TRUST at the Core of Manti Te’o Debacle

Posted on Jan 18, 2013 by

Let’s talk TRUST… a quality that is highly valued, seriously tarnished, coveted by all. Most of you won’t remember November 8, 2008 but I do. That’s the day @Shaq joined Twitter and took social media out of the hands of nerds and to the masses. How do I know? Because I took him there. But much more important is what prompted the event. There was a very believable impostor of NBA great, Shaquille O’Neal on Twitter. Not someone feigning to be a girlfriend, but someone pretending to be an NBA superstar. The person was so artful in his charade that the team fell for it. Not only did they think Shaq was on Twitter but a member of the Phoenix Suns staff regularly engaged the fake Shaq generating more followers for the Suns and more fun for the local guy who had a complete “playbook” of Shaq-isms for the year. He had studied Shaq’s language and other nuances. Instead of getting lawyers involved I prodded “@The_Real_Shaq” to take to the twittersphere and the rest is history. As of this hour, Shaq has 6,580,540 followers.

Shaq's Twitter page

 Who Can/Should We Trust

I don’t know who’s at fault in the Manti Te’o debacle, but I do know trust is at the crux of it. There’s plenty of doubt to go around and the internet and social media are clearly components. There will be sports teams that use this as an excuse to try to shut down all use of social media by anyone associated with its program. There will be families that put computers behind locked doors and somebody will suggest a new law or two because so many of us were duped.

But it’s important to remember that the issue of trust isn’t just a challenge for the young and impressionable or the less educated or sophisticated. Trust is an issue for all of us.blindfolded man trust For CEO’s, their employees and stockholders, for brands and their customers, for first responders and those they’re scrambling to rescue. It’s an issue online and offline. We want to trust and at the same time dare not to. Many in the conventional media world would like to rely on old time methods of ferreting out stories and sources on foot and by phone. But studies show that in the media’s scramble to stay alive and relevant, they’ve drifted to often unskilled and untested citizen journalists for story ideas, and sources to ignite their own product even when the digital word-of-mouth is more rumor than fact and often as stale and misshapened as the bread crumbs I add to my homemade turkey dressing.

Verifying Authenticity
There’s a company called Storyful that has built its two year old business around verifying social media conversations for media outlets and major corporations so that they can “get closer to the story, faster.” According to its website, clients include: ABC News, Reuters,The New York Times and other venerable news organizations.  “We separate actionable news from the noise of the real-time web, 24/7. We unearth the smartest conversations about world events and raise up the authentic voices on the big stories… discovering and verifying content… to identify new, credible sources close to every story.”  Good for them and good for all of us.

A Call to Study Trust in Social Media
For months now I’ve been exploring the issue of trust and social media. It’s critical because social media isn’t going away and it’s way past the tipping point. It would be nice to have a template to verify our facts, and our hearts. Short of that, we need some mechanism to get us at least part way there and yes we need a heaping dose of skepticism.

google hangoutThrough tools like the Internet video platform- Google Hangout it’s easier to verify the face behind the tweet. I use hangouts regularly to connect and get closer with clients, friends and family around the world.

Anyone doing serious study into the issue of trust and social media let’s talk! Contact me @kathleenhessert on Twitter, Google+, Linkedin, Facebook or the old fashion way by emailing me at or call at 1-704-541-5942.

  • Carlin

    I think this definitely a serious issue, especially with social media becoming a much easier way for people to meet. Trust is difficult when it has become so easy to make profiles of someone other than yourself. Very good piece to read. 

  • Keyana Varnado

    Great piece! Though it is easier to be deceived and misled via social media, people all to often forget to use their common sense and basic communication skills when on the Internet. I find that people, whether using social media for personal use or professional reasons, tend to stray from their usual behavior (as far as trusting sources/communication with certain people goes). Also,
    people who wouldn’t deceive others in “real life” are more likely to do so via social media (due to anonymity, no consequences etc…). Hopefully people realize that though social media provides a different and dynamic landscape, it’s still the real world with similar rules. I believe this action in itself will prevent a lot of the issues of trust that arise in social media! So simple, yet so difficult for some to put into practice!

    Tulane Social Media 2013- Keyana F. Varnado

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