Anthony Bradley

A member of the Gartner Blog Network

Anthony J. Bradley
GVP
3 years at Gartner
19 years in IT

Anthony J. Bradley is a group vice president in Gartner Research, managing teams that cover business process management, project and portfolio management, enterprise architecture, IT procurement, IT sourcing, and vendor management. Read Full Bio

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Do You Have the Stomach for Social Media?

by Anthony J. Bradley  |  January 4, 2010  |  5 Comments

Came across this interesting article in the WSJ “Jillian Michaels on the Danger of Social Media.” She is the fitness guru of “The Biggest Loser” show in Australia. Apparently, her fame and fortune is skyrocketing.

The article states, “Ms. Michaels cites an incident in which someone asked her a question about caffeine via social media to which she responded with some of the health benefits of caffeine. She soon received a phone call from an unnamed company she’s working with on her supplement line, who said they’d need to consult an attorney; Ms. Michaels now limits her status updates on Twitter and Facebook to statements that won’t ruffle lawyers.”

Bad move. She may not have the stomach for social media. Bending your persona to appeal to sponsors at the expense of being “true to the community” is a recipe for eventual backlash and subsequent obscurity. If the community senses (and they will eventually) that you are a lackey for “the man” then you will lose them, and fast.  Are there health benefits to caffeine? If so, should she withhold or evade providing that information because it may conflict with the interests of a sponsor. This really isn’t a tough question. Always choose to be “true to the community” over supporting the interests of a sponsor. Even though money comes from a sponsor. The power comes from the community. Without the community there is no power to attract sponsors. Think of it this way:

  • If you lose a sponsor but keep the community, you will get another sponsor.
  • If you keep the sponsor but then lose the community, you will lose all sponsors (including the one you tried to keep)

The same philosophy applies to all social media implementations. Being “true to the community” is paramount. Here are some similar scenarios where community participation is at risk.

  • If employees feel that the community is simply a way for managers to push their message and feign bottom up participation
  • If an enterprise is insincere in gathering customer feedback by eliminating (or otherwise inhibiting) negative comments
  • If content contributors feel their content is unjustifiably suppressed because it conflicts with the leadership’s preferred position

This article seems to be saying, be careful what you say or your sponsors may get upset (or even legal) with you. I think this is the wrong message. I’m not saying don’t be careful in what you say. I’m saying be more careful that what you say doesn’t compromise your integrity in supporting the best interests of the community. If you (or your enterprise) can’t be “true to the community” then you don’t have the stomach for social media and you should work on your digestive track prior to engaging the community. Or at least choose an area where engagement has a minimal chance of nausea :-) I’ll halt the analogy here.  

As an aside, to those of you out there who are famous, make sure that your legal contracts reflect this “trueness to the community.” Unlike times past, with the aid of social media technologies, the community will sniff out and expose any perceived deception.

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