Avoiding Fauxthenticity in Social Media

Posted on April 26th 2013

Avoiding Fauxthenticity in Social Media

ImageAuthenticity has been the social media buzzword for a few years now but authenticity isn’t always the easiest thing to attain. Brands, hungering for that tone that makes them seems real, approachable, and human, have been known to fake it. Is being fauxthentic close enough?

There are times that fauxthenticity can work. Your distressed jeans don’t have to have earned their soft and comfy feel by spending days and nights out on the range. Faux finishes or artificially distressed home finishes can work as well as long as they are done properly and in retail spaces and restaurants we can enjoy fake authenticity without being offended by it. But when we get into the social media space, fauxthentic just isn’t good enough. People tend to have an innate sense of fakeness in this area. They know when a brand is trying too hard and they immediately call attention to it. When it comes to social media, transparency still trumps stunts for day-to-day brand management.

Over Personalization: There’s an old saying that someone’s own name is the most beautiful sound to their own ears. Many salespeople take this to heart, peppering potential clients with a manic faux intimacy. It happens in the social media space as well. Mention the other person by name once, that’s polite. Constantly tweet at them when they don’t respond or tag them in Facebook posts, that’s rude and a little invasive.

Faux Mistakes and Hacks: Twitter hacks aren’t always a laughing matter, this week’s AP hack and the resulting stock market dip is proof of that. But a Twitter hack can draw attention to a brand. Earlier this year when Burger King was taken over by a fake McDonald’s hack the account gained thousands of followers.  When Jeep was hacked by Cadillac a similar effect occurred. But when parent company Viacom faux hacked their MTV and BET Twitter accounts the response was derision and ridicule. Real errors can sometimes show a brand’s humanity but trying to game the system with a fake hack just makes fans feel stupid if they fall for it.

Fake Enthusiasm: Social media people are by nature an enthusiastic bunch. We love things, add emoticon hearts, punctuate our sentences with multiple exclamation points. But enthusiasm from a brand voice needs to be measured appropriately. Responding to people genuinely and warmly makes good business sense. Peppering them with hyperactive tweets and comments is a bit like being greeted like an overactive puppy.

Fake products: April Fool’s Day each year brings out a bunch of fake products, generally to yawns and sneers. This year one of the most talked about was Scope Bacon Mouthwash. Many people were excited about the potential of this product even tweeting about wanting to buy it in the stores.  Proctor & Gamble got plenty of media coverage not just for the stunt itself but for the ire of fans who were ready to plunk down their hard-earned money to buy the product.

If you are looking for real fans don’t take advantage of their trust in your brand by delivering them an experience that isn’t genuine. If you deliver fake authenticity be transparent about what it is, why you are doing it, and how it is a benefit for them and for you.

image: fake disguise/shutterstock

Deidre Woollard

Deidre Woollard

Deidre Woollard has written for AOL.com, HuffingtonPost.com, Realtor.com, JustLuxe.com, Pursuitist.com and more. She teaches in the University of California Irvine Extension Digital Journalism Program.

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Comments

Jack Gazdik
Posted on April 26th 2013 at 2:37PM

Great post Deidre!

I think it's also important to maintain an authentic brand voice on social media. Not every brand can be the quirky or funny brand of social media, no matter how succesful brands like Old Spice and Oreo have been with that technique. What's important is creating valuable content that is relevant to your audience. If you provide them with valuable content, they will add value to your brand by sharing and advocating your brand message.

Tatiana Aders
Posted on April 26th 2013 at 5:30PM

OMG the fake Twitter hack has to be the lamest social media engagement gimmick that I've seen this year. I agree with Jack Gazdik, it's all about adding value!

And thats what the brands that engage in these tactics just don't get... They would rather skip the thinking/hard work part (required for adding real value) and just pay for the ad space to spew high-volume commercials at you - and that tactic just doesn't work in social media!

I'm ranting, but it will take a serious shift in mind-sets to attract eyeballs through value rather than gimmicks.