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How to use Facebook to promote your personal brand

With the recent update on Facebook to both personal profiles and pages using the Timeline interface, many brands are reevaluating their marketing strategy on the social network. Likewise individuals promoting their personal brand should consider updating their Facebook presence to take advantage of these new opportunities.

Recently I’ve written about how timelines can be used for visual storytelling, and likewise Facebook’s new design lends itself well to creating social narratives out of photos and status updates, especially by highlighting key events in our lives. Timeline’s changes to personal profiles gives individuals greater control not only of what information is shared publicly vs privately, but to highlight their own accomplishments and personal stories with friends both new and old. And because we know most employers look for Facebook profiles of job candidates during their evaluation, it’s critical to make sure your timeline reflects your personal brand.

Timeline also changes the Facebook pages for brands, and earlier this year I converted my Facebook Open Graph application (for this website) to a full-fledged page. Facebook pages can be built for personal brands to share career accomplishments and insights with like-minded professionals, which might otherwise come across as spammy to your friends; one of the top reasons people are unfriended is for sharing too much work-related information. Many brands have used applications to customize their pages in the past, but now Timeline will become the public face of these pages, allowing them to create more engaging stories which reflect their history. So far I’ve added my work history and career accomplishments to my Timeline, showcasing my professional development for all to see, with the most recent stories highlighed at the top of my timeline (a bit like a blog).

For example, here’s how I use my own Facebook page: (more…)

Facebook by the Numbers: Measuring my friends on the social network

via ShoutFlow.com

Not only is Facebook increasingly synonymous with social media usage, but it’s ubiquity reaches more than 7 out of 10 web users every month, and a growing number of weekly and daily users like myself.  Here’s a few more ways to understand the impact of Facebook:

My 550+ friends on Facebook represent only a fraction of Facebook’s 800+ million registered users, but it represents a historic shift in creating larger circles of friends. Thanks to Facebook’s ubiquitous popularity, I’m able to keep in touch with friends in high school and college who live hundreds (and thousands) of miles away, whereas only a few years earlier I would more easily fall out of contact with my friends. Since I grew up in the Facebook generation, I’m not alone in using the social network to keep loose-ties with old friends following my own graduation and relocation to New York City.  Here’s a few more stats about how I use Facebook to connect with friends:

Infographic on Matthew Hurst's Facebook friends

Facebook Infographic via ShoutFlow.com

5 years ago I reluctantly joined the social network, admittedly at the behest of Lauren Reid who wanted to make our relationship “Facebook official”. I’m happy to say we’re still “in a relationship” (even though only 24% of my friends are single), and that I’ve been hooked on Facebook ever since.  Here’s how I used Facebook when I first started:

Matthew Hurst's early posts on Facebook with Lauren Reid, in infographic form

I’ve seen this social network grow from a core of friends and college classmates into an everyday network of family and friends used by some people I never thought I’d interact with online; most recently my Mom even signed up! You can connect with me through my Facebook profile or by becoming a fan of my Facebook page for this website.

Is Google vs Facebook is a false dichotomy?

Google vs Facebook - Why can't we be friends?

As Facebook’s latest push to highlight Google’s potential privacy concerns was revealed this past week, their rivalry was once again brought to the forefront of the public’s attention. While the two web behemoths continue to compete for ad dollars and offer increasingly similar services, the press plays up their business competition. Yet this news represents larger themes at work about how online businesses impacts the media business in particular, and the wider communications and economic paradigms more generally.

For instance, I keep reading posts that assume as common knowledge that the Google and Facebook are competing for users’ loyalty, but have yet to see evidence that this is true.  Instead I’ve noticed the large overlap of users for both services, albeit for different purposes. As far as many consumers are concerned Google and Facebook serve different functions, with the former used to search for information and the latter for relevant social links and recomendations.

From a consumer’s perspective Google and Facebook serve differing functions, even while they begin to encroach on each others core businesses through their growth. This same story about competition may be written about Microsoft vs Google, vs Apple, or vs Twitter, and so on; conflict drives the news, even if it does not reflect the unique audiences for individual businesses. While each company has different offerings, it’s fully possible for consumers to use both sites together rather than competing.

Of course this news has broader implications for PR professionals everywhere, by reinforcing negative stereotypes of the profession. Because of irresponsible, overly-secretive behavior of individuals at one of PR’s largest agencies, professionals like myself may have our reputations damaged. It’s even worse among the tech businesses, which sometimes see PR as a function only meant to earn press, and these days many startups would rather try going it alone using blogs and social media. At the very least this serves as another example of when PR can cause blowback, rather than how integral it should be in building communications strategy.

It’s my hope that the so-called “PR war” between two of the most popular global web brands will end, and both companies will find a more proactive way to continue building their own audiences. The history of the web has been of evolving and growing use, rather than competition between competing sources (as in print and broadcast media before it) for our attention, and I’d expect this to be the inevitable outcome between Google and Facebook.

More info/context about the news from Amplify, via www.wallstreetjournal.com:

Public Communication & Privacy on the Internet

Online Privacy described in a Venn Diagram

Infographic by Buriednexttoyou (via Flickr)

If your friends are like mine you’ve heard them complain all year-long that we’ve lost our private lives, sacrificing anonymity in the interest of advertising data.  Since the beginning of 2010 we’ve heard public figures and friends alike suggest it’s time to quit social media.  Culminating with the FTC’s policy recommendations about internet privacy, 2010 has been another marque year for privacy advocates.

Yet the internet has opened up new windows of insight into each others’ lives, connecting us closer with our friends and sometimes revealing new aspects of our personality between friends.  Often these ideas are shared in public channels, opening individuals to new connections, although others prefer to keep there information between friends alone.  For years there has been a backlash to protect privacy on the internet, but is an open medium paid for with advertising dollars ever truly private? (more…)

The Birthday Challenge

What difference can one person make simply by asking their friends to make a charitable contribution? Any individual can help change the world, and this story is just another example to prove that (click here to play the video).

For my last birthday I challenged my friends to donate to a cause, People To People International (PTPI), instead of buying me a gift. I used the Causes application on Facebook for fundraising, and was overwhelmed by their support. I’ve written about my efforts before, and have since raised a few hundred dollars for PTPI.

My efforts earned the attention of People To People, who like most non-profit organizations are exploring all the new opportunities for fundraising that social media can offer. We connected though Facebook, where an interview was published highlighting my fundraising efforts in addition to how PTPI has impacted my life both personally and professionally.

We wanted to share my story and inspire others to try the same challenge for themselves, so I flew to Kansas City, Missouri to shoot this video. The birthday challenge has also been the subject of another recent interview accompanying the video, as part of a series highlighting the accomplishments of young people working with PTPI.

Thanks to Scenic Road Productions for creating this video promoting a good idea for a a great cause. And Happy Birthday for my friends at People to People, which celebrates their 53rd year of fostering peace through understanding this week!

Et cetera, Etc.

Here’s a few updates to previous posts, and some news on my professional life:

  • The Twitter Internship is soon to become simply An Internship.  Last week I was happy to join New Media Strategies as their intern, starting in May 2009. I’m looking forward to learning more about how they use new media tools, including Twitter where I got their attention to begin with, to participate in online communities where they promote and protect brands for their clients.  I think we’ll be a good fit together since we share the same inclination to try new online tools for ourselves so that we can understand any opportunities they offer for those we represent.
  • I have signed up for summer semester at American University.  The two last classes of my Graduate degree in Public Communication will be Crisis and Political Communications.  And since they take place in the evening, it shouldn’t be any trouble for my internship.
  • Rock the Vote, which I had previously applied for an internship, has begun to offer a fellowship program for young students like myself.  This largely self-defined fellowship encourages individual innovation using social media to reach young people and engage them in civics.  Although I probably will not be able to become part of their program because of my internship responsibilities, I hope to join their team and help out via Telecommuting over the course of their campaign.  Ask me or tweet Chris Kennedy for an invitation if you’re interested in joining the program.
  • To date I was able to raise $195 from 7 donors for People to People on Facebook.  Although this did not reach my goal, it surpassed my expectations, and has raised the bar for non-profits like PTP online.  I am proud of what I could contribute using these social media tools as an individual, and look forward to helping them in the future.

While some of these updates might warrant a post of their own, thanks for letting me be a little self-indulgent.  If you’re dying to keep up on the latest as it happens, why not join me on Twitter already? After all, it did help me get this internship, etc…

New Media, New Video


12for12: The 12 second Tweet on 12seconds.tv

Everyone already knows that putting a video on YouTube might be a good way to get the word out about your campaign. Of course it’s not very easy for yours to stand out, so it’s important to explore the new venues where your message could be seen and heard.

To be sure YouTube is still where it’s at: for most internet users it is the default site to visit when you’re looking for a video, making it the second most popular search engine behind their parent Google. But although YouTube is supported with the largest collection of video in the world, it is not well designed to support productions of high-quality content from the Entertainment industry; their video ubiquity does not equal market dominance in video forever.

Even as YouTube prepares to launch a new video platform for premium content (ie broadcasters and advertising), HULU has begun to establishing itself as a successful haven for broadcast programming and advertising on the internet. In a little over a year HULU has become the #2 video site (behind YouTube of course) with 34 million viewers in February, and is expected to earn at least $120 million in ad revenue for their operating partners – NBC and FOX. And while many platforms for online video have launched in the past few years, HULU is backed with a marketing budget of $50 million from their partners.
(more…)

People to People

Before I turn 24 years old on March 15th, I have been asking my friends to donate $24 to a favorite non-profit of mine, People to People International.  So imagine my surprise when friends from Facebook, some of whom I hadn’t seen in years, donated the suggested amount without having ever heard of this charity before.

Using the Causes application of Facebook can be a great source of new donations for a non-profit like People to People, a Student Ambassador program I took part in for six years (age 13-18).  I was prompted by the Causes application to create a Birthday Wish for one of my favorite causes I had joined as a group member.  After selecting PTP I was provided with tools to promote my birthday wish automatically, including: pre-written status updates, posts to the wall, and private messages to send to friends asking them to give to your Birthday Wish.

Although I was impressed with the ability to utilize the power of my social network on Facebook to gain support behind this cause, I remained skeptical that anyone would give such a large donation for my birthday.  On my Birthday Wish page, I decided to put my money where my mouth was by donating $24 of my own money towards the $240 goal ($24 x 10 donors) I had set.  So naturally I was surprise when one of my Facebook friends from high school has donated the next morning.

Facebook Birthday Wish

So far I have raised at least $96 from 3 people for People to People, who took notice of the new donations almost immediately.  They like me had become excited about the new possibilities for small donors that the Causes application had enabled with the Birthday Wish function.  I was happy to discuss some of the social media tools they had at their disposal.  They also gave me a short interview that promoted others to try using these tools on Facebook.

Although many people are quick to dismiss social media as merely a trend that is difficult to measure actual results, I think this small effort by an individual shows its potential when this communication tool is used appropriately.  In this case the Birthday Wish was more effective than merely randomly asking my friends for donations; it used an effective appeal rather than posting just another link to ignore.  For non-profit organizations, social media like the Causes function in Facebook offers exciting possibilities by connecting the power individual networks with an audience of small donors that were previously much more difficult to reach.  The power of interpersonal communications is meeting the reach of public communications over the internet.

Follow me on Facebook, or learn more about People to People International.