My daughters were having a dance party (don’t ask!) the other afternoon. My wife was describing the scene to me over dinner when I asked:
“Did you get it on video?”
She shook her head and replied, “If I had picked up the video camera, it would have changed everything.”
What my wife meant was that once my daughters realized that their dancing would be recorded – they would have started to mug for the camera and changed their behavior.
The authenticity of the moment would have vanished.
And that’s what happens online. No one – not brands, not people – are authentic online. When you know you are being watched, when your actions and your words are being recorded and captured, you act differently.
Authenticity is what happens during private moments. Brands don’t have private moments. Brands communicate in deliberate ways with a lot of strategic planning and painstaking messaging and positioning. Advertising, marketing and corporate communications are about as artificial as it gets. So the idea that brands can be authentic via social media channels is simply wishful thinking.
Especially since not even individuals are authentic online.
Oh, there might be rare moments, but when we are posting photos to Flickr or making a status updates on Facebook, we all think about how it will resonate. How it will either enhance or damage the digital image that we have created for ourselves.
Brands take this practice to the extreme. There’s no doubt that brands can be “authentic” (such as it is) to their brand. In other words, they can match how they react and how they communicate with people on social media channels so that it reflects their carefully crafted brand images. But that’s as close to authentic as it gets.
And, frankly, the limited record we have shows that most consumers don’t want their brands to be “authentic.”
Case in point. Nestle. When the Nestle corporate Facebook page was recently taken over by environmental activists, the Nestle Facebook spokesperson broke out of brand speak and reacted in a very human way to some of criticism the company was taking. He was immediately lambasted for it by consumers and even social media experts for not reacting correctly.
So much for trying to be genuine.
We all do much better if we forgot about being authentic online. Is it really that important? I’d argue that being honest, transparent, creative, interesting informative and intelligent are much more important – and compelling.
What do you think?