In an earlier post we began discussing how to validate social media measurement. And there has been some great ideas starting to be passed around. This is definitely an area to delve into further. So, look for more posts on that in the future. It may even be profitable. And it could get contentious as Razorfish just filed a patent on their action tag looking to "own" a big chunk of this space.
But what about trust? What about authenticity? How do we measure that? Certainly there are tribal rules to follow, and many have commented that trust is largely emotional. Scott Henderson commented in his blog on Chris Brogan and why this Kmart moment matters, that trust is the most important currency in any economy. This may be true, but I also see "Caveat Emptor" or "Buyer Beware" still dominate our economy here.
(This is the Chris Brogan piece in mention if you haven't seen this elsewhere.)
But the crux of this, really, is that trust may not be measurable in the sense of hard numbers, but it certainly can be attributed to the piggy-bank theory of deposits and withdrawals. But why the huge withdrawal on something that makes little sense? I guess that's the emotional part of this. But really, is this so far from what happens everyday?
There are very few things that are devoid of ulterior motives. Let's start with Rudolph. (And not because a school is banning it from their holiday program, but because he's such an entrenched part of the social fabric of Christmas. (And it's that time of year) Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer was created by Robert L. May in 1939 as part of his employment with Montgomery Ward. It was an advertising promotion. Soap Operas were created by soap manufacturers to bring attention to their products. And on and on.
Let's look at some modern-day examples. Coke puts their brand up on the judges table in American Idol. Is there really Coke in there? ....... Paula? Extreme Home Makeover uses an extensive list of sponsors to donate to the homes they build. 30 Rock made fun of this practice with their bit on Verizon.
Are the judges less apt to comment on performers? (don't answer that) Is Extreme Home Makeover less credible because they sell advertising and sponsorships? And if so, how many withdrawals do you hit their piggy bank with after building so many homes for so many needy people? Are the homes any less meaningful to the recipients? Is 30 Rock any less funny? Are you less entertained?
The problem here is that social media is walking a fine line. It can't exist without funding. Someone has to build the tools that we all use everyday. Without funding, the tools aren't created, and we don't have a platform to communicate with. Social Media is probably the first thing that did not start out as an advertising platform first. It started out "pure," and there are those that will defend that. But how long can it last? Or, rather, how many deposits do the players in social media's piggy bank have in it?
In an earlier post on PR 3.0, Dennis Howlett asked why does it have to be a message and not a conversation? My reply was that it can be a conversation. It is a conversation. But someone is always looking to get something out of that conversation. The example I used was "having a conversation with my boss to ask for a raise." People have used the "cocktail party theory" to explain how to navigate through social media's murky etiquette waters. If we go that route, I would say that the reason people go to cocktail parties is to network. They network to get exposure. They want exposure to be called upon for the next business opportunity. But let's add one more point here. They are usually looking for the business opportunity to make money to maintain a family. So are they less credible for having a financial motive to being socially witty, funny, and a great person to have a drink with?
The examples roll on and on. PR is the "credible" way to get "earned" media and they are not immune to this either. Follow that chain, the article in the paper was influenced, most likely, by a PR person. That PR person is paid a salary to do this. So is what they pitch for a client flawed because it's just for a salary? For money?
Let's tie these together. Back to Scott Henderson, he states that personal reputations are more important than corporate brands, and that your character defines your reputation. I believe in personal reputation, but how many blog posts are out there on building your "personal brand?" That's the difference here.
Social media is building brands, but it allows individuals to be those brands.
And why do people build those personal brands painstakingly? Most likely, to be seen as an expert and be visible for the next business opportunity. And that's OK. I believe that the more sophisticated and successful players understand the medium and will not abuse it. I also believe they can tell the difference between sponsorship and credible dialogue. Especially when the money isn't even for them in the first place. And even more so when they are transparent about their relationships and motives.
Izea may not have completely fine-tuned this yet. But I believe Chris Brogan (and others) have enough deposits in their piggy banks to bring the ideas to the table with companies like Izea and make the monetization piece of social media more palatable for the masses so that we can keep social media about authenticity and trust. Donating the toys to worthy causes certainly doesn't hurt!
Who knows, perhaps they'll create the next Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer? (It has to be better than flame-broiled meat body spray!)
More to come...