Social media is the premier tool for The Age of I, where people want to be seen as individuals while at the same want to belong to identifiable groups. Social media allows people to communicate their individuality to anyone, anywhere, any time. At the same time it connects people to like-minded others. It embraces individual differences. It fosters communities. Social media opens doors to new ideas. It reinforces familiar ideas. It gives the voiceless a voice.

However, social media has a dark side. Social media can distort the truth while eroding trust, as Facebook is now aware. Marketing has an opportunity to play a role steering social media away from the dark side by promoting our best side.

Facebook has finally recognized that its laissez faire attitude to news postings has created a swamp of suspect stories that torpedo truth and trash trust. As helpful as Facebook can be in our lives, it has a tendency to devolve to the dark side. Facebook believes it needs to address this now, especially since the US will be in election mode for House and Senate seats in 2018.

Facebook is a social media force of galactic proportions. Although Mark Zuckerberg is neither Darth Vader nor obi Wan Kenobi, the good over evil tension of Facebook is a battle worth having. Mr. Zuckerberg believes that by providing a trust metric, Facebook will be able to include trustworthy news sources while blocking less trustworthy sources. We can only wait to see how this turns out. Facebook is asking Facebook users to provide the judgments that create the trust metric rather than allowing the brand to become the arbiter of truth. (There is already serious blowback regarding this metric. For example, The Atlantic and The Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics, and Public Policy have recently expressed concerns.)

Brands no longer have the option of sitting by and waiting for the dust to settle. Brands need to evaluate how they can bolster our best intentions. What can brands do to bolster our better intentions?

Become part of the solution for customers’ important issues

Customers prefer brands reflecting values that match their own.

Behave predictably

Erratic behavior and changing beliefs and practices confuse customers and dilute trust. Consistency breeds comfort.

Provide information

If you do not, customers will find it anyway. Social media is an image-maker or an image-breaker.

Respect the customer

Communications that talk down to, or demean customer’s thinking may be funny and witty, but you may be insulting someone.

Seek out credible third-party testimony

Borrowing credibility works: peers and influencers matter. There is a positive halo effect.

Show you care

Whether globally or locally, find issues that show you care about and then don’t spectate, participate. You are what you do.

Speak up

Do not stay silent. Silence may be golden but only in the library reading room. Be proud out loud.

Be visible and up front

Do not hide from the debates. Don’t obfuscate. Keep it simple. Be clear. Confusion leads to discomfort. Stand up for what you stand for. Customers want to know the simple truth. Someone once wrote, “ A secret is a private truth and that is an acceptable definition of madness.”