Using the internet to promote yourself and your brand has become the new paradigm in marketing and personal branding these days. And, with the advent of social media, controlling your brand and your brand message has become even more important…and harder. It’s particularly difficult if you want and need to take a stand and/or a side on a particular subject.
LinkedIn groups are particularly perilous when it comes to personal branding because the folks in your groups are friends, colleagues and perhaps future employers and/or clients. So, much like deciding whether or not to bring up politics at the dinner table, when discussing a potentially fiery topic in a LinkedIn group you need to remember that there are consequences to what you say—regardless of whether you are “right” or not.
Case in point, Tom Anderson has a strong opinion about whether or not ISO (The International Organization for Standardization) standards should be used in the accreditation process for market research companies. And, he voiced that opinion on his blog and through the various LinkedIn groups to which he belongs and moderates.
So what happened as a result of one discussion chain in a LinkedIn market research group? Tom lost his designation as the ESOMAR representative in the US and he lost a speaking engagement. While I think Tom would say that he lost both of these things because they were in opposition of what ESOMAR is pushing, I would disagree (sorry Tom). Tom lost these things because of a couple of things that he did wrong on in this stream…that I hope others can learn from:
- He is the owner and the moderator of the group but he didn’t control the group’s discussion—and the discussions got nasty…just about to the point of name calling. Who would have thought a bunch of market research geeks (I am a certified geek) could be so vicious?
- He belittled colleagues for an opposing view—and allowed others to do the same.
- He didn’t know when to quit—this discussion, which started out as a very good discussion of a very important topic, got off topic and Tom just couldn’t stop himself from continuing to beat a “dead horse.”
For the record, I agree with Tom regarding ISO. I don’t think it has any business in the market research world. We are not making widgets. ISO would kill the creative process that is so critically important to conducting innovative market research projects. The issue I want to drive home here is that you can say anything you want on the internet (at least in America). You just need to make sure that you don’t harm your personal brand by voicing your opinion in a manner that is not consistent with the professional nature of the social media groups to which you belong.
Happy Marketing (and Personal Branding)!