As I explored in Don’t Be Authentic: Real Social Media Marketing Advice on SpinSucks, we don’t really want to see authentic in social media. It is an idealized view that for most organizations is as unrealistic as it is attractive. (Aaron Wagner makes some great comments about this in the discussion here on Social Media Today as well).
Authentic is the wrong objective. What is the right one?
The advice to be authentic has been distorted along the way. What is important is how your audience sees you. It does not matter if that image is you with no changes or a carefully refined version of you.
1. Believable is Audience Focused
Authentic creates a conflict. On one hand, you are advised to develop personas and a deep understanding of your audience in order to create an effective social media program. On the other, you are advised to be authentic to who you are. The problem is, authentic focuses on you when you need to be focused on your audience.
Believable solves this conflict. Being believable in social media allows you to deliver value, through education, entertainment or function, based on the personas and audience insight you have developed.
2. Believable Requires Good Social Media Behavior
If you say one thing and do another, you are not believable. Being believable requires being true to what you say you are. It requires identifying a well rounded image you will project and never veering from it.
3. Belieavable Encourages Personality
Today, brands need to engage, not broadcast. Personality creates more memorable conversation, and brands are no different. Being believable requires having a personality (or even lack of one!) that is infused throughout everything you do.
Being believable is about how your connections see you. Believable focuses us on why authentic mattered while acknowledging authenticity often isn’t desirable (if you haven’t yet, read Don’t Be Authentic: Real Social Media Marketing Advice now).
I would offer believable as the word Augie Ray means in his post about Chrysler, Fiat and the Brand Value of Authenticity. Augie doesn’t know if Marshall drives a Chrysler, but he believes it could be true.
This is not about authentic, it is about believable. Chrysler was believable, Fiat was just a thin marketing veneer.
Is Authentic Worth Anything?
There are hints of your authentic business everywhere, and when you deviate too far, you are no longer believable. But as Chrysler did, you can shape the image you project as long as it remains believable.
It’s time to move past authentic and the misdirection it provides and realize social media and modern marketing are about being believable.
Always remember, social media audiences are empowered and can be ruthless in their application of power. Being believable means living what you say you are. Slip up and your audience will call you out. Slip up twice and they may never come back.
Do you agree, is it time to replace authentic with believable? Share your thoughts in the comments below or with me on Twitter (@wittlake).