The world of social media is a world of friendship and camaraderie. A world where geographical, socio-economic and racial divides are obliterated. A world where young and old alike are brought to a level playing field and interact in ways and to a degree that they probably never would offline.
We worry about our kids getting tricked online by predators looking to abuse and exploit them and take every step we can to protect them, but do we take as much care to protect ourselves?
I could make you all paranoid by asking, “exactly how many of your online friends have you ever actually met? How many can you be 100% certain are who they say they are?”….. but I won’t.
Instead, I want to take a quick look at the world of statistics.
We all know that statistics are evil and can be used to say anything you want them to say. People manipulate the numbers to show exactly what they want them to show, whether they really show that or not. It’s been done since the dawn time. Probably.
The online world is (sadly) no different. Figures are misused and we are misled every day. Many of us fall into the trap of thinking that people are more honest when they use social media than when they do anything else, but it’s simply not true.
I’ll give you an example of how social media can be used to trick you.
A website named LifeHacker, asked its very large number of readers to vote for their favorite domain name registrar.
After the first round where entries were submitted, they put the names to a vote.
One company, namecheap.com, came out on top by a LONG way.
Now, Namecheap are a wonderful company. I use them for domain name registrations and am exceedingly happy with everything about their service BUT, that said, the vote on LifeHacker.com probably doesn’t show what they claim it shows.
You see, Namecheap are awesome at using social media. They do big giveaways on twitter and facebook and interact daily with their customers through twitter. They probably use social media better than any other company I’ve seen.
So, Namecheap launched a social media campaign to get their loyal customers to vote for them… which succeeded.
I’m quite sure that Namecheap ARE the best, but what the vote shows is that Namecheap use social media to get their customers to vote for them better than any of the other companies in the running, not that they’re necessarily the best domain name registrars.
The distinction can be hard to make, but I think we need to be increasingly aware that people don’t become more honest online and that we should take the ‘facts’ and figures presented to us online with as big a pinch of salt and as much skepticism as we do in the real world.
Online interactions with businesses are a relatively new thing and so we don’t have the years of hard-learned experience behind us that we have with other areas of interaction so we should be doubly on our guard so that we don’t get fooled by cool looking avatars and 140-character trickery.
Have you ever experienced someone trying to fool you online?
Or have you seen businesses using social media to lull you into a false sense of security?