When Keeping It Real Goes… Social

By: Gary J. Nix | Reading Time: 4 min

Authenticity. A great idea when used correctly, simply a buzzword at times. And you know what really grinds my gears? When someone calls messages that are thought out, go along with a brand’s corporate values, ideas, messaging and the like not authentic by default. It may grind your gears too. This post may grind your gears. Either way, I’m starting a conversation, right? An authentic one.

My tipping point arrived during an edition of #mediachat with The McDonald’s Corporation as the special guest. Me being my fun-loving and occasionally smart-arse self, I had a moment that was retweeted by the corporate account:

Besides this being a shameless plug showing that I can, at times, get brands’ attention, the conversation took a mean left turn when the authenticity of @McDonaldsCorp’s tweets were called into question. Also it was appended to my retweet so that’s also why I brought it up.

Just sayin.

Image courtesy of Family Guy

The word authenticity has been getting on my nerves more and more lately, at least when it’s not in reference to a Foreign Exchange song. I took this as a chance though to not only look at this word as a buzzword but to see how people are actually using it. So my first question was:

What do you think @McDonaldsCorp should tweet as a corporation to be authentic?

Fair question. Straight-forward question – or at least I thought so. Those calling “authenticity” then said that authentic messages shouldn’t hold corporate values or messaging. So I asked:

If your company has a value system in place and people at the company agree & communicate it, is that not authentic?

The debate continues with me trying to allude to a company culture where those who work at the company agree with and believe in their corporate values & the fact that there should be some sort of guidelines and my worthy opponents talking about real people responding. It was even stated that if the employees’ and corporation’s values are aligned they wouldn’t be the same nor would they be authentic. This confused me so I asked:

So if you agree with someone, do you become that person?

This is the question that ended the argument. It is also the question that started the fire in my belly. Why do we use this word authentic so haphazardly and sometimes incorrectly?

Authenticity is about being genuine and real. We throw the word around in so many conversations that have to do with social media. However, somehow if a brand crafts messages that have to do with their product or service or create messages that try to convince someone to consume what they’re selling, they’re not being authentic? This doesn’t make sense to me. As a matter of fact:

The most authentic thing a brand can do is create conversation that will lead, at some point, to a favorable purchase decision – favorable for that particular brand.

This is business. A brand wants people to buy what they’re selling. That’s how they remain successful. Viable. Scalable. Existent.

Please note, this is not to say that having real people at the helm to answer questions, make decisions, etc. is not necessary. Nor am I saying broadcasting all day, every day is what a brand is supposed to do when trying to communicate with a consumer. What I am saying is trying to figure out ways to get people to purchase your brand’s product or service is what you’re supposed to do. The way you execute will help determine if people buy.

Clever messaging that allows a conversation to take place, adds in some content that people will share on their own, answering consumer questions and more points of engagement in the right mix is likely to lead people to eventually buy that brand’s product or service. And guess what? It is also corporate messaging. Why, because you’re talking to a representative of a corporation. People know they’re talking to a brand. They’re doing it because they want to. Don’t insult their intelligence. Give them the type of engagement that they want. If you listen, they will tell you.

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