Saturday, April 13, 2013

The Myth of Privacy: Managing Your Social Persona

In our digital and wired world, we can no longer assume that our private actions will remain private. The long-assumed distinction between public and private life is under digital assault. It's not hard to argue that the notion of privacy as we've previously understood it is dead.

 Certainly in the area of Social Media, anything that is 'said' in any digital platform, whether intended to be private or not, can easily become public.

On crime stories, News outlets routinely are able to access the personal Facebook page of the suspect, and broadcast photos and details from those pages in the news media.

Then-Congressman Anthony Weiner famously tweeted a sexually suggestive picture to a 21-year-old Seattle woman. The picture was presumably intended to be sent as a private, Direct Message but instead went out on the Congressman's public account. The tweet was quickly deleted. But in this era, our digital actions leave digital footprints. A screengrab was made of the tweet before it was deleted, and was shared with a media blogger and quickly went viral.

In the early hours of this revelation, Weiner denied sending the photo, and suggested in interviews that his account must have been hacked by a political opponent. Eventually, he confessed to sending not only that photo but other similar messages to other women during the time he was married. The incident to Weiner's resignation from Congress.

Rachel Berry was crowned Miss Oregon 2012. But she relinquished her crown after a series of posts in by blogger Jack Bogdanski in called into question her eligibility.

Berry would have represented Oregon at the Miss America pageant. But Bogdanski's reporting questioned whether she met the pageant's residency requirement that contestants live in Oregon for 6 months prior to competing in a qualifying contest.

Berry initially denied claims that she was ineligible, and quickly deactivated her Facebook and Twitter accounts when questions began to be raised. However, Bogdanski pointed to Tweets from "Sunny California" in December of 2011, and YouTube video clips showing her working at a California TV station in late 2011 to prove she had failed to meet the residency requirement.

It seems the category of beauty pageant is especially fraught with peril. There have been a number of cases of queens deposed after photos or videos surfaced from social media showing these 'representatives'  engaged in not-so-appropriate conduct. The latest was the resignation of the 2012 Miss Delaware Teen USA, after a pornographic video surfaced.

Gawker: Miss Delaware Teen USA resigns after porn video surfaces

All the above situations involve individuals who, through their own choices, have made their private lives and their private choices 'newsworthy' by entering into the public arena. So they are not entitled to the same expectation of privacy.

But all these lessons apply even to those of us not in the 'public eye.' The public/private distinction is increasingly  indistinct. Here's a typical example of an individual assuming a difference between their private and public life, making a critical comment about their boss on Facebook. And note, the punch line:

Many of our actions leave a digital footprint. Even actions we may think are private can easily become public in an age where we check in, photograph, and tag even our private activities.

Privacy and Security in Social Media

As the social persona of brands and individuals becomes increasingly important, protecting that persona also becomes more crucial.

Social tools, and by association our social personas, are 'protected' by passwords in the programs we use to update and manage our social profiles. 

However, most people already feel inundated by the demands of a digitally-driven, password-protected world. Annual surveys of the '10 Worst Passwords' continue to find that both individuals as well as major brands routinely use overly simply passwords, or use the SAME password for many different accounts, or allow many different users access via a single password to an account that can significantly affect the brand. A recent survey, for example, found that many people use the word "PASSWORD" for their password!

How secure is your own social persona, or that of the brand you manage? 

Burger King found out the hard way how important it is to secure access to social accounts when its primary Twitter account @burgerking was hacked, and changed to...McDonalds!

As Gizmodo put it, if you are a burger company, you don't want to have "cheese" as your password.

Social Persona: Keeping Public/Private Separate

In Real Life (IRL), we are aware of and sometimes even carefully plan how we "present" our identity in social situations. For example, do you dress differently for a job interview than for a class? Or for a date, compared to hanging out with friends? And it's more than appearance. Do you choose your words more carefully, and try to present yourself in a more premeditated way, in the interview compared to class? On the date compared to hanging out with friends?

We are so accustomed to making these adaptations in our self-presentation IRL that most people probably make these choices, from clothes to communication style, with little conscious awareness.

Now that others increasingly experience our social persona "virtually," via digital media, new challenges arise.  How do we keep track of, and keep separate, our separate social personas? For example, a personal versus a company twitter account, or posting to one's personal Facebook page versus acting as an administrator of a business or community Fan page? 

Failure to successfully separate these Social Persona's has resulted in great harm to well-known company brands, and in the dismissal of individuals who have failed to manage this public/private persona distinction in social media. 

Case Studies:

A KitchenAid employee with access to the company's public branded Twitter account took to social media to tweet about the death of Pres. Obama's grandmother, just days before his inauguration. The tweet, intended for the individual's personal account, was instead sent out as a Tweet from KitchenAid. 

The incident highlighted the hazards of today's social tech tools, which make it "easy" to manage personal and public persona posts within the same tool. 

These mistakes can have huge consequences for the individuals as well as the companies whose brand is damaged. At a Salt Lake City TV station, an employee who had access to the station's Twitter account sent out this tweet on the company account by mistake.

As a result of the mistake, which caused the TV station great embarrassment, the unnamed employee who authored the tweet was fired. 

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Jenna Marbles: YouTube video blogger

Jenna Mourey (YouTube name Jenna Marbles) is the most popular female vlogger on YouTube. As of March 31, 2013 she had more than 8 million subscribers to her YouTube Channel and had just surpassed 1 billion videos viewed.

Who is Jenna Marbles, and how did she rise to become the most popular female blogger on YouTube?

Marbles posts a new video blog every Wednesday. She records them in her bedroom, direct to the camera. The 2-4 minute vlogs tackle the everyday issues of someone her age: boys, makeup, dating, jobs, texting and social media. In the videos, she displays a quirky-sexy-honest personality that has charmed her followers.
Here is one of the early videos that launched her YouTube persona: "How to trick people into thinking you're good-looking."

And then there are her two dogs, Kermit and Marbles Every video ends with a cameo from her little four-legged companions, and a call to subscribe to her video channel, or not!

What is the explanation for Jenna Marbles' extraordinary popularity? How did a girl with a Masters Degree from Boston University in Sports Psychology and Counseling become the #1 female blogger on YouTube.

In this interview with "What's Trending," she touches on some of the keys to her success: Her quirky-sexy personality is a big part. But her authenticity connects, especially with young teenage girls. Filming in her own bedroom, straight to the camera creates an intensely personal, honest feeling to her videos. Her everyday topics and blunt candor help as well. And Marbles herself notes one of the most important keys to her success: "You have to start. Just jump, just do it and don't turn back." She has made a new video every Wednesday since she started, and that regularity has given her fans something to follow and look forward to.

More than anything, the success of Jenna Marbles on YouTube shows the power of being yourself.

Personal Branding: Most Common Mistakes

Every status update, every tweet, every tagged photo leaves a digital footprint.

Even the savviest of self-marketers can have the effectiveness of their Personal Brand undone by not managing social posts than can harm their credibility.

Some social media mistakes can be so serious that they get you fired. Others, while less serious, still undermine the Brand of You.

Here are several good articles that identify the most common Personal Branding mistakes, and how to avoid them.

Infographic: 10 Twitter mistakes for personal branding

10 LinkedIn Mistakes (mashable)

6 Classic branding mistakes to avoid
(Celebrity branding agency)

5 ways to avoid sabbotaging your personal brand