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When discussing online culture, people tend to throw around the buzzword “authenticity.”
Yet, content creators often misinterpret what effective authenticity actually is in the context of online communication. This leads to publishing and posting mistakes that make maintaining brand consistency unnecessarily difficult.
In this post, you’ll learn effective authenticity and how to make important decisions about what you should and shouldn’t be posting on your website and social media channels.
Sometimes, it’s obvious when a brand is trying too hard to be authentic. For a particularly egregious example, consider this tweet from Cinnabon after actress Carrie Fisher passed away:
Here, Cinnabon is trying to capitalize on the legendary Fisher’s death by appropriating her likeness to sell more cinnamon rolls. Ostensibly, they were trying to appeal to Star Wars fans; but this turned out to be less of a tribute and more an exploitation.
There is a gray area where it can become difficult to assess the potential impact of a transparent personal revelation or a keeping-it-real meme retweet. Do they communicate effective authenticity and transparency that will engage audience members? Or, are they just a distraction (or worse) that can actually drive a wedge between publisher and audience member?
Brian Clark said it best at Copyblogger back in 2007: “It’s all about ‘how you say it,’ combined with a strategic decision as to ‘what to say’ so that you can meet your goals. You’re trying to create an experience that others respond to favorably, just like you would in person. The secret to effective marketing is to focus on the needs of others, rather than our own egocentric need to ‘authentically’ express whatever we’re feeling at the moment.”
In other words, the right way to think about authenticity is that you need to find the sweet spot where your (or your brand’s) interests, desires, feelings, tastes, and experiences intersect with the transformation you’re trying to help your audience make. And if everything you communicate about your brand works toward that end, then you’ll be working toward your goals as well.
To maintain brand consistency, consider these three questions the next time you’re looking to publish something on your website or one of your social media channels:
Does this post communicate that I understand my audience’s pain points and needs?
Does this post convey respect for my audience’s time?
What is the probable experience that an audience member will have consuming this content?
If the relationship you’re trying to build with your audience is partly based on humor, then maybe the silly cat meme is worth posting; but if you want to be seen as a serious solution to a difficult problem, then humor would not be the right tone to strike.
It’s also important to learn from experience. You will get feedback — even if it’s the sound of silence — every time you publish something online. Pay attention to that feedback. If people don’t respond to something in the way you intended, it’s possible that there was a disconnect between what you thought was effective authenticity and the experience they actually had.
You should also pay attention to what the brands you follow are doing. When something they post really takes off, consider why. Do the same when something misses the mark. No matter the brand, there is real value in understanding what worked, what didn’t, and why.
What recent examples have you seen of a brand getting authenticity particularly right or wrong?
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