An authentic voice is what can make or break your brand's presence on social media. Often, we forget that social media's primary purpose is not to advertise products, but to enable connection between people across a variety of relationships, from family members to strangers who like the same TV show. Users of social media expect your profile to be a representation of yourself, and nothing can brand you as a fake or a poser more quickly than presenting an inauthentic voice.
Infamous Instances of Inauthentic Voice
There are many well known instances in which brands have failed to be authentic and received great criticism from users. In February of this year, American Airlines got their brand into hot water by using clearly scripted tweets. They sent form replies to every user as a courtesy, no matter what the original tweet said. When users started tweeting insults and criticisms, they continued responding with the scripted tweets. This kind of posting is a big taboo for social media interaction, as it is quite obviously inauthentic and impersonal.
In January, British supermarket chain Tesco also got into trouble with users because of scheduled tweets. The company was caught in the midst of a crisis because their frozen dinners were found to contain horsemeat, ye they inadvertently tweeted, "It's sleepy time so we're off to hit the hay!" The tactlessness (and rather hilarious bad timing) of this particular tweet showed that it was clearly scripted and inauthentic.
Another big no-no on social media is using a national tragedy for product placement. During the Boston Marathon bombing, Epicurious posted tweets suggesting various food items they sell "in honor" of Boston. National tragedies are one area in which consumers seem to consistently see through product placement and deem it insensitive and inauthentic.
Tips for Authenticity
In light of the widespread criticism that an inauthentic voice always generates, how can brands work to be more authentic? Here are a few tips on what to avoid and how to better engage.
- Make it Personal: The best way you can improve your presence on social media is to make the experience personal. Customers like to see brands get personal with insider views and direct communication with employees. Real-time responses to actual user questions and complaints are also a huge success.
- Avoid Scripts & Schedules: As we've seen in the above examples, scripted and scheduled tweets can very easily backfire. Avoid form tweets at all costs. If you schedule your posts, at least make sure to check and pause the schedule in the face of a national tragedy or a PR crisis.
- Never Use Tragedies: Speaking of national tragedies, it is never a good idea to use them for your own benefit. This strategy rarely (if ever) fools customers, particularly those in the area affected by the tragedy.
- Be Creative: Finally, the most important piece of authenticity on social media is to be creative. Social media is intended to be constantly changing as users post different types of updates about themselves and their lives. Similarly, your brand should be posting new, innovative content in a variety of formats to keep users engaged.
How do you keep your company's voice on social media authentic?