Personal Brands: Social Engineering by Social Media

ist2_3809540-blue-sky-handshakeFacebook is changing the way you can reject requests from prospective “friends.” You’ll click on “Not Now,” which replaces the “Ignore” button. That puts them in Facebook purgatory, under a category called “Hidden Requests.” The person requesting your friendship will see their status as, “Awaiting Friend Confirmation.”


Over time, they’ll think you are just too darn busy to get around to the one click that bridges them from Siberia to a place in your heart. I’m sure they’ll understand.


In addition, you can kick them to the curb by clicking on “Delete Request” and with one more click, you can rat them out by alerting Facebook that you don’t know the person. This blocks them from ever again requesting your friendship.


I can only imagine the havoc this is going to play with the high school set, where the new girl at school is awkward and unfriend-worthy this semester, but hot and popular next year. And, the weird guy who winds up the next Bill Gates is someone you blackballed when you were 15.


The goal is to limit people who aren’t your friends from reaching out to you. Truth is, most Facebook friends aren’t your real friends, if you have been using social media for your personal branding.


Facebook hi-jacked the word “friend” to mean something completely different now than what it has meant for centuries. You now are friends with people you want to influence, keep up to date on your goings-on, get gigs or referrals from, and occasionally amuse with photo of you at a rest stop along your ride across country.


You hopefully have some authors, thought-leaders, and other people whom you aspire to know – or like me, you’re often on the other side of that equation. You are building up a cadre of “friends” who can evangelize your personal brand.


Facebook re-engineered our society by calling anyone “friend.” Kind of like Mr. Rogers, may he rest in peace.


All social networks have in some way conducted social engineering we embrace. On Twitter you have “followers,” which assigns each of us to a pathetic, wannabe rock star or guru persona. Still having “followers” is better than other choices, like: “groupies,” “hangers on,” or “posse.” Although, given the chance I would be in Guy Kawasaki’s posse.


From the start, Facebook’s choice of “friend” was a catchy, clique-y moniker to assign to the abundance of near strangers who asked or responded to request for social media friendship. Prior to social media, the only longstanding group of friends I knew involved Jennifer Aniston and company. The friends never outgrew each other. They never said, “I just can’t bear having another cup of coffee exploring how tidy Monica is and how dim Joey is.” That’s what being paid a million dollars an episode will do for you.


Facebook also re-engineered our lives by assigning each of us a wall, plus access to almost anyone whom we could invite to read it or write on it.


Would we have signed up in legions if Facebook requests funneled someone into asking if they could make our “acquaintance?” Remember back in the day, when you shook someone’s hand and they said, “It’s a pleasure to make your acquaintance?”


Almost everyone we know is a de facto acquaintance. If you have one good friend in life, you are blessed. But enough reality.


Personal brands: Be careful whom you kick to the curb or condemn to “Awaiting Friend Confirmation” status. As your career and reputation grows, some hugely important people or up and coming experts may reach out to you. Even among strangers whose requests you field, be careful whom you put in the cooler. You don’t know whose brother or mother is your next investor, employer, publisher, producer and whatnot.


Keep your Facebook page filled with updates, images, stories, links and aphorisms that intentionally reflect your personal brand. And be wise with your newly awarded power to say: Not Now.

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