Online personas are like masks. Except for when they aren’t.
Sound confusing? Let me explain.
As businesspeople, we all wear masks to some extent. For some, we put on a “sales” or “marketing” mask before a meeting. Others may put on a “Mr./Ms. Personality” mask just before entering a networking event or a trade show/conference.
An social-media online persona is like a mask, except it is worn by a company or individual as they develop an audience to further their respective business purposes. How does it work?
When in a business situation, most people don’t act like they do around friends while watching a football game, or while out and about on a Friday night or at a party. Instead, they put on some kind of mask in their professional lives, and especially when they’re promoting whatever product or service for their company. If nothing else, they’re at least acting like professionals.
That’s the same kind of thing that needs to be done with online social networking. This doesn’t mean that such efforts be devoid of all personality and sound like a drive-thru order taker who doesn’t really care that you don’t want pickles on your sandwich.
You can “do” personality; just make sure it is an appropriate amount of personality. Sometimes, though, personality can effectively be amped up.
The Extreme that Proves the Point
One of the better online personas I’ve seen has a ton of personality. It’s even too much for some. But I think that’s the point.
I’m talking about Hank Dietle’s Bar, a true dive joint that’s just north of Washington, DC, in Rockville, MD. The crowd that Dietle’s attracts is, well, a bit edgy. The types of patrons there range from stuffed-shirt DC-types to bikers. The place itself has an attitude that’s best described as, well, just plain ol’ attitude. It’s really indescribable.
That’s exactly what Dietle’s Facebook status updates capture. Here’s some samples, all of which are safe for work, but are a bit questionable in taste:
Hank Dietle’s Bar I guess it’s time to take the Easter tree down. It came and went so fast.
Hank Dietle’s Bar 270 UPDATE: I-270 is shut down because of me. Sorry, I saw a raindrop, swerved to miss it, and T-Boned a school bus. MY BAD!
Hank Dietle’s Bar Good morning faceboogers. I hope you have a great day.
Many of the bar’s updates are definitely not for everyone’s eyes (it took a bit of searching for me to find three suitable for this post!). And that’s the point. People go to Dietle’s to let their proverbial hair down; to become something they’re normally not, or somebody they really want to be. That’s what Dietle’s is all about, and it captures that feeling very effectively in its Facebook page.
Dietle’s promotes its own events through its Facebook account. In a case of a business doing social media right, though, the bar’s promotional content makes up only a small part of its total updates.
Is the Dietle’s page for everyone? Nope, not in a million years. Then again, Dietle’s Bar isn’t for everyone, either. Trust me on that one. But it is a success; I think they have the second-oldest liquor license in all of Montgomery County, Maryland, and the bar has been in business since the early 1900s. I don’t see this joint closing anytime soon, and its Facebook effort is helping in that regard.
You might think that Dietle’s would want to be more generic with its Facebook feed, to attract more people into the bar. My guess, though, that management wants to further build its brand among its current customers, while slowly attracting other like-minded people through its doors. I’d call 1,750-plus FB friends a success, considering their, um, “crowd.”
The only fault I have for Dietle’s Facebook campaign is that it uses a Personal Profile and not a Fan page. Dietle’s loses out on all of the features that a Fan page can bring it, including iFrames, customizable tabs and an uncapped fan count. On the other hand, the account feels a bit more like an exclusive club, because Dietle’s management has to go through the “friend” process for all of its followers.
Dietle’s account is one example of many, many others I’ve seen on Facebook and Twitter using what I call “foundational DNA,” or the ideas and personality upon which a company was founded. Foundational DNA may sound like another way of saying personality, except it also includes a company’s (or your own) professional knowledge, expertise and experience. Foundational DNA also sounds like a Harvard MBA-type phrase, which doesn’t hurt.
As with anything else associated with a business—Websites, blogs, printed materials, and so on—any social-media persona will depend on the company’s foundational DNA. If it is known for being witty and knowledgeable about a certain topic, then build that into your social-media presence. Serious and highbrow? Go with that.
And if a company is like a Dietle’s and is known for … how should I put it … “excessive” personality, by all means, use it. That business should realize,though, that its won’t be everyone’s cup of tea. A joint like Dietle’s may not necessarily be concerned about that aspect of their foundational DNA, but other companies might.