In Facebook All Business Is Personal

11 03 2009

mb-headshot32Last week our agency received a visit from Lisa Hickey, a self-described “Slightly insane creative thinker and writer. Designer and strategist. Global conversationalist.” She worked at almost every local Boston area advertising agency (with the exception of Mullen) and when she was laid off last year, she re-branded herself as a social media consultant.

Her compelling tale of personal growth via use of Twitter, Facebook, etc. was stirring for all attendees. Given the tragicomic state of the economy today with layoffs everywhere, we can expect other marketers to follow her lead from the unemployment line into social media, and a proliferation of “social media gurus.” By the way, social media guru is a term that I personally loathe because in this day and age we should all be digitally literate, rather than relying on some sort of digital elite (See: Chinese Ch’an master Lin-chi I-hsüan and “Killing the Buddha”). 

Anyway, one thing she said really stuck with me: “Today, people are becoming brands, and brands are becoming people.” It’s true for Lisa, and it’s true for a lot of companies today. Consider how Facebook pages for companies have proliferated, and the very same week of Lisa’s visit Facebook changed those pages to resemble individual profiles. Check out this fantastic whitepaper from The Advance Guard on how those changes can be optimized.

Now, what Facebook doesn’t tell you is that if you wanted to get a customized URL for your company’s fan page that will start at around $100K and involves a media buy. Not a lot of individuals will be in a position to brand their own personal profile at that high price tag.  So, I guess companies are becoming more like individuals, but still get corporate pricing courtesy of Facebook. (Nice. But it’s probably better than spending the money on redecorating a bank’s bathroom.)

So what’s my point? I guess I’m left feeling like Randall Stross, who in his Digital Domain column on Sunday really opened up the can of worms that individuals becoming like companies, and companies becoming like individuals entails. His belief is that it’s ruining our sense of privacy: “When the distinction blurs between one’s few close friends and the many who are not, it seems pointless to distinguish between private and public.” It will be interesting to watch companies open up in the social world and see just how much they’re willing to share. What do you think? Are we over-branding ourselves and destroying what little is left of our private identities in the process?