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Accepting Accidental Narcissism

In the potentially hazardous world of social marketing there are lots of casualties. Individuals and businesses see social marketing as the cure for bland business storytelling yet they only gradually overcome their afflictions of being too promotional, inauthentic or unemotional. And then there is another side effect that many people overlook: accidental narcissism.

Accidental narcissism is a natural by-product of asking individuals to be social on behalf of brands. When your people become the ambassadors and storytellers for brands, they have to find a balance between sharing their own personal experiences and views, while also championing the values of their business. Sharing personal experiences is important in order to maintain an authentic social media presence, rather than just sounding like a cog in a corporate marketing machine, but mixing the personal and professional can cause problems.

When acting as a brand ambassador, social marketers need to be aware that whatever they post in social channels – opinions, comment, photos or content – can and will be interpreted in a number of ways by their audience. For example, I travel a lot as part of my job, which from an outsider’s perspective can seem glamorous. Don’t get me wrong -- it has given me the opportunity to see a whole host of new cities and countries, but the fact is that most business trips consist of long, hectic days crammed full of meetings, waiting around for trains, planes and security checks, and living out of a suitcase. It can be lonely, and sometimes feels like an uphill battle.

social media marketing selfie

So when I do get a couple of hours free to explore somewhere new I jump at the chance. Thing is, if I fancy posting a photo of myself, or ‘checking-in’ online at a famous landmark I have to bear in mind that some people might interpret that as my wasting company time, always being on holiday, or maybe even just boasting. The point is, what I’m sharing is a mere snapshot, just one single moment without context. It would be so hard to deliver a clear and concise message with a social update that you have to be prepared to take people’s reaction with a pinch of salt. Doing otherwise would take the fun, and quite frankly the point, out of social channels like Twitter, Instagram or Facebook.

So how can we expect everyone to get it right, every time?  The answer is: I don’t think we can. For anyone involved in social marketing, there needs to be a shift in mind-set in order to be comfortable with sharing personal experiences in an open and essentially exposed environment.  Accidental narcissism is part of this package, and although there’s no absolute cure for it there is definitely a coping strategy – acceptance.

(social media marketing / shutterstock)

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