How Social Media Shapes the Truth

I still have a number of clients who pooh-pooh social media, especially those who are frequent targets on Twitter, Facebook or the blogs.

The standard rebuttal: “They’re just a handful of people making noise, and they don’t represent what our customers really think.”

Many times, that’s true. But what I’ve tried to explain—typically unsuccessfully—is that the truth doesn’t matter. Because a growing number of people are going to believe it any way.

Thanks to NYU New Media Professor Clay Shirky, I finally have a term to give my argument gravitas—“Algorithmic Authority,” which Shirky defines as:

The decision to regard as authoritative an unmanaged process of extracting value from diverse, untrustworthy sources, without any human standing beside the result saying “Trust this because you trust me.”

You really should read Skirky’s blog, or the précis in The New York Times this AM, but here’s the take-away for marketers: The truth is being defined, increasingly, by the messages of others, not your own. Stop fighting social media, and enlist it as an ally. 

Photo by emdot on, (cc) some rights reserved.