The more time you spend on social media, especially in Twitter chats, the more you've heard the term "authenticity" being thrown around. It is often discussed, and we as marketers, are always told that building an authentic brand is the only way for companies to survive in these digital times, but how often do you actually hear people talking about building a strategy around authenticity? I hear people say that to be authentic you have to be honest, but it goes much deeper than that.
Authenticity is a vital component for any brand. It relates to how you are perceived, and how much trust you garner from both potential and existing consumers. What does "being an authentic brand" mean to you? To me, an authentic brand is one that is relatable, doesn't seem like a large corporate entity but does business on a personal level, and is one that I feel comfortable spending money on because I feel I can trust in the company and the people that make up the company.
I know that these days, there are many people and companies that feel you can "learn on the fly" - especially because social media and "new marketing" is ever changing and evolving, but I am a big proponent of putting plans to paper, with goals, strategies, tactics and firm ways of measuring where I (my brand) is at any given time. When I consult with my clients on building an authentic brand, here are a few strategies I suggest starting with:
- The only way to connect authentically with your community is to find out what is important to them, who they are, what they value, what they're looking for. I am a firm believer that if you are truly listening to people, really actively listening (as opposed to listening while thinking of what you're going to say next) people will tell you everything you need to know. Getting to know people as your brand is no different than getting to know new friends. It is a give and take relationship. How many friends would you keep around you that only talked about themselves, and never asked about YOU or cared what YOU had to say?
Don't Be Afraid to Show Your Brand's Personality Without the people making up the brand, there is no brand. Consumers are savvy enough to understand that there is someone (or a group of "someones") behind the corporate handle on social media platforms talking with them and sharing with them. Let people get to know those people "behind the brand." You have hired them and put them into the position of leading your social media for a reason, and I'm willing to bet it's because there was something about each of those employees that drew you to them. Let your communities be drawn in by them as well.
Use Images Images help people see what it's like to be a part of your brand. If you post a picture of you in your office, people will be able to have an image in their minds of how they are chatting with each time they see you in their social media streams. People connect easily with images and if you show behind the scene images that instantly helps your brand come off as more authentic, over another brand that hides what is going on behind the curtain.
Keep Scheduled Posts to a Minimum this is a hot button topic in social media these days. I am not a fan of scheduling or automating posts at all, unless it's for A/B testing. While it might seem more convenient to schedule your posts, so you can get more done, authenticity comes from posting in real time, in my opinion. I believe that if you've got the time to talk with people about the posts you're putting out (and isn't that the point? Why post something if you don't want any engagement on that post?) then you've got the time to post it, and then respond when people respond to your post.
Be Available Nothing builds authenticity faster than being available for conversations when your community wants to have them. Social media allows you to have honest 1:1 convrsations with people, take advantage of that! Even if you only find one person each day to chat with, people will see that you are a brand that cares about people and your community, and perhaps something you say to someone else will make them want to speak with you the next day.
Admit When You're Wrong There is nothing worse than watching a brand deleting negative comments or avoiding talking about a mistake that was caught by the public. Brands can establish authenticity on social media by immediately taking responsibility for mistakes, being public and open with their apologies and not hiding or becoming overly defensive about their wrongdoing. Depending on the error, you might lose fans or consumers, but I believe you might GAIN fans or consumers by how well people see you owning up to your mistakes and promising to do better moving forward.
Tell (true) Stories Stories help create an emotional connection between your brand and your consumers/community. People trust people, so let your stories not only be about how your company began, but about the people that make up your company. Tell stories that help people relate to your brand, so that they can see how your brand slides effortlessly into their daily lives. The goal is for people to feel that your brand is just like them, has similar values and goals, and makes them feel better about themselves for being a part of your brand story.
A truly authentic brand isn't born in a day. It takes time, and you will need to be patient and allow yourself the time to create authenticity and trust. The more you understand your consumers and the communities they are a part of, the easier it will become to align your content, messaging and marketing activities to align with their needs in a relevant way. Embracing authenticity is a long term strategy for brands. Whatever time it takes will be worth it, as you build loyal consumers that want to do business with you for years to come.