Photo Credit: pexel
On the Internet, reputation matters more than ever before. As a result, brands need to be especially careful when they are developing and publishing social media content. What you think customers want – slick, professional content – is often very different from what they really want – trustworthy, authentic content that speaks to what the brand really stands for.
Social media transparency in action
It’s the reason why some of the world’s largest brands are now re-thinking their approach to social media. Take McDonald’s, for example. It would be easy for the brand to continue to produce slickly edited social media content featuring lots of celebrities and plenty of people smiling and laughing while eating burgers and fries. But guess what? People are willing to challenge McDonald’s online, questioning how their products are made.
In response, in 2014 McDonald’s created a new social media campaign, “Our Food. Your Questions,” that included elements like a behind-the-scenes Big Mac photo shoot. The company had been getting a lot of questions about why the mouth-watering, delicious burgers shown in commercials are often very different from the burgers that you actually get when you order #IRL. McDonald’s even went so far as to hire a former co-host of “MythBusters” to illustrate the “farm to table” process used by the company.
For brands, of course, this is a scary step. For a generation, brands have been able to develop highly scripted, very slick advertising. But on social media, consumers will call you out for it if it doesn’t match up with reality.
Honesty is still the best policy
As a brand, you have to assume that consumers are smart enough that they will catch you if you try to bend the truth. That’s what happened to legendary automaker Honda in 2012, when Facebook fans realized that enthusiastic comments about a new vehicle were actually coming from a Honda product manager! Fans turned against Honda, exposing the fake comments for what they are.
If you think about it, that’s actually a fairly easy mistake to make on social media. In fact, this practice of trying to simulate grassroots support even has a name – “astroturfing.” All brands want their products to be liked on social media, and all brands want their social media content to go viral. So there’s always a point where brands will ask friends, followers and supporters to like and share content, in order to help things along.
However, there’s a point here you have to understand the mentality of the social web: nobody wants to be duped by fake Yelp reviews to eat somewhere they’re going to hate, or fake Amazon reviews to buy a book they don’t want to read!
Social media influencers and the need for transparency
The latest hot-button issue involves the use of social media influencers to promote a product they don’t actually use or don’t actually believe in. Again, this involves a certain amount of common sense. There’s nothing wrong with hiring a celebrity (or a micro-celebrity) to endorse your products on social media.
But there’s something very circumspect about the whole endeavor if that person is not going to admit that they are getting paid for using and endorsing those products. And if large numbers of social media influencers are involved at one time – as in the case of now infamous Fyre Festival and the “fyrestarters” – then the whole campaign is essentially a way to dupe others out of their money.
Transparency matters online. The importance of being true to your online audience cannot be overstated. Once you’ve spoiled your reputation, there’s no easy way of getting it back.