A recent article by Mark W. Schaefer on businessesgrow.com entitled Blogging: Writing truthfully under imaginary circumstances dealt with the necessity to portray authenticity and honesty not just in blogging but in all forms of social media interaction. Schaefer asks: “Is anything as it seems? Is anything authentic?” In a world that is becoming increasingly based on an individual’s image as portrayed on social media, with very little relevance to reality, it is difficult to determine what is true and what is sheer imagination.

Racking Up Social Media Frequent Writer Miles

A real world example from the technology social media marketing sphere is in order. Up until a few years ago there was intense, neck in neck competition between the two giants of the mega-billion dollar microprocessor (CPU) manufacturing business: that magical little chip of silicon that makes every digital device between a smartphone and a supercomputer “do its thing.” Intel was always the larger company, but upstart AMD would nip at its heels and often beat it outright. For several years, AMD had bragging rights to the most powerful chips that Intel would struggle to match. Then Intel became ascendant and downright untouchable as AMD fumbled its lead. Up until last year, long time AMD supporters looked to its then-upcoming top of the line Bulldozer microprocessor to return AMD to market leadership. The company’s “face man” on social networks and forums across the cybersphere was Director of Server Product Marketing John Fruehe, who spent an inordinate amount of time jousting with Intel aficionados and racking up an impressive number of social media frequent writer miles.

Erroneous Quotes Become Forum Signatures

Fruehe was a strong advocate of the new Bulldozer architecture, and became the leading source of information on the new CPU in the days leading to its release. The claims that Fruehe was making about the microprocessor were very technically specific, and as the release date for Bulldozer slipped by months, and then years, the social media pressure built up and up with some ardent bloggers stating outright that Fruehe was lying. When Bulldozer was finally released and universally panned as being an overpriced underperformer, Fruehe’s statements came back to haunt him to the point where some frequenters of technology forums have one of his erroneous quotes in their signatures in order to poke fun at the whole corporate double-speak (or outright falsity) issue.

Rogue or C-Suite Plant?

Fruehe has since left AMD, and the jury is out on whether he had been instructed from the C-suite to engage in misinformation or if he was acting on his own. In all fairness there is even the possibility that Fruehe was telling the truth at the time, but the Bulldozer engineers had to scale back the CPU’s performance due to technical difficulties. Regardless of the reason or the chain of command, statements such as “50% more performance” and “higher IPC” ring hollow now that the microprocessor is out in the wild and achieves none of those standards.

Brand Reputation Suffers from Lack of Honesty

Whether the lack of commitment to honesty and authenticity among some social media users can be maintained over the long haul is questionable at best. Truth has a way of wriggling its way to the surface regardless of any efforts to beat it back, and when it does, the reputation of the individual and the entire brand suffers in the eyes of its customer base. It would do social media marketers a world of good, to their branding as well as to their consciences, if everything posted was true. Will such universal commitment to honesty ever become the expected standard in social media?

In the words of country singer Brad Paisley:

I work down at the pizza pit
And I drive an old Hyundai
I still live with my mom and dad
I’m 5’3 and overweight
Online I live in Malibu
I posed for Calvin Klein, I’ve been in GQ
I’m single and I’m rich
And I got a set of six pack abs that’ll blow your mind
I’m so much cooler online