Social Media and The Threat of Assumption on Our Brands
Today I made a phone call that I have wanted to make for about a year. I called a blogger whom I had been a total jerk to, and whom I had hurt with my words, and apologized. I took full responsibility for my words and my actions, acknowledged how they didn’t deserve to be treated that way and most certainly did not deserve for me to treat them that way. I wasn’t expecting that they would accept my apology, much less that they would ask that we continue our friendship, but I was fortunate in getting both.
For me, acknowledging my bad behavior and wrong doing was essential in my journey to being a better person in life. I am OK with having people disagree with me, see me as someone who has strong opinions that they might not agree with, and even be a bit too much for them due to my strong personality. But what I never want to be remembered as or thought as is as someone who is cruel. That’s not to say that I will please everyone. There are people out there who will still see me as a jerk, and they might even be right. But when I can and where I feel I’ve behaved poorly, I have the responsibility to make it right.
What does all this have to do with social media and the threat of assumption on our brands?
Well, though my actions were more personal than they were professional, what motivated my bad behavior in the first place was my allowing myself to be influenced by gossip and comments from other people who 1) didn’t know the person that I did and 2) were more than happy to spread rumors based on assumptions that had nothing to do with our relationship. The reason it was so easy to be influenced was because our relationship was still new…and I was still learning myself. Don’t get me wrong, I take full responsibility for my actions, but allowing myself to get caught up in what others said, as opposed to giving us the chance to get to know each other, was an epic failure on our friendship and on my character.
I see this all the time in the business of blogging. I hear things about people whom I respect, brands whom I’ve gotten to know both on a professional and more personal level, and on issues where information and details are privy to only those closely involved. Often times exclusion, insecurities, ego, entitlement, and/or jealousy are the culprit. That feeling of being left out, or being overlook, of not being a part of something, tends to bring the worst in people.
One tidbit of information, whether true or not, can be used in efforts to enrage, discredit, devalue, or distract from a greater good.
My friend, and I am incredibly fortunate to still call them that, accepted my apology and our continued friendship. But you might not be so lucky when it comes to your work. When I think about the percentage of jobs I have gotten from recommendations of others, as opposed to statistics, awards, or online popularity, I am reminded of how important how we behave online, who we associate with, and how we express ourselves is.
The truth is that nothing in social media is ever really a secret, not even in secret groups or private chat rooms. People/businesses/brands may not comment or react, but we are all watching. And social media, because it’s so social, is all about word of mouth, forming partnerships and building relationships with people whom you can trust, whom you consider to be fair, and who have the strength of character. More and more these are the things that influence the decisions of whether brands will work with you and bloggers will refer you.
I am one of very strong opinions, and I am sure that at one point or another I have managed to turn someone off or miss an opportunity because of it. But as a professional, it is also in my best interest to be careful in how I approach information. If I am truly concerned or annoyed, I go straight to the source – or at least have learned to – before publicly expressing my opinion.
On a personal note, my actions with my friend hurt me deeply. I was ashamed and angry. I don’t know what I lost in allowing myself to get caught up in gossip, misrepresentation, and assumptions, but knowing this person, I believe I missed out on a lot.
As entrepreneurs and members of the social media community in general, we have to remember that our actions and words do more than hurt others, they can negatively impact our long-term goals and potential prospects. So before you speak up and speak out, if you must, then let it be on something you are truly informed about, and not assumptions based on half-truths. Because when it comes to your reputation and professional bottom line, you might not always get a second chance.