Part of the reason blogs and social media work so well is because of that individual voice that speaks to people and interacts with them. The Internet has become humanized with user-generated content. Social media is not for advertising, yet it has become an effective marketing tool.

We can get to know the people who may want to do business with us in a non-threatening way. The idea is that people are more likely to do business with someone who they know and like than they are to do business with a stranger.

When I hire someone I look at my social network first and ask myself if I have a relationship with someone who can do the work. It is always a person who I know, and not a company logo.

We have choices on how we use social media — and it is in its infancy. We can choose to be a brand or we can choose to be a person. I, for one, have chosen to be a person. My blog posts are written in the same tone as an e-mail to a friend. I write like a person and use my own voice and my own experiences for content.

I play myself on Twitter. Instead of using a company logo for an avatar, I choose to use my own face. Instead of using a company name or a brand for my online profiles and nicknames, I use my own name or a shortened version of it that people can spell and that doesn’t take up all of my 140 characters on Twitter: "TBoard."

We all have choices about being a person or a brand and I don’t think we can do both at the same time. I could be wrong, but am willing to take the risk that being real will take me further on social media than being a brand or an advertisement will.

In the social media environment, people look for authenticity. I am guessing that they feel more comfortable interacting with a person than a brand.

There are some brands that I have chatted with. I am never sure what the name of the actual person behind the brand is, and if I do know the name it is easily forgotten. It is hard to feel connected to a brand in a personal way. They seem human enough to me, but when I have to search my contacts to find someone to hire or someone to send a referral to, I connect with the names of the people.

Chatting with a company logo via Twitter or Facebook doesn’t do much for me. Usually there isn’t any interaction, but there really isn’t any need to interact with a brand on social media or off. Brands are not all that social.

No one ever said that you can’t be a brand on the Internet. I imagine it works for some larger organizations, but I am not a brand and I choose to remain a person on the Internet — and I can’t be both.

I want to be the person who will help when someone wants to buy or sell a house. I want to be the person who will be in direct contact with the buyer or seller often on a daily basis and be the service provider.

There are plenty of brands out there that want to advertise, but I interact only with people on social media. Maybe I am old-school, but I don’t see brands as people — I see them as companies or corporations and I prefer to go to them when and if I want to instead of having them become my social network friends.

Are you a brand or a person? Can you be both? Is a brand as effective on social media as a person? I can’t answer any of these questions for anyone else, but I have answered them for myself. I am a person, not a brand, and I can’t be both.

I can still represent a brand and even have a brand, but I can’t play one on the Internet.

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