The Problem with Authenticity
Updated: Jan 27, 2020
Being relatable seems to substitute relevance when it comes to valuable content. Here's how to fix it.
Tell me you haven't heard this phrase before: "People buy from people".
It's a rampant favourite in small business networks lately, and I admit to making this big announcement myself, getting the satisfactory wide-eyed response of "I know, right!?"
As a consultant, it sounds idiotic reading this phrase that has become so "insightful". Because OF COURSE people buy from people. So if you haven't heard it yet (and I'm certain you will), all you need to know about this phrase is that it refers to business owners being more transparent and real with the consumer, a.k.a. more authentic.
Now, it's no secret we have all attempted to become more, ahem, authentic in our social media marketing. Overall, this is a good thing. According to Hubspot, 84% of millennials don’t trust traditional advertising anyways.
It's reasonable to say, we all like it when we know who is solving our problems for us; the more we know, the more we trust. The more authentic people are, the more we trust them. When we trust, we are more likely to become customers. That's how it works, right? In theory, yes.
Let's explore this. In a world where customers are now more likely to find your business when they have a problem, before you find them with a solution, how much of your content falls into the authentic/relatable/hey look, I'm just like you category?
As sincere as we mean it to be, how do you think the customer with a home office and two busted laptops will feel, when they discover your 5 star rated business page with a featured pinned video of you snuggling your dog? Context: your business is mobile tech repair*. I'm gonna say they'll be confused, and do a one-eighty outta there.
Your authenticity is more about how you can relate to a customer's pain points; how you can communicate and emotionally respond to their needs. When you connect (a precious moment, not to be wasted!), you must convey a genuine interest in helping them and giving them value. It's not about YOU, it's about THEM.
Now consider, what if you showcased yourself with your dog as a prop, doing something brand focused, highlighting how you came up with a solution with the customer in mind. Does your page visitor still see your authentic self? Yes. Do they find what they are looking for? Yes, and now they see you storytelling your value in a personable way. Do you see difference?
So, is it bad to share a bit about yourself with your customers and community? Of course not! We love you! We want to know more about the people we buy from. Keep in mind, the background brand story is important particularly for the entrepreneurs and consultants that blow our minds with big ideas inspired by their own life changing events. It's compelling. The key is to simultaneously share information about yourself and your brand, that demonstrates value. If authenticity means being yourself, then in a business sense you have to reverse the roles: apply that approach to others who view your content looking for value. Think about it. How do you feel about the business owner who only posts personal stuff that is quite obviously seeking to "fit in" with their consumers? The telltale sign here is little to no value offered in the content, and lack of consistent branding.
Let's recap. Sharing your personal motives to create solutions and giving value is far more authentic and powerful than overly personal content that may resonate with only a few people and give no value. "Authenticity" when used the latter way, runs the risk of diluting your brand and lowering your ability to compete for marketshare.
Remember that a business page, on any channel, is inherently designed to help businesses market, promote and to provide consumers with value. If your posts are self-focused, and do neither of these two things, try these 3 tips to re-align your content for value-driven success: 1. Test your message against your mission statement. Does the content touch on at least one of the pillars of your mission (what you do, who you serve, how you serve them)? Messages built around your brand purpose will keep even your more casual posts relevant.
2. Provide a take-away.
Host a free Q&A night in your off season, offer to "sponsor" someone's success via mentoring for a month on a niche skill, give industry insights (organic performs best) to ensure your audience comes away better for it and more informed. Take-away's are fee, and always add value. They are not about converting and selling on the spot. After every post, with your "visitor cap" on, you should be able to answer the question: What did I get out of this?
3. Post for the PEOPLE not the Likes.
This is very important. Never before has quality over quantity mattered so much. We've got algorithms against us, and quite frankly Likes don't matter unless it's your IDEAL audience liking you. Understand that Liking is not helpful as a superficial act. So dig deeper, and pay attention to who your brand is building relationships with and why.
(*Entirely fictitious scenario, not based on any real business models or business pages)