Everyone is talking about social media these days. Even the definition of what is and what is not considered social media is constantly being redefined by new technology and more importantly by the new ways that we as consumer use existing technology.
Most agree that to be social a technology must afford the users the opportunity to participate in a dialogue or a two way exchange. This fundamental premise has been discussed at length by most of the top industry pundits. Now the discussions have shifted to address another question:
“Because social media involves the exchange of information, ideas, and opinions, how do we define our voice to be the most effective at communicating our ideas to others?”
Every company wants to spread the word about their product or service far and wide. They want their videos to go viral, their website to get flooded with traffic and their sales team to stay late handling all the orders.
This goal alone raises an issue for many of us that participate in the social media environment. Our online exchanges should be a reflection of those interactions that we have in the real world. Courtesy, compassion, empathy, politeness, humor – these all have a place in our digital exchanges. I would argue that to be effective in the social media environment you have to be yourself. Creating an alter-ego or a persona that deviates from who you really are is a recipe for disaster. Scott Stratten takes this notion head-on with his UnBootCamp video.
Marketers worry about building a following, finding an audience, conveying their message but they often skip the most important element to a successful online relationship – trust. Anyone that would buy your product must have some level of trust in you or your product. The consumer always believes that what they are buying will fill a need that they have and that the person or company selling it to them can be trusted, at least to some extent.
So this begs the question. How do you build trust as the foundation for your online relationships?
My short answer is with authenticity. You have to be yourself online just like you do in a face-to-face exchange. Building trust is a process which may suggest why all of us that advise individuals and companies on social media are quick to point out that social is a process and that often quick results are not to be expected. Chris Brogan‘s book Trust Agents is a great read and the long answer to the question. You can find his book here among other places like your local bookstore.
Cyril Connolly said it best “Better to write for yourself and have no public, than to write for the public and have no self.”
I think that says it all. How do you weigh in on the issue of trust and authenticity?