Twitter, FriendFeed and Overexposure of the Personal Brand

I’ve said it before, but this post especially requires that I state it clearly again: I am a New England Yankee.

That means that I possibly have a heightened sense of propriety and generally would consider a lot of things marketing-wise as crossing the line that some of you might not have a problem with.

I’m noticing lately that a lot of marketing types are spending a lot of time on micro-blogging tools such as Twitter, FriendFeed (the new darling), Plurk, etc. I’m sure many have convinced themselves that a lot of what they are doing is “creating social media brand awareness” for their products. The truth is that Twitter is more about branding for the personal brand, and as such I find in most cases, it creates a level of over exposure that’s downright harmful to your personal brand.

Think about Jason Calacanis, who was for a while offering all kinds of contests, giveaways, etc. via Twitter, trying to increase the awareness of the Majalo Search Engine (disclosure: I signed up to contribute when it first started, but honestly never did produce any results for them). For a time, it seemed that the Twitter stream I was getting was all Jason, all the time. “I’m going to have lunch with xxx here. Burritos, yum” or something like that. The signal to noise ratio was so high that I really began to dislike what Calacanis was doing. I didn’t even know him and I was starting to develop a strong dislike.

Jason mentioned on the This Week in Tech podcast this week that he has a lot of people who can’t stand his online persona, but actually become good friends when he meets them. And for the record, I really enjoy hearing Calacanis on podcasts, and I’m sure I’d like him if we were to sit down for a beer sometime. However the Twitterati Calacanis was, for a time, utterly annoying.

Similarly Jeremiah Owyang – he’s been a perennial link in my posts, but when Forrester did their conference in March this year, I had to un-follow him for the time being, I just didn’t need to know whenever anyone decided to go to the bathroom at the conference, or what specific CEO he was talking to.

On the other side, I see a lot of the Twitterati catering to prurient interests to build their following. Yes, sex sells, for the most part, you’re selling yourself here. Do you really want the interest that brings? If you’re even thinking about that, you might want to talk to Ariel Waldman, community manager at Pownce, who’s now got her own stalker, with all the fun that brings. Oh joy!

The problem we have is that so many of us are making the mistake off blending our personal and our professional lives. In business, I prefer not to be known for my ability to consume Mojitos…although personally I really like them. Yet, I blend my Twitter posts with a weird mix of both professional and personal information (yeah, do as I say, not as I do).

I think too many of the Twitterati are making the fundamental mistake of overexposing their personal brand via social networking, to their personal and professional detriment. Your thoughts?

Thoughts after a week of Twitter

After slapping Twitter around for the past year, I thought it was about time for me to shut my mouth and actually try it. So after a week, here are my initial impressions.

First off, communications through Twitter are by their nature somewhat superfluous. I’ve really only had one discussion that’s actually meant anything. My impression is that it’s basically the Internet equivalent of the CB Radio. That doesn’t mean it’s a bad thing.

The means of communication is totally different. Look at the stunts Web A Lister Jason Calacanis; as he basically uses Twitter as his personal marketing platform.  He’s offering a Mac Book Air to be raffled off if he is “followed” by 20,000 people. He’s been using Twitter to bombard sites, move articles on Digg, etc. The other day he flooded UStream with people as he offered via Twitter to give a way a GPS unit. I was there, it was hysterical – the chat window was rolling so fast it couldn’t be read. He actually had to tell everyone to stop using it. But the real point is this: if he’d used any other communication means it would not have worked. If he email me, or worse, called, and asked me to go there for a chance to win a GPS I’d have reported him to his ISP for spamming. But for some reason, spamming seems to be okay here.

I’m going to chock it up to the bleeding edge nature of Twitter. I still don’t get it, but at least now I can see uses. However, I’m a results oriented kind of guy. I’m betting I find I don’t have time for this in my life.

This will really work when it’s teamed with groups.  Simply following a couple hundred people increases the signal to noise ratio to a point that it’s almost unusable.  However, it could come in handy when working with team members, or extended communities like a club.  Groups would cut the signal to noise ration down and make it useable.

For now, it seems like a place where A Listers like Calacanis and Steve Gillmor flood the Tweetwaves and make it tough to use.  I’ll have to narrow down my “follows.”