Many brands want their gold star simply for showing up in the social environment. They believe that they’re somehow ahead of the shift by virtue of just being there. Their arrival is often reluctant, reactive and triggered by fear, through a competitor’s presence or a panicked “why aren’t we doing this?” email from somebody in the c-suite. And regardless of their join date, most aren’t quite sure why they’re there to begin with beyond having accepted that they’re supposed to be. So without a strategy, a sense of purpose or a fundamental understanding of the space, the tendency by and large, is to fall comfortably back onto the familiar. And in the familiar, we find a voice that while perfectly suited for a Sunday FSI, is completely counteractive to a medium defined by it’s consumers. So inevitably, they do what comes naturally. They continue to self promote, embellish and dictate but with a few subtle adjustments. And in doing so they give life to a phenomenon I like to call “fauxthenticity”.
Fauxthenticity is how I describe the tendency some brands have towards assuming we’re all complete idiots. It represents a very deliberate and measured effort to manufacture transparency through not so clever copy, a monologic tone and the usage of yesterday's tools and resources (i.e. stock photos). But it goes beyond just creative laziness. It pretends that a brand's participation in a community has anything to do with people. Or that the Social revolution has legitimately changed the way they do business. In short, it’s the bastardization of realness.
How to spot Fauxthenticity? Many brands are guilty of it but here a few of the more obvious cues:
Tradtional paid media units re-purposed for Social channels. Yes, this still happens.
Deleting negative comments. We love you but only if you love us more.
Join the conversation! The statement in and of itself is annoyingly disingenous and overused.
Pleading with fans to “tell us about your favorite _______________” and then ignoring their replies.
Baiting fans with questions that suggest what they say really matters “what do you think of our new __________________?” We don't actually care we just want to appear "social".
Excessive use of “we”. Isn't it bad enough you want me to talk to a logo?
Excessive use of !!!
RT/Like/Share if you think babies are cute!!! A baby actually dies everytime one of these is posted.
Implying that endorsements and/or engagements with paid bloggers, partners, employees, agencies, friends or relatives are just serendipitous encounters with super-passionate fans. Not actually legal in most states.
Late, thoughtless or irrelevant adoption of memes/trends. Think the “real time content” bandwaggoners still clamoring to duplicate Oreo's infamous Superbowl tweet.
Editing what is presented as "real time" conversation (example: “see what they’re saying about us”) to include only the most positive mentions.
Dressing up all of the above as “engagement” “transparency” and “conversation” legitimately believing it to be so.
Now that we've got that out of the way, I’m not here to suggest that fauxthenticity should or will disappear entirely from the collective brand narrative, in or out of the social space. I'll even admit to being an accessory to it a few times (or more). We’re all putting on a bit of a show to one degree or another, no matter how “authentic” we claim to be. And brands still have to protect themselves, particularly those in highly regulated sectors.
But fauxthenticity is often symptomatic of an organization’s deeper seeded resistance to change. It reflects a brand’s ambiguity around who they are in the context of the new social economy and a total indifference for the wants, needs and expectations of today’s consumers.
Identifying fauxthenticity requires an honest and often humbling look in the mirror. But by examining and resolving it’s root causes, you may just unlock your organization’s modern brand identity.