Forrester analyst Jeremiah Owyang has started a new series called Social Media Frequently Asked Questions. The second in the series asks, "What does it mean to be authentic, transparent, or human?" That's within the context of social media, of course.
It's a good question, and not unlike questions Pete Blackshaw is asking of his CGM Facebook group friends. The group has reached the 500 mark and Pete wants to know if he's reached the "tipping point" and is he's making a "mockery of relationships." (He's asking the question on his blog as well.)
The two questions are not that disparate. In fact, they're both looking at the same elephant, but from different vantage points.
Let's face it. Those of us who consider ourselves social media marketers are still really trying to figure out how to make this work, or even if it does. Experts like Owyang and Blackshaw are certainly steps ahead of many of the rest of us (me, at least), but, like the rest of us, they are still students.
The questions that this student (moi) is asking are:
- What are the differences between personal relationships such as I describe in my Megatrends post and digital relationships? Differences obviously exist, but how can they best be described?
- Is the term "friend" applicable as it applies to digital relationships? For example, we don't "befriend" people in Facebook, et al, we "friend" them. I mean, there are several people that, in the offline world, I would call acquaintances. Isn't that the more applicable term online as well?
- Do multiple connections with a given individual indicate a stronger relationship has formed?
Truly, I have more questions than answers at this point, but let me share with you what I shared with Jeremiah and Pete respectively in response to their questions.
What it means to be human within the social media context...
Is 500 too many...
I think you've summed it up pretty well from the standpoint of building a business case for the need to be authentic, etc. From a personal perspective, it's simply telling the truth even when it hurts.
There is a great example that has implications for business â€" the famous discourse of the Skin Horse from the children's book "The Velveteen Rabbit" where he talks about being real.
Being real is admitting that you don't have all the answers or things neatly tied up in a bow. You are willing to show your rough spots... you have nothing to hide. It's basic honesty, which I believe breeds trust and credibility.
Authenticity and transparency were the twin bedrocks of business blogging. I hope those qualities extend to all of our interactions in social media as well.
All good questions. I'm just wondering if you're asking the right people. Perhaps these questions would be better directed at Facebook veterans, the college-aged crowd who've been using FB as a medium of connection for years.
Personally, I think to not seek their opinion is to overlook a valuable demographic. (And I hate using that word in this context.)
I'll try to get around to answering your questions myself. I'll need to speak with my 22 yo college son first. :-)
What questions are you asking? What answers do you have for these? Feel free to leave a comment.
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