AU-TH-EN-TI-CI-TY…. That’s the key and you have to remember it…

It is the second time in one week that I received this signal regarding authenticity in the social media… Certainly not a coincidence! Be aware that authenticity is the key… Please read this very interesting article (:

Why Authenticity Outranks Content in Social Media

If content is King, authenticity is the kingdom he’s bound within. Once he steps past those borders, he’s out of his jurisdiction, and treated as such.

The same is true for your social media efforts. If you’re only focusing on content, you’re missing the larger picture. An authentic social media presence is essential if you’re looking for real attention in the age of feeds overflowing with effortless, strategy-barren content.

Unfortunately, authenticity has become a bit of a buzz word in the world of digital marketing. As I’ve been reading blogs, articles and even books that touch on it, I’ve seen it misdefined and misrepresented as just one of many tools to be used in the marketer’s arsenal, instead of the lens every social media marketer should be looking though.

So look, authenticity is a simple word with a range of meaning. But for the purposes of sharing content, it has to do with sharing something that’s not false or a flawed imitation; it’s an actual representation of something. It means your posts truly represent what you’re promoting, and it’s more important now than ever.

This cannot be overstated: Authenticity is the AIR that gives life to successful social media strategies. Feel an acronym coming on? You know that’s right – an authentic social media presence enhances your Authority, Influence and Relevancy. Here’s how.

Authenticity drives authority

So, you’re chillin’ in Barnes & Noble, sipping on some Starbucks in the business / marketing section. I step into the aisle with a new book in hand and extend it toward you.
Me: Looking for a great read on social media strategy? Check this out, my friend!
You: Oh, cool, what’s it about?
Me: You see the title, right? ‘How to Build a Strong Following on Twitter’ – that’s what it’s about.
You:Wait. You haven’t read it? How do you know it’s any good?
Me:Well, that’s a pretty unappreciative tone. I saw the book, looked at the title and I brought it to you. What else do you expect?
You:*Walks away*

Seems ridiculous right? Now go look at your social media feeds. Full of obtuse headlines, hashtags you don’t engage with and very few instances of anyone who is truly promoting something they have taken the time to understand so they can recommend it with authority.

Why would you want to be a part of that phenomenon? Set yourself apart by offering real insight into what you’re linking to or the infographic, video, etc you’re sharing. That gives you authority, makes you a subject matter expert and puts you in the category as one who can be trusted to provide worthwhile information on a topic.

I talk about this a bit more in my blog, Four Ways to Write More Engaging Social Media Posts, but you build authority when you show that you know the topic, know the content, and know how to pull the key points out for others. When you do that in your social postings, you look different, you stand out among the crowd of automated clutter; you come across as authentic.

Authenticity drives influence

Influence. If that’s not the watered down word of the year in the social media realm, I don’t know what would be. It’s almost as if we’ve forgotten what the word even means. To provide an analogy of where we are in terms of “influence” in social media, it’s equivalent to opening the door for 100,000 people as they enter a concert they’ve purchased tickets to. They’re interested in the topic, but they’re not engaging with you about it. Such is the case of many of those who label themselves “influencers” today. Lots of followers – almost no engagement. So, who are they influencing?

True influence means you’re actually influencing the actions of those who follow you. And people have a higher likelihood of following your lead when you’re authentic with what you’re sharing.

Related: How to Be Known on Social Media

Imagine how different social media would be if each person sharing content had the thought process of “I found this piece of content helpful, now I want to share it with you to get your opinion (comment), your endorsement(retweet/share) or your acknowledgement (like) of its quality.” That’s authenticity. It’s an others-first approach to social media that is nearly unheard of today, and it needs to resurrected.

It won’t happen unless more people take it seriously. Be one of those people.

Authenticity drives relevancy

Relevancy is a crucial card in the deck of trust. While it’s easy to lose (and very hard to win back), the key to winning it in the first place is found in authenticity.

Think of how you feel when you click that post for the “Five critical things you need to succeed in digital marketing in 2018” just to be led to a lame article with tips like, “spend time on social media”, “have a website”, and “use email”. That feeling of disgust is the result of reading irrelevant content that was promoted in an inauthentic social post. How many of those posts from one account do you need to see before you start ignoring her/him?

Not many. And that’s what makes authenticity so important to relevancy.

If you’re guilty of this, you need to quit doing it as well. If in your efforts to post 15 times per day so you can stay at the top of feeds and amass followers, you end up generating inauthentic posts, the actual audiences you care about will filter you out as irrelevant. And that, my friend, is a tough label to shake off. So avoid it altogether by actually thinking through your posts, browsing the content your sharing, and offering some thought leadership. No, it will not earn you 500 new followers overnight. But it will earn you trust from the right kind of followers.

Case and point – I was working with a client recently who was bothered because his competitor had thousands of more followers than he did. I was managing his account, so that of course pointed the finger at me a bit. So I asked him, “who are you trying to reach?” (I of course knew that answer, but because he was blinded by followers, I think he momentarily forgot). Once he answered the question, I pulled up a dashboard showing him that a good percentage of his followers are executives in the area he’s trying to reach – his competitor has less than 1% of that following.

Why? Authenticity. These executives don’t have time to dig through click bait and trendy hashtags. They want to follow accounts that clearly provide value in their posts and in the content they link to. They view him as relevant, careful, and intentional with his postings. And they want more.

The same will happen for you if seek to be authentic as well.

Have your own thoughts on how to be more authentic in social media? Share them in the comments!

One thought on “Why Authenticity Outranks Content in Social Media”

  1. Soo important and so glad you are writing about this. I’m so darn tired of reading blogs that promote these random brands just to tout their status as an influencer when we all know that they would never use them…. I have had to turn down the majority of brands that reach out to me because they don’t align with my values. But hey I would rather stay true to myself, even if it means I am not really getting paid or getting free stuff.
    Also this was really well written! Cheers!

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Pay attention to your customers… they are your digital brand ambassadors !

Screenshot-2018-1-27 3 Tips to generate more digital word-of-mouth (WOM) - Atlas Copco

3 Tips to generate more digital word-of-mouth (WOM)

In today’s modern digital environment, customers are in the driving seat together with brand owners. They no longer browse your company website for information or to find a solution to their need. No… They turn to their peers, their social media networks, refer to reviews, blogs, etc.

So, does that mean the role of the strategic marketer is evaporating? No! Brands have to put that audience to use. Digital word-of-mouth should not only be monitored but also promoted and used as an effective way of maintaining and gaining further brand equity. We’ll discuss three quick tips to get you started.

Pyramid of credibility

Let’s begin with a very easy question. Which of the following sounds more credible to you?

  1. Brand X: “We have the most reliable product in the market, come and buy from us!”
  2. Friend/family: “I’ve used Brand X’s products and they really outlast the competition. You should definitely try it!”

Well, we as strategic marketers would like to believe it is option 1. However in reality it is more likely to be option 2.

Why is that? Well  it’s all about credibility. In the end, it is our job to boost sales for our products. Customers understand that and start trusting other sources more when it comes to influencing their buying decision. This can be summarized in the ‘pyramid of credibility’.

Pyramid of Credibility – based on Burgers (2011):

Pyramid of credibility - based on Burgers (2011)

Just try to apply this to yourself. Think about any of your last purchase decisions and how you browsed for information. Think about what you perceived as credible information and what kind of material you didn’t trust…

Edelman (2007) already found out in his ‘Trust Report’, that customers trust peers 75% versus vendor PR at only 20%. When we looked at a more recent study (Little, 2015), it claims that 92% of customers trust peer recommendations over advertising and PR.

Importance of brand advocates

In the above pyramid of credibility, we have defined that ‘ambassadors’ or ‘brand advocates’ play a big role in influencing customers’ buying decisions.

Word of mouth in the digital world

Beard (2013) defines brand advocates as ‘highly satisfied customers who go out of their way to actively promote the products they love and care about’. He also quotes Rugetta (2012), who claims that brand advocates are 50% more influential than your average customer.

Why are these so important in today’s digital environment?

  • Increased brand awareness

Basically, it’s free publicity. You’re not paying brand advocates to promote your brand. They are doing it out of their own free will and by doing so, increase the exposure of your brand

  • Digital word-of-mouth fuels growth

Beard (2013) shares the opinion that this type of third person communication fuels business growth, as they are perceived as more credible by potential customers.

  • Customer loyalty

Brand advocates are happy with the products from a certain brand. So happy that they want to share their positive experience with the world. How much more loyal can you get?

3 Tips to generate more digital word-of-mouth

Great, so how do we get started? Well, it is indeed a fact that strategic marketers cannot just sit back and enjoy the ride when it comes to digital word-of-mouth (WOM). Active participation and monitoring the discussion is key into ensuring the right outcome.

Here are three easy tips to get you started:

  • Promote actively

Word-of-mouth doesn’t start by itself. Strategic marketers have to ensure that customers have easy access to test their products (trials) in order to start writing about it. OK great, my customers try out my product. What’s next?

Not every customer will be willing to write about his/her experience with your product. Even if you provide them with a platform to share their experiences, you need to motivate people to do so. This can be done by promoting it through online campaigns or setting up a proper online networking strategy.

And basically, also here we can talk about a snowball effect. Once you get a couple of customers to talk about your products in the right channels, other customers will hop on-board.

  • Engage in the conversation

Great. The discussion has started. Now what?

The strategic marketer has to turn to his/her moderators. The interaction with a brand can determine the likeability of brand advocates continuing to write about your brand. That same interaction might seduce other doubting brand advocates to also pick up their digital pen and start sharing their experience with their network(s).

When doing so, make sure you add a human touch to your interaction. Successful brands like Taco Bell, very often have funny discussions with their followers on Twitter, motivating other customers to share their experience.

how Taco Bell joins the conversation on social media

ut we could also take a step back and ask ourselves: “why do we need all this word-of-mouth? Is it only to promote our brand through different channels?” Well, the answer is simple: NO. These discussions, conversations,… can become really valuable as customer input for further R&D and product development. You get first hand feedback of how your products perform and whether they meet the market requirements. Put that information to use!

  • Reward loyalty

Brands like Apple have a large brand advocate base. Look at the cues they have outside their stores when a new iPhone is released… Thousands of brand advocates are waiting to share their experience with the newest innovation. Some of them do it already leading up to the launch, based on speculations, specs and potential improvements they see themselves.

It goes without saying that not all brands have that luxury. That’s why it is important to have a strategy in place when it comes to rewarding your brand advocates. Don’t get me wrong: you don’t have to send out discount coupons to your brand advocate base, just to keep them motivated to write about your product.

Every product, brand, industry,… can have a different approach. Wild ideas could be to involve the brand advocate actively in the development and/or testing of a pilot run of your newest product. Make them feel important and valued and you can rest assured that they will continue to share their experience with their followers. According to Scoutsheet (2017), non-cash incentives have been proven to be 24% more effective at boosting performance, compared to cash incentives.

Conclusion

Digital word-of-mouth is an easy and cost effective way to come to more revenues for your company (Scoutsheet, 2017). Because customers in this digital age have multiple sources of information, we have to understand the different levels of credibility. Brand advocates, who are mostly boosting your digital word-of-mouth, rank high.

Promoting to write about your product is thus extremely important. But never forget, they will always need access to your product first. So, keep in mind to potentially offer trials, based on the market situation that you are in.

When people are sharing their experiences, don’t shy away from jumping into the discussion. You will motivate other customers to start writing and maybe most importantly, you get instant and valuable market feedback to take back to your R&D department.

Last but not least, think about rewarding your brand advocates. Non-cash incentives are proven to be way more effective than cash incentives (Scoutsheet, 2017). So, make sure you think your strategy through.

Author:

Reference list:

Edelman. (2007). Edelman Trust Report. Retrieved from https://blogs.oracle.com/cx/who-do-your-customers-trust-more

Little, J. O. E. Y. (2015, March 24). Who Do You Trust? 92% of Consumers Trust Peer Recommendations Over Advertising. Retrieved January 13, 2018, from https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/who-do-you-trust-92-consumers-peer-recommendations-over-joey-little/

Beard, R. O. S. S. (2013, December 24). What Are Brand Advocates? Why Are They Important. Retrieved January 13, 2018, from http://blog.clientheartbeat.com/brand-advocates/

Rugetta, R. O. B. (2012). Brand Advocates: Turning Enthusiastic Customers into a Powerful Marketing Force. USA

https://scoutsheet.com/2017/10/31/referral-marketing/. (2017, June 15). Retrieved January 13, 2018, from https://scoutsheet.com/2017/10/31/referral-marketing/

https://blog.hootsuite.com/brands-awesome-conversations-twitter/ . (2014, January 10)/ Retrieved January 15, 2018

Burgers, J. O. S. (2011). Geef nooit korting!. Culemborg, The Netherlands: Van Duuren Media.

10 Reasons Why Advertising Campaigns Fail

Excellent article… Yes, advertising gurus are not yet the kings of the world… Customers still have the last word 🙂

10 Reasons Why Advertising Campaigns Fail, Published on February 28, 2017 by Steve Klein

CEO + Growth Strategist

Branding + Digital Marketing (SEO, SEM) Specialist, Contract CMO

A prospective client called me last week, complaining that his latest radio and TV advertising campaign wasn’t working. He wanted my opinion about why, and some recommendations to turn the campaign around. When I talked with him further and checked out the creative, I was reminded about the 10 reasons why most campaigns fail.

  1. THE DESIRE FOR INSTANT RESULTS. The ad that creates enough urgency to cause people to respond immediately is the ad most likely to be forgotten immediately once the offer expires. Such ads are of little use in establishing the advertiser’s identity in the mind of the prospective customer.
  2. NOT BUYING ENOUGH FREQUENCY. Research shows that it takes 6 or 7 times for an ad to motivate a prospective customer to pick up the phone, visit a store or make a purchase online. For a media mix to be effective, each element in the mix must have enough repetition to establish retention in the mind of the prospect. Too often, however, the result of a media mix is too many people reached without enough repetition. Years of experience have taught me over and over that advertising is a game of repetition.
  3. ASSUMING THE OWNER KNOWS BEST. Most business owners are quite unqualified to see their company or product objectively. Too much product knowledge often leads them to talk about features that prospective customers don’t really care about, or answer questions no one is asking.
  4. UNSUBSTANTIATED CLAIMS. Advertisers often claim to have what the customer wants, such as “highest quality at the lowest price,” but fail to offer any evidence. An unsubstantiated claim is nothing more than a cliché that prospective customers get tired of hearing. You must prove what you say in every ad.
  5. CREATING ADS INSTEAD OF CAMPAIGNS. It is foolish to believe a single ad can ever tell the entire story. The most effective, persuasive, and memorable ads are like a rhinoceros: they make a single point, powerfully. An advertiser with four of five different things to say should commit to a campaign of at least two or three different ads, repeating each ad enough to stick in the prospective customer’s mind.
  6. RELYING ON LATE-WEEK SCHEDULES. Advertisers often schedule their ads on Thursday and Friday, saying, “We need to reach the customer just before he or she goes shopping”. Why do these advertisers choose to compete for their customer’s attention each Thursday and Friday when they could have a quality conversation with prospective customers on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday?
  7. GREAT PRODUCTION WITHOUT GREAT COPY. Too many ads today are creative without being persuasive. Slick, clever, funny, creative, and different ads are poor substitutes for informative, believable, memorable and persuasive ones.
  8. FORGETTING THE WEBSITE. Research shows that over 90% of prospective customers visit an advertiser’s website after seeing or hearing an ad, before they proceed further and make a purchase decision. Yet many advertisers forget to feature the products or services that they are selling on the home page of their website.
  9. BUYING ADS ON THE WRONG STATION OR WRONG MEDIA. Many advertisers fail to take the time to think through the targeting of their campaign, and write down critically important information on the profiles of the prospective customers that they are seeking to attract. They fall into the trap of buying radio and TV spots on the basis of just the price.
  10. CONFUSING REACTIONS WITH RESULTS. The goal of advertising is to create a clear awareness of your company and its unique selling proposition. Unfortunately, most advertisers evaluate their ads by the comments they hear form the people that they know. When we mistake these types of opinions for results, we create ads that often say nothing of benefit to potential customers.