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What Darth Vader Can Teach Us About Social Media

| June 15, 2010

The dark lord of the Sith has been getting plenty of press these days, what with French psychiatrists recently diagnosing him with a borderline personality disorder.

Darth Vader, Social Media Specialist
Darth Vader
Originally uploaded by ewen
and donabel

Well, duh…

But as everyone who's watched even the first three Star Wars films knows, Darth Vader a.k.a. Anakin Skywalker has both a good and bad side.

It's kind of like that with PR, something we occasionally get into with our blogging and social media services here at PostRanger.com.

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Of course, everybody knows that public relations has had a checkered history too.

And some folks don't hold with the idea that this particular form of marketing or communications is completely legitimate. In fact, some might even call it undemocratic.

No small part of this point of view is probably thanks to a gentleman named Edward Bernays. The nephew of the founder of modern psychology Dr. Sigmund Freud, Bernays is a person many credit, sometimes notoriously, as the inventor of PR.

See the video below for more on Bernay's shenanigans, including the starting of a war in Guatamala on behalf of United Fruit and the Eisenhower administration. (A big shout out to Aaron Wall at SEO Book for drawing our attention to this video.)

Now, watching this stuff might, of course, incline you to feel, as Aaron suggests, a bit cynical about marketing in general and PR in particular. But remember, people have been marketing really good products for a very long time without causing wars or engaging in what sure seems like propaganda and outright lying in a way that proved injurious to others in the process.

So how does a legitimate small business or organization get the word out about their products, services or cause through things like social media, blogging and all the rest without resorting to all this nasty manipulation and deceit?

Well, the answer, in our view, is pretty simple and once again we'll turn to our ventillator wearing, lightsaber swinging dark Jedi for the answers:

What are you doing?

If you're a fan of the two Star Wars trilogies, you'll no doubt recall Vader being involved in some pretty nasty stuff, from the slaughter of innocent young Jedi in Revenge of the Sith to the blowing up of an entire planet full of people in the original Star Wars movie. When marketing your product or service, resolve not to do anything you feel is questionable or even downright immoral (Like vaporizing an entire civilization or something perhaps just as reprehensible on a smaller scale like lying about a product or paying for bogus testimonials). Never do something or ask your social media company or PR firm to do something you know is wrong, no matter what the end result.

Why are you doing it?

In the Star Wars films, Anakin/Vader is more often motivated by negative emotions like anger, fear and pride and it's these emotions that lead to his downfall. In your efforts to market and promote your product or service, are you genuinely trying to share something positive with your customers or simply trying to manipulate them into purchasing a product or service you yourself don't believe in or into electing a candidate who supports values you think are in question simply for the lure of a big pay check?

Is it the truth?

In the last film of the most recent trilogy, an evil Sith lord lures Anakyn Skywalker to his dark destiny with the promise of learning the power to prevent the death of his young wife, a promise never varified as truthful even in the end of the movie. Are you telling the truth about your product or service? There was a time when falsehoods from little white lies to big whoppers (like forgetting to mention that the shampoo you're selling makes people's hair fall out or that the bookkeeping service you offer isn't provided by certified accountants) could be easily concealed. But today, in the age of the Internet, most such falsehoods are transparent to everyone via negative customer comments and other information available to consumers online.

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Bottom line: Darth Vader used the same techniques, weapons and abilities as his Jedi brethern who didn't turn to the dark side. The difference was what he did with his powers. Use social media wisely to provide good marketing and PR whether you hire an outside firm or do it yourself. Adopt honesty as a policy and always tell the truth when promoting anything online or off. The results will be reward enough.

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(Shawn Hessinger is a professional blogger at PostRanger.com providing blogging and social media for a variety of businesses and organizations worldwide. Shawn is committed to creating blogs and social media services that are beyond the ordinary and works with a variety of clients to this end including helping businesses and organizations get their blogs and social media presence off the ground.)

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  1. Sarah Mitchell says:

    Hi Shawn,
    I’m not sure when telling the truth got to be such a novel idea in business. Sadly, your message is relevant and necessary. Didn’t we learn anything from used car salesmen?