OpinionPOSTED April 27, 2014

The importance of being earnest (online)

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the importance of being earnest (online) (1)

This era of social media über-interconnectedness often poses a dilemma when maintaining one’s online persona. On one hand, there is a lot of pressure to “be yourself” across your social media networks, but on the other hand, what is posted online can be pretty permanent and impactful. (Sidebar poll: Will Miley or the Biebs ever look back at their social profiles circa now and shake their heads remorsefully?)

Managing the two sides can be a bit of a balancing act. Some people choose to have separate online profiles for their business and personal social networks, while the strongest communicators have merged their business and personal social media presence to function as an extension of their own persona.

Celebrities and brands sometimes leverage their social clout to effect change. Perhaps not the most shining example of altruism, but remember when Ashton Kutcher challenged CNN back in 2009 to a race to reach a million Twitter followers in order to donate mosquito bed nets to charity for World Malaria Day? A good corporate example is our client Walmart Canada’s celebration of the amazing Moms across Canada with its award-winning annual Mom of the Year campaign.

As more and more brands populate social platforms, there is an ongoing battle to be relevant to their audiences. A lot of brands out there are courting short-term gains by amassing as many fans as they can in the minimum amount of time. However, while this approach can create large fan bases overnight, they run the risk of the dreaded unlike in due course. With the sharp rise in unsolicited, sponsored content appearing on social media feeds today, consumers are beginning to cut back on the number of brands they follow and interact with online – so brands that aren’t truly and authentically engaging are being given the virtual boot.

Most successful brands in social media are using the slow and steady approach in building their fan base, by truly engaging with consumers in an organic and authentic way. They are not gaining more followers, but also matching this growth with the level of engagement through the content they create and share. The truth is, there is a certain amount of self-interest that is innate to companies’ motivation for being social, but there is also a growing need for brands to show their human side in order to truly engage with their audiences.

And while there is a case that can be made for corporate non-disclosure in certain situations; in the long-term, true corporate transparency will require a major internal culture shift. In the meantime, brands can be authentic in the following ways:

  • Creating content that is informative, relevant and inspiring to their audience
  • Taping into their existing bench strength – employees and loyal ambassadors – to help echo their own mission

In order to resonate and spark action, the importance of a brand’s social voice tying back to its underlying mission cannot be overstated. How many times have you brought up a great commercial, with zero recall about the brand being advertised? That is a lost opportunity for brands to gain genuine following among its audience.

As storytellers, PR professionals have an underlying responsibility to be authentic on behalf of the brands we represent.

What do you think brands can do to be more authentic on social media? Tweet us @apexpr

Rohini Mukherji is an Account Director at APEX Public Relations. Follow her on Twitter.

For strategic counsel in building and growing online communities, email us.



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