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Trust and Integrity key to your partipation in Social Media

November 7, 2009

communityMany of my friends know that I have been struggling with maintaining a healthy weight for several years now. I am a strong believer in the motivational qualities of communities. That’s why the concept of Weight Watchers (WW) meetings where you interact with other members is very appealing to me. I am a lifetime member (meaning I successfully lost weight with WW in the past) and go to meetings every week at my local WW center. I find these meetings very helpful in motivating me to stay on track in terms of healthy eating and exercise and I depend on member interaction to get me energized and ready for next week. Today’s meeting was no exception. In addition to my weekly dosage of encouragement I also got a valuable lesson in staying true to myself and my believes.

Let me explain. We all go to Weight Watchers to be inspired by other members’ weight journeys. That’s why when somebody shows up in a meeting visibly overweight and starts talking about their exemplary ways to run their household kitchen, avoid temptations and how they figured out the secret behind teaching kids to eat healthy … well, I am sorry, but it sounds more like a pitch and not an honest account of their weight loss journey. We may be coming to Weight Watchers to get inspired and find solutions , but we are quite skilled at figuring out who is … well, just full of it.

Does this incident have to do with your participation in Social Media? I think it does, particularly for those of you who participate in online communities on behalf of your employers. In order to become a valuable member of a community, Weight Watchers, an online community or any other kind, you must be true to yourself and to other community members regardless of who you work for. Chris Brogan and Julien Smith describe this scenario very well in their book “Trust Agents.” They use the example of Robert Scoble who, while working at Microsoft, gained the respect and trust of his social media community by being honest and transparent with his product recommendations without favoring his employer’s products and by recommending products of Microsoft’s competitors if he thought they were superior. Am I advocating that you go ahead and bad-mouth your employer in social spaces? Absolutely not and neither did Scoble! But keep in mind, your relationships in Social Media are based on trust and once you position yourself as a poster child for your company’s products you lose that trust and become an outsider rather than what Brogan and Smith refer to as being “one of us,” aka somebody who is truthful to his/her beliefs and will not put their company interests above the well-being of the community they participate in.

Am I going to return to Weight Watchers next week despite this week’s lack of trust-worthiness? Absolutely. There are plenty of people I continue to trust, can relate to and most importantly rely on for help and encouragement every time I go there. There is great value in this community for me and as long as I contribute by giving a true account of my weigh loss journey, others will find value in that.

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