You just can’t resist a title like “The Psychology of Narcissism and How It Affects Brands,” particularly when the panelists include a PR strategist, the president of a blogging firm, a blogger and a clinical psychologist.
Narcissism is not just about being a jerk, according to Jacob Small, a Manhattan-based clinical psychologist that works with people suffering personality disorders. It’s about relating to the world solely through the prism of one’s self. It’s about feeling like you have more influence than you really do, about cultivating that influence and becoming driven by the accumulation of more influence.
Twitter followers, Facebook fans, pageviews, these are all analytics tailor-made for the narcissist. So, in an age when everyone is a publisher, when everyone with an iPhone has the capability and access to reap influence and that influence is equated to social currency, how do you avoid being a narcissist?
“People can’t believe I’m not on Facebook,” says PR strategist Michael Dolan. “I’ve worked on the internet since about 1990… and, to me, Facebook is weird. People ask why I don’t post photos of my kid on Facebook, but to me, that’s just f–king weird.”
Toronto-based lifetsyle blogger Casie Stewart has made a living as a self-proclaimed narcissist for seven years. A daily blogger and brand advocate, she puts her life out there for the whole world to see, but what distinguishes her from the Klout Score narcissist is authenticity.
Online and social media allow for inauthenticity or, worse, inflated authenticity. Like the guy doing the portraits at the carnival, Small warns that mis-proportion can be as dangerous as misrepresentation.
“You have to watch out for overinflated qualities,” says Small. “You have to watch out for being overly exposed and putting yourself out there too much.”
How does this relate to brands? As marketers turn increasingly to online influencers for endorsements or promotions, it’s often difficult to distinguish between those bloggers and social media influencers that are authentic and those that seek authority. Klout Scores and Twitter followers are primitive indicators of influence and can be deceiving. It’s important for marketers to understand not only reach, but quality before engaging online influencers in campaigns.
Modern media allows everyone to be an influencer, but be sure to distinguish between those that influence with authority and authenticity and those who seek self-validation through narcissistic sidling.