Do You ‘Like’ Me?

Check Click yes or no.

 

I consider myself to be fairly adept at the social aspects of the Internet — or what we will call social media. I built my first website in the now defunct Geocities to share my interests with friends (and potential random strangers). I used IRC to <enter chat rooms>  and talk to people.[1] I shared more of my personal world on Livejournal, MySpace, FacebookTwitter, and was in the Google+ beta. I partially began my digital artistic skills by customizing 2D avatars for the Palace, and later entered the 3D world of Second Life to see what that was all about (spoiler: generally not worth your time). I check in with Foursquare, and Gowalla (I stopped using Loopt). I watch videos through YouTube and Vimeo; listen to music on Pandora and Spotify (I’m on the beta waiting list for Google Music). Suffice it to say, I live in a digital world and have been here for quite some time.

Do you like me?

YES
NO
MAYBE

When working for a public relations firm it is a good thing to be living in a digital world. It is a good thing to know what technology is out there, what resources are available, and what is possible to accomplish with all of that. We have to know the tools before we can take them to our clients. I have noticed that the main goal for many of our clients is to gather more followers, more pings and trackbacks, more ‘likes’ and retweets. However, a recent article from Neil Strauss in the Wall Street Journal identifies some of the negative aspects of this mentality. It points out why this ‘like’ culture is an ‘insidious evil’ aimed at our sense of outside approval, preventing us from showing “our true selves online,” and instead presenting “a mask designed to conform to the opinions of those around us.” While I personally disagree with his overall assessment that “we are shaped by our stats, which include not just ‘likes’ but the number of comments generated in response to what we write and the number of friends or followers we have,” I think he makes relevant points we can take and use when approaching our client work.

For example, Strauss criticizes rock stars agonizing over the number of followers they have instead of focusing that attention into their work. The argument that it is unhealthy for an individual to focus so much attention on how popular they are in the digital world aside, a rock star is like any of our clients (including ourselves) — we are all attempting to gain popularity among a general audience in order to continue growing a successful business. More followers can lead to more people seeing your product, and in turn can produce more business, so being ‘liked’ is a good thing, right? It can be, of course, but only if done properly. A balance must be found between blindly reaching for more followers, without any substance to back it up, and creating an authentic online persona in which people will be truly interested. For this, the article does provide sound advice stating, “share what makes you different from everyone else, not what makes you exactly the same. Write about what’s important to you, not what you think everyone else wants to hear.” It may not all be directly applicable to businesses, but what I take from that is a call to be genuine. If we want to connect on a deeper level, create authentic brand awareness, and develop passionate brand ambassadors, we need a genuine personality. We need to go beyond the coupons, contests, and call-to-actions that were once found in the weekly shopper’s guide and generate content that represents who we truly are. Are we just the business they got free stuff from but ended up never visiting again, or are we people who share their interests and whom they continue to visit because we consistently provide meaningful and interesting content?

We can choose to interact with our audience solely on a superficial level, wondering whether or not they ‘like’ us, or we can interact with them in a more mature and meaningful way to create authentic, lasting relationships.

 


[1] Including things in brackets (or sometimes asterisks) was used to denote an action instead of speech in chat rooms. back to post

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