I’m speaking on a webinar next month with Ed Poll and Kevin O’Keefe. I’ll have more details on that once everything is finalized. The topic of social networking and advertising came up, and it got me thinking. Social media isn’t advertising, per se, but it is migrating into an umbrella term for everything we do on the social web. Sort of like how “legal marketing” is an umbrella term for everything we do, including MarComm, business development, PR, the dreaded holiday cards (by the way, shout out to Pillsbury for being one of the only firms to successfully implement an e-card). Social media is built around individuals. It is about connecting, publicizing, networking, advertising, branding, business development, education. It is done on different platforms, and those platforms can be used for a multitude of purposes. For instance, I can connect on Twitter. I can also publicize my blog, build my brand, advertise an upcoming event, broadcast news, ask for assistance, etc. Sometimes I’m connecting personally. Sometimes professionally. Sometimes I want to have a say in the conversation. And sometimes I just need to vent to the universe. Social media and social networking are not static, nor do they maintain a singleness of purpose. It has been bandied about that in the Internet-age there is no longer privacy. We share openly (sometimes too openly) on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Flickr, etc. Everything we do has the potential to be broadcasted to the world. Literally. No matter what your privacy settings are set at, you are part of this new world, whether you like it or not (Facebook photo-tagging, for instance). If you think about this way, everything we do is an advertisement of ourselves. We no longer have the luxury of separate “personal,” “professional” and “social” personas. They have all morphed into one person. At the school holiday program today, I chatted legal marketing with one parent; updated another on the adopt-a-family program I’m organizing with Girl Scouts; one mother asked to be introduced to the sports dude because she recognized him from my Facebook page; and the sports dude recognized a fraternity brother from college who was sitting in front of us. What I do online, at my kids’ school, in the Girl Scout meetings, at work, in my personal life are all now connected. By listening to those in my social network, I am seeing that my “brand” is that of an engaged, active mom and career woman who still makes time to have fun (seeing both Billy Idol and X this week!). There’s no more compartmentalizing me. I am a living, breathing, walking advertisement of what I do and who I am. So, while social media and social networking are not “advertising” per se, I’m starting to think of it as product placement. I am a product placement in my own life. What this means, to me, is that I have to protect my brand in all areas of my life. I cannot act up in one world, and not see the reverberations in another. People will make judgments of me based on what I post on my blog, on Twitter or my personal Facebook Wall (or, your Wall since Facebook is now posting those on MY Wall too #fail). Is this a good thing or a bad thing? I’m certain that only time will tell. People will get burned and learn the hard way. Others will master and succeed. Others will be clueless and just “wonder why”? Personally, I’m embracing this. I am finding benefits. I am also aware of the pitfalls. But, most of all, what I have found is that social media/networking is creating a more natural and authentic me. I am transparent, and I have very little to hide, and even fewer places to hide them.