By: Kaia, Social Media Manager
“Authenticity” has become marketers’ favorite buzzword, and brands are now expected to always be honest and transparent in their efforts to connect with consumers. Telling consumers a brand story instead of just advertising to them is what wins trust and appreciation. In a time of social media-fueled cynicism, knowing what your brand stands for and communicating that effectively is a powerful tool.
A 2016 study found that less than 25% of Americans see brands as honest, but they base their opinion of a brand more on personal experience than on corporate behavior. With the rise of social media, it’s easier than ever for brands and their customers to interact, and followers form opinions at the speed of text. This makes smart and effective communication more important than ever.
How can companies embrace the authenticity trend in a way that works for their brand? What does it even mean for a brand to be authentic?
It’s a big ask for brands to take on transparency: as a Forbes article from earlier this spring argued, “…the irony here is that marketing, by nature, isn’t really authentic. It’s an all-out arms race as brands compete to showcase their products and services in the most attractive, clever and appealing light possible while simultaneously downgrading their competitors and sweeping any negative commentary under the rug.”
It doesn’t work for many brands to talk to consumers like they’re talking to a friend, and social media users are quick to call out tactics that they read as insincere or evasive. However, there is a happy medium that brands can lean into by being transparent in key areas: brand voice, partnerships, and during crises.
Brand voice is one of the most important elements of online and offline presence. On social media, having a consistent tone and style that followers find compelling will drive loyalty and engagement. If your brand’s voice aligns with consumers’ perception of your brand, it feels authentic. Take a look at brands like Disney or Apple, which are rated as being highly authentic – Disney’s Instagram is all about “capturing day-to-day magic,” and Apple is constantly overhauling its social media to reflect product innovations.
The rise of influencer marketing has made it easy to connect directly with consumers. A trusted influencer promoting your product or service can often do more for sales and awareness than a traditional advertising campaign. It’s key to be judicious in choosing influencers to work with – brand alignment is more important than following. When planning an influencer campaign, look for potential ambassadors who are truly fans of your brand and can provide an authentic recommendation to their followers. A mismatched partnership may detract from your brand’s trustworthiness.
Whether it’s a simple customer service issue, or a large-scale communications crisis, addressing issues honestly wins consumers’ trust. On social media, everyone’s voice is amplified, and issues can quickly spiral out of control. Sharing as much information as possible and letting consumers know that you’re working to deal with a problem does much to assuage concerns and triage a crisis. Organizations from the MTA to United Airlines have learned this the hard way. Honesty is always the best policy.
Social media is an incredible way to connect with consumers and give them a personal stake in your brand. If they (millennials, in particular) feel that a brand has a real identity, and they hear from you when you’re not selling them something, they’ll connect more with your brand. Establishing a voice, partnering with individuals and companies that align with it, and maintaining it during a crisis are great steps towards the end goal of having an “authentic” brand.