There is an element to the culture of the social web that is so evident to those that have been a part of it for more than a few years. That element is authenticity. It’s important to understand it and as a business realize that your brand is better represented by human beings than fictional characters. In fact, that is what has differentiated the social web and propelled it to stardom . . . real stories and real people telling them.
The practice of fake blogging, for instance, is so reviled that it has earned its own pejorative: astroturfing. It’s such a big deal that three years ago the Washington Post reported about European laws that make it a crime to falsely represent oneself online.
And still, companies new to blogging or social media engagement, innocent of knowledge of the intricacies of engaging in the online space, stray far too close to the line in false representation. The ways I most frequently see this happening are with the development of fictional characters — which isn’t a crime — it’s just not effective. In addition, these fictional characters or the business itself is established with a profile on Facebook as if it were a person, rather than creating a page for the business.
In case your company is considering the creation of a character or fictionalizing the representation of your business, consider these seven reasons to keep it real in social media:
- Authenticity is respected, now more than ever. Nothing earns respect faster than someone who steps forward and owns up quickly, particularly in the case of a mistake or an issue.
- Lack of authenticity can damage your company’s reputation. Is it forgivable? Yes. Better yet, don’t fake it in the first place.
- People connect with other people. People, as much as some of them may wish to do so, cannot connect on a human level with a cartoon dog, a ball of yarn or a dancing baby. While these things are cute, a true two-way relationship cannot be achieved.
- Fictional characters don’t translate in real life. How’s your logo or your cartoon dog going to show up at a Tweetup?
- If resources are limited (and really, where aren’t they?) then focus the time and effort of your people to personally engage in social media on behalf of your business. That engagement is more valuable than the time they might spend behind the scenes engaging behind the front of a cute graphic.
- Social media engagement is largely about fostering two-way communication. This is much easier if both sides of that communication can see and hear one another, and human faces are involved on both ends.
- If you’ve been engaging as real, human beings and heaven forbid, you end up in a crisis situation, you will have already created and maintained real relationships with your community in a first-name, face-recognition basis and so what happened to BP on Twitter cannot happen to you.
Keep it real, people.