Customers are more tech-savvy than ever and the number of consumers who grew up interacting online is growing. Businesses have been flocking to the online world to spread their message and look for new buyers, but all too often the message is fake, forced, or just not relevant to modern customers.
Perhaps the most important orthodoxy underlying a brand’s online presence should be authenticity. Being online isn’t enough; you have to be real. It’s what people expect today, and they know the difference when it’s forced.
“I just met you, and this is crazy, but here’s my business card, so pay me maybe?”
The Internet IS the public sphere, especially in the area of social media. It’s where people gather, exchange comments and ideas, and network. But just because this is taking place online instead of face to face doesn’t mean common rules of personal etiquette don’t apply, even for a business
If you go to a dinner party or industry networking event, do you walk around introducing yourself to people, hand them your business card, and brow-beat them with information about your services and company? No. You try to have a real conversation with equal parts speaking and listening. You begin to build real relationships. And so should any authentic business looking to create a positive presence online.
Luckily, there are more tools for businesses to do this than ever. Don’t worry about being everywhere; no one belongs to every social club in town. Pick the ones that work best for your business and be real.
Authentic People Are Aware
Another key to online authenticity is awareness. Authentic people are aware of what’s going on around them. They follow up with friends and ask how their recent vacations are or how that big meeting went at work last week. Unaware people are sloppy. An unaware person forgets names. An authentic business has the same awareness about their community of online followers and the general world around them.
Unfortunately, there have been quite a few examples of brands online who haven’t made awareness, and therefore authenticity, a priority in their online presence. Take the National Rifle Association, for example. The morning after the tragic shootings in Aurora, CO, earlier this year, the NRA tweeted, “Good Morning, Happy Friday! Weekend plans?” While the NRA commented that the tweeter wasn’t aware of the shooting, the tweet stayed on their page for hours. A more aware online presence would have addressed the issue, or at least deleted the tweet, much more quickly.
Compare this with episode with Kitchen-Aid. During the first Presidential debate of 2012, the Kitchen-Aid twitter account posted: “‘Obamas gma even knew it was going 2 b bad! ‘She died 3 days b4 he became president’.” The tweet instantly went viral, and was almost immediately deleted and followed with a swift succession of tweets explaining that a staffer posted to the wrong account, apologizing for the comment, and reaching out to press outlets offering official comments. That is an aware brand.
Now, this brings up the situation of allowing others to tweet on your company’s behalf or scheduling posts ahead of time. There’s a lot of conjecture about both of these practices, but long story short, if the underlying principal of authenticity is maintained, neither are “wrong”.
Penguin And Panda Will Get You
Thanks to Google, we’ll never look at cute penguins or cuddly pandas the same way ever again. Penguin and panda are code-names for recent updates Google made to their algorithms that return search results, with Panda targeting online content and Penguin focusing on links. Google is always working to show the most relevant and legitimate search results, so it wants to weed out spam and bad content as much as possible. That means Google is looking to reward authentic content and punish bad or unauthentic content.
Websites with weak content, content that doesn’t relate to the purpose of the website, or was copy and pasted from another source, will face the wrath of penguin and panda. However, websites that have original, thoughtful, and engaging content are rewarded.
There’s more online content being generated by businesses than ever. It’s a lot to sift through. And while most businesses won’t ever have the great viral video that the whole world sees, having an authentic presence online will help ensure that when you’re brand is found online, potential customers will want to spend time with/on what you have to say.