The Truth about Social Media

A common fear about social media, for people in companies large or small, is exposure. One of the first things these people say is “What if we expose ourselves…what if someone says something inflammatory and it spreads everywhere?…it will sink our business.” It’s a valid concern. It’s possible to quickly lose credibility over social media. […]

A common fear about social media, for people in companies large or small, is exposure.

One of the first things these people say is “What if we expose ourselves…what if someone says something inflammatory and it spreads everywhere?…it will sink our business.”

It’s a valid concern. It’s possible to quickly lose credibility over social media. If you want to make yourself nervous about this you should check out: Social Media Screwups: A History.

The conclusion we must draw is that social media is not a silver bullet. Despite the excitement, budgeting, and energy being put into social media campaigns there is nothing about it that guarantees your reputation will improve. Instead, your reputation is merely amplified using social media. If you customers think little of you they will continue to do so on social media (but more publicly and shareable). If your customers think highly of you they will continue to do so on social media (again, more publicly and shareable). Social media accelerates your trend, whichever direction it might be in.

Social media is merely your ticket to the show. It gets you to the door, where you have a chance to have real conversations with people and treat them like human beings. Social media doesn’t give you integrity. Your integrity exists outside of the tools you use…but if you do have integrity you can use social media to help enact it.

Using social media is dangerous for people who lack integrity. They will quickly be found out as charlatans. So are you learning to use it effectively, to represent you as you are, authentically? Or are you using it as a tool to misrepresent yourself? The funny thing about misrepresentation is that it works…for a time. You can trick people for a while, but once they figure you out you’re done. Above all people want the truth, and telling them one thing while being another shows them you are a liar. Authenticity is the only long-term strategy worth pursuing.

As Howard Rheingold has argued so well, using social media is part of 21st Century literacy.

So think about social media as amplifying customer opinion rather than improving it. It only helps you hear better. It can’t make you into a good listener.

Published: July 15th, 2011

Hi there. So...I'm trying an experiment. I'm experimenting with product design and growth hacking strategies on a new project called What to Wear. It's a super simple service that sends you a daily email containing clothing recommendations based on the weather. My focus is to make it really useful, and it's free to sign up. Let me know what you think!