According to research from Sprout Social, 81% of people feel that businesses have an obligation to be transparent on social media. Consumers want to feel understood by brands on a human level, and to know that their needs and expectations are valued. Authentic social media interactions are important in creating an engaging online presence because this is how brands develop meaningful connections with customers. Brands who can connect with consumers in an authentic way are trusted and often loved by their customers.
However, being authentic on social media can be hard, especially as a small business with fewer resources to spare on extra expenditures. While social media is a great way to connect, it is often difficult to balance having genuine interactions while also delivering more sales-driven promotional posts that are aimed at cultivating profits. How does a brand combine marketing strategy with an authentic brand voice?
In this guide, we have outlined 3 primary characteristics that make a brand authentic, and for each of these qualities, we offer specific strategies that you can implement to demonstrate these traits. The three traits we focus on are transparency, genuineness and sincerity. Read on to learn how you can demonstrate these qualities in your brand online.
Authentic Social Media Interactions: Transparency
One of the most important qualities a brand must have to foster authentic social media interactions is transparency about the business and its practices. This means showing how your brand is open about your business and its employees. Doing so demonstrates realness, shows that the business is ethical, and proves that the behind-the-scenes work is just as good as the front-end show. Let people see that you have nothing to hide, that your brand is honest about the company practices, its goals, and its management. Generally speaking, transparency means being open about how your products are made or how your services are delivered.
Below are some examples of posts you can make that demonstrate transparency.
Authentic Social Media Interactions: Company Culture
Does your office get donuts delivered every Friday? Do you have company potlucks every month? Do you give out for top performing employees? Share these things with your audience on social media. This is a great way to let customers see exactly how your business works on the inside, and give them a reason to not just like your product or service, but to like your brand as a whole. Show how you treat your employees with respect and how the culture of the company reflects the quality of service you provide.
Authentic Social Media Interactions: The Manufacturing Process
The manufacturing process is important for all businesses. How do you manufacture your products? Who are your suppliers? What materials are used to produce your products?
Chipotle does a great job of using this strategy. They make themselves unique by advertising that they, unlike other fast food restaurants, use “real” foods. They only use 53 ingredients. You can go on their website and see in a nicely designed infographic exactly what each ingredient is. They also make it clear that they use ethical measures for obtaining their ingredients, including getting them from farms rather than factories.
Even if your brand offers services rather than products, you can show the process by explaining what system you use for training employees, what methods are used in your practice, and the research behind why your service is better than your competitors’. This is a great way to show your transparency to your consumers.
Authentic Social Media Interactions: Insights into Business Decisions
When your consumers feel included in your company’s decision-making process, they will see your brand as more trustworthy. This is important because the consumers, above anyone else, are your stakeholders. If you’re changing something about your process, explain why. If you are making a big decision, share it with your consumers. Describe how you’ve grown and changed as a business over the years to include customers in your story and help them feel part of that journey.
One of the best examples of this is when Domino’s released its 2009 campaign about recreating their pizza recipe. They made a video reel of all the complaints they’d received from dissatisfied customers, including things like, “It tastes like cardboard,” and, “Microwave pizza is far superior.” They took this criticism and launched an initiative to redo their pizza recipe in order to create a new and improved product. This made consumers feel heard; it showed them that Domino’s was truly listening to them, and it gave them a backstage pass to see exactly how the company underwent this huge transition and all the steps that went into this process.
It might seem like overkill to explain your business’s entire behind-the-scenes process and the story of your brand development, but it adds a level of transparency that will pay off in fostering authentic social media interactions.
Authentic Social Media Interactions: Genuineness
One important way to have authentic social media interactions on social media is to show your audience that you are genuine. This means creating posts that demonstrate your company values and show that your brand is “real” — or, made up of real people who care. Ask yourself how your business and employees follow through on what they say they will do? Can you paint a picture of how they care about delivering on their promises?
The following examples provide insights into how to show this kind of business integrity through your social media channels.
Authentic Social Media Interactions: Employee Spotlights
A great way to demonstrate genuineness is with employee spotlights, where you routinely post an employee’s story and share what they love about their job. Featuring your employees is a great way to gain credibility with your audience. When you can share firsthand from an employee why they love what they do, it proves to your consumers that your company is as great as you claim it to be.
You can do this in a variety of ways, such as sharing “Happy birthday” posts for your employees, messages about employees of the month, or posts that showcase different departments. Anything to demonstrate that your employees matter and are at the forefront of your brand make for authentic social media interactions.
Authentic Social Media Interactions: Company Values
Another way to show genuineness is to share your company values. It is good to remind your audience why your company matters, what its purpose is, and what values it holds. For our clients, we make a post at least once a month with their company mission statement. We often link to the “About us” page on the website, and share what the company’s primary goal is. This is a great way to humanize your brand and display that your goals are, in fact, genuine.
Authentic Social Media Interactions: Causes and Philanthropy
How does your company give back to the community? Most people believe that brands have a corporate social responsibility to use their wealth to help solve social problems. A great way to earn trust with your consumers and show your genuineness is to let them see how your business meets their expectations of ethical behavior.
If you donate a portion of your proceeds to a charity, share that information on your page on a regular basis. If your employees volunteer at a food shelter once a month, post pictures from the events. Earn your consumers’ trust by showing them what causes are important to you, and you will begin generating authentic social media interactions in no time.
Authentic Social Media Interactions: Challenges We Solve
One pro tip they teach you in marketing school is that your aim in advertising should never be to sell a product; it should be to sell a solution to a problem. Every product or service is in one way or another an answer to your consumer’s problem. What challenge do your consumers face that using your product or service solves for them? What does your brand do to better its customers’ lives?
Examples posts for this include detailing the health benefits of a certain product, giving statistics on customer satisfaction, or describing the amount of time they can save if they use your service over a competitor’s. Of course, the problem you solve varies greatly depending on your product or service, but there is always a way to tie it back to the improvement it effects in your consumer’s life. Your genuineness in this will show and make for more authentic social media interactions.
Authentic Social Media Interactions: Sincerity
Sincerity is an important characteristic of authentic social media interactions, and the more you can demonstrate this, the better your consumers will feel about your brand. Sincerity means connecting with customers, addressing their concerns, and showing that you care about their needs. This includes interacting with them directly, replying to feedback (both positive and negative), and addressing their questions openly. It is imperative to be empathetic in your approach when talking with customers. Below are some strategies you can use to make your voice more sincere in your interactions.
Authentic Social Media Interactions: Customer Spotlights and Reviews
One effective strategy we use is taking customer stories (with their permission) and posting them to the company’s social media pages to show how the consumer has benefited from the product or service, and how their life has improved. At SN Digital, when a customer posts a review about a product for a client, we typically ask them if they can send us a photo and if we can use it in a future post. When brands show that they care about their consumers as individuals, it not only humanizes the brand, but it demonstrates that they actually care about making a difference in their customers’ lives. You will find that the more sincere you come across, the more of these authentic social media interactions you will begin to have.
Authentic Social Media Interactions: User Content
Similar to the previous point, sharing user content is a great way to show your viewers that you are listening to them. For example, if you ask a question on Twitter and tell people to reply using a certain hashtag, Retweet their replies. Have authentic social media interactions by showing that you are sincere in your concern for the consumers’ opinions. Reposting user content is an effective marketing strategy that transforms your brand in the eyes of your consumer from a faceless corporation to an authentic team of real, caring people.
Authentic Social Media Interactions: Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ’s)
You know that one question everybody asks about your product, the one you feel like you have to answer over and over again? Don’t wait for people to ask it. Make a few posts with some recurring questions you get and include your answers, then share them on your page once every few weeks. You can end these posts with a call to action and a link, such as “For answers to all of these questions and more, check out our FAQ page!”
This is a proactive way to show your audience that you understand their concerns and are sincerely invested in making sure they have all of the information they need to make a sound decision. This sincerity will indicate that your brand has authentic social media interactions with its audience.
Authentic Social Media Interactions: Interacting with Customers
Speaking of authentic social media interactions, let’s talk about interactions with customers who reach out to you. Our rule of thumb is to respond to everything. This obviously gets tricky if your business has grown into a large corporation flooded with thousands of comments and messages. But as long as it’s still reasonable, reply to everything you get on social media. Is it time-consuming? Yes. Is it worth it? Absolutely.
There is nothing that shows sincerity like taking the time to connect with each person who reaches out. Reply to all comments, answer all questions, show gratitude for any compliments, address negative feedback. Show your consumers that you are listening to them, and that they are your top priority (because, well, they are).
What we find in social media marketing is that the more human and real you are, and the more people feel a genuine connection with the brand, the more likely they are to buy your product. This is why authentic social media interactions are so important. Brand loyalty often has very little to do with the actual logistics of a product, and everything to do with how the customer feels about your brand. And these feelings are driven by how much of an authentic connection exists between the consumer and the brand.
This is why social media marketing is so much more than simply Tweeting about every upcoming sale or discount your store has going on. Remember, a lot of businesses sell the exact same thing as yours, at the exact same price–some even cheaper–to the exact same target demographic. Why should they pick your brand? Authentic social media interactions are a huge factor in why consumers pick one brand over another.
In order to stand out you must show that your brand is transparent, genuine, and sincere. By demonstrating your willingness to be real, your concern for living up to your values and your sincere empathy for your customers’ needs, you will establish an authenticity that goes far beyond social media, but pervades your entire business as a whole.
For those wanting to know more about navigating the world of social media for business, did you know that SocialNicole is a full-scale social media marketing agency? We manage our clients’ social media channels with the same strategies we shared above, and we have years of expertise and experience behind us. Don’t hesitate to contact us today!