As someone who works with multiple projects and hundreds of social audiences: social network management requires me coordinate a multi-faceted personal brand and engage with hundreds of different conversations.
Clients I work with are often in the same boat, especially when I work with executives who need to maintain a “face of the company” and a personal life as an executive.
I personally believe we all have the right to have our own relationships, to make personal decisions on how we mix our ideas, ethics, morals, and relationships into our conversations.
The problem with this is that we no longer have singular conversations; we now have mutated conversations that possibly stem from thousands of conversations that happened before them.
With Facebook and Google collecting mixing together everyone you know, you suddenly have an influx of viewpoints from different groups. The core problem is that all of these people don’t have the same backgrounds and beliefs, nor do the have the relationship in place to balance singular statements that may seem simply seem inappropriate, or even appear racist, sexist, or “off the deep end” extremist.
Most of us would like to live in a world that is devoid of prejudice and negative assumptions, but the simple fact is that people online have only a few seconds to perceive who you are… and only a fraction of a second to make an observation about who is in your network.
Imagine this problem and the crisis points it really causes.
Social Network Management 101
Visit your Facebook, Linkedin, or Twitter account.
Take the first ten people in your network and temporarily “forget” everything you know about them.
Spend five seconds look at them in the digital network.
With only the information you can get in a quick overview, rate them from one to ten.
- One: completely inappropriate, multiple issues that make you wince.
- Ten: this person looks great, they have everything in order and you’d like a hundred of them in your network.
Now go back and do the same process ON THE SAME TEN PEOPLE.
This time we are going to do some role play. Imagine you have a different background or belief system. Think about a few stereotypes (while not accurate, stereotypes will help you think a little outside your comfort zone.)
If you are thinking about this simply from a professional perspective, think about the five to ten types of people you typically do business with.
Here are some suggested stereo type to use:
- Fortune 500 executive making $250k or more a year
- Retail worker making $8.00 an hour, working six days a week
- Single unemployed mother, trying to get a job and make ends meet
- A college student who parties twice a week and gets B grades
- Criminal defense lawyer working at the largest firm in your city
- Someone you met at a recent cocktail party
- Someone from your office who works for you
- Someone from your office you work for
If you go through this test in full vigor, you will most likely see that several of the people you rated as a 9 or 10 are potentially ones that the stereotypes rating as a 1 or 2.
In this test, we did this with with unconditional bias: while I can tell you to try and forget about your relationships with your network and grade them using stereotypes you cannot truly reach the same mindset (unless you are a single unemployed mother or a Fortune 500 executive- you can’t accurately gauge how severe the assumptions you make are.)
This is the core problem of mixing social networks. To properly do this test and understand the conversation around it you can invite two or three people you know to review your top network profiles and rate your networks from one to ten. It works best if you have people from entirely different perspectives involved. If they rate someone on either end of the scale ask them to write a one sentence reason as to why they gave the rating. (“This guy earned a 1 because he looks like a fool in his profile photo”)
Don’t get ruffled. Don’t get defensive.
The purpose of this test is not to defend your network, but to understand the perception people have of your network. Saying someone looks like a fool in a profile photo is neither negative or positive, it is simply a perception and assumption they have (in other words: take your emotion out of this test and just think about the metrics of other people’s observations.)
Help others help you.
This while process revolves around visualizing information and understanding what assumptions are made in the digital context. As you understand some of the elements that cause concern, you can strategically make the decision to make tactical changes to your personal brand.
When you go through this process to perform social network management, keep in mind how people within your network appear. In many cases you may find that a person with a low rating may simply need to do a little “virtual housekeeping” to greatly improve how they look online. If you can help them understand how the perception of the network affects how people view them online, you can build a stronger relationship for yourself by helping them understand the relationships they have.