Authentic isn't always good.

The last few posts have outlined some thoughts on the subject of Transparency. This generated some input from a few friends on the issue of "Authenticity."

One buddy stressed how important it is to demonstrate authenticity within emerging channels - specifically within social media. I thought about this a little, and I have a slightly different take on the matter.

I think we're already seeing a ton of authenticity in emerging media. For the observant, social media makes it relatively easy to piece together a somewhat realistic view of what goes on - or the thinking of various people and brands.

The problem is, not all of it is authentically good. There are a ton of people and companies being real out there. I'm not sure people always want to see real... because sometimes, reality bites!
  • Hey, Cool Thought Leader: I don't want to find out you work in your momma's attic in your boxers and eating Cheetos as you crank out amazing insight. I'd rather have the illusion of a casual professional in an internet cafe or something.
  • Hey, "Expert": I don't want to hear you yapping constantly about how great you are - or telling me to find out for myself by buying your sensational eBook for just $29.95. If you're that great, lemme hear it from others.
  • Hey, Big Company: It's nice that you're fighting hunger in Africa with your $20 million dollar donation ... but you just laid off 5,000 American workers. :-(
  • Hey, Huge Brand: I don't want to know that your social media outreach is being run by interns who love Gossip Girl, reality television and clubbing.
Seriously, some of what we're seeing is authentically bad stuff ... authentically ego-centric...authentically self-serving garbage. Further, too much reality can be a bad thing. We don't need more of this.

Without a doubt, we all love authentic good: Especially when it's not misleading or a smoke screen for the bad; Especially if it involves daisies, puppies and children. Authentically good stuff makes people feel better about interacting with you or your brand. It brings them back for more, and encourages them to tell others about your greatness.

At the same time, there are probably some authentically bad aspects of each one of us that might be better left unseen... or dare I say it -- repented of and remedied! ;-)

In the end, I'm sticking to my assertion that in emerging channels, people only want a level of insight into you that makes them feel more secure and confident investing themselves as your friend. (Note: Investment = giving you their time, attention, follows, engagement, recommendations, ranking, referrals, sharing your content, purchasing, etc.)

Strike this balance and you're off to a great start.


Kellye Crane said...

I think a lot of people confuse authenticity with too much information (the dreaded TMI)! As you note, it's important to always have in mind the broader implications. But thinking it through (and holding something back) does not have to equal fake. You can be your true self -- you just don't need to share *everything*.

LivePath said...

Well said... and that would be a good lesson online and in life for some people. LOL!

Although, I did once tweet about my dog farting... so I'm also guilty of the TMI.

Thanks for the comment!

Beth Harte said...

Another part of it is that for so many years us folks who worked in corporations settled into a particular corporate culture and now that we are expected to be "authentic" the pendulum sometimes swings too far in the wrong direction depending on the corporate culture and your experience with it (imprisonment or freedom). I think some people struggle with how to be “real” too (Can I say that? What will people think if I say this? I said this, now I am cleaning up the backlash.). Being authentic online isn’t for everyone and there’s a thin line between professional and personable, but it’s definitely doable.

Beth Harte
Community Manager, MarketingProfs

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I’m Leigh Durst, a 20 year veteran in business, operations, customer strategy, ecommerce, digital & social media and marketing. Simply put, I’m a strategist that helps companies (start-up to blue chip) achieve business shift, create more compelling online and offline experiences. I also write, speak and teach about experience design and next-generation business. I’m a futurist, visionary, strategist, doer and connector with a passion for people and helping others. When I’m not on the road, you’ll find me in the San Francisco bay area, working, beaching it and hanging out with my family and dog.


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