Archive for September, 2009
Although my blog is technically on “hiatus,” I felt this post was too important to not post it here (versus my digital marketing notebook on Posterous).
I am still thinking about the direction my blog will be heading, but I know one thing for sure…it will include a lot more analysis, testing, and less opinion.
As a marketer, testing is at the heart of what we do (or should do) and I for one have been lax when it comes to testing social media. Without testing all aspects of social media, we are, unfortunately, arguing from ignorance.
The first test: Authenticity, transparency… and trust.
I have long argued that agencies or consultants who take on the persona of a brand and engage in ghost blogging and tweeting were inauthentic and lacking in transparency. I have also felt that social media puts a spotlight on marketers who don’t truly understand or blend in with the market they are targeting.
But how could I really continue arguing or ‘feeling’ without testing? I have been, essentially, arguing from ignorance or feeling…and that’s not very sound logic.
I decided that my notions had to be tested. And that test took place tonight during the weekly PR 2.0 Chat. Tonight’s PR 2.0 chat was not delivered or moderated by me, but by Leigh Fazzina. Leigh is a good friend and PR/social media professional and I knew she would be the perfect person to test the notions of authenticity and transparency because of her background.
As I said, this is an unscientific test, but it’s one that certainly opened my eyes and proved that perhaps I have been wrong about my steadfast (maybe even pigheaded) notions on authenticity, transparency and― ultimately―trust.
This was not authentic. Leigh was pretending to be me and I was sitting there drinking coffee watching the chat happen. I was really surprised that no one questioned the use of “my” newly acquired colloquialisms (U, UR, R, RU, etc.) or tone (capital letters and a lot of exclamations!!!). Check out Leigh’s Twitterstream and compare it to mine. You’ll see that it was definitely her tone and voice tonight…not mine.
This only makes me begin to wonder if I have been completely wrong about authenticity. What if I was blogging/tweeting for a brand consistently using my own tone, voice, etc. Would it really matter? What if I stopped and someone else took over…would anyone really notice or care as long as they are getting whatever it is that they think they need?
Obviously we didn’t let you know about the swap, so that fails on any level of transparency (or translucency for that matter). Again, if someone is ultimately being ethical in their social media efforts to help a brand does authenticity and transparency really matter? Can marketers swap in and out and still be effective?
First off, I apologize for using the PR 2.0 Chat as a forum to test authenticity and trust. To be honest it was more about testing MY strongly held notions then it was about testing participant’s ability to notice it wasn’t me.
But what does this tell us about trust? If a brand is using an agency/consultant to be their voice in social media and they build up a level of trust, is it really as fragile as we think it is? I am not so sure.
I believe that no one questioned the differences tonight because you automatically trusted it was me and you would have never expected that it would not be me (unless there was a guest moderator). Again, apologies for taking advantage of that trust. It’s not something I would normally do…but I have been plagued with questions regarding social media and I had to test to prove to myself that I have, potentially, been wrong.
Personally, I don’t think that the manipulation of trust is ever the right thing to do and I wouldn’t blame anyone for being angry/annoyed with me (especially the new folks who participated for the first time and don’t really know me). Perhaps we can all learn a lesson here…
Moving forward I will always believe in authenticity and transparency and will conduct my own interactions as such. And maybe I was wrong about ghost blogging/tweeting…perhaps it is entirely possible to handle it properly and create a level of trust if done consistently. I don’t think I’ll ever be comfortable with that…but I’ll surely be less judgmental. That said, I believe trust is a fragile thing and when that trust is broken due to discrepancies in authenticity and transparency, organizations better be prepared for the potential fallout.
Your thoughts on this very unscientific test?