Social media creates an atmosphere in which people can feel as though they share a big living space with other individuals they do not even know in person, yet feel a connection to - celebrities, authors, politicians, and even some of the un-famous they admire. "Who do I feel a connection with on social media?", I was recently asked. Initially I thought I had no connection of that nature to talk about, but after deeper thought, I realized I was mistaken.
I feel an emotional connection through social media to the TV host, comedian, actress, and author Ellen DeGeneres. I have never seen DeGeneres in person, nor have I ever tried to contact her via social media or any other channel, yet I feel connected to her. It's a one-sided kinship built on the things we have in common, nourished by those characteristics of hers that I so much admire.
My connection with DeGeneres did not start on social media. One day in 2006, immediately upon my move from Brazil to the United States, understandably nervous about that huge step, I sat with a friend who was watching The Ellen DeGeneres Show. After a few minutes watching her warm and engaging banter, I realized that I was forgetting to feel anxious. I was calmer; I was feeling at home. Ellen DeGeneres welcomed me to my new country, and that is when I became interested in her story. Ultimately, I discovered that not only do we have a few important things in common in our lives, but also that I admire her and her brand. I would strive to be authentically branded, like Ellen DeGeneres. Step one: take my relationship with DeGeneres to the social media realm by, in 2011, creating my Twitter account.
DeGeneres’ social media content, whether business-related or simply a playful post to make her audience laugh, consistently represents her true brand and this is something I strive to emulate while building my own online presence. How does she do it?
During the Academy Awards in 2014, DeGeneres tweeted an "impromptu" selfie with a number of A-list celebrities using the latest model of the Samsung Galaxy smartphone. The stunt was, as many would have imagined, a Samsung marketing strategy, which DeGeneres brilliantly handled by bluntly informing the audience that she wanted to surpass the all-time record for re-tweets. She did not try to pretend it was truly an impromptu selfie without any underlying intentions. She was genuine, and the selfie was a tremendous success with over three million re-tweets in a matter of hours (Watkins, 2014, para. 1-5).
Joining the Twitter conversation #ThrowbackThursday, in which Twitter users share images of themselves from the past, DeGeneres brilliantly tweeted a digitally manipulated photograph from the movie Titanic, except in the photograph Kate Winslet’s face has been replaced with DeGeneres’. Every Thursday, a new digitally manipulated version of a well-known image is posted.
On social media, DeGeneres is successful in continuously engendering an emotional response from me not only through her lighthearted comic appeal, but also her kindness, positive attitude, and ability to seize opportunities without losing touch with her true self. Some people, in the process of maintaining their personal brand, produce or curate content that fits the "branding" bill, yet does not truly represent themselves. These efforts end up looking forced, disconnected, or plain and simply ingenuine. This is never the case with DeGeneres’ online content.
If I want to brand like Ellen DeGeneres can brand, I would need to apply some of DeGeneres’ techniques to my own personal efforts. Following her, I set out to continuously ensure the content I create or curate online represents my most authentic opinions or feelings, and does not conflict with my true self.
I have also learned from DeGeneres’ online presence that I should not overthink my content. In the past, I frequently refrained from posting content online because I worried too much about whether or not it represented the true me, and anxiety about how it would be perceived by my audience. While a valid concern, observing Ellen DeGeneres made me realize I used to spend too much time in that worrisome process. How much less would I admire Ellen DeGeneres if she rejected her own gut feeling, or inspiration, and presented a censored content. I admire her precisely because her content is curated from a natural point of view. Following the logic of DeGeneres, if my truest self caused me to create or curate the potential content in the first place, then it only follows that said content is, indeed, a representation of my true self. And the representation of a true self can only help create an emotional connection with the audience. We feel, cry, giggle together.
DeGeneres’ Throwback Thursday series reminds me of some digitally manipulated images of my own, which I created years ago on Adobe Photoshop®, but had been too worried about public reaction to post. In the spirit of DeGeneres, I believe a first step in loosening my potentially-stifling overthought is to share one here, and then via social media. May I present my authentic self:
Watkins, R. (2014). What Ellen DeGeneres can teach us about social media. Retrieved from http://southernweb.com/2014/03/ellen-degeneress-tweet-can-teach-us-social-media/