With great power comes great responsibility.
If this is your first venture into the digital world, chances are that you have wandered across a number of tools and services that claim to make everything easier.
Such tools offer to
- add thousands of followers to your Twitter account
- make people “like” your Facebook page
- inflate the numbers of people watching your YouTube video
- mystically give you top ranking in Google
While I could go on and on about why you should think twice about using these services, I’ll remind you about a childhood lesson you probably learned already:
If it sounds too good to be true, it probably isn’t.
Just like bad consumer products offered on late night TV or the local state fair, most of us inherently know that certain claims are simply too good to be true.
The first problem with these services is that they fail to educate you on the holistic situation.
The second problem is that they fail to tell you what you don’t know.
The third problem is that they are making money.
I’m not saying making money is a bad thing (I actually like to make money) – but the truth of these services is that we need to keep a clear perspective on what message we are hearing and who we are hearing it from. If someone is making money directly by selling a service, the integrity of the salesman needs to be triple-checked.
We also need to think about other lessons we learned as children: we usually know when people are giving us half-truths.
The claim they make is usually accurate. They will get you thousands of followers or generate enormous traffic to your web site. Yet the core issue that leaves us wondering is the lingering question “what are you not telling me?” (remember, in most companies it is a sales persons job to sell the product, not to educate you.)
Unfortunately tools are just tools;
we need to keep a constant vigil in how we conduct ourselves and how we utilize tools as well.
As with many other things,
social media tools have a light side and a dark side.
The technical features of any social media tool is simply a feature.
Most tools don’t really instruct you on the finer points of morality, ethics, or good business.
They don’t give you wisdom, only the power to affect more than you could previously.
As tools become adopted in certain communities the ‘concept’ of the tool inevitably becomes tainted by the purpose of the community.
- A hammer in the hands of a carpenter can build great things.
- A hammer in the hands of a soldier can cause great harm.
- A hammer in the hands of a judge can symbolize great authority.
It takes experience and insight
to make good decisions
To the common person, choosing between right and wrong in the real world is fairly straight-forward.
In the digital world that is affected by social media tools, the common person is thrust into a wide number of completely new situations that are affected by things they don’t even know about.
The core rules of social media tools
Rule #1 Community Management – social sites make it a #1 priority to safe-guard the interests of the community and the long-term vision of the group. New users entering into the community must understand the fundamental concepts that they community is formed around. Failure to abide by these concepts may cause you to be banished from the community.
Business Management- social communities are not free to run and the organizers need to make money to pay for the tremendous effort it takes to manage. These business models are often created ‘behind the scenes’ and are often based upon the #1 rule of protecting the community interest (while trying to make money abiding by rule #1.) Businesses and organizations that attempt to make money without adhering to rule #1 will most likely be banished.
Competitor Management– the digital world is a very competitive place. Most community networks go through great lengths to prevent competitors from creating social media tools that abuse the core value of the community. Great effort is taken to monitor users, abusive personalities, conflicts of interest, harassment of members, and violations against the core concepts of rule #1.
Trend Management- there are always “surges” in how certain groups of users utilize different features and tools within a community. In a historical perspective these user groups can cause chaotic changes to community management, business management, and competitor management sections. Social communities therefore spend a good amount of effort examining new niches of users and social media tools that are being used in new ways (either good or bad.)
Beware the Dark Side
White Hat to Black Hat
As audiences begin using new tools (trend management), the number of people using any singular social media tool or feature shift dramatically. A few ‘power users’ on any given social community can cause a single button to become wildly popular overnight.
This can can a variety of issues ranging from server crashes and revenue loss, to community angst and spam complaints.
As community managers discover social media tools that are becoming abusive or finding a level of adoption that contaminates to fundamental interests of the community, the community manager is faced with the decision to disable or black-list the offending tools (and or users of that tool.)
Examining White Hat vs Black Hat Marketing in comparison to social media:
In recent years, the terms white hat and black hat have been applied to the Search Engine Optimization (SEO) industry. Black hat SEO tactics such as spamdexing, attempt to redirect search results to particular target pages in a fashion that is against the search engines’ terms of service, whereas white hat methods are generally approved by the search engines. White hats tend to produce results that last a long time, whereas black hats anticipate that their sites may eventually be banned either temporarily or permanently once the search engines discover what they are doing.
White Hat Marketing
White hat marketing applies the White hat SEO techniques, also known as ethical SEO. The white hat marketing implies that all SEO activities are carried out while conforming to the guidelines, rules and policies of search engines. It is an ethical guideline since all site managers abide to the written, as well as unwritten rules and guidelines for SEO.
Black Hat Marketing
Black hat marketing involves SEO activities that are against the norms of search engines. Hence, black hat marketing is unethical. It is difficult for the search engine alone to distinguish when black hat SEO is applied. Competitors can play a role by reporting cases of black hat marketing to the search engines, who will in turn ban or penalise the website. Despite the risk of ban, marketers still can go for black hat marketing because it helps in boosting up the page location in search result.
What does this mean for the end user?
If it sounds too good to be true, it probably isn’t.
Creating a thriving business requires you to make moral, ethical, and wise decisions.
Trying to short-cut reaching a difficult goal by using a social media tool the wrong way is a bad business decision in my opinion.
I encourage everyone to look for opportunity when and where they can find it, but only if that opportunity is something you would be proud of.
My tips to think about how you run your business:
- Think about the people you service.
- Think about the people you make money from.
- Think about the people they know (family, friends, peers, clients)
With those ideas, become a contributing member of the community:
- Take actions that are beneficial to everyone
- Leave greedy decisions to someone else.