In a world where brands and businesses strive to stand out and be different, we can’t help but notice that most fall into the same mold when it comes to social media. It starts with snapping a pretty picture, editing the image until it has no imperfections, slapping a filter on it to make it just right, then sharing it on social with a fun, well thought-out caption.
However, over the past few years, this idea of social media has transitioned from sharing your highlight reel as a perfect business or brand, to being relatable with your fans. And there is no better way to do that than by being honest and authentic with one’s followers. Whether you are an influencer, brand, or business, it’s essential to take note of this new “trend” and start evolving your social media content to become more authentic and transparent.
Public Company Culture
When first opening any social media platform, you’ll notice that your feed is filled with ads from brands and promoted posts from influencers. Although they look “perfect,” users have learned overtime that those advertisements aren’t always 100% truthful. Steven Bartlett, CEO and co-founder of Social Chain, found that less than a quarter of consumers trust what they see on social media. So, how does a business or brand build an honest and authentic relationship with their followers online?
Bartlett said it best. He believes that companies can mend their ties and create a stronger bond with customers on social media with “public company culture.” In simple terms, this means letting your followers see behind the curtain for a full understanding of who your company is, including the ins and outs of how you operate. This allows your audience to change their perception of how they see your company, and allows you to gain respect and trust once consumers understand all that goes into running your business.
Social Media Stories
A great way to demonstrate this is through stories on social media. Stories are only live for 24 hours and are a fun, easy way to share photos or videos that you don’t want to be on your profile. Ways to use stories to one’s advantage include sharing the behind-the-scenes of a product shoot or gong live to answer questions your followers might have about a new product or service—any transparency is a step in the right direction.
Sharing The Good And The Bad
Another aspect to consider when it comes to public company culture is the power of social media and how easy it is to uncover or leak information, good or bad. These days, consumers can and will find out about everything your business or brand. It’s important that while you share your success, you also remain honest in challenging situations. Come to find out, people will respect you more for it and see the human being behind the brand.
Take a local pizzeria, for example. They have been a leader in the restaurant industry when it comes to COVID-19. Not only are they going above and beyond to keep their customers and employees safe, but they are also sharing their hardships and struggles. When an employee tested positive for COVID-19, unlike some other restaurants, the company took this information public and informed their customers of the positive case and the precautions they were taking in response to it. The reaction to this social post was an outpour of positive comments thanking them for their honesty and wishing the employee a speedy recovery. Alternatively, imagine if this information was leaked from anyone other than the company itself. I can promise that the response would be the exact opposite.
Authenticity vs. Transparency
According to Nielsen’s Consumer Trust Index, 92% of consumers trust content that is generated by users of a product or service rather than traditional advertising. This is a problem that, as marketers and business owners, we need to correct. So, why is it that people more easily trust user-generated content over the marketing pros themselves? The answer is simple—human connection. Trust is built through human connection. As a brand or company that can be hard to achieve, but social media can be the perfect tool to close that disconnect.
Being transparent and authentic across your social media platforms is a great place to start when bridging the gap between brands and their consumers. Pam Moore, CEO and partner of Marketing Nutz, states, “Essentially, transparency is how much you share, while authenticity is the trust behind actions and words.” By assessing what your company stands for, ideas can then be created to demonstrate its core values, mission, and vision statements through social media content and campaigns.
Not knowing what to believe when you scroll through social media is the driving force behind companies being more transparent. According to Sprout Social, 86% of Americans say transparency from a business is more important than ever before. Brands who prioritize transparency have been rewarded on a multitude of levels from gaining consumers’ trust, increasing sales, and boosting brand reputation. Social media is the highest-ranked channel where consumers want to see businesses making more of an effort to be transparent and hold themselves accountable. However, transparency is something that has to start at the top of the brand with its CEO.
For example, Everlane’s CEO, Michael Preysman, takes transparency with his company one step further by going live on Everlane’s Instagram, @everlane, and answering fans’ questions on topics like factory practices, employee treatment, and so much more. Thousands of followers tune in to hear what he has to say which, in turn, allows consumers to trust the company more which incentives them to buy their products.
Authenticity, on the other hand, is how a brand connects with its consumers beyond transactions. By separating yourself from competitors with a clear and concise message that backs your values, you will have the opportunity to create honest connections with your audience. By doing simple things like responding to comments, reviews, and engaging with followers past their content, brands can develop a deeper one-on-one relationship with their consumers.
Chobani Yogurt is known for their great-tasting Greek yogurt, but they took it one step further with their tag line, “A cup of yogurt won’t change the world, but how we make it will.” Chobani stands for creating a strong sense of community and having a positive impact on the world. Hamdi Ulukaya, the CEO of Chobani, backed up his company’s statement by making high-quality yogurt with only natural ingredients and raising the minimum wage for all his employees, while giving 10% of the company to his employees. Chobani’s consumers appreciate the company’s efforts and resonates with the company’s authentic values and actions.
As social media starts to revert back to its original intention of creating connections between people around the world, brands need to take a look in the mirror and see how they want to position themselves in the eye of the consumer. Be a leader, be authentic, and be transparent. Like anything, change is hard, especially when it involves brand pivoting, but the reward of brand loyalty is worth it.