Social Media: The 21st Century Branding Iron

I LikeFolks, it’s safe (and fairly obvious) to say that the days of Bebo are well and truly gone. The days where you could set out to make a Bebo profile, filled with cutesy photos and an air of self-interest, where your only concern was who you dished your love out to and what charitable buggers dished it back.

Now, thanks to the likes of Twitter bios and Klout, social media is becoming more than a social space to be amongst friends and like-minded strangers who also ‘can’t even’ – it’s encouraging us to be a brand.

In recent years, I’ve found social media to be a consciously competitive place. My first experience of that was through Twitter. At first, I thought it was a snappier way of ‘being me’, a chance to not be quite-so-superfluous. But sadly, I didn’t get three loves a day, or likes, just a sense of talking to myself and a lack of followers.

So I looked into it to see what I was doing wrong. Sites like Simply Measured and Klout cropped up, sites who all seemed to know about ‘reaching out to your audience’ and ‘performance levels’. After a bit of research, I set up with Klout to let it work its magic.

Initially, it was pretty darn great. It showed me trending articles, hidden articles, hot-off-the-press articles, all of which might ‘strike a cord’ with my audience. Linking it up to Facebook afterwards allowed me to do the same, and I was posting things at certain times of day, with certain themes, all aiming for that vital chord to be struck.

Yet after a few weeks of doing so, it made me into an incredibly self-conscious person. If a posted or tweeted something that didn’t get a reaction, it reduced my score, making me feel like a ‘failing brand’. Social media had not only become a pitiful addiction, but a fuel.

That’s the dangerous potential of social media. Of course, it’s great to reach out to people who are as enthusiastic about something as yourself. But this sense of being a ‘brand’ can turn you into a pessimistic person where social media is used to please not only other people, but yourself – and it’s a harmful pressure that exists so much for teenagers.

Not only that, but the sense of professionalism put on us through comments like, ‘Won’t your employer see that?’ and the need for a mini CV in our Twitter bios constitute to the self-awareness of what we’re saying. Social media was created to bring people together, but I can’t help but feel that it sets us apart when there’s this apparent need for a USP.

My personal experience aside, I’m going to again use Klout as an example. It’s primarily aimed at three categories of people: ‘Specialist’, ‘Entrepreneur’ and ‘Enthusiast’. You and I (if you haven’t already got a full-time career or made it big on Dragon’s Den), would be considered an Enthusiast.

The person they use as a demonstration is Michelle Riles, a Candy Blogger. If she were to use Klout, then it would generate articles primarily based on candy blogging; it would suggest other candy bloggers for her to follow; she would eventually be followed by lots of other candy bloggers, and expect lots of articles and opinions about candy blogging, unless BAM – unfollow.

This happened to me as a Video Gamer, and it really felt like all I could about video games (don’t get me wrong, I love that). ‘And why shouldn’t you? After all, your score goes up, and you get juicy Klout perks for doing so!’

Not to try and sound like Mark Zuckerberg, but that’s not what social media was created for. My intention isn’t to demean Twitter or Klout, because I’m sure they’re incredibly useful for marketing companies (and hey, recently, I’m starting to rather enjoy and get the hang of Twitter); but as teenagers, social media is there to be enjoyed with and amongst a variety of people.

For now, I just want to send ludicrous Snaps, retweet funny ‘Friends’ quotes and poke my friends on Facebook to near exhaustion, all without being called a ‘student journo’ or ‘gaming nerd’; I’ll leave the branding until I get a job. Better yet, I’ll leave it to my LinkedIn profile – look there instead of my Twitter bio, employers!

Adrian Horan
Adrian was previously a freelance writer for Vision before he went on to become News Editor for two editions. He recently retired from York Vision, having written as Tech Editor for three editions.