Your Followers Want Authenticity, Not Ads.
22nd December 2016
From filtered selfies to recycled jokes and exaggerations of everyday life, many of us are guilty of telling white lies on social media. After all, social media is a public forum, and everyone wants to present the best version of themselves. What’s more, everyone wants to believe they are the best version of themselves.
This is commonly referred to as the distinction between the real and the ideal self. For the individual, your real self refers to everything that makes you, you - your attributes, characteristics and personality. Your ideal self is an image of yourself as you feel you should be.
On social media, we create profiles as presentations of ourselves, and the real and ideal selves intersect. Often in this process we eliminate certain aspects of our real self in order to portray the ideal - much of which has been driven by societal and environmental influences.
This naturally breeds doubts surrounding authenticity, and to what extent we can believe the posts we see in our social media feeds.
If you’re wondering how critical authenticity is to your social media strategy, consider the fact that 63% of global consumers claim they would buy from a company they regard to be authentic, as opposed to one they do not.
When it comes to what your followers want to hear on social media, 91% of surveyed customers want to follow authentic brands; 61% are interested in product utility; 60% care about brand appeal, but only 39% are interested in hearing about brand popularity.
Creating a social media profile for your business is easy. Establishing a presence that helps build trust and drives sales is not.
Over time, social media trends and themes have standardised many of the ways we behave online. Brands have also tapped into these trends, publishing heavily stylised social media content that bears no distinctive characteristics other than being created to fit a particular archetype.
Audience profiling and bespoke content creation is nothing new, but the problem with brands that neglect their unique qualities in favour of following the crowd is that they lack definition. When you lack definition, it becomes difficult to remain consistent in your communications and behaviour.
This is particularly problematic when it comes to brand-consumer relationships. In order to form a relationship with a brand that is built on trust and loyalty, an individual will seek to evaluate and define that brand in their mind.
If your online voice is inconsistent, you come across as confused and difficult to read. When your brand is confused, so are your audience and potential customers.
Being authentic makes asserting your brand’s purpose on social media a more intuitive process. When you’re (or, rather, your brand is) being yourself, people know where you stand and what is important to you. You don’t have to worry whether your online voice accurately represents your values and purpose.
Another problem with following the herd is that you may blend a little too well. On social networks that are already overcrowded with branded content, this risks devaluing your message to the point of insignificance.
Many brands on social media adhere to a template. They fall into the trap of talking about themselves too much, churning out the same lifeless, sales led messaging as everyone else, just with different products.
Daring to be different with content in an authentic and genuine way could arrest the attention of your potential customer and deliver them a breath of fresh air. Your brand’s authenticity could just be the extra edge that sets you apart from the competition.
Authenticity is not something that can be measured or forced. It’s about finding a voice that encompasses your mission and values and resonates with your audience in a human way.
Nonetheless, here are some points to consider as a guide for finding your most appropriate tone of voice.
Be involved - Provide an ear your followers can speak to. Listen to what they have to say and respond with a real one-on-one conversation. Speaking naturally to your followers, in the same way you would interact with a person face-to-face, is the simplest way to ensure your business comes across more human.
Be reliable - Pick a brand voice and stick to it across all your communications both online and offline. Maintaining a uniform tone of voice across all outlets will reassure customers that your message is consistent. If your voice wavers, you risk coming across as false and difficult to trust.
Be sincere - Pitch less and entertain more. People that are fun, engaging and willing to poke fun at themselves are easy to warm to - it’s the same with brands. Stand by your values. Internalise your business’s vision and purpose and consider it in everything you do online and off. Times change, and companies re-brand, but abandoning your values or style in favour of the latest fad will make you seem flaky and insincere. If you aren’t confident in your mission and purpose, how can you expect your customers to be?
Be knowledgeable - Demonstrating and sharing in-depth knowledge about your industry is likely to be helpful and interesting to your followers. Not only this, it also inspires trust. In other words, show your followers that you know what you’re talking about!
Be aware - Treating everyone the same is a common trap businesses fall into online. Know your audience and provide them with a personalised experience by developing content strategies that are relevant to them. Only 44% of businesses have created buyer personas, so taking the time to analyse your audience and deliver content they find valuable can give you a serious competitive edge against others in the market.
Be honest - Surveyed customers ranked ‘Honesty about products and services’ highest when asked what they want. Nobody is perfect. Own up to your mistakes and be honest with your customers. If you sugar coat issues or sweep problems under the rug, you damage your integrity and run the risk of your customers losing respect for you as a business.