In 2019, Merriam-Webster defined “social media” as “forms of electronic communication through which users create online communities to share information, ideas, personal messages, and other content.”
Nothing in that definition indicates moral, values, or truth. However, how often do you disregard information because you doubt its authenticity? If one post seems inauthentic, have you noticed you tend to avoid that source going forward?
Authenticity is defined by Merriam-Webster as “worthy of acceptance or belief as conforming to or based on fact,” so it should come as no shock that fake accounts are prevalent on all platforms, tweets are posted by bots, and people post what they want you to see and perceive, not the reality of how things are.
That’s potentially chaotic and deceptive in your personal realm of social media. The integrity factor comes even more pronounced when seen through business and corporate platforms. Stock photos are used to represent staff and clients for companies in ads. How can that be authentic?
Placing emphasis on showing your organization’s real people, real clients, real stories and reality behind the scenes builds trust along with relationship-building. Authentic images and words on social media are becoming less frequent, and it’s contributing to a culture of fake news, inaccurate news and not knowing who or what to trust.
On the bright side, the organizations that are getting it right are focusing on authentic behaviors. The bi-partisan Wisconsin Technology Council produces a weekly newsletter sourced with content from a spectrum of news outlets that offer a variety of information from various perspectives. By delivering the news from various sources at the same time, more voices are presented and represented. By asking your subscribers to submit their news, the conversation expands further to include more authentic sources, and not just the ones you know about. Opening up to include others will ALWAYS expand authenticity. It’s a major component of equity and inclusion.
Social media strategists have an obligation to deliver authentic content to the best of their ability as well. Consider the last time you salivated over an ad for a burger at a fast-food restaurant when you haven’t been there in a while. You know it will taste amazing, you can almost smell it – but you know it won’t look like the ad, right? Do you think about that before you get the burger, or do you remember that once you glance at the burger? The same level of authenticity should apply to how you or your organization is represented on social platforms.
Do your staff greet every client with a warm, friendly greeting upon entry? If no, then don’t show that in commercials and in ads. Do you have fresh coffee being served in your lobby? If no, then don’t strategically place that in the photo you use on social media. These behaviors lead clients to subconsciously trust you less. If they came to you (especially over other places) specifically for the warm greeting and coffee, and you don’t have either when they walk in – you’re going to lose credibility. They will likely tell 10 people as well. The relationship isn’t about getting feet in the door, likes and comments – it’s about building trust. That’s only accomplished through authenticity.
About the Author
Laura Kaiser is a conference and social media director for a state-wide non-profit. She also has a social media consulting side hustle to help anyone manage their branding and social media presence, campaigns or strategy.