Authenticity Breeds Advocacy on Social Media
Companies that invest in improving the authenticity of their brand on social media are investing in a framework that will allow them to command a far greater pool of advocates for their business.
It’s clearly evident that in order to promote organic network growth, brands need to spend time engaging with their audience in a unique and purposeful way - there’s nothing at all revelatory about that. But to prove authentic to the eyes and ears of Millennial users, brands may need to first alter their own attitude toward their image.
Millennials are 62% more likely to engage with and advocate brands that actively engage with them. Alongside being the most diverse widely studied generation, they are extensively community centred and willing to adapt to new ideas. This, coupled with their having grown with social media, makes them perfect candidates for advocacy through a targeted digital marketing strategy.
A great deal of B2C marketers want to tap into this audience - rather unsurprising when you consider that the group commands a yearly purchasing power around the $200 billion mark. In order to build meaningful relationships with this group, brands need to practically ooze originality.
What we can learn about authenticity from the one-way dialogue of old media marketing
Before social media became such a crucial element of business marketing the dialogue between brand and consumer was unalterably one way. While this generally resulted in advertising and marketing ploys that were consistently self-promotion and product focused, to succeed they had to be authentic. As the brand had complete control of the dialogue they could command what was said. Now, where social media is concerned, that dialogue is constrained by the restrictions imposed by each separate network.
What we can learn from the old way of doing things is that, while we need to be responsive to our network, the quality of the story we are telling still really matters. A profile that exists purely to meet a standard within an industry, one that uses mediocre and mainstream content, isn’t one that is pushing the boundaries of authenticity. In order to get those results brands need to go beyond and create meaningful and completely human stories that their network can engage with.
Work towards an increased transparency
Establishing a sense of authenticity goes right down beyond tone of voice and quality of content. Millennials need to be able to witness complete transparency by a brand in order to consider it authentic. The face of a brand on social media needs to first be human before it can be social, and transparency shows an honesty that can build a great amount of trust. Those that get the best response are the ones that are willing to talk openly and have an element of wearing their heart on their sleeve throughout interactions. This can seem daunting at first for certain businesses but is key to cracking social media.
Participate in a valuable and human dialogue with your consumers
Millennials value brand recommendations from their friends. Where a genuine friend isn’t available to comment on the calibre of a company, they will turn to reviews. The reason for this is simple - users would much rather allow themselves to be influenced by real humans than to rely on advertising. Advertising is indispensable in expanding brand awareness, but considered disingenuous where any bold claims about recommendations are made.
In order to indirectly leverage positive word-of-mouth recommendations and engagement by influencers, brands need to prioritise customer experience on social media. A brand that values their authenticity needs to be responsive, reliable and invest in long-term engagement. Authenticity is key to a successful influencer strategy and confident engagement is essential to unlocking this potential.
Appreciate, anticipate and deliver
The most successful social networks anticipate the evolving needs of consumers and develop their services as a result. When faced with a tech-savvy generation of digital natives, companies need to seamlessly employ and adapt to new features and platforms. Brands are expected to be wholly “connected”.
Stop making customers and start making friends
For most, it’s not the concept of authenticity that brands struggle with; rather what that looks like. On a platform that was made as a base for social communication, it’s about increasingly connecting with an audience on a human and personal level. It’s about forgetting what you want to sell and focussing on providing valuable and entertaining content that tells a story. It’s about making real people laugh and building friendships - not customers.
Authenticity transcends any other aspect of brand image on social media as the determining aspect over whether a user decides to take a role of active advocacy or not. Time for brands to get it right or die trying.