One key factor – often less thought of – that spells the difference between a business thriving successfully online and a failed one is authenticity.
It is indubitable that the best win of small and medium businesses in this century, especially, includes the benefits afforded by the current digital disruption of the entire business ecosystem in terms of mass exposure and content virality. Brands are being built with social media platforms, such as Twitter, WhatsApp, Instagram, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Snapchat, and even Periscope, customer discovery and connection becomes easier than ever.
With many businesses adopting the online model to capture the ever-increasing and lucrative online marketplace, there are increased chances for business growth, competition, and, ultimately, survival. Have you ever thought about the reasons why some brands fail while others succeed in the online market space? You might be quick to think of the mode of presentation, pricing strategy, or content tone. However, one key factor – often less thought of – that spells the difference between a business thriving successfully online and a failed one is authenticity.
The ease of online marketing has made it easy for the online market space to be used in deceptive ways, especially by brands that are not of high repute. They often claim what they are not. They employ fake followers, fake news, and even fake likes. The unsuspecting audiences fall for their tricks, only to realize their cynicism after subsequent engagement with the brand.
In this case, such brands are bound to fail in the long run as they are unable to establish a strong emotional connection with their customer base, who now prefer opting-in to services and programs because of a feeling, emotion, or cause they can relate to.
What makes a brand authentic?
According to The Journal of Consumer Psychology, authenticity is “the extent to which consumers perceive a brand to be faithful toward itself, true to its consumers, motivated by caring and responsibility, and able to support consumers in being true to themselves.” A brand is authentic if it fits into the following categories:
- Content messaging that is true, honest, and transparent;
- Mission statement that is based on moral principles and consistent with consumer trends and industry changes;
- How much it stays true to its values; and
- How importance its products and services are, to the needs of its consumers.
Authenticity requires brands to stay committed to producing high content quality and more open engagement with their target audience. It is about showing your followers the real side of your brand or business. When you embrace Instagram stories, for instance, the photos and videos you make should capture authenticity. Honest and transparent content triggers customer engagement through deep reflection and conversation.
How important is authenticity?
Authenticity is crucial to increasing sales and ROI. A global study from Cohn & Wolfe revealed that most successful brands in the world scored well in consumers’ judgment of them based on authenticity. Disney, Amazon, Apple, Lego, and Samsung were found on the top spots of the list. The benefits of authenticity extend beyond giving brands improved perception. The study indicates that people are willing to spend their money on as well as invest in brands that are able to prove their authenticity.
Another report indicates that a significant number of consumers are willing to give the rewards of purchase, endorsement, or investment to a brand for its authenticity. Apart from the information one could derive from social media feeds, they are also a great place to project a unique image of your brand, thus making potential customers and clients get an authentic impression of your brand.
Research shows that consumers’ purchasing decisions are primarily influenced by their emotions rather than logic. Customers read and trust online reviews as well as recommendations from friends to form their opinions about brands. The fact that consumers do this does not imply that they are biased; rather, it is an indication that they want a brand they can trust.
When you are consistent with your authentic presence online and interact with your customers, your brand becomes reliable. Your audiences can then provide positive feedback in reviews to express their satisfaction while also providing you with negative feedback, if necessary, to leave room for product or service improvement. Remember your brand’s ultimate goal is to succeed within the online market space through transparency and honesty.
How to be Authentic Online
One of the proven ways to increase a brand’s credibility is by being transparent and consistent with content creation. The following tips will help your brand to be authentic, thus transforming it into a successful business.
Reveal your true identity
Every brand has those who work behind the scenes to see to its product or service production. Let your followers know these people and how much value you place on them. In all your promotions, use more original images and videos, such as team shots. Personalize the content with your research and industry experience. In other words, brand storytelling and behind-the-scenes content are great strategies to employ to make your content relatable. They build a sense of familiarity and rapport, thus increasing the level of engagement with your brand.
Being open about your brand’s successes and failures is another way to project your brand as being relatable. Usually, it is expected that every brand faces a mix of good events and bad occurrences. As much as you are quick to express your strengths, you shouldn’t withdraw from admitting your shortfalls as well. It shows the humanity of your brand while also making your audiences establish a much deeper level of connection with your brand. A Harvard Business Review study revealed that customers consistently desired brands that valued “openness, relevance, empathy, experience, and emotion.”
However, it should be noted that expressing a brand’s vulnerability may keep some customers away from their brand. Notwithstanding, such a brand will enjoy the long-term loyalty of those that will stay with it by accepting its weaknesses.
A brand that seeks to be authentic must make content that revolves around the needs of its consumers. Before creating and sharing content, think of what will be interesting and useful to your consumers. This will require you to do some form of keyword research and conduct consumer analysis to discover topic areas that appeal most to your consumer.
Surely, they would distaste aggressive sales posts and prefer posts that share resources and knowledge. The latter tends to convert into more leads and sales. The golden rule is to consider why your audience will prefer certain types of posts and the values such posts will accrue to them. As much as consumers want informative posts from brands, they also want to experience a feeling of fun.
Stay true to your values
Authentic brands are expected to have some values upon which their brands are built. These values usually form the core of such brands. As a brand owner, you are the one to determine what your core values will be. It is not enough to develop core values; staying true to them is more important as it increases your brand’s authenticity level.
Take Apple, for instance. One of the brand’s core values borders on the creation of innovative and beautiful designs. Of course, it has stayed true to this, and that is why it is the top producer of mobile and computer technologies and devices. The same thing applies to Nike, Google, among other brands.
Engage consumers in conversations
Any serious relationship must be built on open conversation. You wouldn’t want to appear to your consumers like an impenetrable wall. Social media constitute a good place to engage your consumers. You can get your consumers engaged by asking them about their pain points. Consumers love when they are given an open platform to express their challenges or state-certain lessons they have learned. Answer their questions and address their serious concerns. Also, seek feedback or input on new features you add to your products or services. However, this is if you intend to take action on some of them – if not all.
Your branding and messaging must be in alignment. Consumers are quick to lose trust in brands that are not consistent with their branding and messaging. Your branding includes your logo and company name. Let your logo and company name resonate with your brand across all platforms – both online and offline. Avoid making the mistake of forgetting to create a brand with a unique identity. Suffice to say that it is important to create an identity that sets you apart from your competitors. Also, avoid stock art as much as possible. Stock art tends to make your brand feel less dependable and unique, resulting in distrust and disloyalty.
Brand authenticity is an effective marketing component that is crucial to impressing your clients and consequently making your business grow and succeed in the online market space. In other words, it is more profitable when your clients or customers know your brand in its real form rather than in an inauthentic version.
William Arruda said, “Successful brands are based on authenticity, drawn from real achievements, real strengths, and real emotions that are alive and well at all levels in the organization.”
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