We are in the midst of a revolution not seen before in any of our lifetimes. Communication is no longer one way, that is, from the few to the masses. Today, whether you choose to utilise YouTube, Facebook, LinkedIn, Blogger, Twitter, Google +, Instagram, Pinterest or any of the plethora of platforms available, everyone now has the opportunity to communicate beyond anything imaginable a few years ago. Moreover, mobile technology means we can use these platforms from almost anywhere in the world at anytime.
This 'communication revolution' has created opportunities never before experienced. The consequences of all this are far reaching. We are still at the beginning of understanding all the implications of this new world. However, what is becoming increasingly clear is that today everyone is a marketer whether they like it or not.
In previous generations word of mouth would take place at the coffee machine or in a bar. Not many individuals would have a complete picture of you as an individual, except for a few very close friends and some family members. We would show very different sides of our personality depending on our environment. For example, we may behave quite differently in our workplace from at home.
However, platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and YouTube are becoming the platforms of choice with which we share holiday photos, express likes and dislikes and interact with friends and business colleagues alike. Word of mouth has gone online and the consequences of this are twofold.
Firstly, by looking at the different platforms used by any individual, I start to obtain quite a detailed understanding of their lives. Amongst other aspects this can include, their family situation, hobbies and interests, favourite music and films, sports teams they follow and work interests and challenges. Secondly, there is now a blurring between business and personal life. Sure, someone can set up two Twitter accounts, for example, one business and one personal. However, when I search on that individual, it is most likely that I will be able to see both.
There are some significant consequences to all of this. It is becoming increasingly difficult for individuals to have two personas, that is, their business character that they show to colleagues and clients and then the person that they are at home with their friends and family. In many ways this forces us to be more authentic in all our relationships. Family members may now have a better understanding of the business world we inhabit. Meanwhile, clients and colleagues are likely to have more insight into who we are outside of the workplace.
The other consequence is that everything we now do 'online' is building our own personal brand. The comments we make, content we share, pictures we post and friends and colleagues with whom we connect, all go to build a picture of 'the real you'. Businesses, and those people in the public eye, have been doing this for generations and using professional advisers to help. Every interaction with customers, fans etc., has gone to build a picture and influence what we think about those organisations and individuals.
However, for the first time in history we are all in the same position. Whether you are going for a job interview, meeting a possible client, making a new friend or have just started dating someone, it is likely their first point of call will be to undertake a search and see what appears.
Whether you like it or not, in a digital age, the reputation you have online will influence some of the outcomes in your life. In other words, everyone today is responsible for an undertaking previously left to marketers, that is, building a brand. And this one really matters, because it is you!
For those who are uncomfortable with this idea, I am afraid opting out is not an option. There is an old philosophical question. 'If a tree falls in a forest and no one is there to hear it, does it make a sound?' Today, I would ask, 'If I Google you and nothing appears, do you exist?' In many situations, the answer, frightening as it is, might just be no! Moreover, not appearing online is making a brand statement in itself, and in most situations, probably not a positive one. In other words, your silence may be deafening.
Maybe it is time to brush up on those marketing skills......