You might remember that guy Pascal from a college philosophy course. He thought to apply logic to the question of whether or not to live as if God existed... to quote the Wikipedia article:
We are faced with the following possibilities:
- You live as though God exists.
- If God exists, you go to heaven: your gain is infinite.
- If God does not exist, your loss is nothing.
- If God exists, you go to hell: your loss is infinite.
- If God does not exist, you gain nothing & lose nothing.
So I wondered whether one could use this same logical system to address the question of whether or not a brand should engage (authentically!) with their audiences using social media. Here is the revised synopsis:
In his Wager, Pascal provides an analytical process for a person to evaluate options in regarding belief in God. This is often misinterpreted as simply believing in God or not. As Pascal sets it out, the options are two: live as if God exists, or do not live as if God exists. There is no third possibility.
Therefore, we are faced with the following possibilities:
- You join in the conversation authentically.
- If engagement matters, you go to heaven: your gain is infinite.
- If engagement does not matter, your loss is nothing.
- If engagement matters, you go to hell: your loss is infinite.
- If engagement does not matter, you gain nothing & lose nothing.
I kind of liked leaving in the going to heaven or hell as the metaphorical equivalent of what happens when a brand screws this up. But here is the serious question:
Take all of the examples of social media engagement (or lack) and see if they fit into this grid? Can you find an example of a company that engaged authentically but still went to hell?
I can certainly come up with examples of the opposite -- companies that have engaged authentically and reaped the rewards. And companies that have not engaged or have engaged in-authentically going to hell.
On this last point, Chris Heuer (a friend and someone I am working on a project with) and I were just discussing one such in-authentic participant which he just posted about on his Social Media Club blog -- Ragan. Will they "go to hell" for this?
I believe that the most powerful thing about this new "social media" is that the truth eventually comes out and the people that care enough (the ones who matter) learn the truth.
There is an axiom in the news business that the lie is on page one while the correction lands on page 23. That happens because mainstream news has, as a default, a short attention span. But the blogosphere has a very long attention span.
If you know of an example that shows my "pascal's wager" to be wrong -- especially in that upper quadrant, please let me know.