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Trying to be something you’re not is too much like hard work.

It’s usually stressful and almost always unsustainable.

Even if it is with the best intentions.

Just ask Bart Simpson, who radically alters his behaviour to impress a virtuous girl called Jenny (voiced by Anne Hathaway no less) in the episode called The Good, The Sad and The Drugly.

Image borrowed from www.tv.com

All’s well to start with as his goody-two-shoes behaviour impresses not just Jenny but his mother Marge too.

Oh Bart. I don’t care that this is just an act. You’ve finally become the boy every mother dreams of. A girl.

But the relationship is obviously doomed to failure and ends in bitter recrimination.

Jenny : Are you saying our entire relationship is based on lies?

Bart : Not our entire relationship. Just the stuff I said.

If rule number one for success in social spaces is to be the best you can be

(Or, as John Willshire puts it, excelling at your “verb” – great post by the way. Read it).

… then rule number two surely has to be “be yourself.”

There are plenty of examples of brands that have made ill-fated and short-lived advertising attempts to be something that they’re not. The brand equivalent of being the forty year old at the disco.

(Aside : Like policeman and teachers, the people who are too old to be at the disco are getting younger and younger).

But increasingly it (brands trying to be something they’re not) will happen in social spaces too.

And it won’t necessarily be about brands screwing up by trying to be down with the kids in the tone of their Facebook status updates.

It will be more fundamental than that.

The bigger, more fundamental problem will not be about how social networks are used. It will be that the organisation, the culture behind the brand just isn’t set up to be social.

The back end of your presence in social spaces is at least as important as the fan-facing front end.

Does your CEO really get it or is (s)he liable to pull the plug at the first sign of negative comment?

Who does the community manager speak to (in real time) to get a (real time) legal view on a (real time) issue raised by an (influential) person?

Who do they talk to in Customer Service to get a human response in similar (real time) circumstances?

And is the community manager empowered to over-rule and prevent a potentially disasterous, obviously uncaring, platitudinous response from making matters worse?

Fan : Are you saying that our entire relationship is based on false pretence?

Brand : Not our entire relationship. Just the rest of the iceberg below the tip.

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