Have you ever stopped to think about why you’ve developed a social presence for yourself? I mean really stopped and asked, why am I doing this? Is this for me? Or is this for them? Many of us would probably answer that we are there to serve others, but, as I look at the content that is being shared, it’s pretty clear that we’re really there to fuel our ego.

Unfortunately, brands are no different. We all jumped on the social wagon without a clear purpose and mission, and if we really looked deeper, we’d see it was a whole bunch of ego that led to a game of ego back-patting. You share our content; we’ll share yours. You follow me; we’ll follow you. I’ll make you the hero of our content because we are so much more superior than you, piddly follower.

Whether you are a brand or an individual with a social presence, there are some tough questions we need to ask ourselves.

How much do you promote yourself or your own content?

Image via westerntradition.wordpress.comThis includes all of your status updates about your blog posts, your speaking engagements, your recent awards, your sales offers, and even that testimonial from your customer. If it’s more often than not, then ego is driving your social presence. Because if it weren’t about our ego, wouldn’t it be okay to simply go out there and help people? I mean help ridiculous amounts of people with all kinds of things that have nothing to do with us? Wouldn’t that be okay, if it weren’t all about us and what we can get out of it?

How much do you preach at your audience?

These are all the posts that tell your followers what they should be doing and what they shouldn’t be doing, all wrapped in an ugly film of listen to me I know what I’m talking about. If it’s more often than not, then ego is driving your social presence. I mean honestly, how can we possibly know what our audiences should be doing? We don’t know anything about them. We certainly haven’t spent time understanding their circumstances, so why would we assume that that little formula that worked so well for us would work for them? We don’t.

How much do you focus on being a thought leader?

Saying the same things everyone else is saying does not make you a thought leader

So many times I’ve heard individuals and brands say, “We want to position ourselves as thought leaders in our industry.” The big question is, are you really a thought leader at all? How much do you talk about theory versus tangible results? How much real work have you actually done? What are you a thought leader in? Saying the same things everyone else is saying does not make you a thought leader. Sharing great content from others does not make you a thought leader. The real thought leaders are most likely working in the trenches, behind the shadows, and I bet you don’t even know their names. If your goal is to position yourself as anything, including a thought leader, ego is driving your social presence. In fact, the desire to be a thought leader is all ego. You want to have that pin in your cap so you can get the next promotion, the next speaking engagement, or maybe even have people recognize you in the airport. It’s 100% ego talking, and I have to say, I believe we can be so much more than that.

How much do you focus on building an audience?

Why do you need an audience? What do you think an audience is going to give you? Influence? Credibility? Access? Let me ask you this: If you were helping people and had 10 followers, is it somehow better to help people and have 100k followers? I mean really, is building audience more about you or about them? If you really look and it’s more about you, then ego could be driving your social presence. Because seriously, your follower count is not an indication of your worth and the value you can bring, yet it gets so much attention. Trust me. You are worth a gazillion times more than the number of followers you have.

Are you building meaningful relationships and actually helping people?

Real relationships happen because two humans genuinely connect and have mutual interests

Or are you instead collecting followers like baseball cards? How many people do you actually interact with online each day? Is your list of recent tweets longer than your list of recent direct messages or @ replies? If you aren’t spending more time engaging with others in a meaningful way than you are promoting yourself, then ego is driving your social presence. Real relationships happen over a series of conversations. They don’t happen because you shared a great article. They happen because two humans genuinely connect and have mutual interests. Think about how many of your followers you would take on vacation with you and your family. Not many? Exactly.

That’s a tough list to look at, isn’t it?

I fully admit I am 100% guilty of many of these.

  • I started using Twitter because I wanted to be a thought leader and build an audience, but admittedly, I barely use it anymore because my home feed is an ego fest, so the only thing you’ll see are a few @ replies to people who’ve reached out to me and a daily post from Social Media Explorer and Social Media Examiner. Guilty!
  • I rarely comment in LinkedIn Groups. Guilty!
  • I have a ton of engagement on Facebook and spend way more time commenting than I do posting. Yay! I’m not all bad.
  • I authentically engage with my friends on Path in ways you won’t see anywhere else online. That’s probably because it isn’t as public, so again guilty.
  • Many of my blog posts may come across as preachy. Shucks even this one probably reads that way.

We spend a lot of time talking about the real jackhats in social, the trolls, and the people that are just downright obnoxious. We don’t spend near enough time talking about what social media has really become: a place for us to fuel our egos and a place for brands to fuel theirs.

We don’t talk about it because too many of us are guilty of doing it, but maybe we should. Because if you look at what social has become, it makes you really start to question why are we here. Why is it valuable for my brand to be here? The problem with ego-driven relationships is that both sides are fighting for control and no one ever wins. It fuels a parent-child dynamic instead of a human-to-human dynamic. We aren’t all equals in a fight for control. We become ego-driven maniacs that do stupid things trying to get that next ego stroke.

Maybe it’s time to take a step back and check the ego at the door. Because maybe…just maybe…then we could become friends. Friendship is a powerful thing. If I have a choice between buying from a friend or from someone who is not a friend, I’ll choose the friend every time. And maybe that is why our brand should really be in social.

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About Nichole Kelly

Nichole Kelly

Nichole Kelly is the CEO of Social Media Explorer|SME Digital. She is also the author of How to Measure Social Media. Her team helps companies figure out where social media fits and then helps execute the recommended strategy across the “right” mix of social media channels. Do you want to rock the awesome with your digital marketing strategy? Contact Nichole

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Comments Policy

Comments on Social Media Explorer are open to anyone. However, I will remove any comment that is disrespectful and not in the spirit of intelligent discourse. You are welcome to leave links to content relevant to the conversation, but I reserve the right to remove it if I don't see the relevancy. Be nice, have fun. Fair?

  • Keith

    Nice article

    • Nichole_Kelly

      Thanks so much Keith!

  • Icy Sedgwick

    I write my blog posts about content that’s relevant to my books, but if no one ever clicks on the tiny Amazon link at the end, BUT they found the post interesting or entertaining, then I still consider it a job well done. My prime goal as an author is to entertain, so why should I goal on social media be any different?

    • Nichole_Kelly

      I don’t think it should Icy. :-) Sounds like you are doing something different than most. Thanks for commenting.

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  • http://www.c4compete.com/ Chloe Forbes-Kindlen

    Very interesting read and what a thought provoking question. I think sometimes we get so caught up in creating content that we forget that’s only one part of the puzzle. This content is really only valuable to your audience if a) it serves their needs and b) if you are also taking the time to engage with them. I am definitely guilty of a few of these especially in the past. I’d like to think I’m getting better at is especially as my number one objective is always to serve me audience but a reminder like this every now and again always keeps things focused. Thanks for a great post.

    • Nichole_Kelly

      Chloe – It’s so easy to get wrapped up in what “we” want from our content. We want it to drive traffic, leads and sometimes engagement. I’d love to see a shift to just helping people. My guess is that helping people would drive more traffic, leads and even engagement than we can even imagine. Thanks for your self-reflection. This can change one person at a time. ;)

      • http://www.c4compete.com/ Chloe Forbes-Kindlen

        Completely agree with everything you said Nichole. If you can solve a problem and help others without expectation, then it is felt by the recepient in a much more meaningful way.

  • Joanna

    Really enjoyed this great article. Will recommend it in my online group…
    I agree… While engaging in social media it’s so easy to get blind to our own mistakes. It’s as if we were too close. So I see how hiring a business coach or social media coach would help. I also see the ego on facebook – you become a member of a group focused on building a business and then you get invites from people who have 2000 friends just so they can push their products on you. Because they never “like” or speak to you again, not to mention responding to your comments. Venting over! LOL

    • Nichole_Kelly

      I see it all over the place Joanna. It’s really hard to remove yourself or your company from the center and just help people. Even some who say they are dedicated to helping still get trapped in the cycle. It’s not going to be an easy change, but I’m hoping I can get there. :-) Thanks for commenting.

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  • Kymberlaine Banks

    Enjoyed. Agree. Thankful I was pointed to this after #bufferchat and I have a new descriptive term for something I see and dislike far too often, “ego back-patting”

    • Nichole_Kelly

      Thanks for reading the post! That Don Power is pretty great. ;-) I’m so thrilled you enjoyed it.

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