Let’s Be Real: The Power of Authenticity in Social Media
One of the clear benefits of social media as a marketing tool is its ability to be “social.” Unlike other marketing channels, it allows brands and individuals to have a two-way, personal conversation. The ease of sharing allows users to share as moments are happening. This is all meant to lend a certain level of authenticity—hoping that the platform will serve as a way for people to share what’s happening with others without the level of production that would be necessary to share in other channels.
Although Instagram’s goal has always been to “capture and share the world’s moments,” there’s always been a certain element of illusion. Filters were key to the original success of Instagram, and that tendency to fine-tune content has permeated the culture of Instagram. The recent announcement by Instagram co-founders Kevin Systrom and Mike Kreiger raises the question of whether Instagram is headed in the right direction or is on a path to meet a similar fate as it’s parent company, Facebook—embroiled in a battle for authenticity.
Success on social media has always been found, and lost, in the battle for authenticity. Curated posts have become the norm; but if you ask any influencer, the goal is to create content that seems as true to themselves as possible. The second an influencer or brand misses the mark and promotes something that doesn’t align with who they are or what their followers expect, they’re prone to backlash.
So how do you aim for authenticity while reaching for strategy?
As a brand, you don’t necessarily have the ability to create content that meets the standards of representing your brand and pleasing the platform in the moment. You have goals that you wish to reach and you want to grow beyond your immediate network. This leads you to create strategies that build and content that thinks ahead of “the moment.”
But just because you plan ahead, this doesn’t mean you can’t remain authentic.
Authenticity in Social Media
Know Who You Are
The first key to maintaining authenticity on social media is understanding who you are. Whether you’re a business or an individual, it’s key to understand clearly what you stand for—what differentiates you and what makes you special. Ultimately, it means leaning in to who you are and portraying those unique aspects of your brand or self in your feeds.
Know Who Your Audience Is
Once you know who you are, it’s important to understand who your audience is—whether they’re following you or not. You likely have a clear understanding of who your current and potential customers are, so start to understand their social media habits. How do they speak? What networks do they engage on? What kind of content do they already like? Once you know who they are, build your strategy to meet their expectations while reaching your own goals.
Avoid the “Fakes”
Though it can seem tempting, buying “likes” or followers is going to be anything but helpful. Some have bought followers to get to a certain level of influence; but the reality is that those are empty numbers that ultimately will hurt your performance in the platform’s algorithms. Stick to what’s real.
Pick Your Influencers Wisely
Influencers have become a major play for brands and businesses alike. Celebrity endorsements have always been a powerful marketing tactic, but now the definition of “celebrity” has evolved and “influencers” are taking on celebrity status, sometimes in the most “niche” of markets. As a brand or business looking to harness Instagram, influencers can be a rewarding strategy. But it’s important to pick your influencers wisely. When looking for the right influencers to work with, understand who your audience is already following and engaging with. Ensure that their brand aligns with yours—that they hold the same belief systems, values, and lifestyles.
The power of social media also lies in its greatest challenge—the battle to maintain the “social” aspect of the platforms. No matter what social media channel you’re using, think first about your authenticity and strive to keep things as real as possible. Your followers and your future self will thank you for it.