I've been doing an experiment recently. A few years ago, I decided to be 100% transparent about my personal political, spiritual, and other beliefs on my Facebook page. That wasn't the experiment… that was just me being me. My point wasn't to offend others; it was simply to be truly transparent. After all, that's what social media professionals keep telling us, right? They keep saying that social media offers this incredible opportunity to connect with one another and be transparent.
My experiment started a few weeks ago. I stopped posting any controversial posts on my Facebook page and just stuck to discussing those topics when other people brought it up on their pages. This is anecdotal, but the experiment resulted in me coming to three conclusions:
- I'm more popular when I shut up and keep my opinions to myself. That's right, people don't want to know me or want me to be transparent, they just want the persona. This includes my friends, my family, other companies, other colleagues… everyone. They've been interacting with my posts more the less controversial they are. No wonder why cat videos rule the Internet.
- Most social media consultants lack any insight into their personal lives, problems, beliefs, and controversial issues online. Don't believe me? Go to your favorite social media guru's personal Facebook page and look for anything controversial. I don't mean jumping on public bandwagons – which they often do – I mean taking a stance against the status quo.
- Most social media consultants despise respectful debate. The next time that your favorite social media professional who did a speech or wrote a book on transparency jumps on the bandwagon, and you disagree with them… state so on their Facebook page. They hate it. No less than 3 times have I been asked by a colleague to get off their page and take my opinion somewhere else. Others unfollowed and unfriended me when they discovered I had opposing beliefs.
Don't get me wrong, I'm passionate. I love a great debate and I don't pull my punches. Social media tends to lean in one direction while I often lean in the other direction on many controversial topics. I don't disagree with people just to disagree – I'm simply trying to be honest and transparent about my personal beliefs. And I do my utmost to remain factual and impersonal… although I don't hold back on sarcasm.
You often hear online and in the media, we need an honest conversation. Bogus… most people don't want honesty, they just want you to jump on their bandwagon. They'll like you, share your updates, and buy from you when they figure out that you agree with them. The truth about social media is:
You can't handle the truth.
I even had one keynote speaker come up to me at a national event, give me a bear hug, and tell me that he loves the stand that I take on topics online… he just can't say so publicly. He's never liked nor shared any opinion or article I've shared on my Facebook page although he follows me. I don't want to put words in his mouth, but that basically tells me that his online persona is phony, carefully sculpted to ensure its popularity while not putting his paychecks at risk.
So I can't help but wonder. What else do these people say online that are simply crafted to be popular, and not necessarily to be the truth? As we deploy social media strategies for our clients, we often find that what's popular never has quite the impact as what's edgy.
Here's some transparency and honesty for you – most social media professionals are liars and should just admit it. They should toss out their BS advice about transparency and tell companies that, if they wish to maximize reach and acceptance, they should avoid controversy, jump on the popularity bandwagon, craft a phony persona… and watch the profits grow. In other words – follow their lead and lie.
After all… who cares about integrity and honesty when there's money to be made.