Social media is noisy. All those blogs, tweets, videos, photos, friends, reviews, and everything else create a real ruckus. And waves of spam, astroturf, and plain-old marketing prove that not everyone is trustworthy. So how can one learn from social media without getting taken for a ride?
It’s All About Credibility
When it comes to social media, your credibility is literally all that separates you from the crowd. Each reader chooses whom they trust and whom they don’t, and each makes their own judgment. Each reader likely uses their own metrics and information sources, too, but they all likely come down to some measure of personal credibility.
It is tempting to look for a simple score or service that enumerates credibility, but such a thing doesn’t exist and never will. Twitter followers and Facebook friends can be bought, and Klout is a joke; anything can be gamed. The only real, meaningful metric is a long span of reliable presence.
Establishing a reputation as a credible, trustworthy individual takes effort, focus, and time. But it can be lost in a moment: Sell a tweet, enable a scam, or even use the wrong web site and you could lose your credibility and your followers. That’s why it’s so important always to be watchful for tempting offers that can undermine you.
What I Won’t Do (And What I Will)
I sometimes surprise others, and even myself, by “freaking out” about situations that seem to impugn my personal credibility. Often an offer for a paid blog post or link is well-meaning rather than nefarious. But I will always reject these in the strongest possible terms: I just can’t risk my reputation like that.
I urge every credible person to join me in establishing a “no buy zone” when it comes to their social media presence. Never let an outside entity dictate what you say, and never sell out your followers. Perhaps it’s easier for me to do this (since “I work for no man“), but I urge everyone to make the effort regardless of their employer.
My “No Buy Zone”
I’ve written before about what I will and will not do online, but perhaps a bit of a refresher is due.
Here are a few things I will not do:
- I will not post anything for money to my blog, Twitter feed, Facebook page, Google Plus account, or any other service. These sites reflect me personally, and they are not for sale. I will post about things I’m doing, including things I get paid to do, but only when I choose to do so.
- I will not sell out my friends or my audience. This means I don’t participate in contests, games, or events that serve mainly to promote one company’s products or vision. So no “tweet to enter” nonsense for me, and I won’t wear your company-logo shirt. These things are hideously one-sided, pollute my social presence, and dilute my credibility for a remote chance at a meagre gain. No thanks.
- I will not take down things I have posted simply because they anger a company. I’ll only “change history” if I feel I have made a serious mistake, and then I’m likely to write even more about the situation rather than merely deleting content.
So what will I do for money?
- I will write and speak for pay, and I will permit companies to do what they like with this content. I may link to this if I feel it is particularly worthy or interesting, but that can’t be part of the contract. And my message is my own: If it helps you sell widgets, I’m happy to work with you, but I won’t change it to suit your needs.
- I will not work for free. If a company wants me to participate in anything designed more for their benefit than for my audience, there had better be some payment involved. I’ll often join “tweet-chats” or sit for interviews as part of a larger business relationship, but I won’t do it for nothing.
- I will organize folks like me to attend events, participate online, and create content but only in ways that don’t impact their credibility. I actively work with marketing and PR folks to design balanced and beneficial events and engagements for independent folks like me and hope everyone benefits from them.
I hope this post isn’t too “out in left field” but I thought it needed to be said. Independent social media has evolved into a powerful mechanism to influence belief, behavior, and (yes) buying. I take my little dollop of influence very seriously, and feel an incredible responsibility to live up to the trust placed in me by others. I will try every day not to let you all down!