Tag Archives: Social capital

Are You Being Manipulated?

mind control

Social media has changed drastically in the past 5 or 6 years. Small tightly knit communities have grown to ubiquitous parts of our daily life. The exploration of online human interaction and its ramifications has created an immense conversational platform widely used for marketing and commercial purpose, with a huge group of participants whose contributions seem to be aimed at creating of specious influence and false celebrity.

The attraction of social spaces centered around the engagement of individuals for their mutual growth and benefit. And those of us who were active in the early days of this evolution in communication spent hours in conversation about social contracts, social objects, and social capital.  They were, simply put, the terms under which we engaged, the things we had in common which became the focus of conversation, and the acquisition and depletion of online goodwill. The center of much of the online activity for business centered around the concept of ” doing well by doing good” – contributing to the communities you participate in without expectation of a quid pro quo , anticipating that doing the right thing and being generous would be its own reward. It was a wonderful place to be an active participant, but as the landscape changed, many people seem to have lost their  way.

As the second and third wave of participants arrived, they seemed to confuse visibility with influence and pontification with authority.As people engage online with the intent of building a name or a brand,they seek the highest visibility, and the greatest acclamation. As Ryan Holiday says in his book “Trust Me I’m Lying:Confessions of a Media Manipulator” , “Media was once about protecting a name; on the web it is about building one”. We must be careful of what name we build.

In a recent conversation with a friend of mine, Leslie Ebersole, about a Facebook group we both are active in, she said ” If I share something with a person for their private use I don’t expect them to project it as their own work, that will in fact influence other people…. I honestly am dismayed by so much of what I see in social media. For example re-tweeting someone’s post feels almost like cheating unless you have interesting or useful commentary on it”

Leslie’s thoughts are spot on, and reflect the manner in which thoughtful confident  people interact. People that create, or effectively curate, don’t need to plagiarize in order to appear smart – they are smart. But in a world of smoke and shadows , where Klout scores are confused with actual influence, and every comment  made in a Facebook group is received as if it was an authoritative statement, we are in danger of following people that have no business leading.

I’ve been involved in a couple of conversation recently about Klout for example, and what influence means. To me, people who can create change in the physical world have influence. Not the circular sycophancy whose online engagement is “You’re Great, No You’re great, OK, We’re all great”, but people whose actions actually cause the change in behavior of large numbers of people. People who can make a call or a request and see something happen. That to me, is influence.

Authority to me? That comes from knowledge combined with experience, not from the number of times you tweet or the amount of time you spend interacting on a Facebook group. If you’re a real estate professional that listed 140 properties last year, I am more than willing to listen to what you did and how you did it. But if you aren’t exceptional in your actual performance or even just real world activities, your online visibility doesn’t impress me in the least.

To build social influence, social capital must be acquired. It has been years since Tara Hunt wrote her book “The Whuffie Factor: Using the Power of Social Networks to Build Your Business”  but the concepts of social cap[ital that she discusses is as valid today as it was then. Tara pointed out that acquiring good will online was a valuable way to integrate yourself into the community and that then, when you needed the good will of the community, they would in turn provide you with what you needed because of your good actions to that point. But when you do things that cause you to lose social capital – like appropriating the thoughts or work of others and portraying them as your own or betraying a confidence by using in public information gained in private, you lose credibility and your actions will begin to be met with negative reactions , causing you to lose social capital.

Holland says “..it is a world of many hustlers, and you are the mark. The con is to build a brand off the backs of others. Your attention and your credulity are what’s stolen.” And that is the danger of taking too much of the conversation at face value. Be thoughtful and know not only what is said, but who is saying it, and the basis they have for making their claim or statement.

Great personal brands are based on being real , being authentic, and being consistent, and giving value to the communities you belong to. They are built of ambition or plagiarism, or publishing popular cliches or memes. People want to be connected to people they can value. Think that’s not true? Back to Leslie again who said (in a private note to me that she has given permission for use here) , “I love the interaction and development of ideas that can happen with social media. I love sharing and doing whatever I can if I can help someone. But I am back to the idea of the importance of reciprocity and mutual effort when one is part of a community.”

So the good guys still exist, but you , the participant need to be willing to peek behind the curtain and differentiate between those that look like they know and do stuff , and those that actually know stuff and do stuff. I have faith you can do that, I just hope you will.

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How Not to Suck Online

Now that social marketing has become mainstream, everyone is doing it, but not many are doing it well. Sadly it is far easier to use social media than it is to use it effectively. When social media was new and exciting, most of the users exploring the space were like a pioneer community. Dependent on each other for insights and understanding, each pioneer sharing their impressions of the new territory they uncovered,and discussing as a group, including the implications for their community and the people yet to follow. As the number of users has grown,the number of people using social media to advance their personal or business agendas has grown as well.

Online engagement, social networking, and inbound marketing are three legs of the seat we have when we move our marketing program into the social space.  Ignore anyone of them and you have a very precarious perch, though many occupy that unstable position because they allowed form to triumph over substance . Here are three types of people that don’t seem to “get it”.

overshareThe Over-sharer

Some people seems to spend all of their time filling the interwebs with the minutia of their lives. Not  just the good meal, or fun vacation, or difficult day at work, but every random thought and opinion that goes through their head. Nothing is too mundane for them to share, or too personal. If they have a fight with their husband, wife, boyfriend, girlfriend, family or all of the above, we’re going to hear about it in glorious living color. Things that they would not say at a small public gathering now become the center of their published actions. Their political and religious views are shared not just once or twice, or in appropriate conversations, but frequently, randomly, and loudly – especially during elections, where they engage no one and change no one’s minds.

A business woman shouting into a old style megaphoneThe Cheerleader

This person is benign, and for the most part are positive influences but their social engagement is like cotton candy, sweet, pretty, seemingly large and important, but without real substance when you get involved. They are characterized by being too sweet, too nice, and too positive. There is no one who values positive people more than I, or who recognizes the importance of positive support for our friends and communities when they are in strife or facing tough times. I know on a personal level how valuable emotional support from your online community can be when you are struck by an emotional challenge. But that having been said, online engagement is more than cheer leading or using superlatives. It’s being an integral part of the community on a deeper emotional level. It starts with recognition and interaction, but interaction by itself doesn’t necessarily generate engagement. That challenge needs to be met by becoming someone that is valued because of what you have give to the community.

Sleazy salesman pointingThe Promoter

This person is easy to see in others, but seems to be harder for people to recognize when they’re the ones originating the thread. Perhaps that’s a result of being raised in an outbound marketing world, or hearing the phrase inbound marketing without understanding what that actually means. But these are the people that pimp their services, get started in conversations about the value package for their product or services, or ask you to connect on LinkedIn because they have so much to share with you to improve your business.

 

 

Making it work is really pretty simple – be genuine, be honest, be consistent,  and remember the three social concepts that are the undercurrent of almost every interaction online – social contracts, social objects, and social capital.

iStock_000005658260XSmall copySocial contracts are not a community’s terms of service, but the contract between the members of any community  An often unwritten or un-verbalized agreement between the members of a community determining what constitutes behavior that is laudatory, acceptable or unacceptable.   The overtly commercial phrase or shameless self-promotion are just two of the clearest violations of the contract, but each special group has their own, more refined agreements which become obvious when you observe the group for a bit and see what actions on the part of its members generate praise or criticism, or even worse, no reaction at all. If you’ve ever “unfriended” someone because their actions bothered you, you’ve seen the social contract in action.

Social objects are things that people have in common – the shared experiences or passions that help us identify with individuals  or a group. Something that we have experienced in common, a high school or college we attended, a love of food or wine, a shared interest in a sport or a sorts team – the list goes on and on. Social objects are the glue that holds together a group of strangers on Google+ or Facebook, where our shared experience and shared emotions bring us together. Social objects are the things we search for when we first meet people to find common ground, and even in the online world they are the first way we connect.

Social capital is the collective value of all of your actions online.  Generous actions build social capital and self-interested actions deplete it. It is the core of the statement “doing well by doing good” in its application to the online experience. Your build social capital by being supportive or the actions of others, celebrating the success f others, and contributing to the welfare of your online community among other things.  But the crucial part is that all of this positive interaction is genuine and sincere, and is, unlike the cheerleader, a portion of who you are rather than the sum of who you are.

Being thoughtful about your engagement will make you a valued and trusted member of the online community – and that, in turn, will allow you to realize all of the benefits, personal and professional , that people seek from social media.  In the words of author Ruth Reichl  “Pull up a chair. Take a taste. Come join us. Life is so endlessly delicious.”

 

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