This is the second installment of a series of posts in which I will present the 10 Principles of the #Social Survival Manifesto for your comments. Discussed here will be the second Principle, the hard-to-swallow realization that corporate power and profits do not confer greater respect and deference from peers on social media.
On a surface level, the content of this Principle is rather matter of fact. Social media is a network of many millions of peers, from the rich and famous to the stay-at-home pundits and sharers of kitten videos. And yet, according to the culture and very DNA of networked society, when a corporation or institution steps into the fray, it is but one among many, yet another peer with the same rights, but not more rights, than others.
And here’s the rub. Not only is equal speaking time the law of the land but the unwritten etiquette of all social media interactions greatly rewards humility and listening to others, whether the others are VIPs or couch commentators. Behaving like just one of the gang helps reputation and builds goodwill, while bullying, arrogance and condescension are given a collective thumbs down.
Now, in a comfortable and reflective space, most decisions makers would read this, consider and agree. When real interactions between a company and clients, critics and haters start to take place, however, putting this Principle into practice becomes a lot more difficult.
How many times have I seen angry execs chafe at the limits to their power that social media seems to impose? When things heat up on social media and corporate reputation is on the line, many leaders default to their typical corporate defense arsenal which most often involves lawsuits, the banning of users and the shutdown of online spaces. In some cases, I have even witnessed discussions of (ill advised) plans to create armies of fake users to ‘fight back’ against citizens and online activists!
The problem and great danger with the above is that it will invariably backfire online. Why? Because the corporation or institution violates the peer to peer nature of social media by using weapons that betray its clumsy power and sense of entitlement. This leads to the David vs. Goliath dynamic, which invariably favors the weaker opponent and mobilizes online communities against the big bad giant. This was the case with Nestle vs. Greenpeace on the palm oil issue, which I briefly covered here.
To sum up my editorial on this Principle, humility is a tactical necessity online and the old ways of shutting down opponents and affirming power simply do not work anymore in a networked environment.
Principle for Survival #2:
FACE IT, YOU ARE OUTNUMBERED
Social media is a peer to peer environment and your outfit, no matter how many employees it has, or how great its brand equity, will be treated and judged as a common mortal.
Your peers online, though everyday people to you, realize that they have the numbers and therefore the power, to hurt you if you do not humbly accept your role in this pecking order.
This means that you must stop behaving like the behemoth that you are, and take on the modesty of respecting every single account that interacts with you.
Sorry, that’s just the way it is.
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