With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility

28 Jun

Although there’s much debate about the origins of the title phrase – could it be SpiderMan, Franklin D. Roosevelt, or even Jesus? Regardless of who uttered those words for the first time (I think Jesus though :), I think it’s more top-of-mind today than ever before. In the ancient land of “old media”, only journalists and book authors could produce content to be read by many. We also couldn’t fathom reading and trusting any piece of content that didn’t come from a reputable source. In this brand new age of “new media”, tables have turned, and now everyone has a microphone. Content creation and social sharing tools allow everyone to become a journalist and an author, and for each message to get amplified with an unprecedented power and speed (provided, of course, that it’s found worth amplifying by the greater community). Because of that, especially if you are someone who is on the forefront of a (fairly) nascent movement, you bear responsibility in helping coin terms and how the mass market understands a particular notion / movement / term.

For example, let’s take Social CRM: however you feel about the term (I explain my take on it and my feelings about the term itself here), it’s starting to gain mainstream acceptance and mindshare. However, Social CRM hasn’t completely jumped the shark to mainstream acceptance, and a lot of questions on this topic still remain among the population of social media practitioners. Because this is a term that’s quickly gaining in popularity, a lot of people see an opportunity to jump in and make a name for themselves using this trend. So they jump in by blogging and tweeting about it every day. Don’t get me wrong — I am all for strengthening your personal brand and associating it with a a topic of expertise. However, labeling each tweet with a #SCRM hashtag, whether related or not, (otherwise known as “riding the hashtag”) is not a good practice. It is downright misleading to those who are new to the topic, who seek to educate themselves by following a hashtag.

An even graver misdeed is repurposing other people’s content without giving any credit to the original writer. Sharing, building on top of what’s already created, collaborating and discussing are undoubtedly tenets of social media. However, passing material as your own, without attribution, is basically plagiarism. Also, pointing people to your own writings without any mention of ¬†other writers’ material, is extremely misleading. Imagine a newcomer to the topic following a hashtag, stumbling onto a Top 10 Articles list, and discovering that they are all from one author. The newbie may think that this person is a true authority and has coined the term. The writer wins as he gains mainstream association with the topic, while the reader loses as he gets misled into thinking that the writer is the authority on the subject. Even if the writer is the true authority on the topic, I really doubt that he / she would not want to give credit to others he / she respects in the filed. Being gracious and generous is also part of being a true visionary.

I urge all of you reading this post, to examine how you promote your content. Do you always make it about you? Do you give proper credit to the ones that came before you? Do you use the hashtag only when appropriate? Do you create Top 10 lists filled with your own articles? Do you drown out others with the sheer volume and frequency of your tweets? Please give others some room to breathe and allow the newbies to learn from a balanced perspective. In the end, you are also hurting your reputation by tooting (or should I say “tweeting”) your horn too loudly.