Tuesday, November 15, 2011

On the Internet, everyone knows you're a dog.

"Mark. It's me. Your past.
The guys can't believe what
I'm telling them about you.
C'mon in and take a bow!"
I don’t often agree with Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg. I haven’t really liked anything he’s done since Zombieland. But I think he and his mom nailed it on Charlie Rose last week.

Together they explained what the Republican crash-test candidates are learning with each repost of their various brain-freeze suicides: The Internet knows exactly who you are, and it's talking behind your back.
Sheryl Sandberg, chief operating officer at Facebook and Mark's legal guardian, best summed up the evolution of the Internet from the "information web" (i.e. Google) to the "social web" (a.k.a. Facebook) with this simple statement: “It’s the wisdom of the crowds to the wisdom of friends.”
And how will we realize this Internet nirvana? "The social web can’t exist until you are your real self online," she said. And she's right.

Unfortunately, a whole heck of a lot of us are in no rush to be our real selves online. Just ask Herman Cain. Or Jerry Sandusky. But we may have no choice, because Mark Zuckerberg--Mr. Life-of-the-Party himself--will be damned if he's going to let us sit alone in our rooms pretending to be lesbian bloggers from Syria any longer. No, from now on we're all going to share our movies and books and songs and recipes and God knows what else with our friends, family, clients, and stalkers, whether we like it or not.

His motives seem pure. He just wants us to be happy, right? "If you think about it," he said, "in your own life, with all the things you do ... how many of the things that you do are better when you're doing them with other people or friends? Probably a lot."

Michael Cera (right) resembles Facebook
billionaire Mark Zuckerberg (left)
only slightly. But his performance
had us believing he was the Mighty Zuck.

Well, I saw The Social Network, starring that kid from Arrested Development, and I can attest that the only person in America who enjoys the company of others less than I do is Mark Zukerberg. So I'm thinking the whole social network thing might actually be about making money somehow.

Leading by Example
I have to give credit to both Mark and Sheryl for walking the talk by being their "real selves" with Charlie Rose.

Throughout the interview, Mark assumed the role of that goofy, whiz-kid billionaire next door, while she played the doting and slightly overprotective momma bear. And I'm pretty sure they weren't acting. The following verbatim exchanges do not do justice to the actual video.

Sheryl: When caller ID was rolled out, and I'm actually old enough to remember this, unlike my friend over here --
Mark: No, I had caller ID.

"He says he remembers before caller ID."
"Yeah, yeah. It was so weird. You would,
like, not even know who was calling 
you until you answered the phone."
Sheryl: Do you remember before caller ID?
Mark: Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Sheryl: Oh, that's good. Normally --
Charlie Rose: But you don't remember before caller ID. That's the point --
Sheryl: No, he says he does.

Charlie: Has the Groupon experience ... changed your sense of timing of an IPO?
Mark: I don't -- I don't think so.
Sheryl: Not really.
Mark: No.
Rose: When will you decide?
Sheryl: When we're ready.
Mark: Yeah.

Charlie [to Mark]: Did you have a belief in a certain culture when you were building this company, that this is the kind of place I want to work?
Sheryl: Well, he's never worked anywhere else.

The sad truth is Sheryl and Mark are right. We have evolved from the monolithic monologues of the Big Three TV networks to the anonymous information playground of Google. And now we are hurtling toward the no-shower-curtain world of The Social Network.

(Mark, the big three networks controlled communication in the days before caller ID. They decided what we watched, when we watched it, and what was deemed newsworthy. Then you killed them.)

This has staggering implications for everyone in PR. You may not be able to change your client's past, but you damn well better urge them to control their future. If you don't want to see it on Drudge, don't put it in print. Don't email it. Don't tweet it. Don't say it. Don't gossip about it. Don't do it. 

Conversely, The Social Network provides an ideal platform for a person, product, campaign, service that is honest, transparent and needed by your target audience. Truth sells in The Social Media. It also kills. Proceed cautiously.

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