Personal Brands: Surprise! You Are What You Like

facebook-likeFacebook’s advertising model is astounding – not only because major brands actually buy those ugly little ads that stick on the right hand side of your wall. It is hard to believe the power of that little block photo and 160 characters.

What’s really astounding is how FB has engineered the trajectory and value of those mean little ads. They do it simply: by leveraging your reputation and your good name: your personal brand.

Facebook’s magical money machine is all in its signature “Like” button. Facebook isn’t selling advertisers on the likelihood you’ll buy something. Its click through rate is 1/10th of one percent versus Google’s nearly 10% of audience reached. The goal is getting your permission (without your realizing it) for the brand to announce to your Facebook friends that you endorse it. If your personal brand has taken off, you are in effect co-branding with no share of the profits.

For advertisers, this instant and free viral marketing they crave like vampires crave blood, winds up out of your hands and onto your wall. That’s how easily you become a brand evangelist.

It’s kind of like smoking or any of the other dumb things you did, which your parents credited to the other kids you hung out with. Peer pressure has a new name: it’s called “Like” on Facebook. In fact, all around the web you now find the familiar “Like” button showing up. You can give almost anything your endorsement, worth lots to advertisers and they get it as your gift.

You often do this unwittingly, changing the meaning of your personal brand by just a click or two or more.

An ad orchestrated around your profile gets more than your mere endorsement. Word of mouth or buzz from personal sources remains the number one predictor of purchasing. With the “like” feature, you create buzz with one button. No more emailing a funny ad around or sending people to YouTube. All the muss and fuss of your communicating what you think is funny, smart or otherwise likable, is now in Facebook’s hands.

All of that is free to the advertiser. As an endorser, you don’t get to sign an agreement with each brand and you don’t get paid.

If you’ve clicked on them, you know the ads are low on message and high on short engagement experiences. They are polls, contests, and other ways you can waste your time (at least 6 hours a month on average).

What’s bad for your time management is great for consumer behavior. We know involvement greatly increases the likelihood of your passing around a good word (or in this case, the most important element of your personal brand: your good name).

As you’ve seen on your wall, you can now “Like” an ad just like you like a friend’s post or photo. That’s why “Like” is so powerful – because it’s so incredibly effortless on your part. “Like” started out as a way to kind of back slap a friend, with just one click. That’s way faster than actually  composing a three word “Comment.”

Now you can “Like” ads, which lets your friends now you’re still alive, but not awake enough to actually post something.

This new “Like” function explodes the number of people who learn about a brand or ad offer, because your friends see your name attached to it on their walls, and they are then likely to “Like” it for their friends.

“Molly Jo likes Cheerios” is the big innovation. Via that caption Facebook turns a cheap, bad ad into a viral juggernaut for the advertiser. As your endorsement goes out on your friends’ walls, more join in because, after all, friends are very influenced by their friends.

Personal brands, remember you are not getting paid in any way for your becoming a spokesperson for all these other brands.

Facebook is the broker for your co-branding arrangement, every time you “Like” something. You are a powerhouse of persuasion because your name has cachet with your friends (and their friends). Advertisers exploit your personal brand, as your halo casts a gleam on their brand.

So, if you are not getting paid: why are you liking something “out loud” to your friends? For personal brands who relentlessly connect audiences to the stable and coherent meaning of who we are and what we represent: we dilute the power of our brands every time we “Like” something that obscures the message about ourselves.

Surprise! Personal brands: we will now become what we “Like” on Facebook and the web. This is fast, easy and dangerous.

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