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4 Ways Brands Can Be More Authentic On Social Media

Influencers and brands alike are getting caught trying too hard online. Find out how to connect with your audience in real, long-lasting ways.

Bryan Loewen October 10, 2018
authenticity on social media
Image via rawpixel under CC0

As the internet continues to get stuffed full of content, brands need to work harder than ever to break through the clutter and connect with people online. You know how to get your message into news feeds through methods like targeting, paid campaigns, boosted posts, or working with influencers. But once you get in front of people, is your message actually having an impact, and creating connections with your audience like you hope?

Influencers and brands alike are getting caught trying too hard online. Influencers are crying in posts and then getting called out for “like-fishing. Celebrities are posting that they’ve never had cereal before. Brands are posting overly photoshopped bodies…

Your followers can spot inauthenticity from a mile away.

We connect most with content that is real, and people are catching on to content that isn’t authentic.

Now, authentic is a word that the kids are throwing around a lot these days. But it’s not just a trendy phrase to use at your next networking event. By definition, authenticity is being real, or genuine. This is definitely what you should be trying for on social.

Even though everyone plays the whole keeping-up-appearances game on social media, authenticity comes naturally to a lot of people on their personal profiles—even if they aren’t being entirely authentic.

That authenticity comes because they’re sharing content that is real life, and even though we curate our feeds, contrive our captions, and share only our best moments, we’re still sharing our real lives.

Brands have an entirely different challenge keeping it real online because they’re not people. They can’t just post a 37-part instagram story of a concert and bam—make you feel like you’re a part of their life.

So, how should brands keep things authentic on social and connect with their audience in real, long-lasting ways? Here are a few tips.

1. Be honest and transparent

This should go without saying, but let’s be honest… (See what I did there? Sorry, I’ll let myself out.) We’ve all come across some pretty phony stuff online. Fake news, photoshopped images, stories that just seem too good to be true…

Fluffed up content is everywhere. People catch on to online trash like this pretty quickly. And although a skim through your own news feed may lead you to believe otherwise, people are smarter than ever. We can all easily spot a brand being fake, and it’s not a good look.

As brands, we need to stay as far away from dishonest content as possible, but this isn’t any sort of groundbreaking advice. So take the honesty and transparency a step further. Get honest and real about your product or service whenever you can. Go behind the scenes and humanize your brand with your social media content.

If you sell a product, share stories about how you make it. Tell people where the materials come from, how you manufacture, or how you design the things you want them to buy.

If you’re a service, share the work that goes into creating your customer experience.

If you’re an influencer, post an unedited photo from your actual phone once in a while.

If you’re looking for a quick lesson in what not to do, look no further than our favorite unfamous famous person, Kylie Jenner. In September 2018, she tweeted that she “had cereal with milk for the first time” and that it was “life changing.”

Come on Kylie… you live in the United States of America where cereal is literally a food group.

This kind of pandering for online attention is incredibly contrived, and can damage your reputation, even as a celebrity. Case in point: mere minutes later Kylie was called out on several blogs and in tweets for posting an instagram of cereal with “probably milk” in 2015. And although it may be entirely possible that it was yogurt, it’s just so unlikely she’d never had cereal with milk before the tweet in question.

2. Skip the calls to action for a second

Fundamentally, the entire point of marketing is to create an opportunity for sales, and your social media marketing strategy shouldn’t be any different. But it’s really easy to get caught up trying to turn every online interaction into a quick sale or a conversion by tossing a “Buy Now” call to action on everything.

When it comes to conversions or sales, try playing the long game with social media every once in a while. Strike a balance between posts that are meant to convert or sell quickly, and posts that are meant to simply connect with your audience.

Creating positive brand moments using interesting content creates connection, and makes people feel like they’re part of your brand. And if people feel like they’re part of your brand, where’s the first place they’re going to go when they need whatever you have on offer?

If you’re doing things right, the answer should be “you.”

3. If you mess up, own it

We’ve all been there. An accidental typo, a reply that wasn’t well-articulated, or a post that just goes over like a lead balloon.

Social media blunders are typically pretty innocuous, but mistakes that can damage a brand’s reputation faster than you can say Cambridge Analytica are entirely possible.

It can happen to anyone, and when it does, your first reaction might be to delete the offending content, and forget about the entire thing. But here’s a little not-so-secret secret: you really can’t delete anything on the internet.

The second you post it, it’s permanently burned into the metaphorical eyes of the web. So, in the unfortunate event that you do have a bit of a fumble, own it. And figure out the best way to fix it.

If your social media flub is serious enough, jump into PR mode and do a little crisis management. Even in pretty serious situations, owning up to the mistake and sincerely apologizing for it can help repair some of damage that’s already done.

Do what you can to fix the issue, and make sure your audience knows what you’ll do in the future to make sure it doesn’t happen again. Also, when you get late-night anxiety about the whole situation, keep in mind that social media content moves at a rapid pace. It’s only a matter of time before someone else does something unprofessional and the world moves on to that.

In less serious situations like a typo or a factual error, simply own it by correcting it. If you can turn the situation around, or even turn it into a joke, give that a go too—especially if it suits your brand personality.

People love jokes, and a some self-deprecating humor is fun once in a while.

Pretending like things never happened, especially when the blunder is quite serious, can cause a pile of problems later. Owning up to mistakes makes it clear that there are real people behind the curtain, and it humanizes your brand.

4. Clickbaity headlines are a thing of the past, but what happens next will thrill you

We get it. The struggle to prove ROI with social is real and if we don’t, we’re just “doing an Instagram” and we all know, that’s not what social marketing is.

So what do we do? We create content that gets engagement.

There’s no sure-fire way to know if a post will get the engagement that you hope for, but there are a definitely few hacks that have trended. Some of them are fun—like posting a timely meme (perhaps of Lilo dancing in Mykonos, you’re welcome for the idea)—and some of them are just obnoxious. Like clickbait.

Because of these mostly-terrible trends, we’ve gone through several bouts of content pollution. When brands try to hijack these flippant online content storms, it quickly becomes tired and your content just comes off as trying too hard. Have you ever seen a brand try to turn a meme into an ad? Case closed.

If your social content is there just to collect views, clicks, or likes, you should rethink your strategy. You’re better off not posting anything, than posting sub-par content just for the sake of gaining clicks.

Take the time to put together a well-planned social media content calendar, and make sure all your posts will resonate with your audience. Remember each and every post should be worthy of being permanently attributed to your brand. Your social content is deeply ingrained in your overall brand, so make sure it’s great.

Take the time to plan and build an authentic social media presence using Hootsuite. Schedule all of your social media posts in advance, engage with your followers, and track the success of your efforts. Try it free today.

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By Bryan Loewen

Bryan Loewen is senior copywriter at Hootsuite and is not experienced enough to refer to themself in third person. Can often be found outdoors, hates the cold, and loves to travel.

Read more by Bryan Loewen

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