Sunday, December 6, 2009

People Can Tell if You are Real or Fake

A post by a friend on Facebook got me thinking about real and digital personas and what it all means. The FB post started out like this:

    FB Post: If you're a jerk in real life, your a jerk on Facebook....uh Karen.....(not the person's real name)

    Later, Karen responded with something like: "I guess i'll never introduce you to your future husband...."

    My friend responded with a short comment: "I rest my case."

So what does this mean?  Increasingly, people are seeking out others they work with to find out if they are real (are you really a friend) or if they are fake (you're my friend as long as it helps me get ahead). The funny thing is that this sort of analysis has always gone on, but now it is easier and faster to perform a sentiment analysis on someone. It is becoming harder for people to hide who they really are.

We all got a peek into the private life of Tiger Woods over the last week. His sentiment analysis dropped 20 points in a week. That said, how can you tell if someone you work with is really your friend or not?  How can you tell if you can trust them? The historical answer has always been "only after they burn you".

A client asked me earlier in the year if I was really going to be their friend. The question really was: 'can I trust you'. I responded with an affirmative and months later I proved to be trustworthy after something happened. There is a lesson here for everyone.

Online behavior can sometimes make it easier to tell who is really a friend and who is not (or who you can trust). People can immediately rank or comment on what you do. However, that doesn't prevent someone from faking it. That said, people can still tell (and they do talk), but now sentiment analysis will be a growing part of who the real you really is. Sentiment Analysis is part of the growing area called Social Media Monitoring which in turn is part of what is called Social Network Analysis.

The fact that so many managers will be undone (via Social Network Analysis tools) is the reason why they are afraid of the implications of Social Networking. A Social Network Analysis of their online actions at work will show that many of them spend most of their time managing upward, not actually managing people (because of limited interactions with the common worker).

People that want to get ahead in the workplace often think that the only way to do that is to burn (e.g. deceive) others. It doesn't have to be that way, but today that is often the case. So, the next time you friend someone from work on Facebook, take a second to think about whether they are really your friend.

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