MAD Perspectives Blog

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 Who Are You?

Peggy Dau - Thursday, October 20, 2011

There has been a lot of discussion this week at the Web 2.0 Summit, in San Francisco, around identity.  It is a continuation of the debate that started in August when Google+ launched requiring users to use theirreal names – no pseudonyms allowed.  The argument is about associating all that you say on social networks with your real identity.  This is uncomfortable for many of us.  Not that we don’t own what we say, but we may not want it saved in perpetuity in the online world.

I’m wondering about the impact of identity when it comes to corporations.  Earlier this year, we discussed corporate identity with our friends at Taylor O’Brien.  As brands define their identity and take that identity into the social arena, we advise a consistency in how they represent themselves.  The question that is puzzling me now, is if I work for a major corporation, am I Peggy Dau or am I Peggy from Company X?  If I am socializing as a business professional, my employer would argue that I am a representative of the company.  Since they provide me with a paycheck, I would agree.

However, in the social arena, Peggy Dau is a unique individual with profiles on Facebook, LinkedIn and other social places.  I tweet as MADPerspectives, which is my consulting business, because Twitter allows pseudonyms.  But, I could argue that MAD Perspectives is a real name – for my business.  The content I tweet as MADPerspectives, is content related to my business and the industries I serve.  It’s an interesting conundrum, isn’t it?!

The challenge for companies is to define their identity and set clear guidelines for how their employees who are representing the company in social networking, understand the voice, culture, image that the brand wants to reflect.  Companies by their very nature are somewhat anonymous.  Sure, we understand what Apple, Coca Cola and Proctor & Gamble stand for, but do we really associate with individual employees?  Do we want to?  Do employees want to be recognized and associated with their employer as the engage in social networking.  For social media mavens, representing their respective companies, this is an opportunity to build their personal brand as they represent the corporate brand.  However, customer support teams may prefer some protection of their identity – not because they don’t provide excellent customer support, but for reasons of safety or career aspirations.

Corporate identity has taken on new meaning in the authentic, transparent and spontaneous social community.  Can a corporation be transparent if it doesn’t reveal the real names of its social networkers?  It is authentic when tweets come from @BronxZoosCobra?  Are “push” marketing tweets from consumer and high tech brands really spontaneous?  In fact, they are an extension of an overall marketing plan to increase brand and product awareness – reinforcing brand identity and consistent messaging, but perhaps losing authenticity.

It’s a new world and our identities are tied to the context in which our networks know us and the perspectives they have of our personal and corporate identities.

What’s your perspective?