As I help business leaders deliver branded customer experiences, I often start with the premise that brands are nothing more than what people say about us when we’re not around. From there, I work with leaders to determine what they want to be known for and what they want to hear their customers say about them.
For years companies have been trolling social media to see what customers post about brand experiences. That data mining and sentiment analysis provide both qualitative and quantitative data that represents a snapshot of the “brand’ experience.
While the word “brand” typically conjures up images of monolithic business entities, the term applies equally to individuals. Increasingly, personal brands are being data mined by businesses who are evaluating whether they want to do business with prospective customers. The best example of what I refer to as “personal brand vetting” is a British start-up, Score Assured, that allows landlords to assess potential tenants based on information gleaned from their social media accounts. According to an article in the Verge:
“Landlords use the company’s Tenant Assured program to send requests for profiles to would-be tenants. These then grant the program access to data from one or more social media networks (including Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram), which it uses to create a one-time report on the individual. This process scans private conversations and public posts to record information about the user’s personality, life events (like giving birth or getting married), and even their ‘financial stress level’ — a measure of how easy it is for them to pay their rent, based on the frequency with which keywords like ‘no money,’ ‘poor,’ and ‘staying in,’ appear in their posts.”
Suffice it to say, many social media experts challenge “personal brand vetting” practices like Score Assured, although many of us have been warning our children and adolescents “to be cautious about what they post because it can have long-term implications for college admission or future employment.”
From my perspective, the key lessons from Score Assured are as follows:
- Be Careful What You Say On-Line: You may think your comments are spontaneous and your “personal business” but in truth, once something enters the social space you never know how it will be used to “vet” you.
- Your Personal Brand Effects Your Business Brand: While freedom of speech is an essential tenant of democracy, there is no firewall between what is said in our personal life and how we are viewed professionally.
- Much Can Be Learned From “Life-casting:” Granted Tenant Assured has a creepy, lurking quality, but there is much we can learn about our clients based on what they choose to share through social media. Listening to the customer is always a great idea. The challenge is to respectfully listen (in places and in ways in which they want us to take an interest).
- Information Is Power That Should Be Used Responsibly: Like all power, listening can be leveraged for good (e.g. learning about a customer’s birthday and authentically acknowledging them) or for bad (choosing to exploit a vulnerability shared online). The way you handle listening will reflect back on your personal and professional brand.
OK, heeding my own advice, I just re-read this blog and feel comfortable with it representing my personal brand and my business. I’ll hit “post” but who really knows what impact it will have…