If you want your brand’s social media efforts to come across as authentic, you need to know what you stand for and what’s meaningful to you. In other words, authentic social communication requires you to be honest about what your brand represents, what you have to offer, where your weaknesses are, and what’s really important to your audience.
If you’re not listening and engaging in a candid manner, you run the risk of having a message that doesn’t resonate, or worse, creates a backlash, calling into question not just what you’re trying to say via social media, but across all outbound communication channels. For a brand, that’s bad news. Here are four tips for keeping your social-media outreach authentic.
1. Focus On The Individual
Your people are your greatest asset when it comes to social media because they offer a real human perspective rather than a pre-packaged marketing message. The problem is social media can get stripped of its authenticity by strict brand guidelines that mandate an omniscient company voice. Instead, imbue your social channels with the many unique individuals who work for the company.
Think of your audience in the same way. Don’t assume that they are a homogenous mass. This will help you develop a social communications plan that takes into consideration whether this audience is just getting to know your brand or if they are loyal followers. As individuals, we speak differently to different people. Remember that a brand is no different.
2. Listen Up!
It’s impossible to tap into sentiment without a system for listening. As brand communicators, we need to constantly have an ear out for changes in the consumer landscape and be tuned into what’s important to our audience.
For example, a key group influencing the tech industry is millennials, which loosely includes consumers born between 1980 and 2000. You might think you already know it all when it comes to millennials: that they’re all rebels, that their values are vastly different from their parents, and that they’re obsessed with changing the world. In reality, when you listen to young people today through research, you find that they defy those traditional stereotypes. Today’s millennials actually admit they love their parents and list them as friends on Facebook. They have no strong desire to leave home. They’re not even skewed liberal. This new generation is also questioning consumerism more than ever before, and they’ve proven to have very little brand loyalty. Most importantly, they’re currently defining what is real, cool, and interesting. That’s why listening is crucial.
3. Keep It Real
Today’s millennials are not just good at figuring out what’s authentic, they can also spot what is inauthentic from a mile away. Having grown up in the Internet age, they expect brands to talk to them with a real voice, and they’re not afraid to engage them in a public forum.
One great example of authenticity in action is a program recently run by airline KLM. KLM kicked off their social media program by asking, “What do we know to be true about how people interact with our brand?” The conclusion: people waste a lot of time in airports.
Starting with that simple truth, KLM set their campaign up for authentic direct-to-consumer engagement. They decided to surprise passengers that mentioned their KLM flight via Twitter or Foursquare. The teams used social media profiles to learn a little more about these travelers, enabling them to respond with appropriate perks such as a travel book for the hopelessly lost or a sports watch for the casual runner. These random acts of kindness took a little more effort than generic communications, but the response was rewarding. Travelers were only too happy to share their KLM experiences online with others. And let’s face it, what’s more authentic than consumers speaking on behalf of your brand? So don’t be afraid to change your message to suit your audience’s real needs and desires. Then reap the rewards.
4. Follow This Guiding Principle
Given the speed of social media, your message can go from trusted to falling out of favor in the blink of an eye, and it could all hinge on what you say next. That’s why the number one thing you can do to ensure authenticity and trust when connecting with fans, customers, and partners is to think about what your message means to them.