Social Media is like Dough

January 31, 2010 / Opinion, Social Media / 12 Comments

Last night, I attended an interesting session at Hackerspace Singapore with other PR people and bloggers to better understand each other and the social media landscape in Singapore.

Although no world-changing ideas came out of it, I think everyone learned something. For me, it’s that social media is like dough. It is what you make of it. You have the choice to mold it into anything you want with any ingredients you like. How successful you are depends on how much your audience appreciates the outcome – just like your reputation amongst your friends. In a way, social media is a virtual extension of your social network.

Social Media and Corporate Culture

As a PR person, I had a different takeaway. The PR people disagreed with each other on certain points, and I think that’s a good thing. It means there’s diversity in the field, but more importantly it supported one of my suspicions.

Now I’m no social media veteran or expert since I’ve only be actively doing into this stuff for a year. As a newbie, I did notice from various social media blogs, books and events that some social media practitioners have a tendency to share a set of guidelines on social media best practices like being more engaging, being more transparent or being more authentic, for example.

This past year, I’ve learned that social media for companies isn’t just about best practices and emulating what the successful early adopters are doing. It’s about tailoring social media to corporate culture and the brand’s personality. Generating buzz for a health campaign is very different from generating buzz for a service provider. And while some brands could use all the buzz they can find, others are naturally buzz-generating. It’s not possible to expect all brands to be more transparent or more open because these traits may not be part of the corporate personality. Or worse, it may be in direct conflict to the corporate personality. And just because a brand’s not open doesn’t mean their doing bad job in the social media space. Think Apple, for example.

Social media is simply another social sphere for companies and individuals to establish their reputation in – so complementing a company’s social media actions with its personality is probably more effective than blindly following a set of best practices.

The Rise and Fall of the Bloggers’ Voice

As a blogger, this growing trend of blog monetization concerns me. I’m not talking about the bloggers who balance their original content with paid content – especially when they are endorsing brands they care about. Getting paid for one’s passion should be celebrated.

I’m talking about bloggers who make it their sole goal to be paid for blogging, and pander to every brand willing to pay them out there. At that point, they are compromising their credibility and integrity for money. Let me put this in another way:

Is your credibility only worth $200?

Okay, granted $200 is a lot of money for certain people. Or perhaps money is more important to them than airy virtues like honesty, credibility and integrity. But for me, these abstract virtues are far more important.

Here’s why: I started out blogging before the word “blogging” was invented. I kept a journal on a Geocities site back in 1996, where every entry had to be painstakingly coded in HTML. Prior to the Internet, only large organizations, newspapers and authors good enough to be published had voices. The fact that the ordinary man could have a voice was revolutionary.

And now, to be paid by these same organizations to compromise our voice seems like we’re going one step backwards.

So this is how I shaped my dough. I started out blogging because I can – and I don’t think I’ve strayed far.

How have you molded your dough?