve found that personal branding can be beneficial, but it’ll depend on the industry you want to work in and the type of person you are. The way I see it, each of us have always possessed a brand. It just wasn’t as easily accessible and visible face-to-face as it is today online.

I agree with William Arruda and Chris Brogan that we need to make ourselves stand out and manage our own careers. As Brogan writes, “A personal brand gives you the ability to stand out in a sea of similar products. In essence, you’re marketing yourself as something different than the rest of the pack”. Seth Godin takes a different standpoint. He says we shouldn’t see ourselves as brands, but as people. He dislikes “branding”, but what he does emphasize is that we’re entering a world where we can be people again. What I take from this is that personal branding, regardless of the term, is now about being who you genuinely are, not what you want yourself to be. Godin may be slightly cynical to the phrase “branding”, but he does stress the same idea that Arruda and Brogan employ.

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Social Photography

As a public relations practitioner, you may be expected to take photos for the client you work for. Professional or not, you’ll have to do it and now is a better time than later to do so. That’s why this week’s PR assignment is to learn social photography by taking at least 3-5 photos, taking into consideration the framing, the background, alignment, and overall composition. We also had to make a Flickr account and understand its functions.

Because I went home for the weekend, I was able to play around with my brother’s old Nikon D60. Please note that I have no expertise in photography, nor do I know how to use such a camera. Rather than use the lens the camera originally came with, my brother suggested I use this other lens which allows me to play around with the aperture, causing a more artsy effect by blurring.

What I’ve learned is that I’m terrible at framing. I took quite a lot of shots. It was a little frustrating as well that the camera kept auto-focusing on the wrong spot. I was told later how to manually do it though. I definitely don’t have the artistic vision, so I’ll stick with writing and running. Regardless, it was a fun experiment. I’m sure clients that need you to take pictures for them don’t expect something overly spectacular, but knowing how to do a simple and decent job is a plus.

In terms of Flickr, the site is really easy to use. Uploading is made simple by either dragging photos in or going directly to your folders and selecting the one you want. Flickr offers quick edit options as well through a partner company called Aviary. You don’t have to make an Aviary account. It’ll just open up within Flickr and you can do basic edits such as cropping and changing the orientation of the photo. I don’t know what companies can do with Flickr, but I imagine they can use it as a hosting site for their event photos or give a chronological history of their company through pictures.

Below are a few pictures I took while I was at home. You can find additional photos on my Flickr page.

Palm Tree

Palm tree in my backyard

Lemon

Lemon Tree

Diving Board

Diving board

Green Lantern vs. Trunks

Green Lantern vs. Trunks

Literature Books

Literature books

Medals

My running medals

Magazines and Social Media: Runner’s World

For this week’s post, I’m looking at how a consumer magazine is using social media: what platforms are being utilized, what information is being provided, and how successful and social the magazine is in relaying its messages and interacting with its publics. I’ve chosen to focus on Runner’s World.

Runner’s World (RW) has many platforms. It’s on Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr and has forums and multiple blogs. Beginning with the first three, there is very little dialogic communication that occurs. Tumblr just posts pictures of their magazine covers, beautiful running-related pictures, or pictures with running-related mottos and quotes. While this is fun to look at occasionally, there’s not much going on there.

Facebook and Twitter pretty much post the same information: links to articles, blog posts by fellow RW employees, quotes, tips, and basically everything you’d expect from a running magazine. RW occasionally asks questions, like what was your favorite sign you’ve seen during a race, to engage its public. There are many fans that comment, “like” Facebook posts, and retweet amazing, motivational stories provided by RW, but RW doesn’t reply. Rather, it just spills out information and the public responds. I find the employment of these social media platforms okay and mediocre. The stories provided are interesting and inspirational, but RW could use more two-way communication to pump runners up. However, RW does make up for the lack of dialogic communication in different ways.

Though RW’s twitter is only informational, it does direct you to employee twitters or another division of RW. For instance, RW directs you to RW columnist Alex Hutchinson, who provides information on the science of running and will reply to any questions. He also has his own blog on the RW website. RW also has the twitter account @RWHalf, where people can talk about the Runner’s World half marathon in Pennsylvania. So while the general RW social media platforms are mainly informative, you can find twitter accounts that are catered to certain areas like health and training, which are more dialogic.

In addition, RW does blogs really well. Instead of having one blog, it actually has a specialization of blogs. There is a blog for beginners, trail running, nutrition, blogs where you can asks questions, and so forth. You can find them here. These are helpful as you can narrow down which blog you actually want to read about. Some of these bloggers have twitter accounts as well, so you can go and talk to them directly. Aside from blogs, there are also forums on the RW website, which have different categories. There, fellow runners help each other out and share stories.

Being the biggest and leading running magazine company, I think RW does a good job. It’s not excellent, but if you’re a running fanatic, you’re probably following their social media to be hyped up and motivated by reading such articles like this and reading tips. If they want to really chat with other runners, RW does direct them to the right people. It just takes a little more work to find, but it’s not that difficult.

The only other running magazine I can compare RW to is Running Times, which has a Facebook,  Twitter, and a few employee blogs. Running Times utilizes Facebook and Twitter the same way, however they have less activeness by fans. While Running Times has about 27 likes on a Facebook post, RW will have likes in the thousands. Though this may have to do with Running Times being a much smaller magazine. The blogs on Running Times aren’t specific either like how RW has a blog for such topics as tips, nutrition, and trail running. Running Time blogs are more general.

Thoughts on The Social Network

Last Thursday, my Social Media for PR class viewed The Social Network. Before I share my thoughts on the movie, I would like to point out that prior to the class screening, I have never seen the movie, nor do I know much about Mark Zuckerberg or Facebook’s history. Though I do know general information.

What stood out to me right off the bat was how Zuckerberg was portrayed as a completely arrogant and socially inept prodigy programmer. Despite hearing from others that the real Zuckerberg can be a little condescending and—to sugar coat it—a jerk, it’s hard to believe the CEO of Facebook can be that cruel and condescending to virtually everyone he comes into contact with. Clearly for Hollywood purposes, his social awkwardness and mannerisms are an exaggeration. Though what I can believe is that he is a gifted programmer and innovator with a true understanding of communication and connections. No one can create a “social” networking site without understanding how and why people communicate and for what possible end goal. This leads me to my next thought.

Though Zuckerberg was portrayed as overly arrogant (although I don’t doubt some of his arrogance), what the movie stressed through this arrogance was his steadfast belief of Facebook’s mission as stated in Wired magazine in 2010: making the world open. In the movie, everyone involved with Facebook was concerned about the profits except for Zuckerberg. The Winklevoss twins and Narendra were angry not just with Zuckerberg stealing their Harvard Connection idea, but the potential for the idea to make millions. In addition, Eduardo Saverin as CFO immediately wanted to include advertisements to make money after Facebook was launched. Then there were others in the movie that saw no potential in a social network at all, which is remarkable to think about considering the way Facebook has changed advertising, marketing, and public relations. However, that is a whole other matter.

In the lawsuit that ensues in the movie with all three parties (Zuckerberg, the Winklevoss and Narendra, and Saverin), Zuckerberg states in front of his accusers and lawyers that he doesn’t care about the money, but for Facebook to connect people in ways still unimaginable. He insults everyone in the room, stating they are too foolish to see the bigger picture. This emphasis on the mission rings true for the real Zuckerberg. Even with Facebook going public in the past year and decreasing in stock value, Zuckerberg firmly states Facebook does not exist to please investors, but to achieve its mission. From what I remember, the speech was very blunt. Regardless of how arrogant he may be in real life, I like that he’s truthful (to an extent) and dedicated to the idea. That, I believe, is what the movie did well. At the same time, I think that was also the take-home message: How a simple site like Facebook catapulted us into the modern era of Web 2.0.

Energizing!

In this week’s reading, we’re taught how to “energize” consumers in the groundswell. That is, learning how to locate enthusiastic consumers (or convert those unhappy consumers to happy ones) in order for them to pass on a company’s positive image through word of mouth. According to the Groundswell, creators and critics play a critical role. They are the ones who will be doing the talking, and at little cost for a company if done right.

I find energizing to be the most interesting strategy in utilizing the groundswell because it just makes sense. In today’s world of social media, people are always talking, whether it is on Facebook, Twitter, blogs, or reviews. There are opinions, both good and bad. Though it’s important to be aware of the bad press, therefore having to “listen” and “talk” to the groundswell to mediate a crisis, being aware of the good press is just as important. In this day of reblogging, retweeting, and sharing links, digital “word-of-mouth” methods are the key to spreading and uplifting a company’s image. What’s even better is that it takes little effort and is cost-efficient in the long run. Assuming a company is already utilizing the groundswell to talk and listen to consumers, energizing can be seen as an added bonus.

In the case of eBags, they energize their consumers by encouraging those who have purchased their products to write up a review. If there are any bad reviews or a consumer contacts eBags directly with complaints, eBags makes sure to compensate those consumers with new bags or fix their problems. With such great customer service, consumers may then reciprocate by writing an enthusiastic review on both the service and/or product. Other consumers will then read those reviews, decide to make a purchase, and perhaps may even write their own review. It’s an endless cycle of energizing.

Another way to energize according to the Groundswell, is participating in online communities of your brand’s enthusiasts. In the case of Adult Fans of Legos (AFOLs), they started their own community, with no ties to the actual company. Rather then Lego having to start its own community and try to get those enthusiasts to move on over, it worked with the self-made community and created a Lego Ambassador program. The most influential of the AFOLs would then be selected as Lego Ambassadors, who worked with Lego to improve and design new products. I found this way of energizing important because the Groundswell teaches companies not to start a community if one already exists. That would only be a waste of resources. Therefore a company should use the Social Technographics Profile to locate their consumers, analyze their situation, and move forward from there on how they approach their energizing.

Overall, energizing is a great idea and can even be done on a small scale. For example, I’ve mentioned that I follow a lot of writers on Twitter. They of course, tend to tweet their works, retweet reviews of their works, and initiate conversations with their fans, which include such people as bloggers, reviewers, and other writers. As a result, these fans will sometimes retweet these writers in excitement, spreading those tweets to their own friends. This then increases the chance of a potential new fan to discover the work of the writer and give it a try. It’s amazing that such a domino effect can happen with a simple tweet or review.