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Accidental Narcissism in social marketing

Liberally apply emotional storytelling, and take a healthy dose of authenticity. You’ll feel as good as new.

But I forgot something; there’s a potentially nasty side-effect (unfortunately one of many such complications) that could affect the prognosis. It’s called accidental narcissism.

The problem stems from the fact that we’re actively encouraging individuals to be social on behalf of our brands, so they can become active carriers of our brand stories. It therefore stands to reason that if you’re going to become socially active you’ll naturally (and in the spirit of authenticity) be required to talk about yourself and your own experiences.  

For the ego-less, this can be a daunting prospect. I know from my own experience this demands a shift in mind-set in order to be comfortable with the sharing of my own opinions and personality, in what is essentially an open and unprotected environment. Yet it’s perhaps unsurprising how quickly it becomes second nature, sometimes to the point where we can unknowingly becoming that bit too self-promotional. 

It’s a fine balance, and the truth is that when we try to achieve a B2B social presence there’s often a risk that what we transmit about ourselves, even when intended with honesty and integrity, can make us seem narcissistic or, even worse, become fuel for misconception.

How I present myself, in the most basic of social posts, can be interpreted in a number of ways.

Like many people, I travel extensively as part of my job. To begin with it seems glamorous to globetrot on behalf of the organisation, but as someone who has racked up her fair share of air miles, I can tell you there’s nothing glamorous about it. In fact, it’s hard work. Especially when long days and the rigmarole of airport check-ins and security are combined with time spent after hours with clients and colleagues. Add to this being away from home, and from family and familiarity, it can sometimes feel like a raw deal.

Don’t get me wrong, it can have its benefits. I might get to visit a city I’ve never been to before and squeeze in an hour of sightseeing before my flight home. And I might even share a photo of myself beside a famous landmark and tag my location, in celebration of some down-time after a busy trip.

The problem is the multiple interpretations of a post of this nature; some might think that I’m bragging about where I am, or that I’m on a ‘jolly’ and not really working very hard at all.

A photographic snapshot of what I’m doing is literally just that, a snapshot. It’s potentially so micro a view, that conveying a clear, concise message is near-on impossible. And, without a hint of narcissism, I think I have a pretty good understanding of what I’m doing in the social space.

So how can we expect everyone to get it right, every time?  The answer is; I don’t think we can.

It’s hardly surprising that most corporate executives fear social. But it’s an unavoidable remedy for modern business success, and they’re going to have to get used to it.