Over the past four years I’ve been applying my Business Psychology background to Social Media, and helping millions (based on Google Analytics and YouTube stats) of people to grasp some of the finer details of building their brands online.

Update: for the past 18 months I’ve been writing personal development content, including NLP at the Coaching Room.

A wise man once told me that “everything we say and everything we do are symbols of ourselves”, and in Social Media we are displaying to the world (potentially) our personalities. Or to be more accurate, aspects of them.

This is where the concept of ‘perception management’ comes in, and seeing as people love tips I thought I would structure this post in that format – all coming from personal experience of what I do, and what I would do differently if I had my time again.

1. You are now a publisher.
If you are ‘doing business’ on social, you are probably publishing your content on multiple Social channels.
You stand for something, you want people to trust you, you want to be liked. As such, you need to know what you stand for and be consistent in that messaging.

2. Perception is reality.
Your brand is how people think and feel towards it. As Gary Vaynerchuk says, there is no ‘reality lord’.

Perception is Reality, by Gary Vee

If you think your brand is like ‘X’ and other people say their see it like ‘Y’, it is ‘Y’ to the people that matter. Time to change what you are doing, shift your messaging, and alter people’s perceptions.

3. Brand is not built in a day.
Steady and consistent messaging is more important that one big launch. Sure, you want to create some WOW around yourself once in a while, a cool story, a series of authoritative posts, but all in all you have to keep chipping away at people’s attention to build brand in their mind.

4. People want to be around winners.
Recently I was at the Nvidia party after the GDC in San Francisco where my buddy John Gower for Dialectinc.com (who built this website) snapped this picture of me.

Perception management 1

Now, here is the thing – this was a fleeting moment in the evening, and as you can see, I am holding 2 bottle of water. It was the end of the night and I wanted to wake up refreshed. I’m 42 and these days would turn into a pumpkin if stayed up much beyond midnight. But it looks like I have a lifestyle people want to be part of.

As it happens I am sat writing this while looking at the ocean by the beach. Life is good.

But this is very tricky. The truth is I never saw the girls in that picture again, and the total interaction time was probably 2 minutes. Just as you want to storytell on social media, you also want to call BS when you see it. We seek authenticity, yet we don’t (and probably shouldn’t) display every single up and down we may experience.
But if you are in this for the long haul (which you’ll need to be if you want success) then you need to be open enough for people to connect to the real you.

5. Public, and private ‘displays’.
You may well have a smaller group of people, your inner circle, who know you the best. Here you can relax, being even more ‘you’.
And I would suggest you run sessions that are video based (I use YouTube Live events) so people can connect face to face, even virtually.

6. When online be 100% ‘on’.
You never know who you are in the room with i.e. you never know who is paying attention so being your best self is going to help your brand shine.
And guys, don’t try to pick up girls – especially if you are married.
Girls talk, and your reputation spreads in the back channels.

7. Avoid sexist comments.
Like ‘girls talk’ – but I included that now just to make the point.

8. Align yourself, and your brand, with people you actually like.
I.e don’t trophy hunt online. You can use Social Media to get just about anyone’s attention, so make it worth the while.

9. It is what you know, as well as who you know.
People can meet with anyone and take a pic, what matters more is producing something of value to the people who are following you. Just like an author, you are ‘writing your book’ online so you want to tell a story worth hearing. You need substance, you want to known for something, so let your passion add value to the people you meet.
You can be there equal just by feeling your bring that value to their lives.

10. Be gracious in your responses.
I am sure I have failed at this so many times, but know that the key is ‘not responding’ when there is any emotion that could taint my response. Negative emotions driving action are rarely going to lead to the brand you want to build.

11. Sometimes less is more.
Ok, a couple of things here.
This picture was posted on Instagram when I was deciding whether to use this branding for me…

Perception management 3

But more importantly I feel, Chris Brogan’s comment was perfect (‘less is more’). Being very you is a good thing (I think), but Chris was not committing to overtly saying that is a great job title.
In my view, last year, it wasn’t a good move and I back away from it.
A year later I was at a conference where Reese Jones from the Singularity University attended, only had this business card on me so I gave it to him. It is bold brand alignment to that Institution, and was a good talking point. Maybe I will return to it in the future, we will see…

12. Aligning yourself with a big Brand
One shortcut to helping people see you as the brand you want to be is to align with a known Brand.
There are loads of ways to do this, including:
Having testimonials from known authorities in your niche
Having big brand clients (if you have them already) to let you use their logos on your site
Joining official brand programs (Plus Your Business is a Google Partner, and I am an official Google Small Business Advisor – the only Brit bestowed with this status)

Don’t overdo this one. Keep it real. It is about your brand and business, not their brand, but they really can give you a boost in the online space as trust is transferred.

13. Some people really won’t think you are funny. 
Be very careful at using humor.
Recently I was at a conference dinner and asked, without any preparation, to hop on stage in front of 100 or so people to give a quick toast.
Let me just say, telling a joke about a gynecologist was probably not appropriate.
But people remember inappropriate. Inappropriate is about breaking the rules.

Anyway, before I could get to the punchline I was interrupted. You have never seen anyone move to the stage to quickly. (btw, if you ever need to motivate someone, use that word.)
And as such…

14. You will mess up. Apologise and move on.
Chatting with the world authority on ‘trust’, David Amerland, this is what needs to happen.  You have to apologize, put your hands up and say I messed up, make amends, and then say what you are changing to prevent it happening again.
In other words, you have to change.
If you don’t change, you cannot move forward.

15. Every interactions matters.
Online many of us think in terms of micro-moments, yet in the real world we may forget that we are displaying our personality, whether we can be trusted, and whether we people who we can do business with.
The reason I’ve now returned to my policy of ‘don’t drink’ at conferences is just that.

All in all:

Be strategic, then look at your messaging online being the way for people to connect with you, becoming an integral part of your brand storyline. But know it is a journey.

Social media can be transformational, but it doesn’t have to be. It requires effort.

And remember, the way people perceive you will determine how they respond – what you want is the opportunity for other people to spread the word about you and your brand, so given people something decent to work with is always going to be a fine start.