What comes first – the brand or social media?

There is a very thought-provoking blog post by Lauren Fernandez that created some interesting discussion here at the AHA office. At the heart of it is the question – do we conform to social media standards or should they conform to us?

The challenge that Whole Foods is facing is an example; social media became a big part of this issue. Thanks to blogs, Twitter, Facebook and other tools, more people learned about the letter and could weigh in, making their opinions known.

Should the CEO of Whole Foods NOT have written the letter to the editor because it could create a backlash, especially online, even though this was how he felt? Is the personal opinion of the CEO inextricably tied to the brand? Does “authentic” mean different things to different people and would keeping his opinion to himself, because of the risk to the brand, mean that the CEO isn’t authentic?

On my Facebook page, I have a combination of friends, family, clients and colleagues. I tend to be pretty positive about my updates and blend work and personal information. My “personal” brand is based on several things, including a positive attitude, can do it approach and seeing the world in terms of solutions rather than problems. Now, I am very human and there are days when I am stressed, frustrated or just plain cranky. I don’t tend to update my Facebook page on those days. Not to protect my brand, but because I don’t think posting an update that is inspired by my cranky pants has any value to the people I connect with on Facebook.

I have had one former colleague comment on the fact that I am normally pretty positive and happy (and I am not sure whether her comment was meant to be taken as a observation, a compliment or a criticism…). Her comment and the question of brand or social media first has made me think about this. Am I violating the code of social media but not sharing “everything?” I don’t think so. I don’t believe the people that read this blog, follow AHApr on Twitter, or are on my Facebook page need, want or care to know every little thing that goes through my mind.

I have also seen some pretty interesting behaviour from people that call themselves social media experts. Rushing to judgment, hurtful posts that are more malicious and personal than constructive criticism. I have seen bullying and mean-spiritedness, all in the name of “authenticity.” 

The rules of social media are about what works for you, your organization and the communities that you want to connect with. They aren’t one-size-fits-all and I think that it’s important to see the value in each of us finding out how it works in our little piece of this world.

I think that social media provides an opportunity to connect and be a part of a conversation, but you have to be strategic about it and you need to engage and provide value. Sometimes that comes from knowing when you don’t have anything to contribute.

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