News travels fast on social media. You can just look on Twitter (for me, Tweetie) and instantly be drawn into the ongoing dialogue happening in the world. You can plug into your Facebook’s live feed and know what all your friends are doing, will do, are thinking about, working on, or eating.
This “news” has changed the face of the mainstream media and of course we all know that. However, what we may not yet understand is the demand that has intensified as social media grows and print media diminishes: the quest for authentic.
No more does it bode well for folks to slap up something and call it good. Sure, PR still works, but it’s a different approach. You can’t just leak a story and it follows the same traditional pathways. It goes underground now, seeps into the mindset, sears the consciousness, and then turns on you. No more will readers believe that these politicians write their own books; there is no use saying they do. Thus, Sarah Palin’s ghostwriter was reported early in the process. The game has changed.
However, what may not be registering is that people are determined to find out the hidden news. Climategate is a result of hackers. Discussions about what torture measures were used during the Bush/Cheney years are flying online, ignoring the media’s reporting of them. Google “Barack Obama ghostwriter” and you’ll see hundreds (or thousands) of folks trying to find out if it was Bill Ayres or not. Or not. I read the book and I don’t think it was ghostwritten. Perhaps I’ve been fooled, perhaps not.
But the game has changed significantly. And for the better. Yesterday’s post on Politico.com about Obama’s seven narratives drew fire from the White House and rightly so. All those narratives could be erased in one month’s time, especially if health care passes before the State of the Union address in January. Public perception does not hold still waiting for you to catch up.
So what does this mean for social media strategists?
1. Is your news the real deal? Are you fudging your numbers, your news? Make sure it’s the truth.
2. Find a place to plug it in. What market are you aiming for with your news? Did you just win best blog? Did you just develop a new version of your software? Did you just unveil the new clothing line for winter or spring? Really think about where your market is online. (If you don’t know yet, find out now.)
3. Be prepared to handle the backlash. Your big news won’t follow the same pathway as before. If someone doesn’t like that your blog was named “the best,” they’ll say it. Are you ready for that? If someone finds a bug in your new software version and broadcasts it? Can you deal? If no one likes the new clothing line and starts urging a boycott of your store? Can you handle it?
I think the most important piece of authenticity is the one thing that shows there’s a human being underneath all the branding and PR. I see it all the time on blogs. The minute someone decides to be authentic, they post something that feels like a new layer, as if they peeled back and for the first time, I saw the pulsing life below.