Be Yourself on Social Media

Creating fake online identities is no way to engage authentically and a good way to caught mouthing somebody's propaganda.Trying to hide behind fake identities on social media is like riding your bike naked. People won't be watching the spokes.

The Nebraska Energy Forum is the latest faker to be outed after it set up 14 phony Twitter accounts to tout the benefits of tar sands development in Alberta. Instead of expressing genuine personal perspectives, the Twitter feeds were propaganda mouthpieces for the American Petroleum Institute, which funds the Nebraska Energy Forum.

The Rainforest Action Network spotted the fakery, which led to the removal of all 14 Twitter accounts and another black eye for Big Oil.

There is room on social media for corporate engagement. In fact, it is a best practice for companies – and any organization, whether private, nonprofit or public – to have a social media presence, minimally to listen to what people are saying about you and optimally entering conversations to tell your story.

But there is little tolerance among social media users for sock-puppetry. And there are too many ways for fakers to get caught faking to try putting your hand into the puppet.

The Rainforest Action Network became suspicious about the pro-Tar sands Twitter posts because they all were "sent via the Netvibes Official Widget, which allows users to post to multiple Twitter accounts at the same time," says blogger Kirsten Korosec. "Looks like someone got a little lazy."

Lazy or just stupid, the lesson here is not to get cute. Engaging on social media can be rewarding, but only if you are yourself.