Why Authenticity Matters in Today’s Social Media Landscape.

Here are a few tips on how you can benefit from a genuine and authentic approach to social media.
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Roberto Mortensen
June 23, 2020 - 6 min. read

There’s a global erosion of trust in national and social media, as phenomena like Fake News and Cambridge Analytica arise, which has led people to perceive a higher exposure to disinformation. As a result, organizations are expected to communicate openly and honestly to their audience while individuals consume information with a more critical eye.

Although Facebook and other major networks have taken a stronger stance to protect their users’ privacy, gaining trust back can be a challenging task. Events like these have changed the way individuals consume content on social media and increased a feeling of skepticism towards brands and their core message. To this day, 65% of social media users are familiar with the Cambridge Analytica data breach, and 37% of people use Facebook less as a result of the scandal.

A study conducted by Edelman Trust Barometer shows how 57% of online users believe that the media are contaminated with untrustworthy information. And that’s not all. 76% worry about false information and fake news being used as a weapon against them.

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Consumers are worried about the quality of the information they consume online – and that’s a reality brands need to adjust to. The question is, how?

Why is authenticity so important?

As human beings, trust is the glue that holds any meaningful relationship together, whether that’s with a family member, a friend, or a customer. In the business world, trust is what keeps your employees engaged, it’s how you keep investors in play, and ultimately, it is how you build longstanding relationships with your customers.

What about authenticity then?

Well, authenticity is the key for building trust. By keeping it real, the relationship between your brand and followers becomes stronger, increasing the customers’ engagement, respect, and even, loyalty. And what is brand loyalty if not a competitive advantage? Fostering authenticity through brand’s social media efforts is important for increasing sales and increasing your ROI – 91% of consumers say they are willing to reward a brand for its authenticity with a purchase, investment, or endorsement, while 62% would purchase from a brand they regard as authentic.

Indeed, authenticity is also about perception and how brands are perceived. When a customer knows they support an authentic and honest brand, it triggers a positive feeling about their own choices. And who doesn’t want to feel good?

We sure do.

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How to practice authentic brand marketing?

Sorry to break this to you, but staged perfectionism is so five years ago.

Instead, today’s consumers react positively to transparent and down-to-earth marketing campaigns, and brands need to understand, adjust, and act upon this. According to Steven Barlett during his presentation at #SMWONE, brands have traditionally operated inside what he calls a black box – an opaque entity.

The problem with that is that the viewer cannot see nor relate to what’s really happening inside the organization. Consequently, content on display becomes a mere attempt at showcasing a perfectly manufactured reality – but not necessarily the truth.

Instead, brands need to shift from having a black box perspective and focus on a more translucid alternative: the glass box. In a world where everything is filtered, and PR efforts run the narrative of the day, we have a large exposure to fabricated perfection, leaving little room for realism.

Brands that dare to be glass boxes and to showcase a reality we can all relate to are the brands that are winning in today’s marketplace. But why is it important to focus on the glass box theory?

Because it’s the ethical thing to do, and ethical behavior drives trust three times more than factors such as your organizational purpose or direction. Interesting, huh?

How do you keep it real?

Are you ready to break through the walls that keep your customers from seeing your true colors? In that case, here are some points to keep in mind:

  • Consistency Matters. Make sure your message fits your reality.
  • Be Honest. Even when it hurts.
  • Don’t fake it. Or else, you won’t make it.
  • Be open about (most) things. The good, the bad, and the ugly.
  • Make sure your values are true. We don’t want to be hypocrites, do we?
  • Think before you speak. And before you post.

Seems feasible, right? The truth is that there are many, many different routes you can take on the path towards a more authentic representation of your brand – at times, crises and challenging situations might be an opportunity to showcase your brand’s true colors, but this is not always the case.

Let’s see how some brands have and continue to shed light on genuine marketing practices in the examples below.

Patagonia – translating their mission statement into concrete actions.

The outdoor clothing brand Patagonia is a wonderful example on how organizations that stand behind their convictions and align their marketing efforts with their core values are perceived to be more authentic.

Patagonia’s overall mission is to build the best product while causing no unnecessary harm, and use business to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis. Such a mission is great, but we’ve learned that unless you keep your word, a mission statement doesn’t carry a lot of value.

In order to keep its promise, Patagonia has taken different initiatives, including investing in renewable energy, donating sales revenue to environmental groups, and actively campaigning for various environmental causes.

Katjes’ response to COVID-19

The German brand Katjes has been raising awareness on topics like animal welfare and diversity for years, and a lot of colorful marketing campaigns have come of it. In their latest campaign, the company takes a stance for the people that are most vulnerable to COVID-19 – the elderly.

Why is this campaign authentic? You may wonder.

It is authentic because instead of endorsing high-priced macro-influencers, they are focusing on and featuring real people, just like you and me. A shift towards nano-influencers, perhaps?

Their values and culture are explicitly communicated through their messaging, and as a viewer, you can get a pretty good picture of what the brand stands for, even behind the scenes. They’re bold, they’re honest, and it shows.

Morphe’s take on LGBTQ+ rights

With their ‘Free to Be’ collection, Morphe aims to encourage the LGBTQ+ community to embrace their authentic self through trough rainbow-color lenses. All net proceeds will be donated to GLSEN, whose goal is to protect students of sexual minorities against marginalization in schools across the US.

LEGO, standing up against racism and discrimination

The company behind the most famous bricks went beyond taking a stance against discrimination and actually donated $4 million to both Black Lives Matter and the NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People). Beyond that, the Danish multinational requested affiliate partners to temporarily halt the advertising of emergency services-related toys, like police officer and fire brigade sets amid the protests in the USA.

 
 
 
 
 
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So, what should be your main takeaway on the above? Well, shortly put:

  • Be bold
  • Be transparent
  • Be genuine
  • …be human