The two core ingredients of being authentic on social media

James Perkins

Authenticity has become a buzzword in social media marketing, but “deservedly so” according to Nicole Jensen, director at Nicole Jensen social media. “It’s so important,” she says.

Most businesses, from sole operator to large corporation, are now using social media channels spanning Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram to promote products and services. This in turn, is changing the way businesses are interacting with customers and clients.

As Joe Brown, creative director at Media Junkies explains, communication is now two-way. “Brands can’t deliver their pitch without the public validating or contradicting their statements,” he says.

“The change brought about by this two-way communication makes authenticity vital.” Brown believes it’s a feeling that only comes from the gut: “You’ll know if something’s pretentious or totally spot on.”

The result? Being authentic engages the audience. “You can’t build relationships unless your public believes in you,” says Brown. “You can’t fake your way through it.

“Show your real face, warts and all, and that’ll make you more relatable. It’s easier for people to connect with a person who’s authentic in every way than with a concept that looks nice from a distance.”

Capturing this feeling is easier said than done, according to Brown, as each brand has its own message, look, feel and marketing direction.

It takes creativity to capture attention and build affinity with clients and consumers. There are also risks involved. It’s ironic, but being authentic takes planning. Here’s how.

"It’s easier for people to connect with a person who’s authentic in every way than with a concept that looks nice from a distance."

Plan to be real

Planning starts with the branding. Once that’s been bedded down, choose the social media channel most closely aligned with your strategy and product.

“There are a lot of variables, depending on what you want to get out of social media and who you want to connect with,” says Jensen.

“Before you start, you need to think about which channels you want to use.” Once the channel has been chosen, start posting content relevant to the industry the business is in. “Choosing the right media channel is the key way to appear authentic,” says Jensen.

Brown says it’s important to tone down the sales pitch. “Entertain your audience instead,” he says. “Engage them on Snapchat, Vine, Twitter or Instagram. Talk to them and make them feel that there’s a human being behind your product.”

Don’t be a #PRfail

As businesses work to engage with more people and to entertain their audience, there are some inevitable risks. Could your post be misunderstood? How do you deal with public customer complaints?

Jensen says an increasing number of businesses are looking for advice on this topic. “If something has been done wrong, by your own business or by a supplier, own up to it, acknowledge the fault,” she says.

“Get their phone number to call and discuss the problem and take steps to rectify it. Make a public response, so others who may have the same issue know it’s going to be dealt with.”

It can be daunting for small business owners to “put themselves out there” on social media. Jensen’s advice? Just relax. “When you’re more relaxed, the real person comes through.”

James Perkins

James Perkins is a freelance journalist based on a Gold Coast with experience writing across a variety of areas including business, science and technology, sport and news.

Image: Esther Vargas, Flickr Creative Commons license