A recent post in socialmediatoday.com (by Eric Wittlake) contends that since corporations are not in business to serve customers, but rather to earn profits, corporations should not be “authentic.” If they were authentic, customers would see nothing but greed and selfishness.
According to Wittlake,
We don’t want to see the authentic you in social media. So put on your face. Project your carefully constructed image. Just never let us see the real spirit behind your activity.
Always remember: Your audience is ruthless. If you are authentic and display your true motives, we will call you a jerk. If you carefully project your image and then slip up, we will call you a fake. So project your image and always stay in character.
While I absolutely agree with Eric that not all corporations are beacons of selflessness, I do not believe that businesses and executives can merely “put on their faces” and step into the social-media realm in pretense. I believe that those brands who enter social media as liars are slowly decaying. They are decaying because consumers know which brands are liars, and which ones are authentic.
Consumers DO want to see authenticity in brands. The brands and people who are authentic will prevail.
For brands and executives who want to gain and keep trust, here are five tips:
1. Be PASSIONATE about your product or service. If you are not passionate about your product, please quit your job today and apply your skills to something that you are passionate about. Only then will you be of any rich, meaningful value to your industry and to humanity. And only then will your engagement in the social-media arena be effective and well received.
2. Develop a bit of EMPATHY. If you get out of bed every morning only to make money, without any care for the people who buy your products or services, then you are not doing yourself or the world any favors. Think about people. Think of the needs of others. In doing so, you’ll make your product or service far better than your competitors’ products or services. You’ll also have a fighting chance of success in your social-media efforts.
3. Develop a bit of HUMILITY. If you’re so smug and arrogant that you can’t admit one iota of fault in a matter, then how will you ever improve? How will your product ever improve? How will your company ever improve? How will your customers’ lives ever improve? (Trust me. Your customers can smell arrogance a mile away. So don’t even try to tweet with an arrogant mindset.)
4. There’s nothing wrong with making a profit! Just be HONEST about the fact that you are indeed striving for profits. Your customers already know you need to make money for your company. So, rather than acting like you and your product are God’s answers to your customers’ woes, and that you are doing them a favor by allowing them to purchase your product, try listening to your customers. Develop the attitude of, “Hi, customer. I value your business, and I want my company to be the very best in our industry. I want to be better than our competitors. So, what improvements can I make to make you happier? What types of things can I do that would cause you to continue purchasing my product/service?”
5. There’s nothing wrong with marketing in and of itself. Just be HONEST about the fact that you are indeed marketing your brand. Rather than saying “We’ll make you a superstar! Take a picture of yourself with our product, send it to us, and we’ll display it on our Flickr page!” Try being honest, and say, “Please help us develop our fun brand! We’d love your smiling faces to be seen with our product!
Eric Wittlake is correct: The audience (you and me!) is ruthless. We will indeed rip apart the social media efforts of any fake, contrived brand. So the advice to put on a “face” is ill advised. The only answer is for executives and brands to become more passionate, empathetic, humble and honest. Anything less will lead to failure.