For Businesses on Social Media, Authenticity is Key

If you’re starting a business, your product or service probably already has a social media presence. After all, social media is free, it’s everywhere and you’re already doing it anyway. Some companies have exploded based on their popularity on social media alone. What’s rare for businesses on social media is authenticity.

Authenticity pbs rewire
Martha McCarthy Krueger, of The Social Lights, speaks at the Entrepreneur and Innovation Exchange’s entrepreneurship competition, E-Fest, at the University of St. Thomas’ Schulze School of Entrepreneurship.

But you can’t just slap some photos and text posts on a Facebook page and call it a day. No, things have gotten a lot more complicated than that. Not only are there more social platforms than ever to consider, there are nuances to each, making them tough to master. Social platforms are constantly innovating, too, in an effort to keep users interested. Talk about a moving target.

Martha McCarthy Krueger and Emily Pritchard founded The Social Lights, a marketing firm focused solely on social media, to help companies navigate the muddy and ever-changing waters of the socialsphere.

Krueger shared her top-10 tips for social media success with a group of eager young entrepreneurs this month at the Entrepreneur and Innovation Exchange’s entrepreneurship competition, E-Fest, in Minneapolis, Minnesota. A recurring theme was authenticity: What makes potential customers feel like they’re not only being told to purchase a product, they’re also being listened to?

1. Have a conversation

Krueger emphasized the importance of social listening in order to keep your social media efforts from feeling like a one-way street.

“Social care is important,” she said. “It’s not just what you’re publishing and putting outbound. It’s when people have questions, comments, concerns, that you’re reading them. You’re hearing them, you’re replying to them, and then in many cases, whenever you can, you’re taking that feedback and information and bringing it to your greater team to maybe make changes in your product or to tweak who your target audience is because of what you’re learning.”

Authenticity pbs rewireThe Social Lights has a whole team of social listeners who pay attention to what is being said across the web about the 23 brands the firm represents. Although it might be tempting to ignore people who don’t have many followers on social and focus only on the people who seem to have more “influence,” remember they’re all potential customers with friends and family.

“Be relatable and be human,” Krueger said. “Treat other people like you’d want to be treated and that’s not ignoring people that just have a hundred followers because, ‘Who cares?’ Make them feel special. Make them feel heard. … Have those conversations because then they’ll have a personal relationship with your brand, with your company, and feel more aligned with it.”

2. Add a personal touch

Ever had a weird conversation with a customer service chat bot? Yeah. Not cute. Krueger said putting a personal touch on customer service correspondence is key to connecting with people.

“While bots are great, and a lot of customer service things can be done with bots,” she said, “it’s the brands that are really having those authentic conversations with their customers that are winning.”

“Especially as a start up, the extra value that you can provide is a personal touch,” Krueger said. “And by acting like a human and talking like a real person it will create a memorable better experience. … If one of your value adds is, ‘Hey bae, they really care about me, they sent me a hand-written note.’ Or, ‘I got an email reply that wasn’t just an automatic bot,’ or maybe it is but it doesn’t sound like it. People will remember that. They’ll talk about it. More likely to tell their friends or recommend your product or service.”

3. Encourage customers to engage with each other

Seem a little overwhelming? Yeah, it is a bit. But you can get your customer base talking with one another on social, answering one another’s questions and essentially doing your customer service work for you, in some cases.

Authenticity pbs rewire“Sometimes this is as simple as including a question in your social post or a call to action in your email newsletter for them to go to another platform and give you feedback or engage,” Krueger said. “This can be extremely powerful because when your audience and your really passionate customers are talking to each other, talking about what they love about the product, or even in self-policing you see sometimes where someone has negative feedback or maybe a rumor about your product or service. And then one of your brand ambassadors, your most loyal customers can kind of police for you, and sort of tell them, ‘No, actually that’s not correct, and here’s been my experience.’ So by having your audience get to know each other, get to have conversations with each other, it does a lot of the marketing for you.”

She encouraged entrepreneurs to build a network and talk with one another about what works and what doesn’t on social media.

“Have conversations in real life with people too and listen to their thoughts and feedback about certain things,” she said.

And though it might seem impossible to keep up with everything, it’s definitely worth it to try.

“There’s a lot of new features that are cost-effective for start ups,” she said. “Instagram stories for instance. It doesn’t cost money to put one together. And the brands that get in early—start doing them, start playing around—can get that benefit and that exposure. If you’re afraid of doing it, or hold back, or wait too long, you’ll miss out on that opportunity.”

Check out all of The Social Lights’ shortcuts to social media success for businesses on their blog.

This article is part of America’s Entrepreneurs, a Rewire initiative made possible by the Richard M. Schulze Family Foundation and EIX, the Entrepreneur and Innovation Exchange.

Katie Moritz

Katie Moritz is Rewire’s senior editor and a Pisces who enjoys thrift stores, rock concerts and pho. She covered politics for a newspaper in Juneau, Alaska, before driving down to balmy Minnesota to help produce long-standing public affairs show “Almanac” at Twin Cities PBS. Now she works on this here website. Reach her via email at [email protected] Follow her on Twitter @katecmoritz.