Last week I attended the Search Engine Strategies Conference in Toronto. While many of the presentations were interesting and useful, the session that stuck with me most was the very lively and somewhat controversial panel on Social Media Success. At issue, the value and need for authentic communications and conversations and the detriment, or lack therof, of social media 'tricks' or 'hacks'. Rahaf Harfoush and Mitch Joel have each had incredibly insightful comments on the subject in their respective posts (SES & Social Media Strategy: what happened to ethics?! - A rant) and podcasts (SPOS #109 - Fair Trade Search Engine Strategies) and I feel the need to weigh in.
The value of authentic, 2-way conversations is clear. Smart consumers and clients know when they're being talked to and when they're being talked at. However, there seems to be a constant tug-of-war between two camps. Camp #1 are those who are willing to have those all important conversations first and let the happy byproducts like links and stronger keyword performance come naturally afterwards. Camp #2 is looking for strong results quickly, because it's an awful lot easier to have a conversation once you have a big group of people listening to you.
While I understand the allure of both sides, I think Rahaf hit it right on when she said, "The internet has a short attention span and a long memory." When your brand puts something out on the Internet that is inauthentic, you tarnish not only your own reputation, but the reputation of social media as a channel for dialogue. The linkbait scandal that hit Money.co.uk, and other instances like it make the jobs of all social media marketers more difficult.
Scamming the system doesn't just hurt the scammer, it hurts the system itself. So while Mitch said in his podcast, "I don't think it's that it's evil or bad or negative. I just think it doesn't have the long term effect that the true value can have in building all of these channels." I think he understated the impact slightly. Evil? No, probably not. Bad? Closer perhaps. Negative? Absolutely. I would argue that anything that impedes quality messages from reaching interested parties is negative.
My philosophy in social media marketing is that if you can't answer all of these questions "Yes", then you probably shouldn't be doing what you're doing:
- Am I speaking with my own voice, sharing my own opinions?
- Am I adding to my brand rather than detracting from it?
- Would I do or say the same things if this were in person instead of online?
- Am I comfortable knowing that this will be permanently recorded and archived in some format or another?
One item I agree on with everyone involved, is that this is a topic that we should all continue to discuss. What are your thoughts on inauthenticity in social media marketing?