Posted by Justin Rondeau | Posted in Facebook, Opinion, Social Media | Posted on Oct 26, 2011
Have marketers on social media undermined its authenticity?
Yesterday I found myself in a bit of a an argument on Twitter during one of my weekly hashtag chats. The argument stemmed from this article dealing with authenticity on social media. My esteemed colleague was claiming that when marketing entered the social realm it undermined authenticity. Just hearing that claim made me shutter a bit, because I don’t think it is the case that because an industry has ROI in mind when developing content, it makes the content less authentic.
One of the major undermining factors in the Forbes article above says that personal branding has adversely affected social media. I still hold that people have different motives for using social media, and the logical conclusion of this line of thinking would be that anyone not using social for the sake of using social is not authentic.
Authenticity is a vague notion, especially on the internet. I think that the inclusion of social in marketing efforts requires authenticity by companies and marketers. They have to develop content people want to read, they need to become a resource for their current customers and prospects. The incredible transparency that occurs because of social media will smoke out a fraud very quickly, so does marketing on social media undermine authenticity? No! It requires people to be more authentic.
If you are bad at sniffing out phonies here are 5 ways to gauge if someone is being authentic on social
1 Content Answers Whys and Hows
Hubspot is probably a leader in this area of content marketing. Social channels become a good way to syndicate information across your network. Though this isn’t the sole purpose of a social network, your followers will appreciate getting new information about industry related topics. Do you think Hubspot is not authentic because they have the goal to convert people who read their content into customers? Of course not.
2 Allows members of the community to discuss
A great example of inauthentic social media marketing are companies that don’t allow users to post on their Facebook wall. I am always suspect of these companies, mainly because they are trying to maintain a ‘broadcaster’ status rather than ‘collaborator’.
I know some companies who are worried about opening the ‘flood gates’ because they don’t want negative critiques. If people have something negative to say about your brand, then they will find a place to say it. It works in your favor to have them address any negative issues on your wall where you can quickly remedy the situation.
3 Addresses issues openly and promptly
See point 2. If a company doesn’t address any issues then they are not taking part in conversation. If a company is not taking part in conversations then they are not being social. Companies who take the time to respond to their customers aren’t being anything but authentic to their brand.
4 Utilizes Industry Standard Statistics
If you are taking part in social media, you probably should be reading a fair amount on the blogosphere as well. It is very easy to tell if a company is distorting a statistic or omitting something important. Always read different sources, it doesn’t matter who you read there are always more sides to a story.
5 Has more to say than ‘Sell Sell Sell’
This description will be short and sweet: Companies who only promote their products are not taking part in social and are obviously not an authentic social channel.
To conclude, just because a company wants a return on their investment in social media, does not make them less authentic. It is foolish to think that you will be interacting with a company and not be exposed to some marketing efforts. Companies need to sell things to survive; social media gives them a way to get their message out in a way that is far less intrusive. You opt-in to communicate with these companies and get their resources.
I think what the Forbes article is collapsing the meaning of marketing and promoting. The two are different; promotions will take away authenticity, and is frowned upon on social media. However, promotions are necessary so keep a nice balance and make sure to give your fans what they want.