Social Media Credibility 101

In yesterday’s article, we tackled the tough topic of social media deception and whether or not fake user information was a fatal flaw in the social media marketing model. Today we are going to tackle an equally interesting phenomena that is frequently overlooked but still just as important…social media honesty and integrity. Credibility is a key concept utilized by informal friends and online associates as much as by business owners and social media management agencies. But what constitutes social media credibility and why would people willingly give up so much personal information? It’s a vital question with immense importance to how and why social media marketing works…or fails to function. Keep reading to discover how to create compelling information that leads to increased credibility both for your own social media presence and that of clients.Social Media Credibility 101

Why Disclose?

One of the very first questions any savvy small business owner would ask is why would anyone disclose so much personal information via a social media site to begin with? While it is true that people sometimes fake certain types of information, the vast majority of people are surprisingly truthful – especially when it comes to creating a social media profile. But why? That is the question explored by a recent study conducted by Weishbuch et al and the results may surprise you!

1. Open Distribution – One obvious reason many social media users tend toward honest disclosure is the open distribution nature of social sharing sites in general. Unlike dating websites or even employment, rental or credit applications, the fact that close family and friends will see the information – and be able to verify or deny the accuracy – is a strong reason to disclose honest facts about yourself. People hate to be publically embarrassed by those little lies and omissions which seem to permeate more private types of communication. Social media profiles make all of that public creating a strong incentive to be truthful and honest.

2. Warrants – No, this isn’t the type issued by law enforcement but rather a social media strategy whereby a business or other marketing and advertising professional is able to correlate or substantiate the credibility of an individual user profile based upon other supporting information. So, let’s use a real life warrant as an example. We have two people that fill out an online marketing survey – both people indicate an interest in adventure sports and travel. Upon closer inspection, one has several photographs of prior travel escapades including bungee jumping and tandem sky-diving along with numerous friends who also participate in adventure sports. The second profile shows no such relations. Now, if you were a small business owner interested in selling adventure travel services which would you prefer to target? Obviously the first person has “warrants” which support the interest in adventure sports. The second person may or may not be lying; it could be that they are a legend in their own mind and no more inclined toward adventure sports than anyone else OR it could be that they are indeed interested but have never actually participated and are waiting for the right time. This brings us to two important points about social media warrants:

a. The lack of a warrant does NOT indicate a falsehood or inconsistency. It only indicates a neutral state.

b. The presence of a warrant tends to support an underlying claim.

3. Co-Creation of Content – One of the unique aspects of social media is the ability of others to assist in the creation of a user “profile”. For instance, family members may send out a relationship request and/or tag photographs of others…information that not only provides useful insight into relationships, prior experiences and other data but helps form a well rounded understanding of the individual. Other identity markers are also subject to co-creation, for example, a local restaurant may give out gift certificates to selected followers…a process which not only identifies the recipient of the gift certificate but also food choices and location. The interactive nature of social media presents a constant opportunity for co-creation which forms a more rounded view of the individual.

Unparalleled Opportunity or Risky Proposition?

Great! So, social media provides a nearly unprecedented opportunity for marketing by allowing a unique insight into the real inner workings of participants. What could be better? As a social media management firm, we are here to tell you that the road is indeed rosy but also subject to major pitfalls especially for the unwary. Why? Well in part, due to several risky propositions that must be handled with the utmost of care in order to avoid major marketing pitfalls.

1. Privacy & Confidentiality – Undoubtedly, the most serious concern facing any social media marketing manager is the need to assure proper privacy and confidentiality…especially in heavily regulated industries such as healthcare.

2. Social Media Segmentation – This is an area where less savvy social media managers often encounter trouble; multiple accounts! Of course we know from previously published data that many people have more than one account; perhaps a business or professional account and a personal one. This type of social media segmentation may lead to erroneous conclusions if not carefully managed! Google+ is an example of how future segmenting will become possible even with multiple online profiles.

3. Amplified & Augmented – The final part of the honesty equation is related to a well known behavioral phenomena which is just now beginning to receive attention from online theorists; the tendency of some people to amplify and augment what others believe to be the facts rather than take control of their own online destiny (and profile). When things are positive, these people tend to become overly positive. When things are negative, they tend to become overly negative. In short, the sway of social media opinion tends to dominate their own self-assessment to the extreme. Why does this matter? Because it may actually interfere with the reliable – but less social – data points used by marketing professionals.

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