08/06/2012 02:43 pm ET Updated Oct 06, 2012

The Unspoken Truth About Influential Liars

Remember that riddle where one person always tells the truth and another always lies, and you can only ask one question to determine which action to take? It's harder to believe that one person always tells the truth than that one person always lies! Apparently lying is in the very core of our nature as human beings. We are either lying or being lied to a great deal of the time. Sometimes the lie is harmless like, "Yes, dear, that dress looks great on you" or "Of course I looked at the last 150 photos you posted on Facebook," but sometimes the lies are dangerous because they are perpetrated by people we believe are experts.

Would you be telling the truth if you said you always lie? Ryan Holiday says he lied and manipulated the mass media as a marketer for years. Sadly we almost expect lying from marketers as they stretch the truth in favor of their product or service, but news organizations are now being manipulated as well. Holiday exposes a deep level of deceit in his book Trust Me, I'm Lying: Confessions of a Media Manipulator where he turns his eye on the so-called expert social media bloggers and our trusted friends in the news industry in whom we put so much faith.

One chapter describes how the blog Politico used sheer perseverance and continued exposure to advance their own cause and turn Tim Pawlenty into a presidential contender in 2011. When they arbitrarily assigned somebody to follow Pawlenty and write regular posts on his activities, the governor's name began trending online. Once that happened, attention snowballed until the major media fell in line and Politico was quoted on the network news as a credible news source. Holiday says this blog changed reality through its coverage and warns that social media's need to be seen as influential may be more important to them than exposing the truth.

What is bothersome about Holiday's book though is the paradox underlying its very premise. While on the one hand he appears to offer an expose of the manipulation behind today's news coverage, his official trailer seems to indicate just the opposite. With a nod and a wink, he asserts that he is telling the truth of broken journalism, while at the same time he offers tips on how to break it even more.

We hold journalists to a high standard and they have let us down. It's their job to expose the truth, not rely on services like, HARO and ProfNet from PR Newswire which promises access to expert sources. Is anyone verifying whether these really are experts, or just people who say they are experts? In their FAQ section which answers the question of whether ProfNet members are vetted, it says they must be members of PR Newswire, which has determined they are legitimate businesses, but doesn't really vouch for their expert credentials. The journalist should do this, not just grab a quick quote and run. Where are the editors and the fact checkers in this process? Have cost cuts eliminated the verifiers of truth?

How Do You Know When Someone Is Lying?

As Judge Judy says, "How do you know when teenagers are lying? Their lips are moving!" Does a similar test apply in the social universe today... "How do you know when online influencers are lying? Their Klout scores are rising!" By taking the actions necessary to be seen as experts or influencers many online users lie, either intentionally or unintentionally. If Klout says Retweets and likes will raise your score that may subconsciously motivate users to come up with something that is "likable," even though it may not be the truth. It's a lie that a high Klout score means someone is a star, an influencer, or an expert because those scores can be manipulated as easily as the media.

Pamela Meyer can spot liars. In her TED Talk she revealed that we hear or read up to 200 lies a day, depending on our level of engagement. Pam shows others how to detect the subtle tips in body language which indicate that someone in lying. Her book, Liespotting: Proven Techniques to Detect Deception, is her effort to help us take back the truth. According to Pam, some people lie just because they enjoy the act of pulling one over; others have a need to have people think of them a certain way. Tweeting what we are doing and thinking is our way of building influence and making ourselves matter, whether or not it is the truth. Liespotting defines motives for lying as being both offensive and defensive in nature. One offensive motive for lying is "to create a positive impression and win the admiration of others."

Lying is a cooperative act, Pam says. The liar is willing to lie and the second party accepts the lie. So stop accepting the lies of online influencers and social universe experts. Don't just accept information that is fed to you by companies with ulterior motives. Think about what they are saying and why they are saying it, and learn to spot their lies. Acknowledge that the media may not be doing its job and their sources may not be the experts they claim to be, and run your own truth check to verify their credentials. Trust me, I wouldn't lie to you!