Social Media: Not Your Father’s Oldsmobile

This Might Be Your Father’s Olds… But Social Media Definitely Isn’t!

Hang around anyone who talks about social media long enough, and you’ll invariably hear the word “transparency” thrown out like some new catch phrase designed to make the use of social media self-apparent to anyone within earshot.

In actual practice, however, as I work with my clients on social media strategy and training, it’s become apparent to me that the concept of “transparency” requires a little further explanation to make it relevant for most business owners interested in seeing a profit from their social media efforts.

What’s Transparency Really All About?

Usually the confusion starts when we begin talking about creating a Facebook page for business, and my client looks at me in horror as I explain to them that their business page will be linked to their personal Facebook profile.  “But, I don’t want my business contacts to see my personal stuff!” they exclaim.

As I launch into a description of the privacy settings on Facebook, I’m also compelled to explain to them that sharing a bit of their personal lives – their personality – is what social media is all about – it’s how we make connections with other people, build our networks, build trust and increase the number of referrals we receive.

Don’t Try to Be Something that You’re Not

Being transparent simply means being who you are, always.  Think of networking via social media as you would networking in person.  You naturally want to share a bit of who you are with others – it helps you connect and build relationships.  People do business with people they like, know and trust.

And that brings me to the title of this post.  About 22 years ago, Oldsmobile launched a new ad campaign with the slogan, “Not Your Father’s Oldsmobile – a New Generation of Olds.”  The slogan was everywhere – on television, in a jingle – the word was out that this new line-up from Oldsmobile was not what we’d seen previously.

Except – it was!

When people got to the dealerships and test drove the cars, they realized that try as hard as the ad guys wanted to convince us otherwise – this was still your father’s Oldsmobile.

And therein lies the difference between social media and any other type of traditional advertising – with social media, this lack of transparency about who Oldsmobile really was would have been exposed immediately and shared across networks far and wide. As it was, word traveled pretty quickly and many experts look back and state that this campaign was the beginning of the end for Oldsmobile.

Being transparent doesn’t mean revealing every private thought you’ve ever had; it does mean aligning what you say with what you do; it means connecting with people as your true self, whether that’s in person or online through social media. While it may seem daunting at first, it’s something that takes consistent focus (I work on ways to be more transparent with my network every day) –  I’ve found the business and personal rewards to be worth it!

Confused about how you can use social media to establish yourself as an expert and grow your business?  Affectionately known as a “marketing geek,” Caroline Melberg creates social media strategies and implements them for her clients, growing their businesses as a result.  To read more of Caroline’s musings on social media, visit her blog about social media strategies.  She believes marketing is a conversation, and she’d love to hear from you at 952-473-1007 or via e-mail at Caroline at Melberg dot com.

Caroline Melberg

Caroline has over 20 years of marketing experience, working with companies such as AT&T Wireless and Cingular, where she held numerous senior level marketing positions. She is the co-founder and CEO of Small Business Mavericks where she specializes in creating search engine optimized Websites that Work. She is a sought-after speaker and award-winning author who has been featured in The Wall Street Journal and numerous other national publications as an expert on Social Media. As a Social Media Strategist, she creates strategic, customized, Social Media Road Maps that drive increased sales for her clients. Affectionately known as a “Marketing Geek,” Caroline specializes in de-mystifying online marketing and social media, and explaining them in easy-to-understand terms. Caroline believes marketing is not communication, but a conversation – and she would love to hear from you at 952-473-1007, via e-mail at: or on the web at! 


  2 comments for “Social Media: Not Your Father’s Oldsmobile

  1. February 6, 2010 at 3:40 pm

    Caroline, I love your mention of Oldsmobile’s 22 year old campaign to give readers a frame of reference for how “out-of-whack” the alignment of “what was said (ads)” and “what was done (products)” had become for some big businesses then. The historical back-drop you provided very much reinforced my understanding of the value of social media to smart businesses and consumers today.

  2. February 7, 2010 at 9:24 am

    Thanks Chris – you hit the nail on the head identifying that gap I’m referring to between “what was said” and “what was done” – and the fact that social media is helping to close this gap is one of the reasons I find it so fascinating. Thanks for your comment!

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