We are CEOs of our own companies: Me Inc. To be in business today, our most important job is to be head marketer for the brand called You. It’s that simple — and that hard. And that inescapable.?
I’d like to take credit for these words, which could have been written yesterday. But they appeared under the byline of Tom Peters in a celebrated Fast Company article headlined, “The Brand Called You.” It was written in (wait for it, old-timers) 1997. That’s pre-Facebook, and before Twitter and Foursquare. It’s practically prehistoric when it comes to social media. But it is as on target today as it was then. ?
I’ve noticed something lately while scrolling through my friends’ tweets and Facebook updates — almost all of us are obsessed with ourselves. On some level, that’s been true since the first tweet. Many of us were suddenly eager to share the minutiae of our daily lives. “Sitting down to a bowl of Cheerios,” or “Stuck on the tarmac at JFK,” our friends would notify us. ?
That was kind of dull, so I always appreciated those people (and I’d not so humbly include myself in this list) who eschewed earnest accountings of activities in favor of witty, ironic asides or pointed cultural commentaries. One of my earliest Facebook updates remains a personal favorite: “Scott’s so vain, he probably thinks this update is about him.”?
The good news is that fewer of us are boring our friends to tears with news of our toddlers’ adventures in potty training or the to-die-for arugula salad we just inhaled. The bad news is that we’ve replaced the banal with something even ickier: ?sales pitches. Yes, it’s true: We’re all direct marketers now and frankly, I don’t like it.?
On any given day, my Facebook and Twitter feeds are filled with updates about conferences, seminars, book tours, TV appearances and new product announcements. I follow quite a few companies, from clients such as Taco Bell to news outlets including I Want Media. I expect such messages from those accounts, but the commercial feeds mentioned above are all from real-life friends.?
Maybe this says something about the people I hang out with, but I suspect many of us have experienced the same thing. I’ve even been guilty of it. When this column is published each month, I put a link to it on my personal feed. I understand the impulse. Sometimes we’re really proud of our achievements and want to share the news with those who are important to us.?
But from my perspective, too many folks these days have lost sight of the point where enough is enough. I have dropped friends who constantly retweet complimentary remarks others have posted about them, or send out the 497th reminder that the book they’ve written is available on Amazon.com. There are days when I scroll through dozens of updates before reading a single remark that isn’t blatantly self-promotional.?
Where does it end? Well, if we buy into Tom Peters’ brilliant manifesto, the responsibility rests with each of us. “You are in charge of your brand,” Peters wrote. Like any brand manager, that means you have to know your audience and control the quality of your product, communications and distribution. In other words, you need a brand strategy.?
Smart marketing sense would tell you it makes sense to stop beating your own chest at every opportunity. Think before you click, and focus on delivering value to those who take the time to absorb your messages.?
Now, back to my Cheerios.