Wasn’t the night of August 27th amazing?! It was just as spectacular as the email promised. And to think, “NO ONE ALIVE TODAY WILL EVER SEE THIS AGAIN!” If you’re like the bazillions of people who received the email spam that miraculously claimed that Mars would appear equal in size to the Moon Friday night, then you know what I’m talking about. Hopefully, you trashed it along with the other piles of digital flotsam surging through the Inboxes of the world. If you believed it, I’ll spare you the Barnum-esque lecture. But, what I DO want to take a moment to point out is the demonstration this provides about the undeniable power of social media.
I’ve had that email cross my path (either directly, or anecdotally through friends and colleagues) about five times in the past month. The people that forwarded it to me each wrote a little preface recommendation, of sorts, that pointed out how interested I certainly would be (being a sci-fi freak and all.) But my friend’s experience was more telling. When my friend replied to his mother (who had forwarded the email to him) indicating that the email was a well-known hoax, his mother said, somewhat incredulous and defiant, “Well, your Uncle Roger forwarded it to me, so it must be true.” And therein lies the power for good and evil that word-of-mouth marketing possesses.
Social media marketing is a trust game
We are naturally inclined to believe our friends and family (most of them, anyway.) We like to believe that it’s one of the certainties in an uncertain world…that we can always trust those we know. It’s that inherent trust that has paved the way for email viruses and phishing attacks that take advantage of us by hijacking (or simulating) known email addresses. We are vulnerable when our walls our down. Subject to being exploited. And technology marketers must confront the same demons. We’ve heard the story of fake product reviews written by paid company employees. Sponsored tweet services walk the thin line between paid advertising and genuine advocacy. Despite the broadcasted tenets of social media — transparency and authenticity — we are still bound to see widespread abuses that will most certainly fuel a backlash.
In a rapidly emerging world of social selling and the Facebook Open Graph, we are going to be more susceptible to being spoofed. Our friends stand to be all around us on the Web…providing advice, recommendations…”standing with us” in the virtual checkout line. If done right — if our digital systems and social mores uphold transparency, privacy and honesty — all the promise of social media marketing can come to fruition, to the unprecedented benefit of marketers and consumers alike. If marketers and miscreants abuse our trust, the rejection of social media will be as blinding as two moons in the nighttime sky.