On February 4, 2004 Mark Zuckerberg decided to create a platform called Facemash that allowed Harvard University’s student body to compare two of its peers’ head shots side-by-side and let them decide who was hot or not. As we all know, this platform eventually became the social media giant we religiously monitor, and use to maintain our social lives. The creation of Facebook began my own personal obsession with social media; therefore, I thought I would dedicate my first blog post to explaining my initial thoughts on the natural appeal of social media as a personal tool and how that appeal can play into digital business. Why is the social network borderline addictive and how can this obsession transfer into an organization’s digital strategy?
1. Personal Brand Power/ Control
Your profile picture is worth a thousand words—but so are your followers, friends, the content of your Facebook timeline, Twitter feed, Snapchat story, and LinkedIn professional profile. In the visual heritage of the social media culture, viewers are actually forced to take you at face value and better yet, the nature of the social platform allows you to tailor your personal profile to reflect your ideal self. As users we are able to convey our “best selves” depending on the setting of each platform we use. On LinkedIn we can strive to assume the role of punctual, reliable, intelligent pre-professionals. We can have our headshots and experience criteria scream “Hire me, and I will alter your company’s productivity in an unprecedented way.” On Facebook, the pictures we post and the number of friends we boast can transform us into self-professed social butterflies. Instagram similarly increases our social inventory by adding an additional “hipster” flair to our images, while Snapchat allows us to promote our level of social activity in real time. Naturally, we perceive value in the idea of romanticizing our own personal image, but is it a mixed blessing that our social value ultimately lies in the eye of the beholder?
If you have an Instagram or Facebook account, then you definitely have fallen victim to the liking game. It seems like every social media enthusiast lives by one truth: Every impression adds a precious point toward a personal vault of social capital. This accumulation of social capital is essentially the driving force that pushes us to continue to post, post, post. A social media hiatus in today’s society is in line with committing social suicide, or in the very least social irrelevancy. Social pressure from a culture obsessed with self-promotion forces individuals to edit photos and post content at opportune times in the hopes that their extra efforts will garner more impressions or “likes”. Why does social media enact such as sense of urgency? Competition and ego. Trendsetters, influencers, and followers alike compare the content of their posts to contemporary trends and, inevitably, their neighbors. Therefore, in an effort to be “original” or “enviable” users try to beat out fellow users in terms of style and appeal. Additionally, positive social feedback does wonders for individual self-esteem, feeding a natural desire for peer approval. Each “like” is a coveted ego boost that reconfirms our membership to a bigger, “hipper” community. Which brings me to my next point…
The fear of missing out hugely drives participation in social platforms. Facebook, Snapchat, and Instagram create their own individual communities ruled by specific cultures and standards. Naturally, the fear of lacking importance as a functional member of each community propels us to grow our social networks further, creating more relationships with people we know and with people we don’t. The hashtag phenomena adds to this obsession with belonging by creating a label for certain groups that can be used across most social media platforms. One hashtag inevitably creates a community of people reinforced or supported by a common interest. In order to avoid becoming a social pariah and ultimately falling victim to the “You can’t sit with us” concept, most people opt to get involved rather than remain on the outskirts of these “social media villages”.
How can different organizations harness this instinctive draw toward interactivity? How can the same drive that propelled Harvard students to answer who is hot or not transfer to an organization attempting to digitally engage? Here are my initial impressions:
Clearly, social networks have perceived personal brand value, which can easily convert into perceived corporate brand value. Millennials are fluent in the practice of self-promotion and therefore adept with using multiple social media platforms to enhance their own image. Therefore, once trained to understand an organization’s brand strategy and image, millennials can then transfer these skills to increasing a company’s social capital digitally. An organization’s recipe for success lies in the ability of its employees to ascribe the same perceived value they use toward bolstering themselves to boosting the reputation and value of a corporation.
Additionally, the hashtag phenomena, or sense of community that social media fosters, can also increase revenues of a particular brand simply by creating digital unity. Multiple activist and brand campaigns have coalesced under the umbrella of hashtag campaigns. In effect, these movements, or brands, increase their following, support, and revenues by reaching numerous webs of people that would otherwise be separated. For example, the #BlackLivesMatter movement, campaigning against violence and systemic racism toward African Americans, has become internationally recognized by the same mechanism that Coca-Cola’s #ShareACoke campaign has garnered hundreds of thousands of tweets, allowing the company to create sub-campaigns to further promote their international brand and positively affect sales. Not to mention that entirely new careers under the title of “influencer” have begun to take hold through Instagram and personal blogs. Individuals are now able to earn an exceptional personal income by securing endorsement deals as food, fashion, and fitness bloggers, increasing revenue as they increase their social following and level of interaction.
Ultimately, the principles that draw us to use social media as a personal brand booster can also foster an active relationship between a brand’s product or service and consumers. The more we uncover about what personally drives social media users toward engagement, the more this information can be used to increase any organization’s brand performance. My commentary only begins to scratch the surface of the potential and current use of social media in corporate digital strategy and I hope to enhance this knowledge throughout the duration of this course.