Can Social Media and Authenticity Coexist?
You don’t have to look very far to find that one of the top trends for Social Media in 2019 involves one word: authenticity.
In a time where we have to worry about things like bots, click farms, “fake news”, buying followers, algorithms, privacy breaches, and click-bait - it’s no surprise. Our bullsh*t meters are off the charts. And we’re becoming skeptics - a recent Edelman survey shows that people’s trust in social media is at 41% globally, with the UK sitting at just 24%.
If you really think about it, social media, by nature, is fake. It’s all about creating and portraying a certain image to the world, rather than a reflection of the authentic self. We produce content, images and words that will “beat” algorithms and reflect a certain persona of how we want society to see us, or our brand.
It begs the question: can social media and true authenticity coexist?
In short, I don’t think so.
But I think there are a few ways we can get closer to it.
No more shortcuts
It’s true that as an account manager, things like bots make your job a lot easier. Programs can automatically respond to customers, leave comments on other pages, and follow other accounts. But this takes away the human aspect, and people can now see right through it. Nothing screams “bot” more than a half-hearted generic comment or a randomly placed emoji that doesn’t even relate to what you posted.
Here’s a few examples that we’ve had on our own account recently:
We need to remember that social (by definition) is not a one-way street. That means giving back our time and effort to people that have given it to us, by interacting as a human.
“2019 will be about being open, honest and involved” says Katy Leeson, Managing Director of Social Chain UK.
Taking a few minutes every day to respond to comments, while browsing and engaging with accounts you follow can go a long way. You might also just learn a thing or two about your audience in the meantime.
Get on board with (genuine) user-generated content
Reposting or interacting with users that are already a fan of your brand is a great way to not only get them even more excited about your brand, but also remind consumers that there are humans behind the screen. In fact, consumers are three times more likely to say content created by a consumer is authentic compared to content created by a brand.
Although trust for influencers in general is also walking a fine line, working with the right influencers is a great way to receive user-generated content while expanding your audience.
A good example of “the right influencers” is what boat shoe brand Sperry did towards the end of 2016, working with over 100 micro-influencers who were already fans of the brand and tagging them in content. They sponsored them to continue creating high-quality content which resulted in a long-lasting partnership that was truly authentic. They now have a hashtag (#SperryMyWay) in which fans can use for the chance to be featured on Sperry’s almost 300k-strong account.
“Audiences aren’t opposed to being marketed to.” says Forbes, “Many just disapprove of the manufactured nature and lack of genuine connection associated with certain sponsored campaigns.”
These influencers are clearly the expert of their own audiences, so take a collaborative over a controlling approach to ensure all content can be it’s most genuine.
Ignore the bullsh*t metrics (I’m looking at you, Follower Count)
… And keep your eyes on the quality of the content you’re producing.
“They are, in essence, just numbers.” says Social Chain’s Strategy Director, Mike Blake-Crawford, “Far too much focus is placed on the value of reach, engagement, video views and clicks - leaving many who work in the industry blind to the bigger questions around creative resonance and the quality of communication within content. That’s not to completely discredit these measures - it’s just to stress the importance of context.”
And context is key. The important metric could change for every piece of content, depending on its purpose.
We recently had a social post that, according to engagement, looked like it had tanked. When we stepped back and thought about the reason we posted it (to promote a blog post), and adjusted the metrics to check on site views, it had actually been the highest performing post in that category.
Along with the increase of bots, fake followers and click-farms, many metrics lose their relevance completely.
“Social media platforms are starting to realise how fundamentally soulless and empty many of their metrics are,” says digital marketing expert Marcus Sheridan. “Finally they’re being scrutinised a bit and they’re having to clean up shop. We’ve got entire businesses and brands built on vanity metrics and sandy foundations. Transparency and authenticity have to be the metrics going forward.”
Social media accounts should feel like more of a community than sheer numbers, and to achieve this, quality over quantity is the name of the game.