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How being more self-aware can help your brand succeed on social media

Posted on Apr 12, 2016 by Administrator

How being more self-aware can help your brand succeed on social media

Brian Honigman is a marketing consultant, speaker and freelance writer. For more insights on how to be a better marketer, sign up for Brian Honigman’s weekly newsletter. This post originally appeared on his blog.

Brands are not people.

The recent case of Burwell v. Hobby Lobby is just one amongst a string of Supreme Court decisions that have legally classified corporations as people. Even if corporations are considered people from a legal standpoint, the notion of corporations as people is, intuitively speaking, pretty absurd.

Yet, if you’re online, you will likely encounter corporations pretending to be people every day as branded profiles and pages on nearly every social media channel.

While brands have long adopted a voice to use for corporate communications and advertisements, the social, back-and-forth nature of online communications have forced that branded voice to become increasingly personal to fit in. In order for brands to participate in social media, they have to (in some sense or another) pretend to be people.

However, this is a huge challenge for brands because at the end of the day they are not people. How can brands effectively create personas out of thin air, that are not just convincing, but that win a customer’s trust and affection? Is there really a way for a brand to translate believably on social media?

“Authenticity” is not always genuine

The prevailing wisdom on the issue is that in order to establish a brand as credible on social media, all branded communications should strive for “authenticity.”

I use quotes, because authenticity seems like a contradictory idea in regards to the game of pretend that corporations play online. A fictional brand personality meant to personalize a corporation consisting of dozens, hundreds or even thousands of people can never really be authentic in a meaningful sense.

In fact, if you think about it, the only really genuine thing a brand can do is acknowledge the absurdity of trying to pass itself off as a person. Any attempt for a brand to take itself too seriously on social media is inherently disingenuous and will likely be ignored at best or scorned at worst.

For the “digital natives” whose social norms have been shaped and learned online (and to whom many brands aim to appeal), seeing through these corporate accounts is second nature. Even if they see these phony brand profiles, their eyes will roll right past them.

Irony, self-reference and hyperbole are the language of the social Web, and any brand not fluent will inevitably be ignored. Brands can’t hope to join the conversation when they don’t speak the language.

The key mistake brands make (and how to fix it)

Most brand missteps don’t come down to poor taste or ill-will. They’re almost always due to a lack of self awareness.

As John Oliver points out in this hilarious clip, oftentimes brands put out seemingly sincere messages that simply don’t make sense in the context of their brand. Tweeting to commemorate Pearl Harbor is fine. Spaghetti-O’s tweeting about Pearl Harbor (even if they really mean it) comes off as awkward and offensive.

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