Personality is Key to Social Media

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by Brian Carter
, Fuel Interactive

As director of an advertising agency that manages social media campaigns, I was recently brainstorming recipes for social media success. Every formula I came up with included personality.

In Social Media, Personality is Key
You can be controversial, funny, or intellectually stimulating. "Bland" loses. "Unique" wins.

Ask Yourself...

  • Do you have a personality or personal brand?
  • How well developed is it?
  • How well are you conveying it with social media?

Although your avatar, pictures and banners make a difference, social media is primarily a written format. Maki is a great example of strong branding via images. But he's also a good writer. If he were a horrible writer, it wouldn't work. Eighty years of data from direct marketing and copywriting has taught us words are more powerful than images.

Writers can tell you that learning to write well is about knowing yourself, defining yourself, even branding yourself.  Personality, in written form, includes things like:

  • Your Obsessions
  • Your Opinions
  • Your Rhythm
  • Words You Love and Hate

All of that can be unconscious; not everyone has analyzed their style. But your style must be distinctive.

Personality Alone Can Be Enough
The Twitterers who amaze me the most are the ones who have thousands of followers, and they're ALL personality. All they do is share themselves. They're not marketing something (other than themselves). They're not pushing their latest blog post. Some of them don't even @reply much. They just constantly tweet personality.

Social Media Personality Optimization Tips

  • Share your whole life. All work and no play makes you dull! The more you share, the more points of reference people have to connect with you, and the more people you'll connect with.
  • Talk about what you love, complain about what you hate; preferences define personality. Ever read the philosophical portions of Zen & The Art of Motorcycle Maintenance?
  • Admit to your mistakes and foibles. People hate perfect people. That's why we like to see celebrities fall and celebrities without makeup.
  • Antagonize, but be careful. I usually do it playfully with humor. People don't like being made to look bad in public, so watch out for that. Some things need to go to the private messaging arena. If do you create public controversy, be authentic. People can smell agitators who just use controversy to get attention.
  • Apologize. The capacity to make mistakes and realize you're wrong, to admit when others are right, demonstrates humility, teachability, and is likeable.
    Take risks.
  • Get to know people and demonstrate you know them. A mixture of self-centeredness and focus on others is required to create, share, and explore personalities.
  • Spend enough time online to learn to "live" there. The more time you spend there, the more ways you'll find to show yourself and the more parts of your "real life" you'll find you haven't shared there.
  • Exhibit signs of life: emotions, mind, body, and soul. Real people have all of those.
  • Be three dimensional. Photos are two dimensional, so I need a bunch of shots of you to "get" you. Use Flickr extensively. I've spent more time in people's Facebook photo albums than I'd like to admit. Pictures of people grab us and we're into their lives before we know it.
  • Be boring every once in a while. No one is interesting all the time. It's not realistic. It seems inauthentic.
    Talk about mundane things you'd tell a friend: what your pet's doing, what you're eating, where you're driving. Caveat: I still think Brightkite check-ins without photos or other content are annoying.
  • Invite us into your solitude. What you do and think when you're alone is fascinating. The same curiosity that sells celebrity mags works in social media.
  • Think about the whole of your social media as a big four-dimensional painting. (The fourth dimension is time.) Reveal every part of the elephant, eventually.

About the author: Brian Carter is a humorous keynote speaker and Director of SEO, PPC, and Social Media at Fuel Interactive.

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ChristineM 11-08-2008 5:25 AM

This is great advice - thanks

DeborahS 11-09-2008 2:16 AM

This works well for a personal social media account, but what about those of us who manage a business account? I feel very awkward to tweet about personal things or the weather, or news since it's not a subject related to the business. My followers/friends signed up knowing that they're connecting with a business not an individual so don't they expect to hear business related topics?

Mary-frances Main 11-19-2008 5:58 PM

Deborah, I think it can relate to business as well. I think a company needs a face...look at the massively popular guys who started Blogger (Ev) and the guy who started Craigslist. Most of us feel a kinship to them because they are people. It makes big corporations seem more touchable.

Maybe something a bit more related than weather, but it can be about a conference you're attending or something else semi-related.

Brian Carter 11-21-2008 6:37 PM

Deborah, there are a number of ways companies can approach social media.

1. Corporate face, no personality

2. Corporate face, personality behind logo

3. One or more social media reps acting as real people

4. Lots of company employees who are just active in SM

Depends on what you're comfortable with.

A completely corporate approach is fine, and you should be consistent, but not leveraging personality will limit your growth and networking potential.

StevenF 01-02-2009 4:25 PM

I almost always use my personality to sell clients, and social networking is a great media to do so.  As a freelance graphic designed, my clients want to know what I bring to the table.

04-27-2009 1:08 PM

Pingback from  Be True to Your Twitter - the Auto DM Question « Caffeinated Marketing

WillhamlinA 05-30-2013 5:07 AM

I am completely agree with you. More attract  to people mean more you are famous.

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