Authenticity is one of the hottest topics in the social media industry right now. There’s no shortage of case studies to emphasize the importance of authenticity — just take a look at Fyre Festival and its promotion of a luxury music festival that turned out to be an island nightmare. The focus on authentic content is hitting influential accounts just the same as brands, especially when reusing other’s content comes into play. Recently, a popular Instagram account owned by Jerry Media became the target of a Twitter boycott after stealing images and memes from content creators and reposting them without credit, leading to a loss of hundreds of thousands of followers and callouts from celebrities to unfollow the account.
The message is clear: you can have the best social media campaign in the world, but if you can’t back it up with realistic expectations of what your customer will receive or fail to attribute your content, you run the risk of losing customers and clients. Being authentic in your social media marketing is vital to the success of your strategy and your business as a whole.
Next time you’re planning your content calendar, keep these five tips in mind:
Use your brand voice
When posting on social media, think about the kind of persona you want to create for your brand. For instance, a law firm may choose a persona that is knowledgeable and supportive, while a fast food brand may choose to be seen as amusing and trendy. As you post, keep in mind what one would expect your persona to say about your content. Creating a persona allows your followers to feel like they’re interacting with a person, not just a brand, and creates a far more personal relationship than posting solely about your business would.
With your brand voice, make sure that you’re engaging and interacting with your followers. Respond to their questions and encourage them to be a part of a collective conversation. If negative comments arise, handle them appropriately and offer your contact information so that the conversation can continue off social media. When users see that you care about engaging with your users, it helps to build trust in you and your brand.
Give them a look on the inside
Some of the best performing posts we’ve seen for our clients are posts that give a behind the scenes look at the business. Everyone loves being let behind the curtain and feeling like they’re in on the secret, and behind the scenes posts help to show a side of your business that you otherwise may not get to share. Whether it’s revealing a sneak peek of a new product or showing part of your processes, posts like these usually garner a good level of engagement from your invested followers.
Behind the scenes posts are also a great way to have some fun with your followers. If something funny happens at your business, go ahead and share it! Part of being authentic is being personable and showing your humanity. A post doesn’t have to have a hard call to action to be successful. Sometimes, just proving that there’s a real person behind the keyboard can help to build goodwill between you and your customers.
Don’t buy likes
Let’s all say this together: there is nothing to be gained from buying a fake following. Purchased followers can make it appear as though your account is more popular, but it avoids the most important metric of engagement. If your followers are not interacting with your content, you will never be able to grow your following with those who genuinely care about your business and brand. Not only does using fake followers put your reputation at risk, it may cause your account to be shut down. Social media platforms are aware of accounts that buy followers and may close the account for violating the terms of service of the platform.
Ultimately, you’ll build your following by finding people who interact and engage with your content. You’ll spend more time building a following than buying one, but as your numbers grow and your fans increase, you’ll be grateful you made the investment in real followers instead.
Disclose your advertisements
If influencer marketing is a part of your social media strategy, honesty is a must. Not just because it’s the right thing to do, but because it’s a federal guideline. The Federal Trade Commission has begun regulating the influencer marketing industry, requiring that influencers note when they have been given an item in exchange for an endorsement or payment.
Influencers can give credit to a brand in several ways. The hashtags #sponsored or #ad can be included in the caption to signal that the post is an advertisement, but it cannot be buried in a caption or hidden in another hashtag. If an influencer has a business account set up on Facebook or Instagram, they can select that the post is a paid sponsorship and tag your brand. The same rules apply for sponsored tweets, which should also include #ad or another similar hashtag. If an influencer posts on Snapchat or Instagram stories, they should use a text overlay on the story to provide credit to the brand. Simply saying #brandAD or “thanks [brand]!” is not enough to show that a post is sponsored. If you’re unsure what you should say, consult with the FTC’s guide.
If you work with influencers, always make sure they’re following the proper guidelines when posting. Failure to abide by these rules could cause fines for both you and the influencer, and it builds distrust between you and your audience when you aren’t honest about advertisements.
Turn to the audience
Want firsthand access to the most authentic content out there? Turn to your users. User-generated content allows your followers to contribute to your content with their own unique perspectives and ideas that you may not have considered on your own. Plus, users are usually excited to share their own content with friends and family, leading to an increased reach of your post.
There are a few different methods you may use to curate user-generated content. First, you can choose to host a social media contest where users can submit content to you. Be careful to read the rules regarding contests on the platform you choose, since violating the rules may lead to your post being demoted or your account being removed. You may also choose to seek out the content yourself by using a search feature on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. Depending on the platform, you may be able to search for brand specific keywords or by your business location for posts and images that users have contributed. Before reposting to your own feeds, check in with the user to make sure you have permission. Never post someone else’s content without asking permission and giving proper credit.