I’ve written about social media a few times over the past couple of years, everything from how-to lists to faux pas to avoid. Over time, social media trends have come and gone, but one thing remains constant: the need to be authentic. Google “authenticity on social media” and you’ll see all sorts of articles talking about the power of authenticity, mourning that nothing is authentic anymore, comparing transparency versus authenticity, and even scholarly articles about authenticity in social media. So what does it even mean to be authentic as a brand on social media? There are a lot of different interpretations, but the common thread throughout is that an authentic brand is genuine, human, and trustworthy. So how do you convey that through social? I’ve got a few ways that have worked for us so far.
Publish in Real Time (At Least Some of the Time)
Look, I’m the first one to recommend a content calendar; I think they’re fantastic. Having your posts planned out a month at a time is a HUGE timesaver, can let you focus on specific aspects of your business, and means that you won’t go days without posting. Scheduling tools are also a great help, whether you use Facebook’s built-in tools or a platform like Hootsuite. But amidst all that pre-planned content, don’t forget to post the occasional update in real-time. By hopping on a trending hashtag, responding to a global event, or even just sharing a photo of your day, you’ll show that there’s a real person behind the Facebook Page.
Don’t Spam the Feed
If you’ve written a great blog post, or have an awesome deal going on, it can be tempting to post about it incessantly. (This is a common occurrence on Twitter, by the way.) While it is important to post important things a few times to make sure a larger audience sees them, there’s a big difference between a couple of posts and spamming your feed. If I go to your Twitter timeline (or Facebook page, or Pinterest board, etc etc) I’d better see a variety of content, not just the same thing posted twenty times. Accounts that Tweet the same thing twenty times in a row are accounts that I unfollow, and I know plenty of other people feel the same. So please, practice moderation in your posting. Your followers will thank you.
Avoid Canned Responses (Except When They’re Cool!)
How many times have you followed an account to suddenly get a reply saying “Thanks for the follow!” with no other personalization? That’s an auto-response, and I hate them. Facebook also recently unveiled its new Instant Reply, which you can set to respond to anyone who messages your Page with a pre-written message. They’re pretty much the worst things ever. If someone has taken the time to reach out to a company I represent, I want to make sure they get a response from a person, not a glorified voicemail. That being said, if you can be creative with your auto-responder, go for it. Burt’s Bees is in the midst of a Twitter campaign to save the bees. For every retweet, Burts Bees will plant 1,000 wildflowers. Pretty cool, right? Even cooler is that every person that retweets gets a message thanking them for the RT, with a cute GIF included.
Sure, everyone gets the same message. But when I saw their response in my notifications I got a little thrill – and that’s what you want! People get excited when brands respond to them on social, so if you choose to use an auto-responder, make sure it generates the same level of excitement as a genuine response.
Have a Unique Voice – That is Still Consistent with Your Brand
This is the tough one. When you post as a company, you want to stay on-brand with your tone and the content you post. But if you adhere too strictly to that voice you’ll end up regurgitating marketing copy onto your Facebook and Twitter. And even though we know that companies are marketing to us through social, that doesn’t mean that we want to read copy on our feeds! So figure out a happy medium. When I was running the social media for Polar 3D, I made sure to talk a lot about their focus on education, and shared cool news stories about students learning 3D printing. But I also shared graphics with cool quotes, and fun prints related to specific holidays. The posts that got the most engagement were the ones where I wasn’t trying to sell anything – I was just having fun using the Polar 3D printer and showing off what it had done.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: social media is all about the community you build around yourself. You can’t just shout into the void and expect people to pay attention to you, you have to interact with them. Join conversations on Twitter, ask questions on Facebook, respond quickly to customer interactions, and be sure to post a good mix of your content and other’s. You know that guy in the office that is always trying to get you to come to a presentation about his timeshare? And that’s all he talks about, how there’s nothing like skiing at Tahoe, and you really should come to the presentation, there’s no commitment and they serve donuts? Yeah, that guy is super annoying. Don’t be that guy. Instead of making your page all about you, you, you, make it about your community. Sure, you can post about a sale or a new service – but don’t make that all you post about. It’s called social media for a reason.
If you keep these strategies in mind, your audience (preferably your community) will find you more authentic than the average bear. Brands that can show authenticity trend to be rated trustworthier, and we all know that people buy from companies they trust. So. Even as you use scheduling tools, be sure to post in real time too, don’t spam your feed with the same content over and over, have a real person respond to messages, not a bit of code, and work to develop a unique voice that fits with your brand message. And be social! If you want to learn more about social media strategies, you can browse our archive, or send me an email at [email protected] – I’d love to hear from you!