It bums me out when words and concepts I care deeply about become “buzz words”.
Overused and tired, these words get adopted by folks who use them insincerely and they lose their meaning.
Authenticity is in danger of being one of those words.
Everyone seems to be aspiring to authenticity, or something resembling it, because they sense we all crave something real, unvarnished, true.
It’s true, we do.
And authentic is what we all need to be … to be in integrity and true alignment with ourselves and our true purpose or mission in life. Authenticity is what inspires trust.
“The privilege of a lifetime is to become who you truly are.”
― C.G. Jung
Most of us have become so skeptical of authority in any form – and there’s good reason we’ve lost trust in our political leaders, our institutions, media and many brands and businesses. In the “choose your facts” highly partisan era of “fake news” and “fake science” it’s become very difficult to know what – or whom – to believe.
- Is coconut oil good for you or not?
- Is climate change man made or not?
- Does that influencer on social media really believe what she is saying about a product, or is she just getting paid to say it?
We’ve all been there, believing in someone or some thing only to be betrayed by what was a false promise.
Now the smarter brands and businesses are starting to realize that they must regain the trust of consumers, who increasingly make purchasing decisions based on how authentic or “real” a brand comes across in its social marketing.
“If you do not let yourself be seen, you cannot see.”
― Vironika Tugaleva
In the digital age, and driven by distrusting Millenials, consumers have come to call all the shots. They expect personalized “concierge connection” from brands and experts that must compete for their limited and fickle attention. It’s a table-turning phenomenon my social intelligence company Verifeed calls “C2B”.
Businesses that fail to personalize their interactions with consumers on social media in an authentic way, as humans talking to other humans around a common “why”, mission or purpose, are increasingly in peril. And, as data-driven insights from millions of social media conversations parsed by Verifeed proves, those that embrace authentic and contextual conversation put a massive multiplier on their growth and customer loyalty.
So much so, we have discovered there is actually a measurable RETURN on AUTHENTICITY™.
I’ve spent the last 2 years at Verifeed analyzing millions of social conversations – both algorithmically and personally. I know from what I’ve seen that brands and businesses that connect authentically with consumers by “speaking from the heart” in a human, non-salesy way consistently outperform their rivals, win the lasting trust (and business) of consumers…and put a massive multiplier effect on their growth.
But here’s the thing: Authenticity cannot be faked.
At least not for long, because…
People have honed their bullshit detectors for ‘insincere sincerity’ or ‘inauthentic authenticity’.
Fail to “walk your talk” and you’ll pay a high price.
Just look at what happened when brands try to glom onto the “evolved enterprise” trend with an opportunistic zeal lacking any authenticity.
When Kentucky Fried Chicken put a Susan G. Komen pink ribbon on its buckets of deep-fried carcinogens, the rebellion was loud and clear.
But it can be a challenge for brands and businesses to show up authentically on social media.
All too often it seems expedient, or less risky somehow, to hide behind a corporate façade – rather than find a way to connect as a human being.
True connection requires a relationship, and building a relationship requires trust.
So who do you trust and why?
You likely trust your friends because you share common interests, circumstances and experiences. You’ve developed mutual trust because you have been willing to be vulnerable in some way, to be human, to share a laugh or a good cry about something that matters to you both.
When companies try to connect on social media, they need to remember what it takes to make a friend in real life. It means being “real”, genuinely caring enough about the other person (and showing it, asking them questions, wanting to help them have a better day.
It’s hard to connect with a faceless corporation – or a company that demonstrates by its salesy “me first, only me” attitude and voice that it cares only for your money, not for you.
It doesn’t cut it anymore.
That’s why companies like Jessica Alba’s Honest Company can grow to $2 bn overnight, disrupting behemoths like P&G. People from people like them, and no one really wants to buy from someone they don’t know and trust.
So think about what makes your company’s “why”, its mission and what makes its’ offering unique. Think about your personal mission – and who you are when you are being authentically you. Be yourself, truly, even if it risks putting some people off. The best marketing is polarizing so you may alienate some, but that’s ok because they’re not really your customers anyway. It’s better to genuinely connect with those who really do love and appreciate you and what you do.
But OK, being authentic is scary right?
Often we don’t want people to see the “true me” because we assume they won’t like all those “icky bits” we don’t like about ourselves. But we all have them, and authenticity does require radical acceptance of the real.
This is how author Margery Williams teaches kids about authenticity – here, in this passage from the Velveteen Rabbit.
“Real isn’t how you are made,’ said the Skin Horse. ‘It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.’
‘Does it hurt?’ asked the Rabbit.
‘Sometimes,’ said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. ‘When you are Real you don’t mind being hurt.’
‘Does it happen all at once, like being wound up,’ he asked, ‘or bit by bit?’
‘It doesn’t happen all at once,’ said the Skin Horse. ‘You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”
The clue is in the very last sentence because all great marketing is polarizing.
Not everyone will like you, and that’s OK, because your true tribe fill find you and love you more than you ever imagined … when you step into the authentic you … and when your brand or business finds and explores its own authentic why.
So tell me, what’s your why?
What’s “authentic” to you?
How can you or your business be more authentic on social media?
And if you want to talk more about how to be authentic on social media, schedule 15 minutes with me – look forward to a “real” conversation.