Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Authenticity, social media, and knowing what truth really is

courage wolf

“Nothing in this world is harder than speaking the truth, nothing easier than flattery.” Fyodor Dostoyevsky
Honesty and authenticity is a thorny issue when it comes to social media. Bloody hell, it’s a thorny issue when it comes to life in general! You only have to take a look at the honesty peddled by politicians and those in positions of power to see that their version of honesty is really nothing more than a half-truth, balanced between facts and beliefs.

So, really, unless we’re talking about the sun rising and setting, death or taxes, I think that we can all afford to be a little bit more flexible with our perceptions of truth. There is no universal truth, and if you were to find it eventually, you certainly wouldn’t find it on Twitter or Facebook.

Our perception of truth, if we’re honest with ourselves, is that the truth is something we agree with. It’s why Barack Obama tells us his truth. It’s why Mitt Romney tells us truth. It’s why this woman is telling her truth to people when she says that Obama is a communist...

She’s lying, Barack’s lying, Mitt’s lying, we’re all lying. We have to come to terms with this, in real life, as in social media. And I’m not just talking to us as individuals - I’m talking about brands too.

So speak up!

This doesn’t of course mean that you need to remain silent.

Never be afraid to express your own worldview. Don’t be afraid to have bold opinions, as a business or an individual.

Don’t sit on the sidelines as a business in social media: actively engage with your audience, know them and focus on them. Agree, or disagree with them. Treat them like adults, for crying out loud.

If that means that you lose a section of the market? Then so what - you’re not Facebook. Most businesses that try to be universal, ‘everything to everyone’ on social media and in the real world fail miserably, or fail to attract enough people that give a shit - that want to talk to you.

Take Bodyform in the example below:

Having a sense of humour, and not being afraid to take the piss out of a boring, boorish Facebook post on their wall.

That’s a brand being honest. And that’s why it’s going viral.

You know what? Sometimes we all know that we can be unreasonable. We all say stupid things, and have unrealistic expectations. I think it’s refreshing to see a business openly say to somebody ‘I think you’re a bit of a knobhead’.

THAT’S HONESTY. That’s their truth. That’s them being authentic - knowing their audience would love it too was obviously their aim, but we all know that.

I think that the sentiment I’ve been trying to express over the course of this authenticity series of blog posts is summed up perfectly in this quote by Maya Angelou:

“Let's tell the truth to people. When people ask, 'How are you?' have the nerve sometimes to answer truthfully. You must know, however, that people will start avoiding you because, they, too, have knees that pain them and heads that hurt and they don't want to know about yours. But think of it this way: If people avoid you, you will have more time to meditate and do fine research on a cure for whatever truly afflicts you.” Maya Angelou, Letter to My Daughter
I couldn’t have put it better myself.

Now feel free to give me your honest opinion in the comments section below. I promise not to cry.

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