Authenticity Is Essential in Social Media [AKA How Being Yourself Online Will Change The World :D]

5 02 2012

After encountering folks and companies online that are not necessarily what they may say they are, I started to think of what it was that bothered me about the inconsistency. It comes down to one of my core values: authenticity. I strongly believe in being who one is wherever you are, perhaps this is due to coming out at age 17, and generally being a “weird kid” growing up, but authenticity was an area I wanted to explore further. Especially with regard to who it fits into our modern social media world.

The internet allows for anonymity.   That can be a very great thing when revolutions or political persecution are involved. Otherwise, I 100% support using one’s real name online.

A real name alone is not enough. One can use their real name and not be honest about who they are. I believe inauthenticity is not only harmful to our online interactions, but to our communities, businesses, and over all, our world.

Be yourself. Period.

How authenticity affects a person’s online identity

If you are going to be present online, then you need to be yourself. Social media success requires content creation in one’s own voice, be it as an individual or a company. The internet is, somewhat ironically, based on trust. When people are disingenuous with who they are online, it can affect their offline life.  Act as “another person” online and your interactions will be suspect. Trust will be lost.

How authenticity affects businesses

Businesses used to think it crucial to control and manage their identity both on and offline.  Conventional marketing wisdom would stress the importance of companies ‘controlling’ or managing their brand and image.  The internet is causing a revolution in this area.  Customers are keen to interact with their favourite brands.  They also want to share their impressions and expect to be able to do so.  Companies can choose to harness this power with their greatest asset – their human resources.  Allow your employees to interact with your customers on social media in an authentic and heartfelt way and your business will boom.  Try to control and manage your customer’s speech and employees interactions and get ready for a backlash.

It is necessary to have a social media policy that provides clarity to your employees as to your business goals, and objectives. This will allow you to create a culture of brand ambassadors.  Without such a policy, confusion and hesitation will lead to a lack of employee participation and inconsistent messaging.  Provide your employees with guidance and encourage them to shine.

When a company or brand lies or misleads people in social media, they are often punished by their customers.  If your company makes an error, please be honest, transparent and real in your handling of the situation.

How authenticity affects our world

Authenticity refers to the truthfulness of origins, attributions, commitments, sincerity, devotion, and intentions. Could you imagine a world where everyone lived like that?  I sure could.  Life would be much easier for all of us if we could find the courage to practice authenticity.  Let’s face it, we all look for this and crave it in our relationships with people. Being authentic allows and encourages others to do the same.

Consistent authenticity has the power to change a world in which even the smallest voice can be heard.

In Summary

Authenticity is essential in online community. If you engage your community as your authentic self you never have to worry about being called out on inconsistency. Your community members can easily find out if there is something up, and can call you out on it. Just be yourself and avoid the mess.

An authentic voice means that your community members can trust you. Once that trust has been built (it will take time, and careful consideration) you will have community members who are devoted to your brand. The creation of a positive community around your brand will be far more rewarding in word of mouth than any quick one-off email campaign.

An authentic social media presence:

  • is easier
  • more engaging
  • more interactive
  • creates greater brand affinity
  • increased trust
  • encourages others to interact authentically
  • helps create a better world for everyone, one interaction at a time.

Your authenticity WILL inspire others.  Now go be yourself, increase your social media credit, and shine your light brightly!


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5 responses

6 02 2012
Zsuzsa Szabo

It’s a great post, thanks for sharing your thoughts on the topic. I am thinking about launching my personal website, as I think people might believe me more than the brand I represent. It’s a though work. And a though marketing work, because you need to find out who you talk to and why, and how.

6 02 2012
certainlysocial

and also find out who you are as a person. (of course all this changes as we learn more about ourselves and each other) but if one knows her/himself well, then the rest will follow through I believe. I am definitely learning more daily :)

7 02 2012
Zsuzsa Szabo

Certainly. Especially because I am at the very beginning of my professional life!

7 02 2012
Tyrell Mara

Ryan, awesome post! I think you are spot on, and there are so many good points in here it was hard for me to find one that really stood out among the rest. I really appreciate your voice and where you are speaking from in this post, it is noticeably and palpably authentic ;), and I always believe that is where we are most powerful in communicating and engaging!

I think one of my favourite parts of this post is actually your definition of authenticity, it is a word that is thrown around so much (especially in the online space), that it was really nice and refreshing to go deeper into what it really means and looks like to “be” authentic. What does that really mean?

I think at the end of the day it comes down to knowing Who we really are, and being confident in that place as well as the journey that we have taken to get there. That is so powerful and creates the foundation for having authentic and meaningful interactions. This is something I am really passionate about and I thoroughly enjoyed reading your post!

Thanks Ryan,
@TyrellMara

12 02 2012
7 Ways To Put the LOVE Back Into Your Community Management « CertainlySocial

[...] In community management as in a relationship, it is important to share your humanity. This is what makes you a real person. When people can share the vulnerable side and be authentic with one another it builds trust and increases the connection shared. This change will be palpable in your community. (For more on authenticity, see this post) [...]

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