Just be yourself.
The standard advice about authenticity makes it seem simple. But when it comes to social media, establishing authenticity can be surprisingly tricky for brands.
How much should you reveal about your brand online? Should your brand try to adopt a clever or funny persona on social media platforms? How do you respond online to bad news or angry customers?
By definition, “authentic” means genuine. So what’s authentic for one brand won’t be for another. However, brands with authentic social media presence share some common traits. Here are some ways brands have established authenticity on social media networks.
Brands with a sense of humor have thrived in the social media space. Pizza Hut and Old Spice have reinvented themselves with quirky, irreverent social media campaigns. By showing their silly side, these brands established a sense of authenticity among their social media followers.
Your brand doesn’t have to adopt humor to show your authenticity. Maybe your brand’s personality is warm and caring, or traditional and serious. Just be sure the tone of your Facebook posts and Instagram images convey your brand’s personality.
The online retailer Zady is often described as “authentic” because of its dedication to hand-crafted clothes and fair labor standards for garment workers. The brand uses its Twitter feed to reinforce its values, posting op-eds about transparency in the garment industry and the importance of craftsmanship.
Brands can show customers what they value through social media channels. You might post an article about an important issue on your Facebook feed or voice your opinion about a current event on Twitter. While marketers may shy away from political or taboo subjects on social media, taking a stand on issues that are relevant to your brand makes your brand more authentic. It’s important to focus on issues that relate to your brand; go off topic and you could potentially lose your audience. For more ideas about how to stay true to your brand, check out: “How to Build Brand Strength.”
Consumers perceive brands that communicate honestly and openly about their products and services as being authentic, according to Cohn & Wolfe, a communications and public relations firm that has extensively researched brand authenticity.
In 2014, the firm conducted research among 12,000 consumers worldwide about the most authentic brands, and McDonald’s topped the list. The fast-food chain has been under scrutiny in recent years for their food after Morgan Spurlock’s documentary Supersize Me. However, consumers gave the brand credit for posting calorie counts on its menus and creating a website that answered any question consumers posed. In other words, people perceived McDonald’s transparency as a sign of the brand’s authenticity.
Brands that want to create an authentic social media presence should consider whether they’re delivering what they promise. Be wary of headlines and links on social media. Is your blog post really going to tell customers the “one simple thing” they need to solve all of their problems? To establish authenticity, be honest and don’t over-promise about what you’re going to deliver.
When JetBlue used YouTube videos to apologize to passengers who were stranded on the tarmac for hours in 2007, the airline branded itself as being authentic. Today, JetBlue has 1.7 million Twitter followers, one of the largest among airlines, because consumers expect the brand to be straightforward and helpful through the social media channel.
Brands can establish authenticity on social media by acknowledging mistakes rather than hiding them. You might post an apology on Facebook when you’ve truly made a mistake, or contact customers who’ve posted complaints. Remember, no one’s perfect, including your brand.