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Beware of Accidental Social Narcissism

  |  May 5, 2014   |  Comments

Maintaining a balance between brand messages and personal opinions and experiences on social media can be tricky. Here are some tips for avoiding accidental narcissism in your social marketing.

Day in and day out, I see cases of B2B marketing blindness. The cure? Widely available social marketing medication. Sufferers should liberally apply emotional storytelling, and take a healthy dose of authenticity. It does wonders for correcting an outdated business view.

But before you self-medicate, I should warn you there is a common and potentially nasty side effect that might cloud the outlook. It's called accidental narcissism.

Brands are actively encouraging individuals to use social channels and add personality to the company's image. Social media is a great way to further brand messages, but in the spirit of authenticity, these individuals will also have to talk about their personal experiences. It's a meeting of two worlds, traditionally considered very different.

No doubt some of you might flinch at the prospect of sharing your personal opinions and thoughts in what is essentially an open and unprotected online environment. I had to adopt a different mindset initially, too, but social marketing can quickly become second nature. It's an addictive habit. However, it's all too easy for social ambassadors to find they've crossed the line between sharing genuine opinion and overly promotional messages.

The truth is that a balanced image can be hard to achieve. Crafting a social marketing presence for a business audience is also particularly risky. Even posts intended with the utmost integrity and honesty will be viewed with a pinch of salt if you're also representing your business. B2B social media can seem narcissistic - or even worse, prompt backlash against your brand.

I'm always aware that even the simplest of my social media posts are open to multiple interpretations.

Case in point - I have to travel a lot for work, something which from the outside might seem glamorous, but which I'm sure many of you know is quite simply, hard work. Trips consist of airport security, endless queuing (don't pretend you Brits actually love it), and countless hours spent with clients and colleagues who are all pushed for time. And at the end of the day, you're still away from home and family, living out of a suitcase.

But enough moaning for now -- traveling for work can have its benefits. So when I do get a couple of free hours in a city I've never visited before, I try to make the most of it. Sometimes I even share a photo of myself beside a famous landmark, in celebration of some down-time.

Now here comes the side effect: my snapshot could be interpreted in a number of ways. It could seem like I'm boasting about my holiday, or wasting my company's time. It's a risk of simply posting a snapshot - a brief moment in time, without context. It's such a tiny thing in a huge social universe that it's virtually impossible to explain the photo without spamming my social feeds. And, without a hint of narcissism, I'm pretty confident I'm not marketing myself wrong on social channels.

Nonetheless, here are my top tips on how to avoid social marketing narcissism:

  1. Remember that not everything is appropriate to share online. For instance, if you do have a large business following, they probably won't care about when you have a cup of tea.
  2. Pick an appropriate tone and stick with it. Rather than channeling "two voices" for business and personal, try to maintain a consistent and friendly tone in social channels - this helps you appear genuine.
  3. Although you shouldn't overthink social marketing, do take time to re-read any updates you share: carefully consider the content, spelling, punctuation, and timing before posting anything.
  4. Vary the content you share between on-brand messages and your personal experiences. Don't spam your social platforms with any particularly type of content

So back to the core of what social marketing is all about - we're all human. We all make mistakes sometimes, and we can't expect executives to be immune to the narcissistic side effects of social media. I don't blame B2B executives for being scared of social marketing, but they must see it as an unavoidable remedy for business success, and swallow an occasionally bitter pill.

Image via Shutterstock.


Kimberley Brind

Kimberley Brind is global marketing executive and social strategist at Oracle. She is an accomplished and pragmatic goal orientated technology marketer with an entrepreneurial approach and more than 20 years international, strategic marketing, demand generation, and marketing communications experience.

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