At What Price Authenticity?

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It seems simple enough. If you want to get beyond making connections in Social Media and Web 2.0 channels, you have to move towards truly engaging with Consumers (and, more importantly, empowering Consumers to connect to one another – all the while you get out of the way). I’m constantly reminded of the notion that "permission" is always needed. Whether it’s a double opt-in for an email address, or enabling the user to decide whether or not they are willing to part with their personal information in exchange for information or access (and how much they need to cough up plays in as well).

That was so Web 1.0, wasn’t it?

Now, the cost of admission is authenticity. I think about that word a lot (probably too much). How authentic can a company truly be? How many working professionals do you know that do something publicly, and act quite differently in private – whether it’s what you say in a Blog posting versus saying what you really feel in a team meeting, or hanging out with employees who are (and do) make fun of clients, one another, or the company in general.

Being authentic isn’t always good.

Let me correct that, being authentic is always good, but the output of being authentic is sometimes pretty ugly.

I think this is why so many companies grapple with Social Media. They really do want to be authentic and join into these many conversations, but they’re probably quite afraid of what the mass public will think when they see their warts, their foibles and their mis-steps.

I’d like to think Twist Image is above that, but we’re not. Just like your company (big or small). We’re human. We do amazing great stuff and, in the interest of transparency, we make our fair share of mistakes too. Who doesn’t?

However, I do think that it does take some bravery – and a candid corporate philosophy – for this stuff to truly work and take hold. Because, if you’re trying to be authentic, but only when the outcome is favourable to how you will be perceived, I’d argue that you’re not being all that authentic at all.


  1. Great point, Mitch.
    We just got off a conference call with a client very interested in tapping their already existent, fanatic consumer base. Their big fear?
    What if someone who doesn’t like us writes (posts) something bad?
    The great thing about social media, is that sometimes, as a company, you can sit back at let the rest of your fan base take over.
    If you company is doing the right things, the fans of your company will jump on any negative attacks before you even need to worry. It’s the built in self policing aspect of social media, and that’s awesome.
    Of course, if your brand or company has no advocates, just remember, bad reviews and “negative” feedback are just as important as favorable assertions.
    It speaks volumes about a company’s confidence to not shy away from negative feedback. Social media is only effective when you let it all hang out.

  2. This reminds me of when, a few months ago, a member of the top-brass at Edelman was presenting at a conference (can’t remember which), and when asked about the K-Mart/RVing astro-turfing scandal, refused to address it. Here you have a firm that advises clients to engage authenticity through social media, but couldn’t owe up to their own (most infamous) blunder when talking to a web 2.0 crowd.
    I’m interested to see whether that kind of corporate chauvinism changes as younger generations who are growing up with social media mature from entry-level candidates to tenured execs.

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