The Perpetual Lie: When your Online Persona Precedes the Real You


I believe all humans were created with a reasonable sense of integrity. We are on this earth to do good, right? But along the way, we were misguided. Our egos got the better of us and we lost our way.

The real life that we lead can be easily masked, however. We have the haven of online to safeguard who we really are.

Integrity and Fakery: Are Some People Invincible?

I’ve witnessed this on more than one occasion. In my specific circumstance, I have followed people online who seemed reputable, who had the perception of being the epitome of integrity.

I felt honoured to be in the company of such people, who have built a loyal following because of their magnetic words of wisdom, how inspirational they are, as well as through the hypnotic, emotion-laden stories they share.

I, too, have been taken in by these masters.

One person in particular, in my eyes, could do no wrong. When we connected, I felt lucky she made the time to talk. She had been on a pedestal in my mind for many years, as well as in the minds of her many loyal followers. This gal had integrity!

But the community wasn’t privy to the relationship that I was building with this amazing person. No, this wasn’t a Jim Jones cult (although it does eerily feel like I was programmed).

I brought this person into my life and we became fast friends. It took some time, but I started really figuring out this individual. The persona that had been so carefully crafted was slowly crumbling before my eyes. She didn’t reveal herself readily, but nuances of the real person came out.

The person who she claimed to be — the persona the world knew — wasn’t the person who sat before me. She was a sham. She was a hypocrite. And I had been fooled. Shame on me.

Reputation is Absolutely Everything

We carefully shape the way we want to be perceived. There are those among us who are calculated in the way they approach situations and people, always mindful of how others will react, and how they will be judged.

When I met people who know (knew) of my affiliation, they couldn’t believe how “lucky” I was to be in the company of such a great individual. How little they know. And how desperately I wanted to shout, “You have no idea!”

In real life, we falter. My mother says all she has to do is look into my eyes to see the window to my soul, and when she does, I know I’ve been found out. I can’t hide the truth. My actions speak louder than words.

Online, Somehow, Seems So Much Safer

For those who have built their reputation online and have carefully honed it to perfection, the online space is a safe haven. The words on their blogs hide their true selves.

Words can easily manipulate and influence the human spirit. We cannot see the eyes of deceit as these words are carefully crafted on the keyboard.

And so we continue to believe the lie.

However, this “keyboard” that unites individuals across the social space cannot – and will not – ever be substituted for face-to-face contact.+

I’ve come to believe that.

Hypocrisy is Perpetuated by the Community

When I opened my eyes to the truth, it didn’t seem real that I, alone, could have discovered this false integrity.+

The reality is, there are so many instances of people portraying false personas of themselves.

They continue to walk among us. We can easily point them out. But we don’t. I wonder why.

And there are many naive individuals who buy into these falsehoods.

They follow in droves and they are the very ones to come to the defence of these manipulators again and again – because they’ve been programmed.

Perhaps Online is the ONLY Place to Hide

I’ve come to believe that those who exist mainly online, are there for a reason.

The fairy tale they’ve built around them is enough to properly shield them from the reality of who they actually are.

If there is disparity between who you are online and offline then there is something very wrong.

As much as I believe in transparency, I also believe we do not have to fully disclose every part of our being to the world.+

But, at the very least, have some integrity. Be true to who you really are.

I’ve become more pragmatic these days. I live online but I also have a balanced and healthy life outside of the Internet.

It’s what keeps me real and keeps me grounded.

These days, I’m not as easily fooled by gurus and online pundits. Because sadly, I’ve learned the hard way to be more judgmental of my online relationships.

I’ve come to believe in the value of meeting people in person. And the value of a gut check. It tends to go a long way towards revealing the truth.

This article was originally posted on

photo credit: Rickydavid via photopin cc

My Next Journey: ArCompany


Almost four months ago, I came to a cross-roads in my career.

Having just left yet another start-up that had tons of promise but eventually began to show signs of waning, it was pretty evident that the frustration I had encountered in the last 7 years in the social media business was coming to a head.

I didn’t understand why companies didn’t get it. I didn’t understand why companies were treating social media as merely a campaign channel and nothing more. I didn’t understand why companies were ok with complacency and didn’t feel the urgency to change their ways.

Social media has proven that it’s a medium that’s not going away. Its prevalence has paved the way for pundits’ warning of the inevitable death of marketing.

Today, it’s not a do or die situation, but soon it will be. When I decided to blaze my own path, I sat down to figure out what I wanted to do. Below is a “letter to myself”.

I owe a lot to my trip to Dachis’ Social Business Summit in NY. My time there contributed greatly to this journey. It was also part soul-searching, part anger and sheer will that ArCompany came to be.

As I write this it’s becoming much clearer as to why I need to venture down this path.

Operationalizing social is going to be an inevitable reality. And the more I speak to people the more I realize that it may not necessarily be a hard sell after all.

The concept itself is harrowing but many companies may have already gone down the road of implementing it in one form or another.

What are the drivers of this eventuality of Social Business?

  • An unstable world economy that results in business flux and move towards developing efficiencies. This, in turn, affects the job market and the resource constraints that are put upon businesses.
  • Product saturation/abundance was bourne in an age of mass production and mass communication. These days, the opposite is true. Enter Mass customization that’s given rise to increased customer service.
  • Technology has also splintered communications which has changed from a one-way to two-way channel. Up until just over a decade ago, the voice of the consumer was but a whisper. Nowadays it’s being heard loud and clear.
  • In the past, the value between a company and its customers was based on transaction history. A true value has emerged that includes customer relationships and behaviours outside of the organization and provides him/her with a stronger voice that the company must heed.
  • One way static communication has changed to an interactive two-way dialogue.
  • This dialogue has drastically increased this well of data/information that has the ability to radically inform and provide more  power in decision-making

However, companies, for the most, part are not ready. They don’t have the ability nor forethought to recognize the value of the data.

Companies are not ready to shape their processes and structure around this information to properly receive, manage and analyze and action on it (in the appropriate timeframes)–all in an effort to mitigate reputational impacts, to capitalize on potential revenue streams, and to reduce customer churn.

Dave Gray of Dachis said it best:

Social Business means…. having to dismantle some of that precious infrastructure

It can be done

It seems like a daunting feat but what companies don’t realize is that we don’t have to reinvent the wheel. While some fundamental mindshifts need to happen, solutions to deal with this slew of information has not radically changed.The same principals and models still apply.

The difference is how to deal with the information in its abundance and the speed at which it is moving and in its unstructured form.

What the market needs…

I need to form a company that will help companies move to that eventual next level. There remains a huge education gap when it comes to social. Many have not totally bought into the promise of social. Their implementations are weak and non-committal.

In the meantime, information and intelligence technology (to make sense of this information) is moving at a faster pace. Those companies that can adapt and leverage this information to their benefit will be ahead of the curve.

In the short term, they will be the drivers of change. They will show the world what it means to really listen and understand their customer. They will show the world how to succeed by bridging these gaps, elevating the  relationship with their customers and focusing resources in driving to market needs and expectations.

Here’s what we will do:

  • We evolve businesses for the inevitable and use data to drive validation and make smart decisions;
  • We show business how to evolve at their own pace;
  • We educate and train on best practices and how to manage and foster relationships at each customer touch point;
  • We introduce technology within the framework of the customer relationship: collaboration, workflow, business intelligence, content and community mapping;
  • We analyze initiatives to validate implementations and strategies, and ensure they map to business objectives.

We’ve arrived

So here we are,  February 2013.  ArCompany has arrived. We named it so because “arc” shows steady momentum and progression. Taken together with “company” it sounds like “Our Company”. The next generation of business will have accountability to the customer– at all levels of the organization.

And I couldn’t ask for a better team to take this journey with me: They are all stellar in their own right:

  • Danny Brown, a truly amazing friend who has shown me on more than one occasion how to truly live with integrity;
  • Amy Tobin, a spunky and energetic pal who continues to challenge me and make me smile in the process;
  • Andrew Jenkins, someone I’ve come to respect for his perseverance and undeniable insight from the enterprise world.

We all live social… everyday. We understand and are passionate about the connected customer. We inherently know how this is going to impact business now and in the long-term.

We look forward to having the conversation. Join us!

 Reference for some of this material sourced from the Social Business Journal, September 2012

The Promise of Big Data: The Evil Twin

dr evilThis post is a follow-up from my previous article, The Promise of Big Data: For Good.

As a database marketer, I relished in the richness of information that data gave me. Unlike traditional advertising which, to me, had no real basis for tracking or performance optimization, I took comfort in knowing that I had data to validate decisions.

The world today has emerged into data ubiquity and it is generating immense excitement among data scientists about the ever-growing strength of predictability. This is the essence of Big Data. According to Wikipedia,

Big data is a term applied to data sets whose size is beyond the ability of commonly used software tools to capture, manage, and process the data within a tolerable elapsed time. Big data sizes are a constantly moving target currently ranging from a few dozen terabytes to many petabytes of data in a single data set.

This wealth of information now provides an avenue that allows ever-complex data sets to be analyzed like never before. This can include where people are more likely to live in the next 20 years based on population, migration patterns, geographical economics etc. Or, it can include the likelihood of people drinking less coffee in the southern states of the U.S. in the next 10 years.

Amazing stuff! The probabilities to affect change in a positive way are absolutely boundless. Now organizations are relying more on data to drive critical organizational decisions. On the same note, there is an equal and opposite reaction to Big Data.

I have introduced the endless possibilities of a world that benefits from Big Data. However, there are personal and cultural consequences to the use of Big Data to serve the greater good. Data can lead to a loss of privacy. Face it, you are going to be asked to opt-in to sharing your data more often. Privacy as a hot topic is bringing issues of disclosure and data usage front and centre. Customers are becoming more and more aware and alarmed by how their data is being used. Consider two recent events in the news:

1. Job Seekers are being asked for Facebook Passwords

Laurie Dillon Schalk brought this article to my attention through Twitter. This was shocking to me. Imagine: you are going in for your dream job and you are asked, as part of the interview process, to divulge your Facebook information so the potential employers could peek into your profile. How would you react? This goes beyond privacy. Laurie tweeted to me,

Completely unacceptable to ask candidates 4 FB passwords. Violation of the worse kind. I don’t know how & if widespread.

This has gone beyond a standard security check. The wealth of data on every individual now gives employers more information at their disposal. Think of it: the more information you create, the more fodder you are feeding to this data well. The long term implications: you as a user will be less transparent in your posts–more guarded about what you share. Will big data encourage the antithesis of social media?

2. How Companies Learn Your Secrets

This is the story of how “Target was able to use their predictive analytics to determine a customer was pregnant. They had mailed her some promotional material, much to the surprise of her father, who made the discovery. According to this article: “Most of the people I spoke with here agreed that Target made a mistake in that case, but they believed the error wasn’t in collecting the data and then using it for marketing so much as doing so without permission.”

It’s one thing to use data to analyze and predict competitive pricing like Walmart’s Rollback Price model, however, organizations are just starting to see the “massive amounts of data to predict everything from what their customers are going to start buying to which of their employees will complete a certain project on time.” Data is also increasingly easy to collect and store, ripe for analysts to sink their teeth into.

The Government has a lot to gain from the information we feed them.

And maybe the Enemy of the State is humanity’s eventuality. We are already seeing instances of it today right here in Canada:

Canada’s “tabled” web surveillance legislation seeks to “monitor and preserve the Internet surfing activities of internet customers” in an attempt to prevent electronic criminal communications. This will further suppress or elicit more guarded online and mobile usage.

Michael Geist, Law Professor at University of Ottawa, and esteemed critic in Internet law states, “One thing (the government) has never provided is the evidence to show how the current set of laws has stymied investigations or created a significant barrier to ensure that we’re safe in Canada.”

It’s clear that we may not be able to stop he growth of big data and its evolution. That would mean we would have to change our practices: limit our usage of internet, mobile, and social networks. By virtue of using these technologies we are putting bits of our information into servers about what we’re doing, where and when. The power of this information presents amazing possibilities. But along the way, as consumers, we must become cognizant of its impact to our personal information, more importantly information that we prefer to keep private.

I’d be interested to hear what you think. What’s your impression of Big Data? The Big Brother of tomorrow or the purveyor of a better society?

F-Commerce: The Market Destination or Social Futility?

I was fortunate to speak at the AllFacebook Conference in San Francisco on June 28th. The event comprised of Facebook specialists and practitioners, who provided some pretty cool insight for marketers on how to effectively navigate through the increasingly complex world of Facebook in developing successful strategies.

My topic questioned Facebook’s development of a social commerce layer i.e. the ability to sell goods and services within Facebook. Is this a futile attempt or a sustainable feat?

The biggest question for many people who have seen Facebook evolve:

Can you develop a marketplace in a place where, inherently, people are not in a buying mindset?

Social networks existed to escape the very sites that have inundated them with advertising. They have become the safe haven of pure conversation. However, in order to sustain them, strategies for monetization have been essential, especially given the explosive funding opportunities in the social tech space.

Given its recent IPO, Facebook must prove to shareholders that it’s serious in its attempt to monetize the platform. While Zuckerberg has vowed to put the user experience first, the pressure to create a sustainable business model has been even more pressing.

E-Commerce is poised for explosive growth. Online sales are expected to rise by over $100 billion from 2010 to 2015. Social media has been a strong catalyst through discussion and online recommendations and will continue to fuel this growth over the next few years. Facebook is primed to lead to make this happen. Even some of the experts contend,“ F-Commerce transactions will exceed Amazon’s annual sales over the next 5 years.” Today, Amazon is the undisputed leader posting revenue in 2011 at $40 billion.

Facebook’s continues to test the waters when it comes to monetization

Here are some events that force me to question whether Facebook can really make F-Commerce work:

  • The decommission of Facebook Checkin-Deals and Facebook deals less than 4 months after it launched. The rise of Groupon has forced Facebook to seriously think about playing in this space. However Facebook never really gave their Check-in deals a chance. I had thought the purchase of Gowalla would help shape and influence this product function.
  • Brand abandonment of Facebook stores implies that companies have not yet figured out how to convert fans. Gap, Nordstrom, Gamestop, Banana Republic among others quickly shut down their FB Stores. Gamestop indicated: “It (FB Store) …was like trying to sell stuff to people while they’re hanging out with their friends at the bar”
  • Facebook Credits has met with some success. Last year, Facebook posted a $3.7 billion revenue, 85% of which went to advertising. The remaining largely went to Zynga, the world’s largest social gaming service. But Facebook admitted in its S1 Filings, that if they failed to maintain good relations with Zynga, they may lose Zynga as a significant Platform developer, hence would adversely affect their financial results. Therefore, FB made it clear that it wanted to turn its virtual currency into a payment mechanism for all sorts of digital goods. But few are adopting it. Since its launch in 2010, companies like Warner have tested Facebook Credits as a payment vehicle within the Facebook ecosystem with the “Dark Knight” premiere. Unfortunately, no licensing or distribution deal resulted from this test. Slow adoption using Credits as payment for goods other than games continues.

  • Others have also criticized Facebooks for instituting this FB Credit-only currency system. What Facebook wants to do is to wall off your money from the outside world — to turn it into a currency that can only be used inside Facebook. This seems pretty autocratic and strong hindrance to F-commerce adoption.
  • The new timeline has also hampered marketers’ control and sizeable investment in custom tabs. Without default landing tabs, non-fans have to actively click through the little app tiles overshadowed by a Page’s cover. The change is a noble one that prioritizes the user experience and the site’s long-term health, but several marketers I’ve talked to are already grumbling.

Facebook is moving in the right direction!

  • As of June 19th, Facebook signalled its ambitions to grow as a payment platform. What Facebook has said is that it hopes to provide users more flexibility to make it easier to reach a global audience who want to pay for your apps, products etc in their local currency, rather than credits. Great news for its investors and businesses still trying to sell within Facebook.
  • And where big brands have failed, small businesses seem to be leading the way to successful sales online. With the help of companies like Payvment and Ecwid, who not only provide online storefronts but help business take advantage of Facebook’s own traffic to develop a successful strategies within the FB platform.
  • Open Graph, in my opinion, is probably Facebook’s current killer app. This has gone beyond the “Like” and allows user behaviour: What you’re reading, what you’re buying, what you’re watching, what you’re listening to– to display on your timeline and friends’ newsfeeds. Companies like Vevo have seen so much success they’ve removed their music videos from Youtube and have opted for Open Graph to drive visibility, registrations and views.
  • I’ve also read of rumblings about the introduction of the Facebook ‘Want’ and Purchase Button. This will allow you to add products to a virtual wish list. These functions will be added to Open Graph, allowing automatic sharing on friends’ newsfeed.
If Facebook is to succeed in monetizing their platform, businesses have to realize that the customer experience has to go beyond Facebook. Facebook is still a social space and businesses shouldn’t attempt to change that. It’s a holistic user experience that attempts to cater to the demands and expectations of each channel. So consider where the user is at in the buying cycle and which channel this exists. Optimize the experience to help move the user to the next buying stage whether that be in the existing channel or somewhere else. Success means integrating Facebook into business and other activities and delivering a seamless experience for the consumer. It’s still early day and I believe Facebook is in a very good position to take the lead on this. I’m very optimistic. How’bout you?

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