On the Internet, nobody knows you’re a dog. A classic cartoon, I know, but also a sad truth about a number of our interactions in cyberspace. In particular, I’m thinking about Facebook, and a number of other social media apps out there which do very little proactively to prevent the type of crap about which I wrote yesterday.I’m sure you’ve read reports of fake Shaq on Twitter and seen fake celebrity personas around MySpace. Those are accompanied by fake “official” pages from companies, sports teams, and other groups. These fake groups gather names and other data. They then also have the ability to send out “updates” even though that’s often spam. It doesn’t take long before fans do one of several things, one of which often is to unsubscribe, never to rejoin a subsequent real group.
What a shame. I’m a big fan of holding user conversations through social media. When done well, they can be valuable generators of fan loyalty and help a business keep on top of fan concerns. So here is my question.
Why can’t Facebook and other social media set up some sort of a program whereby groups are certified as official? It’s not that hard – a simple online form, an email address from the appropriate domain, and verifiable contact information at the organization or company is pretty much it. You may not remember but Facebook used to require something like that even to join – one had to be a student and have a .edu email address. Once certified, issue these groups some sort of a badge and/or place them in a separate directory of real groups.
I’m not saying any social media should discourage fan groups. I am saying that they should have some sort of controls in place to prevent the hijacking of brand reputations. I know they’ll shut down a misrepresenting group but often that occurs after the damage is done, as we saw yesterday.