From Tuscaloosa, Ala., Jane is single and her interests include shopping, Justin Beiber and Hello Kitty. She likes to spend her free time with friends and avoiding homework.
Bios from much younger audiences, similar to this, are becoming more prevalent on many social networks, such as Facebook and Twitter. Although tweeting about Beiber is normal for certain age groups, young people should keep in mind the advantages and disadvantages of posting content online.
According to comScore, nine in 10 United States Internet users belong to at least one social network. Seventy-three percent of this majority are teens and young adults. With this in mind, it is never too early for this demographic to start branding themselves online.
Geoffrey Graybeal, a doctoral candidate at the University of Georgia and social media consultant, noted that social media is drastically affecting younger audiences in many ways they do not realize.
“Social media knows no boundaries or age limits for the potential to break out among the masses,” Graybeal said. “The good news for young people is that they can get a message out, brand themselves as experts in a particular topic they’re passionate about or convey their talents to the masses.”
Over the past decade, social sites have not only emerged but also become some of the most visited sites online. According to It’s All About Tech, Facebook, for example, has more than 171 million unique monthly visitors, Google+ garners 49 million and Twitter follows with 40 million. The popularity of these sites has increased the need for people to have a positive online presence.
The influx of a younger demographic on social sites shows how much these sites have changed from their original purpose. Facebook was first created as a way for college students to communicate. It was required for users to join verified collegiate networks. Since then, it has been opened up to anyone who has an email address. Twitter was originally created to promote communication between companies. Since then, Twitter is being used as a microblogging platform to engage others around the world.
Being age appropriate is vital when participating in social sites such as Facebook and Twitter. Branding yourself, online and offline, in the correct way has the potential to boost not only your brand, but also your online presence.
Jameson Hayes, social media consultant for Lede LLC, said there is no one correct way to brand yourself online.
“I think the brand must reflect who you are and, thus ‘branding correctly’ likely means being true to yourself,” Hayes said. “So ‘correct’ is subjective. However, I would note the importance of educating users on the long reach and permanence of the social Web.”
This type of personal branding has evolved with the changing roles of PR professionals and technological advances. Public relations is primarily about building quality relationships and serving as a liaison between companies and their target audiences. These relationships are vital for maintaining a constant voice to different media outlets. With so many of these outlets now being swarmed with younger audiences and evolving technologies, will social branding ever be perfected?
“Just because a new social media tool or platform develops doesn’t mean you have to use it. The biggest thing we advise corporate clients is to have an overall social media strategy that ties to your brand strategy and overall objectives. The same applies to individuals,” Graybeal said.
Social sites have become a place where young audiences engage with others in a carefree manner. Eventually, these audiences evolve and mature with the entire world watching, while the Internet is taking notes . . . permanently.
“What this means is that there is no age to start social branding. There is also no choice,” Hayes said. “Social branding occurs regardless of our intentions. So, we better start paying attention to what our brand is and teach brand management early.”