Any successful social media marketing strategy requires three things: a capable marketer, a good analytics tool, and authentic engagement.
The third component, authentic engagement, is a vital part of any digital marketing strategy. Engagement is how we track the success of various marketing campaigns and evaluate what kind of content our audience likes or wants the most.
As social media platforms have grown, their algorithms have changed to reward “authentic” (I put that in quotes because it’s hard to think of an algorithm being able to understand authenticity) content and engagement.
Content Heard Around the World
Facebook (Meta?) prioritizes content and profiles that produce “meaningful content” that support the company’s goal to “bring people closer together and build relationships.” So, to reach your audience or any potential new people, you must post content that is considered meaningful, while also actively interacting with other accounts daily.
This can be a difficult shift in thinking for many brands and businesses, especially if they are new to digital marketing. Authentic interaction between a customer audience and the marketing material of a brand has never been an issue before.
No one cared how your business would respond on the street if someone saw a billboard and mentioned to the person next to them how poor or great your customer service was. A marketing campaign would be considered worth the time and money based off a small group of testers rather than billions of people on the internet.
Now, anyone and everyone can comment, like, dislike, or report any digital marketing campaign or content a brand puts out. A billboard or newspaper ad that only one city, state, or country could see at a time now can be shared and seen by anyone in the world.
How Not to Be Authentic Online, a Cautionary Tale
As any marketing professional would tell you, engagement with a brand’s content can make or break an entire company or small business. One negatively perceived post or reel could spread to millions of people in a heartbeat. Even if it is immediately taken down or removed, that content has already been captured and shared.
For a huge company like Apple, they can pay a top PR agency (or just do it themselves as a tech giant) to run interference on a poorly perceived social campaign. But for a small business, that one post, video, or comment could be its downfall (and, most likely, the downfall of the individual people working or running that business).
A recent example of this would be the downfall of Rachel Hollis and her self-improvement empire. One TikTok took down her entire company (I mean, for good reason, read the linked New York Times article for a deep dive). But this could happen to any brand, business, or person at any time. What she represented online and the person that she was offline didn’t match. She wasn’t authentic and after seeing that, her audience (and everyone else) didn’t support her or her business any longer.
To be successful in the modern world, a business must put the personal, human-to-human interactions before anything else. Authentically representing your brand, and the individuals behind it, while creating a human connection with your customer is how you will grow your audience and your business.
Authentic Content Means Human Connection
The customer has always had the power to make or break a business, but social media has up-leveled the customer’s role in the success of any brand.
One unanswered or unseen customer comment about your product or brand could mean the loss of thousands of current or potential customers if the original unsatisfied customer shares their experience on social media.
Before social media and the internet, brands didn’t have to worry about being authentic; if you had a good product or service, people would purchase that product or service. Now, if your business isn’t authentic and personable (and, more and more, socially conscious and informed) then it doesn’t matter how good your product or service is because your marketing material won’t reach your customers’ feed.
Now, not only does the success of your business rely on people buying your product or service, it relies on whether people feel connected with and supported by the content you post. And the simplest way to ensure that you are connecting with your audience is to present your business, and yourself, honestly and authentically.
Just as people expect honesty and authenticity from those around them in “real” life, they also expect it from the accounts they interact with online. And the easiest way to convince your audience of your authenticity is to actually be authentic in what you post, share, and comment.
Brands must maintain a strong relationship with their audience the same way a person has to maintain a relationship with friends, coworkers, and peers. It all comes down to authentic, human connection.