“Blurred Lines” by Robin Thicke – which Billboard recently named the song of the summer – is about a “good girl” whom the singer wants to “liberate”. Miley Cyrus blurred some lines herself when she twerked to the song at MTV’s VMA awards, then was dropped from her upcoming cover gig for the December issue of Vogue. Would her risqué performance have generated such repercussions without YouTube and social media? Probably not.
It’s a great example of the power of social media and its innately uncontrollable nature, even in the hands of a young and media-savvy performer. So how does a self-employed freelancer draw the line between personal brand and professional persona? That’s part of what I’m exploring in the U of D’s Social Media Marketing Strategy course.
Because my current professional incarnation is synonymous with my name, I’m reluctant to attach it to the projects I’m launching under the class mandate, even though the online exposure might otherwise be welcome. At issue is the fact that I have not yet defined my professional brand through the necessary exercise of positioning, brand statement, and logo development. I don’t want to present myself as a professional under my student communications – not for fear that I’ll embarrass myself through personal revelations – but because social media are so pervasive that I might inadvertently launch a half-baked professional image. And that would be blurring the lines.
I still maintain an old facebook page (two, in fact), and have a LinkedIn page which is adequate but requires further development once I’ve defined my professional brand. I’ve changed my course email from the google account I use for business to a new one established expressly for that purpose. The handles for my twitter account, my “about me” page and my WordPress account are relatively anonymous. So far I’ve figured out that I need my LinkedIn presence and a dedicated gmail account for professional communications, will keep facebook as a means of personal exchange, and will use other channels as student projects.
So what have I learned so far? That you need a strong brand identity before wandering into the professional world of social media – and if you don’t have one, throw up a smokescreen, or your personal brand will become “professional” by default. This means that once I’ve established my corporate name and branding, I’ll have to go back and redo a lot of what I’ve been working on. But I also know I don’t want to get caught in social media’s dangerous world of blurred lines, with poorly defined professional/student/personal identities creating the online equivalent of Miley Cyrus’ twerking performance.
Of course, Miley has since been offered the cover of the October issue of Harper’s Bazaar, perhaps proving the adage that no publicity is bad publicity. Or maybe she just knows which lines to blur. I’m not convinced, and don’t want to repeat her mistakes – even metaphorically.