The social media saga update we’ve all been waiting for
Ok, here we go with the update on my months-long existential crisis over social media and what it’s become(ing). As I’ve shared before, I began feeling a sense of unease, low-level anxiety, and overall misalignment with social media in general when I started using it to market my business this year. I talked to my friends about it. I read what people who have left social media have written about their experiences. I researched the forecasts of what social media platforms are becoming as businesses. And I sat with my thoughts for a while.
Here’s what I’ve concluded so far: the age of the monetized personal brand as an end unto itself has to end. It’s a trend that was predicted in the 90s and has come to full height in the last decade. But the cost of this kind of commoditizing of the every-person feels too high for me. I totally get it for people who have built a business off of selling other companies’ products — go them! But for those of us who own their own business and need to market them, the pendulum has swung out to a weird place.
Category Pirates writes about this in their newsletter. It’s become a goal to be famous on social media just so that you can make money from being famous on social media. Before, your personal brand was your reputation that was based on your actual receipts from doing things in your field of expertise. Now personal brands have become an end unto themselves. I’m not feeling great about this.
I started to think bigger than social media about this issue. Even if I left social media and focused spreading my opinions and updates on my podcasts and emails, I would still get caught up in the messaging to “build my audience.” It wouldn’t go away just because I wasn’t on Instagram anymore. Anywhere I look, I see advice about developing my personal brand, growing my audience, and converting followers into customers. But what if I don’t want to do that with my personal life? What if I want to keep that in the realm of my business? Here’s where I started to find some interesting examples to follow.
Once I thought about personal brands as reputations built on actual results that were noteworthy, I felt the pressure to “align all parts of my life under one brand” lift. I can keep being Christine and share what I made for lunch and what I did this weekend with friends who know me in real life. I can also keep creating helpful and stand-out content that attracts quality customers to my business. And the two don’t need to be intertwined anymore. I can build my company to be bigger and better than me, with other people making it and sharing the credit, and I can be the rest of who I am and not share that publicly. Whew.
Here’s why this was bothering me so much. I noticed that when I would post a personal update on my Instagram account (which I currently have setup as a personal brand/entrepreneur type account), I would get a lot of likes and comments. (All very nice things, which is great for my ego.) But I knew the whole story behind that picture of my husband and I, or the throwback kid photo, or the nicely taken event photo. And there was no way that whole story was going to translate to the people who follow me and don’t know the private details of my life. So they were left to make up whatever they decided about who I was and what kind of life I have. And of course that couldn’t be accurate.
I’m an extrovert, optimistic, fun, cheery, cute, well-spoken, and overall an agreeable personality. My external characteristics fit nicely into the buckets of “successful, smart, happy.” And that’s what the advertising machines are all about promoting. So the thought of personally staying on these social media platforms that are becoming e-commerce engines, with futures in AR and VR and livestream shopping and all the other tools that are currently being developed, felt like asking to be assimilated by a big commercial engine. I know I’m skipping over some other aspects of social media here, but for me, this has become the outcome in my circle. No gracias.
I’m so much more interested in respecting these platforms as business marketplaces, converting my public pages to my company’s pages, and moving my personal life behind a privacy barrier. When I need to show up as the face of my company, I can, on my company’s accounts. When I want to share what I did on the weekend with my friends, I can, on my private channels. Will my professional reputation suffer? I don’t think so. I think it will re-align with what I always hoped it would — my actual business results.
I’m still making my final decisions on the when/how of this shift, but I’m feeling good about it. If you want to keep up with me on a personal level, subscribe to my personal email list at worthfullproject.com. That’s the channel I’ll update you on. 🙂